Unusual Weather Patterns Determine Path of Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy Path

Hurricane Sandy is currently a category 2 hurricane – its wind speed is 104 mile per hour. It’s predicted to make landfall in the northeast United States on Monday or Tuesday. A hurricane that far north is rare so late in the season, but unusual weather patterns are determining the path of Hurricane Sandy.

On Thursday evening, NOAA is predicting that Hurricane Sandy will move north northwest from the Bahamas, then turn north northeast late Friday night. The predicted track runs roughly parallel to the coastlines of Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas until Sunday evening, when it turns northwest into the coast.

Since landfall is still several days away, the path may change and the location of landfall is uncertain. Right now, landfall is predicted Tuesday somewhere between Virginia and Rhode Island. Residents near the coasts need to be prepared for storm conditions, even if landfall is not likely in the area.

No October hurricanes have landed north of Cape Hatteras since 1869. In 1869, Saxby’s Gale landed in Maine and in 1864, a hurricane landed in Virginia.

So what’s causing this unusual path for a late season hurricane? Several things, but the dip in the jet stream into the eastern United States, a pressure system over Greenland and part of Canada, and a storm in the Central Atlantic narrow the possibilities for Hurricane Sandy.

The massive Arctic sea ice melt earlier this year may have something to do with the current weather conditions that are affecting Hurricane Sandy. An area of high pressure has settled over the Arctic Ocean. That is not unusual for this time of year, but its intensity is unusual. The intensity of this high pressure system has been increasing over the last several years, likely due to the loss of sea ice. Losing the ice cover lets the water absorb more heat, which changes weather patterns all over the world.

Image of predicted path of Hurricane Sandy courtesy NOAA

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Author: Heather Carr

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