The Meteorological Strangeness Of Hurricane Florence

As an expert within the field of meteorology, I have been fielding calls from media much of the day about Hurricane Florence. A recurring theme of my response has been how strange the storm is from a meteorological perspective.

I have 3 degrees in meteorology from Florida State University, served as President of the American Meteorological Society, was a research meteorologist at NASA, and currently serve as Director of the University of Georgia Atmospheric Sciences Program. In my 27 years of professional experience, I have never seen some of the projected characteristics or behavior of Hurricane Florence.

One of the unique aspects of Hurricane Florence is the sheer size. It is a large storm. It has been estimated to be roughly 500 miles in diameter. In the graphic above, the storm is larger than the states of Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, respectively. For this reason, it is important to not become too locked on the exact location of landfall. There will certainly be significant impacts near the eye of the storm, but the footprint of Florence will cause impacts over a wide area.

The storm is also unusually strong for a hurricane at this latitude. According to a tweet by Colorado State University hurricane expert, Dr. Phil Klotzbach, Florence is has the lowest pressure (943 mb) that far north since Hurricane Sandy. In fact, only 5 major (category 3 or greater) hurricanes have made landfall in North Carolina since 1851 according to Dr. Klotzbach: Great Beaufort-1879, San Ciriaco-1899, Hazel-1954, Gloria-1985 and Fran-1996. Helene (1958) and Emily (1991) were major hurricanes but did not officially make landfall. At the time of writing, the storm had weakened to a category 3 storm due to wind shear and dry air (let’s hope that continues).


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