FOX19 - There's a lot of bad information floating around the web about Hurricane Irma. Fake forecasts claiming to be official and lots of individual model runs showing worst case scenarios. Such posts are reckless and hold no weight at this point.
Here's what we know for sure about Irma. Though still in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, the storm is already a category 3 hurricane and shows no signs of weakening. Over the next five days, the storm will stay over very warm water in an environment with weak wind shear. There's a good chance it could strengthen to a category 4 hurricane and then maintain that intensity for an extended period of time.
Beyond that, we don't know much else. Computer models showing the track of Irma are still all over the place and are varying from run to run. No one model can be trusted at this point. That's because this storm is still a long way from having any potential impacts in the U.S. As it stands now, the earliest potential landfall would be Sunday, September 10. A lot will happen between now and then that will affect the track of this storm and each individual model will change considerably.
The only thing that can be responsibly shown for now is ALL the possibilities for the track of Irma. This can be done by showing the various tropical models or the different versions of our two primary long range models, the ECMWF (European) and the GFS (American). The different versions of the ECMWF (collectively called an ensemble) are shown in the image in this article. Each version of the model is built slightly different to account for the all uncertainties still associated with this system and the environment around it.
While the different versions are in good agreement in the short term, note the wide range of possibilities in the long term. There's a chance this storm could turn north early and pose no threat to the U.S. There's a chance the storm could impact the Northeast, the Carolinas, Florida, or even make it into the Gulf of Mexico. There is just no way to pinpoint now where it will go.
All we can do is wait. Each day that passes, the models will slowly start to come into agreement. While no one along the Gulf or East Coast should panic, they should monitor this storm closely. It could ultimately have significant impacts or none at all. If the storm were to make landfall, those under the gun will have plenty of time to evacuate if necessary.
As you follow the latest on Irma, keep in mind the source of the information you're getting. If the information is being posted by someone with no meteorology training, do not trust it. Make sure it's information from a local or national broadcast meteorologist, the National Hurricane Center, or the National Weather Service. These are the only sources to be counted on for focusing on the facts and not speculating or lying.