Here's something that's new to the hurricane world. The National Weather Service in the Quad Cities is one of 21 offices who will perform 6 hour balloon launches to improve lead forecasts for hurricane Irma. The goal is to help refine model output tied to an eastern CONUS trough and the precise strength and location of an incoming surface high, both of which will be key factors in determining the track of Irma as it approaches the United States.
While it's still very early in the game, today's models have shown unusual early consistency in tracking this dangerous storm through the Caribbean just north of Puerto Rico and Cuba between now and 2pm Saturday. The official forecast from the Hurricane Center looks like this Monday night.
The spaghetti plots of the various hurricane models.
Here's the EURO EPS ensemble forecasts comprised of 51 members. 50% now showing a landfall in or close to Florida.
The U.S. based GEFS ensembles look pretty similar
Here's some of the intensity forecasts. Most showing a powerful category 4 or 5 up until landfall.
The most ominous forecast I have seen is the 18Z GFS out Monday afternoon. It has a 890mb hurricane (26.28") coming ashore just south of Miami.
Far from real at this point that's Miami's worst nightmare! The city would take the full brunt of the wind and storm surge. Catastrophic damage would be the end result and that is no exaggeration. Another billion dollar disaster on the heals of Harvey. We certainly hope and pray for a different solution.
There are still a couple ways out of this mess. For example, if the storm were to go further south and hit Cuba it's circulation would be disrupted creating a weaker hurricane. Or, the system could pass south of Florida but that's not necessarily good as it would remain strong and pose a threat to states in the Gulf. The best solution would be for the storm to turn right sooner allowing it to remain near but off the East Coast. That's good for everybody but that is the least likely possibility.
I can't stress enough that the track is very much in flux and just like with a winter storm there will be refinements in coming days. However, as it stands now another major hurricane has a good chance if making landfall in some part of the United States. Roll weather...TS