If 2020 had to be summed up in three words, “cone of uncertainty” might not be a bad choice. Here in New Orleans the meteorology term has become all too familiar, and it’s stressing people the hell out.
Hurricane Delta marks the sixth storm this hurricane season to have New Orleans fall in the cone of uncertainty, in other words within the storm’s possible projected path when it hits landfall. It’s gotten to the point where residents are asking, “Really? Again?”
Dude I swear. pic.twitter.com/E202Ed0nud
— Marta Jewson (@martajewson) October 6, 2020
We are basically the mark by which the hurricane gun calibrates its scope https://t.co/310KFxHCTL
— skooks (@skooks) October 5, 2020
having been in the “cone of uncertainty” so often is just a little too on the nose, writers of this season getting lazy, etc
— Beck (@fictionalbeck) October 5, 2020
Fuck the cone of uncertainty. This whole year has been a cone of uncertainty https://t.co/0P7QIWtps2
— UNKNOWN (@barelymarigny) October 5, 2020
“It kind of gives an impression that there’s a bullseye for New Orleans, but really it’s just probability,” said Kevin Gilmore, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Slidell. “This happens basically.”
Geographically, the shape and location of Louisiana already make it prime bait for storms brewing in the Gulf of Mexico. Because southeastern Louisiana “juts out” into the gulf, an active storm season means a higher chance more storms will head this way, Gilmore said.
But it’s not just us. Combine those geographic factors with a potentially record-breaking hurricane season marked by high pressure systems and water and wind patterns unfavorable to the Atlantic, and it starts to make sense why we’re hearing the words “cone of certainty” so frequently these days.
This year has seen a particularly busy hurricane season with 25 named storms, which is just two shy of the 2005 record.
This hurricane season has already had 25 named storms — so many that the World Meteorological Association famously had to go Greek with its storm names when it ran out of letters in the English alphabet.
Dennis Feltgen, a spokesperson for the National Hurricane Center, said hurricanes are steered by weather patterns, and that a “strong high pressure system” in the central and western parts of the Atlantic oceans are ultimately resulting in storms spending time in the Caribbean Sea and then curving up into the Gulf of Mexico.
In past years, other states have borne the brunt of these weather patterns, like in 2004 when four major hurricanes hit Florida, Feltgen said, but “this year, it’s unfortunately been Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.”
A weather pattern known as La Niña is also currently bringing cooler sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern parts of the Pacific Ocean during the peak of hurricane season. This weakens wind shear over in the Atlantic and can lead to more hurricanes, as we have seen this year, Gilmore said.
Hurricane Delta’s cone covers much of the southeast, from around Beaumont, Texas to Pensacola, Florida. This morning, the storm strengthened from a Category 2 to a Category 3 hurricane, and then a Category 4 quickly after.
Hurricane Delta is now a Category 4 storm surging towards the Gulf of Mexico and aiming for a late-week landfall on the northern Gulf coast.
Forecasters predict the storm will make landfall late Friday or Saturday morning. It’s early in the week, so it’s harder for meteorologists to determine the exact path it will take, which explains why the cone currently spans several states. That cone will narrow as the storm gets closer to landfall.
Meteorologists expect Delta to weaken to a lower hurricane category as it hits land, but they’re urging residents to be prepared for all scenarios.
“It’s fair to assume the forecast still implies a Cat. 2 landfall in LA,” Steve Caparotta, a meteorologist at WAFB in Baton Rouge, tweeted Tuesday morning. “But always best to plan for a category higher.”