Local Earthquake…Irene Gaining Strength

Did you feel it. Pretty strong earthquake for this area. Preliminary estimate from USGS puts it at 5.9 magnitude.

Source: USGS

Check out wbaltv.com for more on the local earthquake. Also tune in for the latest on WBAL TV-11 News at 5-6 & 11pm.

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Hurricane Irene’s sustained winds reached 100 mph Tuesday morning. The storm was north of the island of Hispaniola and southeast of Grand Turk Island, moving west-northwest at about 10 mph. The central pressure had dropped to 28.88 inches at 8:00am.

Source: NASA

The satellite image above is from early Tuesday afternoon. The image below is a closer view of Irene from Tuesday morning.

It appears that Irene is poised to become a major hurricane and is a major threat to the east coast of the U.S.

Computer models produce numerous forecast tracks for storms and in Irene’s case the models are fairly close in the near term.

Plot provided courtesy of Jonathan Vigh, Colorado State University

In the longer term, the storm’s forecast position is less precise as indicated by the plot shown above. The spaghetti plots show the forecast tracks of various computer models.

By Sunday the storm will likely be near the Mid Atlantic region. Two commonly used long range forecast models show the variety in storm position possibilities.

Source: WSI

The European forecast model (above) places the eye of the storm just south of Baltimore on Sunday morning. The GFS model (below) has the storm moving faster and farther east, positioning the storm off the New Jersey coast on Sunday morning.

Source: WSI

The differences in the two computer models above are considerable as to the effects the storm would have on the region.

Storm intensity is one of the toughest forecast problems and in Irene’s case, the forecast models are not as unified as the track forecast.

Plot provided courtesy of Jonathan Vigh, Colorado State University

All of the models indicate the potential for a strong storm but the range is from category 2 to category 4. The National Hurricane Center’s official intensity forecast has the storm winds reaching 125 mph for a period of time before reaching the North or South Carolina coast.

The official forecast track, updated Tuesday evening, for the storm is shown below.

The National Weather Service has pulled all the stops on this storm. Numerous hurricane hunter and research flights have flown into and around the environment of the storm to provide the computer models high resolution data to work with. Locally, the twice daily atmospheric sounding balloon launches from the National Weather Service office at Sterling, VA have been increased to four. It is important to know the state of the atmosphere that the storm will be moving into.

Keep in mind that hurricane forecasting has improved considerably over the past few years but still can have a large margin of error. Even though it appears the storm will have some impact on the Mid Atlantic region this weekend, the timing and ultimate strength of the storm at that time are speculative.

Check in from time-to-time on wbaltv.com for the status of Hurricane Irene and tune in Tom and Tony for the latest updates on WBAL TV-11.

John Collins

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