The odds of a major hurricane making landfall along the US East Coast this week keep growing.
Forecast models paint an increasingly grim picture, converging on a track that would have what is currently Tropical Storm Florence making a direct hit as a powerful hurricane somewhere along the US Southeast coast.
That said, the potential US landfall is still several days away, and Florence's ultimate track and intensity are not yet set in stone, with still a small chance that it meanders just off the East Coast and then curls out to sea.
Florence today bears no resemblance to the beastly storm that it will eventually become. Florence remains a tropical storm with maximum sustained winds of 105km/h and located some 2415km east of east of the US mainland, slowly tracking to the west at less than 16km/h.
Over the last 36 hours, Florence weakened from a hurricane to a tropical storm as the system encountered hostile conditions in the central Atlantic Ocean.
Unfortunately, the environment that Florence is about to move into is extremely favourable for rapid strengthening, thanks to warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures and low wind shear (the change in wind direction or speed with height). As a result, the National Hurricane Centre expects Florence to regain hurricane status within the next 24 hours and intensify to a major hurricane (Category 3 or higher) by Wednesday.
Florence will likely pass just south of Bermuda by early this week. Models indicate a historically strong ridge of high pressure will develop in the western Atlantic just as Florence closes in on the US. If it verifies, this incredibly strong high pressure system would likely prevent Florence from recurving to the north and out to sea. There is still some uncertainty in the strength and position of the high pressure, though, and thus in the ultimate track and intensity of the storm.