September 7, 2008
First, to fill in the story line from Friday’s post to today:
Ike had a short burst of strengthening yesterday afternoon, the timing of which was unexpected.
Before and After
The strengthening brought Ike up to category four status, where it has remained since.
After striking the Turks and Caicos Islands, Ike wobbled into the Bahamas Island Great Inagua this morning, exposing it to the worst it had to offer. The next stop is the north-eastern coast of Cuba (Cuba radar).
That means that fortunately, it is not taking the Windward Passage track that the GFDL model was forecasting on Friday. That keeps Haiti from the worst of the storm, though it is putting rain on a place where every last drop is currently unwelcome. In his post this morning, Dr Masters recommends a charity that’s focused on aid to Haiti, which is currently tallying 500 dead from Hanna, a number that is sure to rise.
The current track forecast takes Ike over Cuba and then northwest into the Gulf of Mexico. As mentioned at the end of the 11 AM forecast discussion, Gulfstream IV flights are providing over-water upper-air data to both the morning and evening global model runs. Also, the number of daily upper-air observations taken by National Weather Service offices has been doubled. These actions are intended to help the models get as much data as possible to resolve the question of whether a trough will dig far enough down to turn Ike to the north (similar to how Ivan was turned away from New Orleans in 2004). In the case of Ike, a northerly turn would be of concern to areas like Mobile and Pensacola. Should that turn fail to materialize howeve, Ike could get go all the way to Texas.
As far as intensity goes, the short term question is exactly how Ike tracks over Cuba. If the NHC could absolutely guarantee a 24 hour or longer time-period over Cuba (which is the forecast), the forecast, which currently drops Ike to a minimal hurricane, would probably be even lower, more like a minimal to moderate tropical storm. However, because a slight deviation to the south would put it over water, the Hurricane Center has to hedge its forecast.
Coming up soon, a look at how rare Ike’s track is.