Heard some discussion today about Irene potentially being stronger than it is -- if not stronger than Fernanda in the EPac -- as well as to why the recon planes are not out within the storm at this point.
To address the intensity issue, no one can make an entirely accurate assessment on a storm's intensity based off of a mid-level satellite signature, a comparison between two totally different storms, and off of a simple satellite loop. The microwave data help, as do QuikSCAT for winds. A storm displaying an intermittent eye feature with cloud tops 20C colder than Irene over a consistent, condensed CDO feature is much stronger than Irene is, a storm with an excellent mid-level signature and a weak but developing surface signature. We've seen many storms with very good mid-level signatures come back with much weaker recon estimates -- it also work the other way, to be fair -- and Emily this season is a very good example. Earl from not too long ago did the same. That said, the current intensity of the storm is supported by what we do have -- Dvorak estimates and QuikSCAT winds -- and will be augmented by recon starting late tomorrow.
Which brings up the question, "where's recon now?" There have been many, many flights thus far this season. Recon flights are generally only flown into storms for 1) research missions or 2) when they are within 3 days of land. All of those central Atlantic storms get flights because they are some threat to the islands or to interests in the Atlantic. Irene is not threatening any land mass at this point and simply put, there is no need to fly a recon flight into the storm at this time. Would it be nice? Sure. But, alas, we can't always get all of the data we like. And, given that plus the current estimates of the storm, the current intensity of Irene is likely quite accurate.
No large change to the forecast reasoning from last night. A shift northward of the cone might be needed for later, but I would like to see more runs with this storm and the evolving ridge pattern to make any drastic change to the projected track. Needless to say, it's one to watch for people from the FL/GA border northward.
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