The east coast of the United States cannot seem to catch a break this hurricane season. While Hurricane Harvey was winding down in the Gulf Coast on Aug. 30, Irma had officially been marked as a tropical storm in the Atlantic.
Irma quickly intensified from a tropical storm to a hurricane within 24 hours due in part to warm sea surface temperatures. Irma slowly made its way across the Lesser Antilles over the warm sea surface temperatures, which aided in its rapid intensification. This intensification slowed only for a while as Irma passed through a pocket of dry air.
Shortly after its exit from the pocket of dry air, Hurricane Irma was in a more favorable area for development with warmer sea surface temperatures and low shear. These factors aided in its rapid intensification for the second time into a major hurricane. Throughout Irma’s time in the Lesser Antilles, it seemed to be in an endless cycle of intensifying and weakening.
This cycle changed by Sept. 3. By then, Irma was in an area favorable for gradual strengthening with little to no weakening. Irma picked up the pace and was quickly upgraded to a major hurricane.
As of Sept. 5, Irma is a Category 5 hurricane with maximum sustained wind speeds at 185 miles per hour, surpassing the historic Hurricane Katrina. The effects on the continental United States remain highly uncertain right now. Florida Gov. Rick Scott has already declared a state of emergency for Florida in light of Irma. Even though storms like Irma are a meteorological wonder, we are quickly reminded that this storm could possibly be catastrophic in damages.