The latest from Brian Norcross…
Mega Hurricane Matthew Is Misbehaving
Matthew has turned into a monster. And we don’t know why. Before our eyes on it exploded into a Category 5 hurricane last night. This is even more stunning because there is no conventional wisdom, no models, no nothing that indicated that degree of strengthening. To the contrary, it appeared it would be inhibited from strengthening very rapidly yesterday, but today and tomorrow the pattern seemed that it would be more favorable.
The storm has weakened a bit and is not expected to maintain even this incredible high intensity, based on what we know about these things. Storms go through internal cycles of weakening and restrengthening, and usually end up weaker (in terms of the strongest wind anywhere in the storm) but bigger with strong winds spread over a larger area. Also, since it is a relatively small storm in size it does not control a lot of the atmosphere around it, so external factors like dry air or unfavorable upper winds are more likely to affect it. At least it is supposed to work that way.
But even if it weakens some, all indications are it is going to be very bad for some of our friends in Jamaica, Haiti, eastern Cuba, and the Bahamas. It is only a question of how very bad, and which parts of those countries gets the worst. Unless something completely unexpected happens, they will all feel the storm.
For the U.S., the threat remains for Florida and the East Coast. If anything, it has increased a bit today. And that is NOT because Matthew suddenly turned into a mega monster. It is because the future track is, seemingly, less certain.
There are three big reasons for increased uncertainty:
1) Matthew blew away all the models in intensifying so rapidly. What else don’t the models know? The models still don’t seem to have the intensity right even today.
2) Even bigger, the U.S. GFS has slowed down to be more like the Euro, meaning it will take longer to get through the Bahamas (which unfortunately would prolong the storm there). A slower storm means more forecast uncertainty since the steering pattern has time to change.
3) And annoyingly, since yesterday morning, the GFS has edged closer to Florida and the East Coast, all the way to New England. Sometimes the trend is important to pay attention to.
Having said that, the Euro is on the right side of the National Hurricane Center cone, farther east away from the U.S. And we normally trust the Euro a bit more concerning the general steering pattern. But it has been a bit inconsistent as well, and doesn’t seem to have a grasp on the strength of the storm.
NOAA and the National Hurricane Center are deploying their full resources to make the best forecasts possible for Matthew. They have deployed Hurricane Hunters to take measurements inside the storm essentially around the clock. And they are measuring the atmosphere all around Matthew plus the steering flow upstream to get the best information possible into the computer models. If there are deficiencies, they are in the state of modern science and our innate inclination to force certainty on a situation the science cannot resolve.
The bottom line: The only thing for certain is that a hurricane, possibly a very strong hurricane, is going to affect Jamaica, Haiti, eastern Cuba, and the Bahamas early to midweek. Exactly where the storm will be on Wednesday is unknowable, and where it will be a week from now is less knowable than that. But Wednesday seems to be the time frame when the threat to the U.S. would begin, if it were to materialize.
This is a situation where everybody just needs to accept the uncertainty. Matthew is not going to pounce, so there will be time to prepare if you do common-sense things now. Stay informed. Stay aware. Be prepared.
William Sargent’s latest book, Plum Island; 4,000 Years on a Barrier Beach, available in local bookstores and at http://www.ingramcontent.com.
Bill Sargent will be leading a beach walk starting from the Plum Island Point lighthouse Sundays at 1pm. Cost $10.