Hurricane ARTHUR approaching Outer Banks of North Carolina
Until today, we were experiencing a very quiet start to the season – and despite the excitement over ARTHUR, there is little sign of anything else developing. Consider 3rd July 2013. This time last year, we were seeing the first spark of disturbance fifteen leaving the African coast. This was later to become tropical storm CHANTAL, the third named system of the 2013 season, which formed west of Cape Verde Islands but weakened before landfall in Hispaniola.
Take the 2012 season. This time two years ago, disturbance twenty was under way in the far eastern Atlantic. We had just seen the back of the fourth named storm of the season - tropical storm DEBBY, which had developed from a trough of low pressure in the central Gulf of Mexico in late June. This storm did not as hoped make it as far as Dallas, thus depriving me of an irresistible but potentially career-threatening subject title, but veered east and caused extensive flooding in northern Florida.
Today, we have a featureless sky, with the exception of some scattered thunderstorms off the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica and in the east, around the Cape Verde Islands – and the first named storm of the season - hurricane ARTHUR – born out of just the sixth disturbance of the 2014 season.
Hurricane ARTHUR is currently centred around 220 miles due east of Charleston and moving north-nor'east at 7 knots. A hardy reconnaissance aircraft has just buzzed ARTHUR and reports 80 knot winds with gusts of up to 95 knots. The current hurricane severity index is rated at 9 out of a possible 50 points (3 for size and 6 for intensity) with a predicted peak at 18 out of a possible 50 points (9 for size and 9 for intensity) as this passes Cape Hatteras. The glass is still falling – currently 982mb - and ARTHUR continues to strengthen. This will continue until ARTHUR passes over the Outer Banks of North Carolina very early on Friday morning as a Cat 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 100 knots but will weaken thereafter. Unless this passes closer to the shore than currently expected and loses energy as the windfield radiates over terra firma, it is likely to retain some energy and make a landfall in Nova Scotia on Saturday, still as a Cat 1 hurricane.
The system clearly has a defined eye now although some aerial images show the eyewall opening slightly on the western side. There is no wind shear to spoil the party and some fertile warm water below. There is nothing to indicate that this will pass any closer than 100 miles from Cape Hatteras however - and in all likelihood, nearer 200 - but I am allowing a margin of safety.
Storm cones aloft over North Carolina and early warning for the Canadian Atlantic coast - but otherwise stand easy.