Category Archives: Tropical Cyclones

IRMA: An Atlantic hurricane for the record books!

With each new advisory issued by the National Hurricane Center about the course and intensity of Hurricane IRMA, we all become exponentially more awe striken at the powerful display of Mother Nature, and wonder how much more intense can this storm grow?

Visible light satellite image (NASA) showing Hurricane IRMA as it had reached maximum sustained winds of 294 kph (184 mph) and a low central pressure of 926 mb, this Tuesday 5 September 2017

The latest data I have seen shows that as of 1515 EST IRMA was packing sustained winds of 294 kph (184 mph) with even higher gusts, and its then current central pressure had already dropped to 926 mb. This is by far the stronger hurricane active in the open Atlantic since records have been kept. New record may still be set in coming days as the hurricane encounters even warmer surface waters.We can only wait and see what happens.

Visible light satellite image (NOAA) taken this afternoon of 5 September 2017 at 1515 EST showing Hurricane IRMA nearing the northern Lesser Antilles. Notice the strengthening tropical wave to the east-southeast

Visible light and infrared imagery focusing on water vapor in the atmosphere show an impressive image of IRMA as it approached the northern Winward Islands, and the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico beyond. In these images we can also see the ‘chase’ tropical wave following behind IRMA , which is already displaying some cyclonic characteristics.

Infrared satellite image (NOAA) showing water vapor in the atmosphere to highlight the environment surrounding Hurricane IRMA and its ‘chase’ tropical wave this 5 September at 1415 EST

Awesome as this display of power is, it is even more worrying because of the vast potential for causing  damage that  this hurricane has as it gets closer to various land masses along its path including our Florida peninsula, which remains within the ‘cone of uncertainty’ of the predicted track of IRMA in coming days.

Projected track for Hurricane IRMA as of this Tuesday 5 September at 1400 EST. Based on an advisory from the National Hurricane Center

IRMA may be the ‘big one’ we have speculated about for the past 25 years, or it may not. Only time will tell and we will find out soon enough. Now is the time to take the potential impact from IRMA’s wind and water extremely seriously and take all precautions necessary to protect life and property. May God protect us all.

Get ready. Remain alert. Be prepared. MITIGATE!

Dangerous Hurricane IRMA is heading toward our neck-of-the-woods!

Infrared GOES satellite view of 27 August 2017 showing Harvey over Texas, and a few tropical waves and other potential future tropical cyclones over the northern Atlantic basin. One of these tropical waves in particular, the one just emerging over the east Atlantic in this image, was the actual ‘seed’ that generated Hurricane IRMA.

Eight days ago, on 27 August 2017,  just as we watched the catastrophe of Hurricane HARVEY unfolding in Texas, a strong tropical wave originally formed near the head of the Nile River in eastern Africa fed by moisture from the Indian Ocean, emerged over the waters of the East Atlantic south of the Cape Verde Islands already exhibiting cyclonic tendencies. At the time I submitted this particular system warranted our attention and close monitoring by all hurricane-vulnerable interests around the Atlantic basin.

Infrared GOES EAST satellite image (NOAA) of Monday 4 September 2017 showing a strengthening Hurricane IRMA over the central Atlantic, as well as tropical waves chasing it for the east , and another potentially cyclonic disturbance in the Bay of Campeche in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico.

As of today Monday 4 September 2017, LABOR DAY!, after having traveled more than 9,000 km this system is major Hurricane IRMA over the Central Atlantic moving toward the Lesser Antilles and possibly the USA coastal region.

Visible light satellite image (Courtesy of NASA) of 4 September 2017 showing major Hurricane IRMA, as a well organized, symmetrical, compact tropical cyclone, with a clearly defined eye as it moves toward the Lesser Antilles and Puerto Rico.

Major Hurricane IRMA looks quiet organized this morning of Monday 4 September 2017, LABOR DAY!, with a distinct central eye, a round and symmetric shape, and dense bands of rain and thunderstorms.

Projected five-day track for Hurricane IRMA issues by the National Hurricane Center during its 0500 advisory on Monday 4 September 2017

The forecast track by the National Hurricane Center (NHC) has shifted somewhat southward for the next 3 – 5 days bringing it closer to the Antilles. Florida remains within the ‘cone of uncertainty’ this far out, so this is the time to review your emergency plans. Regarding IRMA’s projected track over coming days it is important to note that there are other tracks developed by various agencies, which vary from that posted by the NHC. For example, the track projected by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory shows a more northerly route than that of the NHC, which shifts the cone of uncertainty more toward mainland Florida and our neck-of-the-woods here in southeastern Florida. This discrepancies between projected tracks illustrate the difficulty in predicting where a hurricane may actually go, and the fact that  the longer the forecast goes into the future in term of how many days it covers the larger the uncertainty is.

Projected five-day track for Hurricane IRMA developed by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory as of 4 September 2017. Notice the slight differences with the track from the NHC posted above.

The important thing is to be aware that hurricane forecasting is not an exact science, and despite all the satellite tools, hurricane hunter data provided by airplanes flying into and around the storm, and the years of experience and expertise of forecasters at the NHC,  it is just not possible to exactly predict where a hurricane will make landfall. Consequently the best approach for those residing in vulnerable communities is to monitor the advisories regularly and closely, and to pay attention to instructions from local emergency management officials.

So, get ready. Be prepared. MITIGATE! Also, keep an eye on the strong tropical waves chasing after IRMA over the Eastern Atlantic off the coast of Africa and inland over Equatorial Africa. The entire system is loaded with ‘seeds’ for potential cyclonic activity.