Hey NJ, please chill out about Hurricane Irma’s uncertain forecast
The powerful storm is still over 1,800 nautical miles away from the Jersey Shore.
As you've probably heard, Hurricane Irma is churning up both the Atlantic Ocean AND the entire internet this weekend.
In a way, I'm glad Irma is getting so much attention. The storm is probably going to intensify into a powerful category 4 or 5 "major" hurricane, and a landfall on the U.S. East Coast is a distinct possibility. It's good to be informed.
However, this soon and this far out, there are many, many possibilities for the storm's forecast track and ultimate destination. That's why - contrary to many "social media-rologists" and Twitter trolls - we have to sit down, shut up, and just wait. Period.
Here are a few additional nuggets of meteorological insight regarding Hurricane Irma...
Irma's intensity has been wavering up and down slightly. The latest numbers from the National Hurricane Center show Irma is a category 3 major hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph. The center of Irma is estimated to be 1,880 nautical miles southeast of Cape May, NJ. As it enters warmer waters, Irma will probably intensity to a category 4 hurricane in the coming days. Again, such a powerful storm warrants all the attention it's getting.
Tracking minute-by-minute changes in the Irma forecast is absolutely pointless right now. (That statement would be true even if I weren't on vacation, by the way.) I will admit forecast models have trended southward in the past few runs, away from a "New Jersey direct hit" scenario. Relatively good news for New Jersey, bad news for the Carolinas on south. Could the storm continue to trend south? Absolutely. Could the track slide north again? Absolutely. Could the storm still turn out to sea? Absolutely.
This map above illustrates exactly why meteorologists are stressing patience. This "spaghetti plot" shows the latest storm track spread from the GFS ensemble suite. Forecast models are complicated beasts - ensemble forecast models multiply that complexity by 30 or 50. See how the model forecast tracks are tightly "bunched" from the Lesser Antilles to the Bahamas? That gives us *confidence* that the storm is likely to head in that general direction. But see how the ensemble members then spread out dramatically, suggesting the center of the storm may hit anywhere from southern Florida to New Jersey? That's called uncertainty.
The Bottom Line
Once again, any landfall upon the United States is still at least a week away (impacts in New Jersey would happen somewhere between Sunday 9/10 and Tuesday 9/12). I have never seen a perfect 8-day weather forecast, nevermind for a major hurricane. Any prediction made now would have a 100% chance of busting.
As you may know, I am on vacation and out-of-town all this week. Even so, I will be watching Irma's developments from afar and updating regularly. I also very much appreciate the rest of our intrepid weather, news, digital, and programming teams for stepping up and stepping in during my absence.
Don't worry, this storm is not going to "sneak up" on you. If the storm threatens New Jersey with ANY impacts - whether it be rain, wind, or coastal - we won't be able to pull that trigger until about Thursday (at the earliest). Until then, we'll do our best to keep you calm and informed.
In the meantime, as sunshine and warmer temperatures return to New Jersey, enjoy the beautiful Labor Day weather!