Satellite image of tropical storm Katia. Katia’s is on right side of image. Island on upper left side of image is Puerto Rico. (NOAA)

Traveling west-northwestward at 18 mph, Katia has maximum sustained winds of 45 mph. The National Hurricane Center projects Katia will strengthen to a hurricane within 36 to 48 hours as it moves over warm water and contends with little wind shear. In five days, NHC predicts Katia will reach major category 3 intensity.

It’s too early to say whether the storm will threaten the U.S. or curve harmlessly out to sea. History would suggest Katia is more likely to miss than hit. As Wall Street Journal meteorologist Eric Holthaus tweeted:

Over last 150yrs, storms forming near TS Katia: 8 out of 33 have gone on to hit US mainland, 24%. Graphic

Capital Weather Gang hurricane expert, Dr. Greg Postel, offered his thoughts on U.S. landfall prospects:


“Spaghetti” plot showing large range of possible atmosphere flow configurations eight days from now from GFS model. How Katia, represented by circles just north of the islands, interacts with the flow configuration will determine where it tracks.

(1) That long-range forecast verifying

(2) Katia eventually moving to a place in the western Atlantic that could be influenced by the still unborn upper trough

(3) Katia surviving the cross-Atlantic trek

Multiplying those uncertainties together (and I’m sure there are more) gives the answer away. And the answer is exactly what the National Hurricane Center would say. We have no clue yet.

Katia is the Atlantic hurricane season’s 11th named storm of 2011. According to weather.com, since 1966, the average number of named storms to date is just five. Last year (which was tied for third most active on record), there were six named storms through today. Although we’ve had 11 named storms, only Irene has attained hurricane status. So while we’re well ahead of pace in terms of tropical storms, we’re actually one behind in terms of the average number of hurricanes.

Capital Weather Gang’s hurricane expert Dr. Greg Postel will take a deeper look at the tropics tomorrow, including the possibility of a storm brewing in the Gulf of Mexico.