Earlier this afternoon, before the Hurricane Center issued its 5:00 PM update on Katrina, I sent an instant message to my friend Bob at FSU. I told him I was putting up a dollar that Katrina’s forecast would be shifted left.
I had the exact same feeling tonight… and NHC moved it again.
Maybe feeling is the wrong word, because this isn’t intuition or guesswork. I could see signs. The storm was refusing to make the predicted right turn. In fact, it was traveling south of west.
To the north there was some sort of convergence. Feeder bands from the hurricane were meeting something moving from the north. Clouds were showing up bright white – a sign they were developing vertically.
Whatever it was to the north, it would impede that right turn forecast at the Hurricane Center.
I’m sure I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating. The best hurricane information is often contained in the forecaster’s technical discussion. These really were meant to be ‘internal use only’ documents, but you can’t do that when you work for the government.
In these the lead forecaster discusses what has gone into the latest forecast package. I’m sure it’s very helpful at NHC after the hurricane season is over or whenever post mortems are done.
I’ll attach tonight’s at the end of this message so you can get a feel for yourself. This one was written by Dr. Lixion Avila, one of NHC’s hurricane specialists. Four of the six specialists are Ph D’s. This is specialized work.
Sometimes, I sense, things are thrown in with the understanding that it’s more than meteorologists reading.
LOOP CURRENT OF THE GULF OF MEXICO…WHICH IS LIKE ADDING HIGH
OCTANE FUEL TO THE FIRE
No one trained in weather needed that line. Some surface water in the Northern Gulf of Mexico is 90+. Without a doubt, this is a dangerous storm and getting more dangerous by the minute.
My biggest fear is Katrina will head west of New Orleans and strike the coast there. A Category 4 storm (which is the forecast) in that location would be devastating. For a variety of reasons, New Orleans is incredibly vulnerable and a strike like that would be the worst of all possible scenarios!
Man, I hope he’s right. So far, this storm has been poorly forecast¹. And, recently, each succeeding forecast has moved the path farther left… farther to the west.
Today alone, the center of the forecast path for landfall has moved a few hundred miles.
More on Katrina later. We have a few days with this storm at sea before the real trouble begins.
¹ – By poorly forecast, I don’t mean NHC did a bad job. I mean the ability to forecast this particular storm was beyond the capabilities of science at the moment. Something’s there that no one can get a handle on. That we don’t know exactly why it went wrong is as troubling as it going wrong… maybe more.