Forecasters: #HurricaneFlorence to get energy boost from the Gulf Stream

As millions of people along the Atlantic Coast of the United States board up windows and evacuate before Hurricane Florence makes landfall, remote sensing researchers and forecasters are monitoring the environmental conditions fueling the powerful storm. They are assembling a suite of satellite images and data products that could aid storm preparedness and recovery efforts by federal and local partners.

As Florence approaches land, two key factors will help govern the severity of the storm: ocean temperatures and wind shear, the difference in wind speeds at upper and lower parts of a storm. Warm ocean water and low wind shear are required to sustain and intensify a hurricane.

The map above shows sea surface temperatures on September 11, 2018. Meteorologists generally agree that sea surface temperatures (SSTs) should be above 27.8°C (82°F) to sustain and intensify hurricanes (although there are some exceptions). In Florence’s case, National Hurricane Center forecasters expect the storm to pass over water with temperatures well above that threshold. The data for the map were compiled by Coral Reef Watch, which blends observations from the Suomi NPP, MTSAT, Meteosat, and GOES satellites and computer models. Information about the storm track and winds come from the National Hurricane Center.

Florence will be traveling over water that is anomalously warm for this time of year, noted Marangelly Fuentes, a NASA atmospheric scientist who has been tracking the storm with models maintained by NASA’s Global Modeling and Assimilation Office (GMAO). As the storm approaches land, sea surface temperatures off of the Carolinas were between 0.5 and 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than usual.

However, the warm coastal water is not the only reason that the Carolinas may be hit by one of the strongest hurricanes to ever make landfall at such a northerly latitude in this region.“While it is common to see storms this strong or even stronger over the ocean at this latitude,” said Gary Partyka, another atmospheric scientist with GMAO. “What set this situation apart was an unusually strong blocking high north of the storm that directed it towards the United States. Usually with storms at this latitude large-scale circulation patterns drive them to the north and east, well away from the coast.”

Forecasters have warned that life-threatening storm surges, catastrophic flooding, damaging winds, and dangerous rip currents will likely occur along the coastlines of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia when the storm arrives late on September 13. There is growing concern that the presence of another atmospheric blocking ridge in the Mid-Atlantic region may cause the storm to stall and possibly move south and west toward Georgia, potentially extending the amount of time it remains over warm water and increasing the rainfall totals.

With forecasters expecting prodigious amounts of rain, NASA’s Disasters Program has mobilized a team that will use NASA sensors to monitor soil moisture, soil saturation, and rainfall rates. During and after the storm, this team will produce and disseminate information about where satellites observe floods and other effects of the storm. For more awesome, frightening views of Hurricane Florence, see this story.

NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens, using sea surface temperature data from Coral Reef Watch and wind probabilities from the National Hurricane Center. Story by Adam Voiland.

125 thoughts on “Forecasters: #HurricaneFlorence to get energy boost from the Gulf Stream

  1. Damn! That’s warm water. Which is why Santa Cruz surfers are bad ass … even WITH the high tech wetsuits. So cold, you’ll shrink-up to a stack of dimes … not enough to even make a phone call.

      • Marangelly Fuentes, a NASA atmospheric scientist :

        “traveling over water that is anomalously warm for this time of year, “

        So why is she crapping on about “anomalies”? It is REAL physical heat which affects storms , not statistical variations “for the time of year”.

        This just underlines how they have become so obsessed with the AGW “anomalies” that they can not even look ACTUAL temps when following a storm. They are already preparing the media soundbites and attempts to suggest attribution.

    • Kenji, that was my thought as well. I can’t believe the Atlantic is so warm. But I think I would rather have west coast cool water than Bull Sharks and such. 70 is just fine. Granted below 60 and I don’t generally go in even with a wet suit.

      • It can’t be that warm, we were all told that Climate Change would end the Gulf Stream and the UK and Europe would freeze.

      • to Tisdale: I don’t see why your comment is relevant. The storm was only a 2 or 3 then. As it reached the warmer water it was 4 or 3/4. It’s the most northerly 4 I think. Those waters are more than 1C warmer than normal.

        Do you mean that people shouldn’t worry about this storm because it started in cooler waters….? I mean, really, what’s your point?

        • ReallySkeptical said, “to Tisdale: I don’t see why your comment is relevant. The storm was only a 2 or 3 then.”

          Wrong you are, ReallySkeptical! No surprise there. For much of it’s initial 10 days (the time period of my question), Florence was a tropical storm.

          You, ReallySkeptical, then went on to write, “Do you mean that people shouldn’t worry about this storm because it started in cooler waters….?”

          There’s no way that any logical person with a basis in reality could believe that I implied or suggested that with my simple question above. You’re really grasping at straws for your argument.

          You waste my time and space on this thread.

          Good-bye, ReallySkeptical.

          • I agree with ReallySkeptical.

            “Did they bother to say that for the first 10 days of her 13-day existence (as of today), Florence was churning in cooler-than-normal waters?”

            Why bother to even ask that? The perception is you’re attempting to downplay it.

        • As usual, RS demonstrates that he doesn’t know as much as he believes he does.
          A storms ability to take advantage of warmer waters depends on how well organized it is. How well a storm organizes depends in part on the temperature of the water it has passed over.

        • How do they know how far North previous 4s went? What about Hazel which hit Oct 15, 1954 – much later in the season – which hit ground at Cat 4 in North Carolina? how far north did it go? Hazel must have been further North as a Cat 4 than Florence, looking at Florence’s path. I can’t believe all the hysteria from what is usually a very well reasoned crowd.

        • No, you what said didn’t signify. (That means it didn’t mean anything, for the language impaired.)
          You said we should wonder about a storm that didnt start in warmer waters. Or may be be concerned about such a storm, I don’t know. And that was important, for some reason. I don’t agree. I think your statement is silly, almost in a Monty Python like way…
          the storm hit warmer waters, as predicted, and got more severe, as predicted. The cool waters of it’s manufacture didnt matter at all.
          So you are bringing up nothing of consequence. (Again that means it didn’t mean anything, for the language impaired.)

          • hello ReallySkeptical. Have you ever been in a hurricane? I have.

            It was back in 1977 I think. I and some friends from high school went out water skiing on long island sound, we were wearing wet suits it was very cold, the hurricane was several hours out. It was quit the adventure the coast guard brought us in. The cold water was just fine for the hurricane. That one up rooted trees, but then most of them did. You don’t need extra warm water for a hurricane. Back in the 60s &70s we would get 2-3 a season.
            This one is bad because of were it is landing and that areas geography
            Plus I don’t think people know how to build hurricane proof beach houses any more.


          • So now we are language-impaired and you are not? How did these tables get turned? RS, you are welcome here; up your game.

          • ReallySkeptical says, “You said we should wonder about a storm that didnt start in warmer waters. Or may be be concerned about such a storm, I don’t know.”

            You are correct that you don’t know. You are clueless.

            Now it appears that English is a second language for you or that you are language-impaired.

            Good-bye, ReallySkeptical. I’ve wasted my time with you twice on this thread, and I won’t do it again.

        • RS How come you are the only one unable to understand Bob’s single sentence question? Maybe if you didn’t make it up, (”Do you mean that people shouldn’t worry about this storm because it started in cooler waters…”) you would get the point, like everyone else.

      • BBC still calling Florence a hurricane as usual but at the same time telling us it has been downgraded to a Catagory 2 storm, is this true my Virginian friend from the colonies?

        • Once a storms winds exceed a certain speed (74.9mph??) it’s called a hurricane.
          Hurricanes are then broken down into categories, 1 through 5 based on wind speed.
          A cat 2 storm is still a hurricane.

          • There is a big difference between 95mph winds and 130mph winds. That is why the hysterical had to pretend it would be 130.

  2. Okay, I’ve heard it described as a once-in-a-generation storm; do we have an unprecedented yet? It’s already been blamed on President Trump.

    • Yes, I heard the hurricane was Trump’s fault, but not the good economy. Obama is given credit for that due to the stifling regulations and tax policies he had in place apparently.

      • If you want to see the real picture of the economy, you should have seen the charts the Director of the White House Council of Economic Advisors showed at a news conference yesterday.

        I can’t seem to find the charts on the official CEA website, but the charts showed various aspects of the economy and compared the Obama years with Trump’s 19 months and most of the charts looked like Hockey Stick Charts!

        A chart would show the Obama era with a downtrending slope and then an abrupt uptrend as soon as Trump was elected! The contrast was obvious and would be obvious to just about anyone.

        If Republicans were smart they would make copies of those charts and display them at all their campaign rallies to show the difference between the Obama weak economy and the Trump economy, which is on fire.

        I heard a statistic given this morning which was that since Trump was elected, about 865,000 new small businesses have started up. That’s a pretty good number!

        Yes, Republicans need to circulate those economic charts far and wide. They would shut Obama up pretty quick. Well, maybe not him, but they would shut everyone else up as far as the question of who is better for the U.S. economy.

      • No doubt about it. Trump’s fault. Let’s move along now. We have work to do. Several more Trumpcanes in the making. Anyone notified the Philippines what caused theirs?

    • AccuWeather meteorologist Marshall Moss said Florence’s track is unique. “It was located farther north in the Atlantic than any other storm to ever hit the Carolinas, so what we’re forecasting is unprecedented,” Moss said.


      • Unprecedented?… Does he have hurricane records going back millennia? If not, then it’s just not been seen in recorded history. There is no way knowing whether there was one before this. It may be unique but I’m not going to accept “unprecedented” without a qualifier.

        • Yes, but you know that “unprecedented” tripe was going to be trotted out. Because the Climate Nazis follow the playbook of the original Nazis – “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” – Joseph Goebbels

      • Marshall Moss is full of crap. As Tony Heller has pointed out, Hurricane Hazel made landfall in the same area as a Category 4 storm in 1954.

        • Hazel was closer to Virginia, Florence will be closer to South Carolina, so Hazel was much further north, But it would be true that in recorded official history North Carolina is the northern most state to get Cat 4 hurricane hits.

      • No two storms have ever followed exactly the same track.
        If that’s the line they want to take, then every storm is “unprecedented”.

        • Yes, but there lies the beauty of the deception. They just keep drawing that dotted line to connect the (supposedly, but not actually) “unprecedented” weather events with (supposed, but not actual) human-induced “climate change,” and (they hope) the great unwashed will come to accept our invisible human-induced climate boogeyman to be real.

          The Climate Nazis are simply adopting the playbook of the original Nazis – “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” – Joseph Goebbels

      • “It was located farther north in the Atlantic than any other storm to ever hit the Carolinas”
        You need to read that more carefully than people seem to be doing. “was” is the key word. He isn’t saying that it will strike further north than previous hurricanes; he is saying that it comes from further north, and so is travelling in a more westerly direction. Other trajectories have been more NW.

        • And his other key word is “ever”. Seeing as the first satellite imagery was used in 1961, that invalidates “ever” seeing as we would not be able to tell how far north any hurricane had attained before 1961.

          • If you read about Hurricane Hazel it was pretty well established where it was. They already had aircraft to fly into the eye – but weren’t able to for several days do to excessive turbulence, and injuries to crews. But no everything wasn’t as precise, and we didn’t know exactly where it was every minute like we do today.

        • Next they’ll be telling us the time of day a hurricane comes ashore is “unprecedented.” LMAO

          • I get the impression that they want us to believe Atlantic hurricanes may not have existed before Trump, and definitely didn’t exist before Bush.

      • If it is ‘unprecedented’, then how does he know the models are valid. He is using them outside of the envelope.

  3. As far as I can tell, the worry is that Florence will sit in one place and pound the same area for a long time. link

    My uneducated guess is that the Carolinas are not as well prepared for hurricanes as Florida is. President Trump seems to be treating this very seriously.

  4. Latest model runs aren’t calling for much intensification…most calling for none.

    Was lots of hype of Cat 4 or even Cat 5 right before landfall…looks like it is going to be a 3 at highest. Might be a Cat 2 at landfall.

    Still big and strong, potential for major rainfall and flooding if it stalls, not a good scenario if it runs the coast for a bit, etc…

    • 8pm advisory is out…dropped to 115 from 120 at 5pm. Models almost universally saying Cat 2 before landfall with sone at Cat 3…or Cat 1.

    • I was predicting they would invent new Cats for the hurricane.

      A Eyewitness news report: I am here on the Carolina cost where I am waiting for Florence to hit the coast. It is expected to hit in four days. Over the last three days it has intensified from Cat 2 – Cat 4. If it keeps going at this rate it will be a Cat 7 when it hits the shores of North Carolina. Back to you in the studio Mary.

  5. As a very interested party on the coast of South Carolina , I have been following this storm for the past several days. Hurricanes are norotiously unpredictable, but this one has followed the predicted path almost exactly for the past few days. Lately the big change in the estimated path was the turn to the left upon landfall and cobering all of South Carolina and Georgia and missing Virginia and the northern half of North CArolina. all due to a couple of stationary high pressure areas to the north. The estimates are that max winds at the coast will barely achieve hurricane status – about 75MPH at most locations, or less. Storm surges will be greatest at Wilmington NC – 13 feet. Elsewhere they will be 6 feet or less. RAin totals on the coast for Wilmington are by far the greatest – 24+ inches, while elsewhere they vary from 8 to 12 inches and less. Inland wind speeds will seldom reach tropical storm magnitudes (39MPH). Rain totals inland are the big unknown – they could be quite high, depending upon the speed of the storm, which will become a tropical storm rapidly as it moves inland and then a tropical depression soon after that. Winds will not be the problem

    • It still has time to pick up speed. The water looks warm in its path. Dont underestimate this storm. However you are probably correct. Damage from water will be far greater

    • As Bulldust notes below, this enormous sea surface temperature anomaly is clearly evident in real time satellite recon, and will impact the evolution of the storms already crossing it in Florence’s wake.

      The price , human and political of disbelief in this case could be as high as that of Hurricane Katrina, which was likewise thermodynamically amplified by surface heat from the Gulf of Mexico.

      • On the other hand, you will be able to see the temp differential of where Florence has passed. That 200-mile wide zone will be measurably cooler.

        The other storms will not go to this area. The next one fizzles out in a few days, and the one after that bends northward and then to the East toward Portugal.

  6. The big risk l see with this storm is that it will hit the coastline near its peak and it will then stall.
    When it hits the coast l still think its more likely to move north rather then south, but its not looking as certain that will be the case as it did 24 hours ago.

  7. “The data for the map were compiled by Coral Reef Watch…”

    Call me a cynic, but I would have trouble trusting the credibility of data emanating from an organization with that name. Global warming agenda, or what?

  8. If only the jet stream would shift around and start coming out of the north. There is plenty cold air in the north and if that were fed into the hurricane it would take the punch out of it.

    • Rob
      What will make the big difference is weather it will move north or south as it hits the coastline. With luck it will move north, as that will send a good amount of the rainfall out to sea. But if it moves south then most of the heavy rainfall will fall over NC and SC.

  9. Latest nws I saw was to turn sw and be a 2 to 3 when it makes landfall. Then there is the discussion about at what altitude winds are measured.

    • Well, generally the higher the altitude the greater the wind speed until you reach the “pulled-down” tropopause at the top of the cyclone. Reporting wind speeds at altitudes where it was previously impossible will not provide data that can be easily compared with historical surface wind data. It only provides shock value from the public’s perspective.

      • Which is exactly why they will find any excuse to use it. Propaganda isn’t about truth, it’s about bending “the masses” to your will.

    • Now THOSE are images every idiot supporter of “solar and wind power” needs to be inundated with (no pun intended) – images of what your power SOURCE (NOT just the transmission lines) will look like every time a storm hits them. Perhaps compared with coal and gas and nuclear power plant “before and after hurricane” photos as a comparison.

    • Oh, and (from your link):

      “The turbines were expected to produce 208 megawatts, or enough to power 60,000 homes a year. Avangrid Renewables will not release the amount of power actually produced after more than a year of operation, said company spokesman Paul Copleman.”

      Gee, I wonder why…

  10. Florence is not doing too well as a major cane. Look for yourself. Dry air shear, a couple ECR’s, and No depth to SST’s.

    I am frankly suprised that nobody in the profession has commented about Tropical Cyclone Heat Potential (TCHP) of the ocean and this cane. Why do you think hitting the Gulf Stream is talked about? It has a 26 degree temp to depth.

    TCHP as of yesterday.

    26 degree to depth.

    • Mike,

      Congratulations, the 2 ‘down vote’ trolls didn’t like your link as well as many others above that didn’t project massive doom. It must now be past their bedtime as yours was the last of the ‘down votes’. I hope if they come back they’ll give me a few ‘downs’. It makes a good counter and polling proxy.

  11. So are we to believe as many will claim that this is an “unprecedented” storm in the history of the planet? It has NEVER happened before in the preceding millions and billions of years? People who actually use their brains and/or do not have an agenda know that these storms are not unprecedented. We just have millions of people living in their paths now.

    • Yes we are, even though Cat 3’s hit North Carolina every 15 years or so, and it has had a Cat 4 before, which hit much further north. Florence probably won’t be a Cat 4. It is just crazy all this stuff you hear in the news about how unprecedented everything is, and it is all due to global warming. It is like before Y2000 Hurricanes never happened.

    • Correct never had a Cat 2 hurricane hit land before evah. And severe rain and floods haven’t happened since the Bible’s Noah.

  12. “However, the warm coastal water is not the only reason that the Carolinas may be hit by one of the strongest hurricanes to ever make landfall at such a northerly latitude in this region.”

    Come on the last Cat 4 storm to hit North Carolina was 1954 – This isn’t a strongest ever to make landfall event. 1954 was not that long ago, maybe its a 100 year event. And it is is hitting the southern most part of the state. Of course now the hurricane looks like it will hit at Cat 3 – in 1996, 1993, 1985, 1958, 1954(cat4), 1899, 1878 there were Cat 3 plus events. Doesn’t seem all that rare. Seems like about once every 15 years or so.

  13. The tv news I was watching had some climate scientist stating that climate change is slowing down the passage of hurricanes. I am surmising he knows the intensity is dropping and over the years the number of hurricanes is dropping, so that wailing alarm is failing so now its the slowing of passage is the new alarm.

    • Yes ignore that blocking high, it’s climate change what dunnit. The people who call themselves “climate scientists” have permanently degraded the title “scientist.” It is truly disgusting the contortions they will go through to prop up the propaganda.

    • An interesting map. Florence developed near the African coast where cold deep waters are welling up. Over there heavy colder and less humid air over cold oceans met patches of warmer and much more humid air from the South that was forced upwards by the more heavy air from the north. Together with the Coriolis force a depression developed.

      Florence developed first near the Cape Verde islands as shown by the green circle here:,27.88,438/loc=-25.610,15.165

      By using Shift K you can go forward in time with steps of a day. Shift J brings you backwards.

      It is the combination of temperature and moisture (a water vapor molecule is less heavy than O2 and N2 molecules) that enhances the development of a tropical storm to a hurricane.

      The development of a hurricane shows well how processes in the oceans and in the atmosphere interact and cause our weather. And the average of 30 year of weather is called ‘climate’.

      So we know the origin of our climate. It is the interaction of two chaotically behaving fluids, oceans and the atmosphere, each acting on a different time scale.

      In the connection between the two it is water vapor that plays the main role. And water vapor is our main absorbing gas as well. It should get all attention.

      Looking at this stunning video of Florence, what I see acting is: water vapor.

  14. Florence has now, thursday 8 UT, dropped to cat 2. Windspeed from 145 two days ago to 110 now. In another 24 hours it may cease to be a hurricane at all.
    Helene is a cat 1, just, and on the way north and out. Isac is an ordinary tropical storm.

    Looks like the forecasters have overegged the danger a bit.

  15. OK…so what happened? Did the ocean suddenly get cooler last night? Why, this morning, did I find that the storm is now a category 2? What caused the sudden, dramatic, and apparently completely unexpected, decrease in intensity?

  16. I get that this was published yesterday, however, Florence has dropped 2 categories and is now no longer a major hurricane. Yeah, this sucker is going to drop a ton of rain on NC, northern SC, and Virginia, however, the wind damage is going to be relatively minor in comparison to flooding damage and their “unprecedented” BS is completely and totally busted.

    Basically, I’m no meteorologist, but the rate that it’s losing energy makes me hope it’ll drop off even more in the next 24 hours. This probably won’t change the rain situation at all, but it’ll hopefully break up faster than expected due to it’s weakening and not completely drown those areas.

  17. I would have thought the gulf stream would have moved the storm north- as in the storm would follow the stream’s path. Is there a high in place north of its current location blocking that from happening?

    Is there a website that shows the high’s and low’s in the Atlantic?

    • Warm water dies not guide or steer hurricanes, they feed them energy when atmospheric conditions form and steer them over warm water.
      ( just like your gasoline does not steer your cat.)

  18. Hopefully this hurricane will put to rest that simpleton notion that higher ocean surface temperatures equals more powerful hurricanes. There are a lot of factors that determine a hurricane’s strength, and we still don’t know what they all are or their relative contributions.

  19. However as of 3:00PM Thursday Florence has lost strength although it is expanded and slowed down. Biggest problem from Florence will be flooding due to weeks of rain prior to the storm and that Florence slowed.

  20. Apparently it took energy away, instead, since Flo down graded as she moved towards shore. Fewer and fewer reasons to believe anything “these” people have to say.

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