Research and Application News
One Year After Hurricane Irma: How Data Helped Track the Storm
30 August 2018
A year ago today, a tropical storm named Irma formed near the Cape Verde Islands in the eastern Atlantic Ocean. Within days, Irma morphed into a monster Category 5 hurricane, barreling across the Atlantic and causing widespread damage across the Caribbean and the Florida Keys. The storm's 5-day track forecasts were remarkably successful – in no small part thanks to improvements in weather prediction models and data from NOAA satellites.
Hurricane Irma was one of the strongest storms ever recorded in the Atlantic. Only a day after it was first named a tropical storm on 30 August, Irma had quickly strengthened to a Category 3 hurricane, with sustained winds of 115 mph. Fueled by warm ocean waters, a moist atmosphere and light surrounding winds that supported its vast circulation, Irma became even stronger as trekked westward across the Atlantic. By 04 September, Irma had morphed into a monster Category 5 storm. With sustained winds peaking at 185 mph, Irma set a new milestone as the strongest hurricane ever observed in Atlantic basin outside the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.
Image credit: NOAA - Hurricane Irma approaching the Leeward Islands as a Category 5 storm on Sep. 5, 2017.