Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hurricane Irene Update 8-23-2011

We are watching the weather and the pressure systems closely to try to estimate the severity of Hurricane Irene. It appears that Irene is gaining strength in the warm caribbean waters. Irene is predicted to continue to strengthen as it moves up the Florida coast. The ocean temperatures off Jacksonville are currently very high. Some temperature buoys are reporting temperatures close to 90 degrees. This is a very high water temperature for Jacksonville. While these temperatures are great for Tarpon fishing, they aren't great for keeping Hurricanes from strengthening towards Jacksonville.

Normally, during hurricane season, Jacksonville is kept safe because of the Gulf Stream. The gulf stream "is a powerful, warm, and swift Atlantic ocean current that originates at the tip of Florida, and follows the eastern coastlines of the United States and Newfoundland before crossing the Atlantic Ocean." As the Gulf Stream extends northeast towards Europe it tails and becomes the North Atlantic Drift which regulates temperatures along Western Europe. It has been studied that Western European temperatures are warmer because of the North Atlantic Drift. The Gulf Stream and North Atlantic Drift are part of a larger ocean current called the North Atlantic Gyre (a large system of oceanic currents). The Gulf Stream originates close to the coast of southern Florida. As it approaches Daytona and Jacksonville, it swings out into the ocean, approximately 60 miles off shore. As it moves northward, it moves back into the coast toward North Carolina and Virginia, only to swing back out into the Atlantic near Massachusetts. The temperatures in the Gulf Stream are warmer than the inland waters, which is why one can find an abundance of marine life within the stream. The changing distances of the Gulf Stream from land, combined with increased water temperatures typically push hurricanes northward towards North Carolina; but, because of the higher inland water temperatures off Jacksonville, TPC Sawgrass could be susceptible to hurricane force conditions.

Currently, the National Weather Service is predicting threat levels along the eastern coast. TPC Sawgrass is located within the medium to high threat levels. Even though it appears that Irene is moving further from the coast than previously estimated, TPC Sawgrass may still experience the western edge of the storm.

More updates to come.