Trop­i­cal storm Irma pick­ing up steam

Winnipeg Free Press - - NEWS - JENNY STALE­TOVICH

MI­AMI — Trop­i­cal storm Irma picked up strength Wed­nes­day and is ex­pected to be­come a hur­ri­cane by to­day or Fri­day, mak­ing it the fourth hur­ri­cane of an in­creas­ingly busy season.

In their lat­est ad­vi­sory, Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter fore­cast­ers said sus­tained winds had reached 97 km/h as the storm rolls west at 24 km/h. While it’s too early to tell what threat Irma may pose to Florida or the U.S. coast, it has the po­ten­tial to gain sig­nif­i­cant strength as it crosses warm At­lantic wa­ters and en­coun­ters weak wind shear.

Irma is mov­ing along the south­ern edge of a high-pres­sure sys­tem that’s help­ing steer it, fore­cast­ers said. Dur­ing the next three days, it’s ex­pected to slow and be­gin turn­ing to­ward the south­west. How­ever, after that, the mod­els di­verge on which path the storm will take.

At seven days, the en­sem­ble Euro­pean fore­cast model shows Irma in a lo­ca­tion where hur­ri­canes have his­tor­i­cally im­pacted the U.S.

What wor­ries me­te­o­rol­o­gists is that the storm will track very close to a lat­i­tude and lon­gi­tude in the trop­i­cal At­lantic that have proved a turn­ing point for threats to the is­lands and the U.S. coast. It’s also not yet clear whether the high-pres­sure sys­tem, or a low-pres­sure trough, will win out in a tug of war over which di­rec­tion it takes.

“A little too close for com­fort,” Colorado State Univer­sity hur­ri­cane re­searcher Phil Klotzbach said in an email.

How­ever, mod­els fore­cast­ing so far in the fu­ture can be no­to­ri­ously un­re­li­able, he said.

“Be­yond seven days, I re­ally don’t much put stock in com­puter model fore­casts,” he said.

Hur­ri­cane season en­tered its busiest time ear­lier this month, just after Franklin be­came the first hur­ri­cane of the season on Aug. 10 and made land­fall the next day in Mex­ico as a Cat­e­gory 1 storm. On Aug. 14, hur­ri­cane Gert formed and re­mained well off the East Coast of the U.S. Har­vey be­came a hur­ri­cane last Thurs­day off the coast of Texas be­fore mak­ing land­fall and stalling over Hous­ton.

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