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yonza bam

Hurricane Dorian

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It's currently  off the east coast of Puerto Rico, and has just been upgraded to a category 1 hurricane (75 mph) by the US National Hurricane Centre (NHC) in the last hour. Puerto Rico doesn't need any more grief from hurricanes. They're still a long way from recovering from hurricane Maria in 2017, which caused 3,059 deaths, and $92 billion in damage. Hopefully the effects of Dorian will be minor. It's not a direct hit and much weaker than Maria, but will still bring a ton of rain.

It's where it's headed that is going to be the major news story next week. There's currently very little about it in online news sources, because news is normally about what has happened, rather than about something that might happen in 5 days time. But, that's when Dorian arrives in Florida, about midday UK time on Monday. So, is it certain to hit Florida? No, there's a small, maybe 20% chance that the high pressure system, known as the 'Azores high', could weaken much more than expected, in which case Dorian could 'recurve' around it and out to sea, without impacting land. More likely, it would hit Georgia or the Carolinas. The high pressure is what is steering Dorian to Florida. Currently, the NHC has it making landfall in the middle of the Florida east coast, near Cape Canaveral,  but the average 5 day track forecast has an error of 200 miles. If the ridge gets stronger than expected, Dorian will make landfall further south, which is where the population density is highest. That's where cat 5 Andrew made landfall in 1992, causing catastrophic damage. After Andrew, building codes were radically revised in Florida, to make buildings much more resilient to hurricanes.

The NHC is excellent with its track forecasts, but much less so with its intensity forecasts. Part of the reason for this may be that it doesn't want to get itself a name for 'crying wolf', so its intensity forecasts are very conservative. Less than 24 hours ago, it was predicting a landfall in Florida of just 70 mph. Now, it has updated that to a major cat 3 of 115 mph. Given its track record of underestimating, this could be conservative. Conditions between Puerto Rico and the Bahamas are not very conducive for strengthening, although some strengthening should occur. However, once Dorian gets north of the Bahamas, conditions become much more favourable, with very high sea surface temperatures, low wind shear, and a very moist environment. It's hard to see what could stop rapid intensification, although there's always the possibility of internal factors, such as a collapsed eye wall.

This is likely to be next week's major news story. I think it'll be a category 4 at landfall. 

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These freak weather events seem to be happening more and more.  Must be awful for people living in coastal towns.  There hasn't been much on the news because we're getting wall to wall Westminster.  Very informative, Yonza.  I hope the \Azores high' swings into action and the 'recurve' back out to sea takes place.

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