Currently in the Atlantic — September 26, 2022

The weather, currently.

The overall picture with Tropical Storm Ian is starting to get a bit more clearer. Let's jump right in by looking at how much consensus we have gained since this time yesterday.

Here are the tracks of every major global weather model ran released Saturday afternoon compiled into one large "super-ensemble,"  valid at 2 AM EDT on Friday:

Saturday afternoon Super-ensembles of every major global weather model tracking Tropical Storm Ian. Graphic courtesy of Tomer Burg

Yesterday, there was tremendous spread among all of the major models. Nearly every model had tracks ranging from the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico, to landfalls in Louisiana to Florida. The shaded outlines denoting the model spread covered almost the entire Gulf of Mexico. Take a look at how much more overlap there is between the models this afternoon:

Sunday afternoon Super-ensembles of every major global weather model tracking Tropical Storm Ian. Graphic courtesy of Tomer Burg

With this afternoon's models, we now have much greater confidence that Ian will track into the western tip of Cuba, and then head into the eastern Gulf of Mexico. While everyone from New Orleans to Miami should continue monitoring this storm, it now seems increasingly likely somewhere between Fort Myers and Pensacola, Florida seems to be greatest risk for a landfalling hurricane later this week. If you are in the cone of uncertainty, including Tampa Bay, now is the time to make preparations. Ready.gov has a comprehensive list of steps to take prior to impacts.  

Here is the official track from the National Hurricane Center as of the 5 PM EDT Advisory:

Key messages, expected onset of tropical-storm-force winds, and the forecast path of Tropical Storm Ian from the National Hurricane Center. This forecast was released at 5 PM EDT on Sunday, September 25, 2022. 

What has caused this increase in confidence? There are many things, but the biggest of which is that the models have much more data to support their forecasts. The NWS has increased the number of weather balloon launches from 2 to 4 every day across much of the eastern two-thirds of the United States. This gives the models much more insight on the upper level winds steering the track of Ian.

So with all of this information – what does it mean for the overall strength of Ian? Right now the official forecast from the National Hurricane Center still calls for Ian to rapidly intensify over the next couple of days. Ian is expected to become a major (Category 3+) hurricane in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday into Wednesday. Afterwards, Ian is expected to encounter wind shear from the jet stream as an upper level trough digs southward over the central United States. High wind shear acts to disrupt the circulation of hurricanes, which will cause the storm to weaken.

Wind shear forecast for early Wednesday morning. Yellows, oranges, and reds denote high wind shear. Greens and whites denote lower wind shear. Graphic courtesy of TropicalTidbits.

How much the wind shear weakens Ian remains an open question. This will depend on how far north Ian tracks. Farther north, Ian will encounter more wind shear and have more time to weaken. Farther south, Ian has less wind shear to deal with and will have more opportunity to maintain its strength. The current forecast from the National Hurricane Center calls for a landfall in northern Florida as a Category 2 Hurricane. Keep in mind the factors driving the uncertainty in strength likely means this intensity forecast will continue to be adjusted in future National Hurricane Center forecasts.

Regardless of the forecast strength, it is extremely important never to focus on just the category of the storm as storm winds are only one way hurricanes bring significant impacts. Ian has the potential to bring major storm surge, flooding, and the risk for tornadoes as well. We will have more details on these specific impacts in the next couple of days as the track and intensity become more clear.

Elsewhere in the Atlantic, conditions are much quieter. Tropical Storm Gaston is rapidly weakening in the North Atlantic, about 500 miles west of the Azores islands. There is another weak tropical disturbance several hundred miles west of the Cabo Verde islands that has a 30 percent chance of organizing into a tropical depression or storm over the next 5 days.

Chief Meteorologist Anthony Torres filling in for Glenn "Hurricane" Schwartz

What you can do, currently.

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