Watching Florence

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~I'm sure everyone or most of you have heard about Tropical Storm Florence over the last several days. Here's the latest on Florence and its projected path.

~As of the 11 AM Advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Florence is a 65mph, 996mb tropical storm and is moving west at 8mph. Florence rapidly intensified into a category 4 hurricane earlier this week and has since weakened thanks to strong wind shear and dry air. Earlier this week, there was a lot of uncertainty regarding the track of Florence. This was expected considering how far away, and how far away we still are from any potential impacts. Weather forecasts are extremely accurate inside of the 3 day range, and accuracy plummets exponentially after 3 days given all of the variables and introduced error at play. It's no different with Florence. I waited until Friday to give my early thoughts on the system so we have a little more confidence in the forecast. 

~Basically, there are two factors at play that will dictate Florence's track. The first will be the trough moving across the North Atlantic this weekend, and the second being the massive ridge that develops over the northeast and over-top of Florence next week. Earlier this week, there was a great model spread in the track of Florence of whether it would stay out to sea or continue west towards the United States. This uncertainty was due to the fact that there were different projections of where the trough would be located and the exact positioning of Florence's location in relation to the trough. Now that it's Friday, the modeling has since resolved those errors and variables, leading to a much more confident forecast for the time being. As of this afternoon, there is a high likelihood that Florence will miss the trough connection this weekend and continue heading west. Other than the fact that Florence is well separated from the trough to the north, the storm is much weaker now than it was earlier this week. Stronger hurricanes are much more organized at the surface and aloft. The well organized structure of a strong hurricane make's it very easy for even the slightest upper level disturbance to interact with, and change the direction of a hurricane. If Florence was a category 3+ hurricane through the weekend, it would have maintained a further north track and therefore been steered out to sea from the trough passing to it's north this weekend. Since Florence is currently a tropical storm, it is maintaining a more southerly and westerly track than thought. Florence will remain a tropical storm/weak hurricane this weekend and because of this weaker storm and resulting southerly track, it will likely miss the trough and continue west. 

~With that being said, an out to sea scenario still cannot be ruled out, but the window is closing fast. If Florence were to intensify this weekend, then we may see a re-curve out to sea. However, environmental conditions around Florence currently and over the next 24-48 hours would suggest that it remains a tropical storm/weak hurricane. This is due to some strong southwesterly wind shear aloft. 

~Heading into next week a strong ridge of high pressure will build over Florence and the northeastern U.S. This will block Florence's escape and force it westward where a landfall or near miss with considerable impacts is very possible. Historically speaking, ridge's that build over the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic have been known patterns to result in hurricane/tropical storm impacts. Florence will be heading into very favorable environmental conditions next week which will lead to further strengthening. Given the very warm water temperatures off the east coast, even as far north as New Jersey and little to no wind shear, it is entirely possible that Florence becomes a major hurricane again (cat 3+). Current information would lead to Florence generating impacts on the east coast sometime late next week or weekend. There is still plenty of time for the forecast to evolve and change. Please stay tuned to SNj news for further updates. Now is a good time to go over your hurricane action and protection plans. 

Alex Bronsky, Meteorology Intern SNj News