Early Tuesday evening Sandy is around 225 miles SSW of Kingston, Jamaica. Yesterday the storm was stationary. This evening it’s moving north at 8 mph.
We know Sandy is better organized! What was just a cluster of thunderstorms now has the curved bands you’d expect with a tropical system.
Sandy is also over very warm water. Think of that oceanic heat content as gasoline thrown on a smoldering fire.
Sandy is forecast to hit Jamaica Wednesday with hurricane force winds. From there it will continue toward Cuba. Both Jamaica and Cuba have mountainous interiors. That will likely slow the storm’s development
From there the official track stays east of Florida cutting through the mainly flat Bahamas.
What you’ve just read is what we think is likely. Now we come to the part of the forecast that’s much less certain… carved in cottage cheese, if you will.
In order to pin down the forecast we look at a variety of computer models. These take the storm’s characteristics, turn them into mathematical variables, then apply the laws of physics.
Each computer model uses a slightly different method to ‘solve’ the forecasting problem. We have many models because none of them is consistently right! Each has strengths and weaknesses.
One model, produced by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, showed great skill last hurricane season, especially with Hurricane Irene. Its solution for Sandy is scary for Connecticut.
The ECMWF curves Sandy on a counterclockwise path through the Atlantic, hitting Long Island and cutting through Connecticut from southeast to northwest. It is an exceptionally rare path for a storm. It would have a devastating impact on our state.
A storm like this could easily rival the damage from Irene… but wait.
The ECMWF prediction is for early next week. That’s still a long way away, both in distance and time. Small errors in a computer model early on multiply with time.
At this time there’s just no way to dismiss the ECMWF’s forecast. That’s not to say it will come true, it’s just one of many possible scenarios. There’s little individuals can do and not much you should do today.
Hopefully, as we go forward the computer models will begin to agree and we’ll be able to tell you to relax or get ready.