Hurricane Joaquin Is Stumping Forecasts
It could hit the US as early as this weekend, or not all
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 1, 2015 1:25 PM CDT
A NOAA satellite image taken Thursday shows Hurricane Joaquin approaching the Eastern Seaboard. Forecasts remain uncertain weather or not the powerful storm will make landfall in the United States.   (NOAA/Weather Underground via AP)

(Newser) – Hurricane Joaquin, currently hanging out somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, just ramped up to a Category 4 storm, the AP reports, with winds up to 140mph expected over the next 24 hours. But experts still have no idea where along the East Coast it will make landfall, or even if it will at all, the New York Times reports. ”Confidence in the details of the forecast after 72 hours remains low, as there have been some large changes in the model guidance overnight,” the National Hurricane Center states. “The range of possible outcomes is still large.” According to FiveThirtyEight, odds are the storm will hit somewhere along the East Coast by early next week, but current models are "all over the place."

This confusion, rare among hurricane forecasts, comes from starting with imperfect initial condition measurements, and the models having a hard time predicting whether a high-pressure or low-pressure front will have more sway over Joaquin, FiveThirtyEight reports. This has led to a large "cone of uncertainty" in forecasts. According to the Times, local governments are starting to brace for the worst despite the current confusion. Gov. Chris Christie declared a state of emergency in New Jersey Thursday, as did the governors of Virginia and North Carolina, where some areas are expecting 20 inches of rain and intense flooding. In the meantime, FiveThirtyEight recommends residents keep watching the forecasts.