First Alert Weather In-Depth: Trouble in the Tropics

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — We have trouble in the tropics and it has to do with tropical weather systems.  There are a couple of areas that we are watching in the coming days.

The first area is located off the coast of South America and we believe this is going to be intensifying. At the current time, this is not a named storm, but over the next 7 to 10 days it will be getting stronger and eventually it could be an issue for the United States. But as you probably know, the main player is Hurricane Fiona. Fiona is a category three hurricane with winds of 115 mph and is relatively close to the United States. Right now it is located off the Turks and Caicos Islands.

To make an accurate forecast of where Fiona is heading, meteorologists need a really good set of tools. One of those tools is called a spaghetti plot. This shows the possible path of the center of circulation and is a compilation of different computer models that simulate where Fiona is heading. Right now, this simulation is taking the hurricane very close to the island of Bermuda and it appears to be missing the United States.

But why is Fiona not coming closer to the U.S.?  Do you remember Hurricane Sandy back in 2012? That hurricane came in right into New York City and caused catastrophic damage. The determining factor really comes down to the steering winds. The winds in the middle latitudes are going to help forecast where the storm is going to be heading. Consequently, meteorologists study wind speed and direction at or above 20,000 feet. The wind speeds are faster in the higher latitudes, so it can be a little easier to figure out where hurricanes are moving.

Some folks have asked if we could control the wind direction, we could then influence the hurricane. That is called geoengineering and we just do not have that capability – just yet.