Above is the latest infrared (cloud temperature) satellite image of Irene, and below is the 1st visible ("naked eye" view) image of the day as the sun rises over the East.
As you can see, Irene is still a very tightly wound, well organized hurricane. It appears that she may be going through another eye wall replacement cycle, as you can see vigorous thunderstorm development (higher, more bubbly cloud tops) right around the eye, particularly on the visible image. The same thing took place night before last, and is common in strong hurricanes.
Eye wall replacement cycles are nearly impossible to predict. No one really knows why they choose the times that they choose to take place. The are usually short lived. If recent trends hold, we will probably see the eye emerge clearly again on satellite imagery later today.
I nearly fell out of my chair this morning when I read the 5am EDT discussion and advisory from the National Hurricane Center (NHC). The headline on the Public Advisory read: "Irene Slightly Weaker..." I cannot think of a more irresponsible thing to say when we have a hurricane of this magnitude likely to intensify further before impacting a corridor of 50+ million people - not to mention in a region that is not use to this type of intense storm.
Thankfully, the follow-up advisory at 8am EDT changed the headline to "Irene Taking Aim at the East Coast..." Thank you for coming back down to earth. Some changes were also made to the watches and warnings with the morning set of advisories. The hurricane watch along the Jersey coast to New York City has been changed to a Hurricane Warning (bright red shaded area on the image below). A Hurricane Watch (pink shaded area on the same image) has also been issued Northward to Cape Cod and Nantucket:
I disagree with the decrease in maximum sustained wind speed from 115 to 110 mph on the 5am (and maintained on the 8am) advisory. The pressure inside the center of Irene (which closely correlates to the strength of the wind field) argues that she has maintained intensity overnight, not lost intensity. An Air Force Hurricane Hunter aircraft detected a minimum central pressure of 942 millibars (27.82 inches of mercury) just before 5am EDT. This is the same pressure that was in place on the observation late yesterday evening.
Now granted, a 5 mph difference in neither here nor there when it comes to a hurricane of this size and strength, and some fluctuations in intensity are likely if an eye wall replacement cycle is indeed underway. The point I'm trying to get across is that in my opinion it is irresponsible and sends a terrible message to the public at large when you say things like "weakening, weaker..." or even "slightly weaker" given the other considerations that I outlined a couple of paragraphs above.
I'm sure emergency managers are also frustrated by this mixed signal that is being sent out to the public, and will likely be magnified by the "main stream media" throughout the day today. Hopefully folks won't be fooled and will press on. There is absolutely no change or new information in observational data (radar, satellite imagery, surface observations, aircraft observations) or computer model data (and an unprecedented amount of data has been flowing into the models all week long) that suggests any significant change in the strength or track of Irene since the information provided yesterday evening.
For specific details on my thoughts as to the future path and impacts of Irene, please see my full detailed post here. Please also refer to region-specific posts that I made yesterday evening pertaining to potential impacts on: North Carolina, Baltimore/Washington and New Jersey, New York City and Long Island. I will update each of these posts during the day today, but for now the message is unchanged: Please continue preparing for dangerous hurricane Irene if you live in these areas!
Please go to this post for more information on preparing for an approaching Hurricane. Please refer to this post for information on creating your own severe weather and hurricane survival kit.
If you enjoy reading 'The Original Weather Blog', please be sure to "like" our facebook page!