Irene roars into life; may become the season's first hurricane

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 12:03 AM GMT on August 21, 2011

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Tropical Storm Irene roared into life this evening, transitioning from a tropical wave to a 50 mph tropical storm in just a few short hours. An Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft in the storm was finishing up its mission when it suddenly came across a region with intense thunderstorms and surface winds of 50 mph. The aircraft found that a center of circulation had barely closed off on the southwest edge of this region, though the plane found almost no winds from the west around the circulation center. The 6:10pm EDT center fix found a central pressure of 1007mb, which is quite high for the observed 50 mph winds. Dry air to the north and west is slowing development, as well as moderate wind shear of 10 - 20 knots, as analyzed by the University of Wisconsin CIMSS group. Infrared satellite loops and radar out of Martinique show the storm is poorly organized, with no evidence of spiral bands. The center of Irene is expected to cross over the Caribbean island of Dominica early Sunday morning, but the heaviest thunderstorms lie to the north of the center, and will affect Guadeloupe, Antigua, and St. Kitts and Nevis.


Figure 1. Evening satellite image of Irene.

The computer models have shifted southwards since yesterday, and now take Irene south of Puerto Rico on Monday, and along the south shore of the Dominican Republic on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Irene should pass near or over southern Haiti, Eastern Cuba, and Jamaica. On Wednesday and Thursday, the models agree that a trough of low pressure will dip down over the Eastern U.S., which is likely to turn Irene to the north. The exact timing and strength of this trough varies considerably from model to model, and will be critical in determining where and when Irene will turn to the north. We can expect that Irene will impact Central Cuba, the Bahamas, and the Florida Keys on Thursday, but it is uncertain whether Irene's turn to the north will take the storm into the Gulf of Mexico or not. Irene most reminds me of Tropical Storm Fay of 2008. Fay formed just off the coast of Puerto Rico, and was never quite able to get organized enough to become a hurricane, due to passage over Hispaniola and Cuba. Fay topped out as a strong tropical storm with 70 mph winds, and did over $500 million in damage in the U.S., mostly due to flooding rains in Florida that accumulated to over 25 inches in a few areas. Fay also dumped heavy rains on Hispaniola, triggering flooding that claimed eight lives.


Figure 2. Track of Tropical Storm Fay of 2008.

Irene will be battling dry air and moderate wind shear of 10 - 20 knots through Sunday, and it will take the storm 1 - 3 days to build up an eyewall and intensify into a hurricane. Irene is more of a threat than Tropical Storm Emily of early August was, since Irene has closed off a center farther east than Emily did and has more time to organize before encountering Hispaniola. I don't think passage over Hispaniola will destroy Irene, since it is a fairly large storm, and is likely to be a hurricane by then. However, if Irene follows the NHC forecast, it will have an extended encounter with Hispaniola and Cuba on Tuesday through Wednesday that will probably weaken the storm below hurricane force. Keep in mind that the average error for an official 5-day forecast from NHC for a developed storm is 200 - 250 miles. Irene could easily miss Florida and move up the East Coast and hit North or South Carolina, or pass through the Florida Keys and into Gulf of Mexico, ending up who knows where. Given the uncertainties, this weekend would be a good time to go over your hurricane preparedness if you live anywhere in the Caribbean, Bahamas, or U.S. coast, since Irene could well be paying you a visit as a tropical storm or hurricane sometime in the next week.

Harvey hits Belize
Tropical Storm Harvey made landfall at 2pm EDT on Saturday near Dangriga Town, Belize, as a tropical storm with 60 mph winds. Harvey continues to dump very heavy rains on northern Guatemala, Belize, and portions of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula as the storm tracks westwards at 12 mph. Dissipation is expected Sunday as the storm pushes inland. Harvey was a small storm, and the strongest winds were confined to a short stretch of coast near where the center came ashore. Winds at Belize City, Belize on Saturday topped out at 15 mph.


Figure 3. Radar image of Harvey taken at 11:30am EDT on Saturday, August 20, 2011, a few hours before landfall in Belize. A small closed eye is visible just south of the offshore islands of Belize. Image credit: Belize National Meteorological Service.

An exceptionally active early part of hurricane season
It's been a strangely hyperactive season for weak storms in the Atlantic so far this year. Tropical Storm Irene is the 9th named storm this year, and its formation date of August 20 ties 2011 with 1936 as the 2nd earliest date for formation of the season's 9th storm. Only 2005 had an earlier date. The first eight storms this year have stayed below hurricane strength, making 2011 the first hurricane season since record keeping began in 1851 to have more than six consecutive tropical storms that did not reach hurricane strength. As I discussed in Friday's post, a major reason for this is the lack of vertical instability over the tropical Atlantic so far this year. We've had a large amount of dry, sinking air over the tropical Atlantic, and the usual amount of dry, dusty air from the Sahara, both helping to keep the atmosphere stable and stop this year's storms from intensifying into hurricanes. Hurricane activity typically ramps up big-time by August 20, with more than 80% of all the hurricanes and 65% of all the tropical storms occurring after that date. At our current pace, 2011 will become the second busiest Atlantic hurricane season on record, with 24 - 27 named storms. There are only 21 names in the list of names for a hurricane season, so we may have to break out the Greek alphabet again in late October this year, as occurred in 2005. Ironically, this was the last time the current set of names was used in the Atlantic, so 16 of this year's 21 names are repeats of 2005. I'm not too happy about seeing another hurricane season challenge the Hurricane Season of 2005 in any way, and let's hope we don't retire another five names this year, like occurred in 2005! With vertical instability much lower this year than in 2005, and that year having already seen one storm (Dennis) retired by this point in the season, I doubt that will happen, though.


Figure 2. The annual cycle of average hurricane frequency in the Atlantic. Historically, about 35% of all the tropical storms and 15% of all the hurricanes will have occurred by August 20.

Invest 98L near the Cape Verde Islands
A tropical wave near Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa, Invest 98L, is spreading heavy rains and strong gusty winds to those islands today. So far this morning, top sustained winds measured in the Cape Verde Islands were 23 mph at Mindelo. 98L has a long stretch of ocean to cross before it could affect any land areas. Approximately 70 - 80% of all tropical cyclones that pass this close to the Cape Verde Islands end up curving out to sea and not affecting any other land areas, according to Dr. Bob Hart's excellent historical probability of landfall charts. The latest set of long-range model runs go along with this idea, and I'd be surprised if 98L threatens any land areas.

Jeff Masters

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Morning 03, good to see ya.

And shish it with that talk...Too busy with school; no time for a cane here.
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What is scary for the West Coast of Florida is just how long that ridge is holding on........we have seen this too many times when the models shift because they underestimate the ridge. Not saying that is the case here but a storm trucking on at 21mph is a dang strong ridge.....JUST SAYN
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TS Irene relocated its center alittle farther North last night. This puts the chances of Irene moving just to the East of Florida alittle higher and ups the chances of a South Carolina/North Carolina landfall paralleling the SE Coast.
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Quoting TampaBayWX:


Yeah, Im worried more models will start poping to the west toward the gulf again.... Lets hope for the best ... prepare for the worst.


After Rita I start preparing in June, buying a few things at a time. The kids call it the hurricane stash. At the middle or so of November they get to hit the stash. It was a bit tight the year with Gustav and then Ike a couple of weeks later, but still had enough.
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Via Stormcarib:

- No action here

By Tina Bretton
Date: Sun, 21 Aug 2011 06:58:41 -0500

Good morning All

It is a very gloomy & drizzly morning.  Nothing from Irene and I hope it stays that way. Seems all the action is just North of us. The center is suppose to come within 10 miles of us but we are getting no wind, barely any rains which is a very good thing! Our island is so wet from previous rains I do not thing it can handle any more water. 
I am hoping that Irene's pass is just like it is right now .. non-eventful.

God Bless and be safe! 

Tina
Isles Bay
Montserrat
       
 
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Quoting WxLogic:


:) Tampa... is G-4.

Their next run is:

B. POSSIBLE G-IV SURVEILANCE MISSION FOR THE
SAME SYSTEM AT 22/0000Z.

Or basically tonight @ 8PM.


Yesterday's POD put Gonzo off untill tomorrow

B. POSSIBLE G-IV SURVEILANCE MISSION FOR 23/0000Z.
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Here in Dorado Puerto Rico on vacation. Go fiqure storm warnings are going to follow me all the way home to Miami. Puerto Rico has a "not a big deal perspective on storms". Resort is good to go with back up generators and lots of free coffee...
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The history of the GFS and particularly the ECMWF is that they tend to over strengthen troughs which leads to a right bias. I can't wait for Levi's tropical tidbit today to see his take. Yesterday he was saying the trough would come down and pull out quickly while the ridge builds back forcing Irene back towards the WNW and then the weakness would be in the eastern gulf. Wondering if things are still setting up that way.
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Circulation around here, gonna have to wait for a dropsonde to know the pressure.

120100 1646N 06223W 8426 01551 //// +158 //// 292005 005 024 006 01
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3010. LargoFl
Quoting CarolinaHurricanes87:
It will be very interesting to see if this system rakes through florida, easing the impacts for everyone else... or if it glides up the coast of florida (either west or east), staying stronger, impacting florida harder as well as the states north of florida.

Latest runs show a path that would be awful for everyone on the east coast from florida to SE NC.

Does anyone know how strong GFS shows Irene when its hitting Georgia? (on the last run)
Quoting whepton3:


Well said...

I think it may come back west a tick or two... but then again could tick more east.

I'm one of those people that thinks a thousand things are going to happen between now and Thurs-Fri and we're on number 14.

I just don't have a high confidence in the precision of the track at all until a day or two out.
can someone post the model tracks for today and maybe each day? so we here in florida monitor this storm?
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Quoting WxLogic:


:) Tampa... is G-4.

Their next run is:

B. POSSIBLE G-IV SURVEILANCE MISSION FOR THE
SAME SYSTEM AT 22/0000Z.

Or basically tonight @ 8PM.




LOL.........i thought i got the number wrong after i posted.......LOL......thanks for the info.
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Quoting aislinnpaps:
Tampa,
I liked it better when only one model had it heading towards the western part of the GOM. But if she can go east of Florida, that would be great.


Yeah, Im worried more models will start poping to the west toward the gulf again.... Lets hope for the best ... prepare for the worst.
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Quoting USAFwxguy:
The KMAN model:



In terms of track yes but I don't see a monster hurricane taking into account the likely close pass near Hispaniola that will erode the Northern half of the circulation with friction against the mountains. Still, a pass far enough S of that island could allow Irene to reach cat 2 or 3 before making the turn. There is enough TCHP for that but upper air dynamics are still not great for intensification.
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Quoting kmanislander:


Absolutely, a beautiful day here. T time @ 8:40 my time ( hour and a half from now ) so blogging time limited this morning Lol


Hmmm. Links or blog? Yeah, not a tough choice. lol
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3004. WxLogic
Quoting KennyNebraska:


The next forecast point may be too far north in the 8 AM. Irene is up against the high pressure ridge at this hour.


Could be... we'll see if it pans out that way once the HH arrives, but I believe is on track.
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Pressures down to 1005, moving at 21 mph
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Quoting weatherwart:


You ever seen a storm intensify over south Florida? It's happened. All the moisture from the Everglades, just one huge flat sea of hot, shallow water.


True. This would not be good as I think it would catch a lot of people by surprise, expecting a weakened inland storm and instead maybe getting a hurricane
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Quoting KennyNebraska:


Proves the point that no consensus exists at this time.


Land interaction and Strength of the storm is the reason of the digestive disagreement currently. Will be interesting to see which model proves to be the best with this one.......

SkyPony usually post the models percentages.
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Member Since: July 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 5630
Quoting WxLogic:
8AM Cone still the same and as expected since it currently agrees with TVCN:



The next forecast point may be too far north in the 8 AM. Irene is up against the high pressure ridge at this hour.
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Quoting kmanislander:
Good morning folks

I see that overnight we had a center reformation with Irene.

This jump to 16N has resulted in the model runs shifting further N and E in the various runs. That was to be expected.

Looking at the steering ridge this morning and taking into account the fact that Irene has not deepened so far, I would expect to see Irene resume a more W than WNW heading for today. If this happens then the models will come to the left again.

Looking ahead I still believe Irene has a good chance to pass between Jamaica and Cuba before swinging to the NW but this is all dependent on how strong the system becomes. If it deepens significantly it will push its way towards the weakness around Wednesday. If it gets no stronger than CAT 1 then there would be a better chance IMO for it to push a little farther West than the present track forecast. Here is the current steering flow.




Good Morning. I agree Kman. As always we should watch closely and make no assumptions until it actually makes that turn. Of course, even afterwards we'll be watching closely as many of us have friends over in Florida - just won't have carry out the final stages of prep.
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2997. emcf30
Looks like Irene shot between Antigua and Quadeloupe
Current Weather Conditions:
Vc Bird International Airport Antigua, Antigua and Barbuda
Time
EDT (UTC) Temperature
F (C) Dew Point
F (C) Pressure
Inches (hPa) Wind
MPH Weather
Latest 7 AM (11) Aug 21 77 (25) 73 (23) 29.74 (1007) E 30 light rain
6 AM (10) Aug 21 77 (25) 75 (24) 29.74 (1007) ENE 25
5 AM (9) Aug 21 78 (26) 75 (24) 29.77 (1008) NE 24 light rain
4 AM (8) Aug 21 78 (26) 73 (23) 29.77 (1008) NE 18 light rain
3 AM (7) Aug 21 77 (25) 75 (24) 29.80 (1009) NE 22 light rain
2 AM (6) Aug 21 75 (24) 71 (22) 29.83 (1010) NE 10 light rain
1 AM (5) Aug 21 80 (27) 73 (23) 29.83 (1010) E 28 light rain showers

Current Weather Conditions:
Le Raizet, Guadeloupe, Guadeloupe
24 Hour Summary

Time
EDT (UTC) Temperature
F (C) Dew Point
F (C) Pressure
Inches (hPa) Wind
MPH Weather
Latest 7 AM (11) Aug 21 77 (25) 73 (23) 29.77 (1008) SSE 10 light rain
6 AM (10) Aug 21 75 (24) 73 (23) 29.74 (1007) S 9 light rain
5 AM (9) Aug 21 75 (24) 73 (23) 29.74 (1007) SSW 10 light rain
4 AM (8) Aug 21 75 (24) 73 (23) 29.74 (1007) SW 6 rain
3 AM (7) Aug 21 73 (23) 73 (23) 29.77 (1008) W 6 light rain
2 AM (6) Aug 21 73 (23) 73 (23) 29.77 (1008) WNW 3 light rain
1 AM (5) Aug 21 77 (25) 75 (24) 29.80 (1009) Variable 3 light rain
NOAA Caribbean Weather Observations

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Quoting WxLogic:
8AM Cone still the same and as expected since it currently agrees with TVCN:

Correct. And it's important as always to not pay attention too closely to the center line; anywhere within the cone is still in the watch-and-wait mode. That five-day cone is roughly 500 miles in diameter; as such, Irene may miss Florida by a few hundred miles to the east or to the west, or she may wind up anywhere in between.

Uh-oh
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Quoting CarolinaHurricanes87:
It will be very interesting to see if this system rakes through florida, easing the impacts for everyone else... or if it glides up the coast of florida (either west or east), staying stronger, impacting florida harder as well as the states north of florida.

Latest runs show a path that would be awful for everyone on the east coast from florida to SE NC.

Does anyone know how strong GFS shows Irene when its hitting Georgia? (on the last run)


You ever seen a storm intensify over south Florida? It's happened. All the moisture from the Everglades, just one huge flat sea of hot, shallow water.
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2993. WxLogic
Quoting TampaSpin:


Just looked at steering flow........i see the same thing Kman..........wasn't a NOAA g-5......taking readings overnite also?


:) Tampa... is G-4.

Their next run is:

B. POSSIBLE G-IV SURVEILANCE MISSION FOR THE
SAME SYSTEM AT 22/0000Z.

Or basically tonight @ 8PM.
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2992. Vero1
TROPICAL WEATHER DISCUSSION
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
805 AM EDT SUN AUG 21 2011

BASED ON 0600 UTC SURFACE ANALYSIS AND SATELLITE IMAGERY THROUGH
1115 UTC.

...SPECIAL FEATURE...

TROPICAL STORM IRENE IS CENTERED NEAR 16.5N 62.0W AT 21/1200 UTC
OR ABOUT 35 MI...55 KM WNW OF GUADELOUPE...OR ABOUT 45 MI...70
KM SSW OF ANTIGUA MOVING W AT 19 KT. THE ESTIMATED MINIMUM
CENTRAL PRESSURE IS 1005 MB. MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WIND SPEED IS 45
KT WITH GUSTS TO 55 KT. PLEASE SEE THE LATEST INTERMEDIATE
PUBLIC ADVISORY UNDER AWIPS/WMO HEADER MIATCPAT4/ WTNT34 KNHC
AND THE FULL FORECAST/ADVISORY UNDER AWIPS/WMO HEADER MIATCMAT4/
WTNT24 KNHC FOR MORE DETAILS. SCATTERED STRONG CONVECTION COVERS
A BROAD REGION OF THE ATLC AND EAST CARIBBEAN BASIN FROM 14N-21N
BETWEEN 57W-65W. IRENE IS EXPECTED TO PRODUCE TOTAL RAINFALL
ACCUMULATIONS OF 4 TO 7 INCHES IN THE LEEWARD ISLANDS...PUERTO
RICO AND THE VIRGIN ISLANDS...WITH ISOLATED MAXIMUM AMOUNTS OF
UP TO 10 INCHES. THESE RAINS COULD CAUSE LIFE-THREATENING FLASH
FLOODS AND MUDSLIDES IN AREAS OF STEEP TERRAIN. TROPICAL STORM
CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED TO BEGIN THIS AFTERNOON IN THE VIRGIN
ISLANDS AND PUERTO RICO. HURRICANE CONDITIONS ARE POSSIBLE OVER
THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC BY LATE MONDAY WITH TROPICAL STORM
CONDITIONS POSSIBLE BY MONDAY AFTERNOON.

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Quoting weatherwart:
Morning, Kman. You still golfing today?


Absolutely, a beautiful day here. T time @ 8:40 my time ( hour and a half from now ) so blogging time limited this morning Lol
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Quoting StormJunkie:


72 hrs is a long time and 140+ even longer...Right now; I am primarily interested in where she is when it gets to DR/PR. Just S of or over; and those mountains should do a number on her. Just N of and all bets are off.


I dont want bets to be off,,, I just put my house on the market last week and dont need this sh*t. :-)
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Tampa,
I liked it better when only one model had it heading towards the western part of the GOM. But if she can go east of Florida, that would be great.
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It will be very interesting to see if this system rakes through florida, easing the impacts for everyone else... or if it glides up the coast of florida (either west or east), staying stronger, impacting florida harder as well as the states north of florida.

Latest runs show a path that would be awful for everyone on the east coast from florida to SE NC.

Does anyone know how strong GFS shows Irene when its hitting Georgia? (on the last run)
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2987. WxLogic
Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:
06Z GFDL now recurves earlier, 126 hours eastern GOM




We should be able to expect UKM also shifting and coming more in line with the other runs as consensus grows.
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Quoting TampaSpin:


Just looked at steering flow........i see the same thing Kman..........wasn't a NOAA g-5......taking readings overnite also?


Not sure about the G-5 but no question that ridge is not shifting for now and irene is right up against the base.
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Quoting TampaSpin:


Proves the point that no consensus exists at this time.
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Morning, Kman. You still golfing today?
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Quoting StormJunkie:


72 hrs is a long time and 140+ even longer...Right now; I am primarily interested in where she is when it gets to DR/PR. Just S of or over; and those mountains should do a number on her. Just N of and all bets are off.


I totally agree. No certainty in track or intensity in the upcoming days exists right now.
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2980. WxLogic
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Already moving WNW through Hispañola. Changed its mind from the prior Caribbean trek.


Pretty sure it will be close to its parent... GFS.
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06Z GFDL now recurves earlier, 126 hours eastern GOM


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I mean missing Florida to the right (not enough coffee)
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Looks like the GFDL shifted east….still a western outlier however.
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Good morning, everyone. I see the HH are up and out.
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Tampa Spin those are old runs. All of the new ones (00z and 06z) are shifting east. You are correct, the UKMET and GFDL are still outliers to the left but the GFS, HWRF and NOGAPS are on the verge of missing Florida to the left.
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2973. WxLogic
8AM Cone still the same and as expected since it currently agrees with TVCN:

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Quoting kmanislander:
Good morning folks

I see that overnight we had a center reformation with Irene.

This jump to 16N has resulted in the model runs shifting further N and E in the various runs. That was to be expected.

Looking at the steering ridge this morning and taking into account the fact that Irene has not deepened so far, I would expect to see Irene resume a more W than WNW heading for today. If this happens then the models will come to the left again.

Looking ahead I still believe Irene has a good chance to pass between Jamaica and Cuba before swinging to the NW but this is all dependent on how strong the system becomes. If it deepens significantly it will push its way towards the weakness around Wednesday. If it gets no stronger than CAT 1 then there would be a better chance IMO for it to push a little farther West than the present track forecast. Here is the current steering flow.





Just looked at steering flow........i see the same thing Kman..........wasn't a NOAA g-5......taking readings overnite also?
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Quoting KennyNebraska:


You can see in that model run that the high pressure ridge is blocking the trough.

No one should be counting chickens today, tomorrow, or Tuesday. 72 hours is a long time from now.


72 hrs is a long time and 140+ even longer...Right now; I am primarily interested in where she is when it gets to DR/PR. Just S of or over; and those mountains should do a number on her. Just N of and all bets are off.
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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