As I begin to type this, it is 2:26 AM. I am sitting in front of the computer, as I have for the past few hours. Earlier, I was playing poker. Now I am just killing time, waiting for the 00z run of the gfdl to come in so I can see the latest on Hurricane Frances¹.
This run should be somewhat telling, because there are signs the track of the storm might be changing… or at least the forecast signs are changing. Some earlier models tonight, models that aren’t especially good with hurricanes, brought Frances farther up the coast before landfall.
Yes, the guidance points further up the coast for landfall – maybe the border between the Carolinas.
My friend Bob, who I’ve been talking to much of the night on Instant Messenger, pointed out what a nightmare this could be for FEMA. With landfall anywhere along the East Coast, hundreds of miles and millions of people will need to be warned. Hopefully the track will become more well defined with time.
Hurricane forecasting is incredibly imprecise. These are tiny storms compared to the typical low and high pressure systems we track. And they spend much of their lives in an area with little in the way of steering currents.
Still, for me, they are fascinating to watch as they develop.
They are beautiful to see on satellite images (Frances is still too far from land to be seen on radar). The laws of physics define their shape. Though nothing but clouds and water vapor, they are real objects with mass and momentum. When you stop and think of it, the energy necessary to move that much ‘stuff’ around that quickly is immense.
By the time I get up the computers will have crunched the numbers again with another imprecise solution. I will be drawn to it like a moth to flame.
¹ – Weather wouldn’t make sense unless everything was synchronized. You’d like all readings to be taken at the same time. Of course, there are better than two dozen different time zones! So, to keep everyone on the same page, we use Universal Coordinated Time and abbreviate it “Z”. 00Z is midnight Universal Coordinated Time, or 8:00 PM EDT, on the preceding day.
Gfdl refers to the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, where this model was born.