Nothing can be trickier than trying to forecast the movement and intensity of a tropical system. You must consider many different factors like water temperature, land interaction, upper-level winds, etc. If one factor varies even a tiny bit, the strength and movement of the tropical system could shift dramatically.
Now let's apply this to the storm at hand - Irene. The computer models have been advertising a possible interaction with the United States for several days now, though the predicted path has been wobbling. Earlier model runs were focused more on the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the peninsula of Florida. The overall trend has been more of a shift to the east, which would cause greater concern for eastern Florida and the Bahamas by the end of the work week. Depending on how much land interaction has occurred at that point, Irene could be anything from a strong tropical storm to a minor hurricane.
From there, many questions begin to pop up. Does Irene move toward the Carolina coast and head inland toward the mid-Atlantic? Does Irene re-curve and head out into the Atlantic Ocean? Unfortunately this far out, those questions can be very difficult to answer. At this stage in the game, there is the potential for the remnants of Irene to bring some rainfall to central Virginia over the next weekend. Again, I invite you to check back to our website frequently over the next few days as we get a better handle on exactly where this system is heading and what that could ultimately mean for our forecast.
Until next time,