Hurricane Sandy isn’t the latest or strongest Atlantic hurricane, the record-breaking 2005 season included a named storm as late as January 2006! But she may well deliver a wallop to the eastern seaboard residents of New England will not soon forget:
Wind shear is expected to remain a high 30 – 55 knots for the next four days, as Sandy interacts with a trough of low pressure to its west. The high shear should keep Sandy from intensifying the way most hurricanes do–by pulling heat energy out of the ocean. However, the trough approaching from the west will inject into Sandy what is called “baroclinic” energy–the energy one can derive from the atmosphere when warm and cold air masses lie in close proximity to each other. This transition will reduce the hurricane’s peak winds, but strong winds will spread out over a wider area of ocean. This will increase the total amount of wind energy of the storm, keeping the storm surge threat high. This large wind field will likely drive a storm surge of 3 – 6 feet on Monday and Tuesday to the right of where the center makes landfall, on the mid-Atlantic or New York coasts. These storm surge heights will be among the highest ever recorded along the affected coasts, and will have the potential to cause hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.
The latest set of 00Z (8 pm EDT) and 06Z (2 am EDT) computer model runs still have wide differences in the timing and landfall location for Sandy. The ECMWF has been very consistent in its handling of Sandy, and continues to predict that Sandy will hit Delaware or Maryland on Monday afternoon–basically the same forecast it has had for three days. Our other top model for forecasting hurricane tracks, the GFS, has been more inconsistent, and predicts a landfall on Long Island, New York on Tuesday afternoon.