National Hurricane Center forecasters on Tuesday were keeping their eye on a slow-moving tropical storm after forecast models projected the storm would move close to the Bahamas.
Tropical Storm Joaquin, located about 425 miles northwest of the Bahamas at 11 a.m. Tuesday, was creeping west at just 5 mph with sustained winds of 45 mph. Over the next two days, forecasters expect the storm to continue moving west, with sustained winds strengthening to 55 mph.
While early models pointed the storm to the northeast, a high pressure system is keeping the storm to the south and steering it west, trapping it over record-breaking warm seas that could help strengthen into Joaquin to a hurricane later this week. Models still show the storm turning toward the north and east before reaching the island chain, but also include “huge differences from run-to-run and with each other on just how this trough will develop and interact with Joaquin,” Weather Underground meteorologist Jeff Masters wrote on his blog.
Masters said another system that crossed the Florida Panhandle early Tuesday could also help determine the storm’s path.
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Last month, forecasters encountered the same uncertainty in models as they followed Tropical Storm Erika across the Atlantic for five days. Some models had the storm doing one thing under one set of conditions, and something entirely different with another set. As the storm advanced, the projected cone of uncertainty continued to shift. Over the years, models have become increasingly accurate at forecasting a storm’s path, but not its intensity. And as Erika showed, intensity can often determine whether a storm is steered by lower trade winds blowing to the east and west, or upper atmospheric conditions that can turn a storm north.
A hurricane hunter plane is scheduled to investigate the storm Tuesday afternoon, allowing forecasters to make a better call on the intensity of the storm.
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