As of 11 am EDT the NHC suggests Tropical Storm Matthew is close to a hurricane with a location 290 miles south of San Juan Puerto Rico. With any of the next advisories the named storm could be upgraded to a hurricane.
As highlighted over the last two tropical updates Matthew will be moving over warm water and it will be this warmer than normal water that will provide the fuel for Matthew to strengthen into a major hurricane by Monday. Over the next few days as Matthew moves westward wind shear will limit rapid strengthening of the system.
After Matthew starts its turn northward it should rapidly strengthen and will likely be a category 3 hurricane near the Eastern shores of Jamaica or Haiti. In the longer range forecast for later next week one could expect some slight weakening of the system as it interacts with higher terrain from the mountains of Cuba and Haiti.
Now is a good time to remember what the National Hurricane Center cone of uncertainty means. A layer that is within BMS iVision it does not reflect real-time uncertainty within the forecast of Matthew. The width of this uncertainty is solely determined by historical errors of past hurricane tracks and not the current uncertainty with track spread within Matthew.
The NHC lists five important points to help users understand the cone.
- The cone represents the probable track of the center of the tropical cyclone.
- The size of the cone is drawn so that about two-thirds of the time, the center of the storm will remain in the cone.
- The cone does not take the size of the storm into account.
- A hurricane is not a point; impacts often occur well outside of the core.
- The cone indicates the forecast up to five days out from the last recorded position of the storm.
Overall I like the ideas the NHC has forecasted for the next 5 days. I think the NHC may slightly shift the track closer to Jamaica over the next few days, but in general the forecast model guidance suggests that Matthew should be either near Jamaica or Haiti by Monday and most of these forecasts have Matthew as a major hurricane at this time. After this there still is a great amount of uncertainty in the long range forecast from days 5 – 10.
The key will be how Matthew interacts and turns with the upper level trough of low pressure.
There is some indication that Matthew could stall out near the Bahamas early next week, maybe similar to what happen to hurricane Joaquin last year. However, below is a look at just how much uncertainty there is with the 10 day forecast from the ECMWF ensemble showing the low pressure centers from the latest model run.
Right now the Gulf Coast states look to be in the clear, but Florida and points along the East Coast need to pay attention to this complex forecast situation in the long term.
GFS Ensemble Long Range forecast tracks for Matthew
ECMWF Ensemble Long Range Forecast Tracks for Matthew
Since 1900 the only major hurricane to make landfall after today north of Florida along the U.S. East Coast was Hazel in 1954 near the NC/SC Border and in some regards Matthew has some similarities in the long range forecast.