With all the advances in computer modeling and meteorological technology, ultimately, weather is just sometimes difficult to predict. Case in point: current Tropical Storm Isaac, floating along in the Caribbean Sea worrying the crap out of people all along the Gulf Coast.
For the past couple of days, forecast tracks have focused primarily on Florida, with some even speculating that a forecast landfall in Tampa Bay just in time for the Republican National Convention might be an Obama administration hoax. Frankly, I'm surprised people haven't suggested the president is manipulating the weather with his giant "laser" that he keeps on the surface of the moon. It's true, people!
Anyway, while no one but us weather geeks was paying attention, the forecast models began shifting a bit west, and today's noon run of the über-reliable European model actually has central Louisiana, not the central coast of Florida, in Isaac's crosshairs.
A moment about forecasting for those who think it is all bunk or for those who just don't fully understand it. Forecast models are not all made the same. The European and a handful of others, especially the GFS, are considered the best because they are "ensemble" models. They piece together a handful of computer simulations on each run and, essentially, have more data in them. That makes them generally more accurate.
However, at five days, the variance in predictions is anywhere from 300 to 500 miles, which is a huge area when talking about the Gulf of Mexico. Still, anyone who tracks hurricanes tends to watch trends and the trends over the last day have been westward.
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The GFS has been particularly good with tracking storms this year and it is currently pointing towards the northern Gulf Coast. With the models trending that direction, it is a good idea for everyone along the Gulf Coast to keep an eye out.
The chances of it coming this far west toward Houston and Galveston are still rather slim, but things change and as Isaac becomes more organized and is more susceptible to upper-level steering currents, forecasts will come into better agreement. By the end of the weekend, we'll know whether it's time to batten down the hatches or worry about something else, like the Obama moon laser.