Eta’s alarming path toward north Florida is far from certain

Hurricane forecast models flash confusing signals

TS Eta 10am Monday

JACKSONVILLE, FLa. – Seeing the cone of concern of Tropical Storm Eta, which is forecast to regain hurricane-force winds in the Gulf of Mexico before turning to the northeast, should not be too concerning. The odds of the track staying that way are small based on how erratic the models are behaving and the point we’re at in hurricane season.

The National Hurricane Center’s NHC forecast track on Monday morning had a cone of uncertainty nearly 400 miles wide by the end of the week, extending from Pensacola east to Cape Canaveral.

Yes, that cone includes Jacksonville, but the confidence in the forecast models with this storm is especially low. Storms behave differently in strength and tracking behavior based on their surrounding atmosphere conditions and time of the year.


With Eta’s situation, the next 48 hours have some certainty. It leaves the Keys on a slow path Monday morning out west past the Dry Tortugas. After that Eta will meander in the Gulf west of Florida before it decides which route to take next.

Parallel track lines lead to high confidence in forecast path next 24-48 hours. (wjxt)

Small storms like Eta can be difficult for models to grasp. They suggest the upper low tugging it away from the Keys will lose its effect on the storm leaving behind weak steering currents.

After Tuesday it’s not yet clear whether Eta’s long-range path might end up closer to the west coast of Florida, as suggested by the GFS model, or more to the north towards the Florida Panhandle, as predicted by the European model.

Tuesday Eta could move SW or start its northward motion.

Even more confusing for forecasters, the UKMET model suggests a southwest path back towards Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

The GFS has been fairly accurate this year which is closest to the National Hurricane Center’s official track pushing Eta inland over the Florida Gulf Coast late in the week.

At least a strong hurricane is not in the forecast. This time of year cool water hinders strong hurricanes. Eta may intensify into a category 1 hurricane briefly Monday before dry air wraps into it potentially weakening its stature.

Time is on our side to watch and climatology says November brings weaker storms.. Then again this is 2020.

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