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Satellite view of Hurricane Florence on Sept. 5, 2018. Photo: NOAA via CIRA/RAMMB

Forecast trends suggest that Hurricane Florence, which is currently swirling away as a Category 4 storm in the open Atlantic, could make a run at the East Coast by early next week — though there's still a great deal of uncertainty.

What we're watching: Weather patterns across the Atlantic as well as a broader cycle of atmospheric circulation, known as the Madden-Julian Oscillation, are combining to make the Atlantic far more favorable to storm development than it has been all season.

The details: Florence is now the first major hurricane — at Category 3 intensity or above — to form in the North Atlantic Ocean basin during the 2018 season.

  • The same sprawling area of high pressure that's been producing record heat and humidity across the eastern U.S. could steer Florence westward toward the East Coast. Previously, computer models were favoring a track out to sea, potentially affecting only Bermuda.
  • The westward shift is partly because the clockwise circulation around the high pressure area will cause winds to blow from east to west at mid-to-upper levels of the atmosphere near where Hurricane Florence is projected to be in a few days.
  • The European model, considered to be the most reliable medium-range forecasting model, shifted its forecast for the storm overnight and Wednesday morning with a track toward the East Coast early next week. The American model, known as the GFS, shows a similar, though not identical, scenario.
Ensemble of European computer model runs on Sept. 5, 2018 for Hurricane Florence. Image: University of Albany

Be smart: We're now approaching the climatological peak of the Atlantic hurricane season. The fact that there are storm threats is not surprising, but those on the East Coast in particular should pay close attention to forecasts for Florence — as well as the storms to follow.

Editor's note: This story was updated to include the increase in Hurricane Florence's intensity on Wednesday afternoon.

Go deeper

Updated 46 mins ago - World

Reports: Up to 17 U.S. missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince earlier this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

Children were among up to 17 American Christian missionaries and their relatives kidnapped by a gang in Haiti on Saturday, the New York Times first reported.

Details: The missionaries had just left an orphanage and were traveling by bus to the airport to "drop off some members" and planned to travel to another destination afterward when the gang abducted them in Port-au-Prince, Haitian security officials said, per the NYT.

Melbourne, "world's most locked-down city," to lift stay-at-home orders

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews during a news conference in Melbourne, Australia, on Sunday. Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Melbourne's stay-at-home orders will end five days earlier than planned, officials in Australia's second-biggest city announced Sunday.

Why it matters: The capital of the state of Victoria has had six lockdowns totaling 262 days since March last year. That means Melbourne's spent longer under lockdowns than "any other city in the world" during the pandemic, Reuters notes.

Venezuela suspends talks with opposition after Maduro ally extradited to U.S.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, in June. Photo: Gaby Oraa/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key ally of Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro was extradited from Cape Verde to the U.S. Saturday to face money laundering charges in Florida, Bloomberg first reported.

Why it matters: Venezuela's government called off negotiations with opposition officials that were scheduled for Sunday in Mexico in response to the extradition of Alex Saab, a Colombian businessman and financial fixer for Maduro. Security forces placed six U.S. oil executives under house arrest later Saturday, per AP.