September 17, 2003
Summary authors & editors: Jim Foster; Norman Kuring
This image of Hurricane Isabel churning in the Atlantic Ocean was taken from the SeaWiFS sensor, aboard the Orb View satellite, on Tuesday, September 16 At the time the image was captured, Isabel was approximately 500 miles (800 km) southeast of the North Carolina coast. Note that much of the Middle Atlantic area is enjoying cloud free conditions on this day. Hurricane Isabel is currently predicted to make landfall near Cape Lookout, North Carolina sometime on Thursday, the 18th.
Even when hurricanes mature into category 5 storms (the top of the Saffir-Simpson Scale -- super hurricanes), like Isabel was earlier in the week, they don't control their own fate. They don't necessarily spin towards the warmest water or move to where conditions are favorable for increasing their duration. However, large hurricanes can influence the upper air circulation patterns to some extent outside of tropical areas, and thus their interaction with these steering currents needs to be considered when trying to predict where a hurricane will move - not an easy chore.