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Tropical Storm Ida formed Thursday afternoon over the Caribbean Sea and has the potential to become a powerful hurricane over the Gulf of Mexico and strike the northern Gulf Coast by Monday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The big picture: The Hurricane Center included unusually sobering wording for the first advisory on a storm, partly because the timing of landfall means there is only a few days for residents in the storm's potential path to prepare.

  • Forecasters warned of the increasing "risk of life-threatening storm surge, damaging winds, and heavy rainfall" along the northern Gulf Coast.

Threat level:

  • In a technical forecast discussion posted to its website, Hurricane Center forecasters flagged a scenario explicitly shown in a number of reliable computer models that forecasters use to predict a storm's track and intensity: that a favorable weather pattern and extremely warm sea surface temperatures will jump start the storm, allowing it to rapidly intensify.
  • "There is higher-than-normal confidence that a strengthening tropical cyclone will be moving over the Gulf this weekend," NHC stated Thursday morning.
  • Rapid intensification refers to a storm that exhibits an increase in its maximum sustained winds of at least 35 mph in 24 hours, and many of the strongest hurricanes and typhoons tend to through this process.
  • Climate change studies show that rapid intensification may be becoming more common as the atmosphere and oceans warm in response to human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

Between the lines: While forecast uncertainty remains high, given that the storm was so disorganized as of Thursday at midday, NHC meteorologists noted in their discussion that virtually every computer model shows the storm intensifying up until landfall, and being on the cusp of major hurricane intensity (Category 3 or greater) at that time.

The main factors favoring an intensifying storm include:

  • Warmer than average sea surface temperatures.
  • High pressure at upper levels of the atmosphere that will help enhance a storm's outflow pattern, allowing a hurricane to breathe as it draws air in at lower levels and sends it fanning out in all directions aloft.
  • A lack of wind shear and dry air, two factors that typically cause storms to sputter, weaken or die altogether.

The bottom line: This storm presents the Gulf Coast with a perilous situation featuring an intensifying storm that is only a couple days from landfall, leaving coastal residents with limited time to prepare amid forecast uncertainty.

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Go deeper

Oct 6, 2021 - Science

European rainfall record set in Italy after 12-hour deluge

Flooding in the Liguria region of Italy on Monday. Photo: Liguria President Giovanni Toti/Facebook

Northwestern Italy has been hit by record rainfall from a complex of thunderstorms, triggering flooding and mudslides, per AP.

By the numbers: 29.2 inches of rain fell in 12 hours on Monday in Rossiglione, Genoa province, just south of Milan. That's a new, all-time European record, meteorologists noted Tuesday.

How Texas compares on climate disasters

Expand chart
Data: FEMA; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

Texas has recently fared better than neighboring Louisiana and Oklahoma when it comes to weathering climate-related disasters. But we're not immune to the many effects of human-caused climate change.

Why it matters: Some regions of the U.S. are safer from climate-fueled extreme weather events than others, but no area will go untouched, Axios' Ben German writes.

3 hours ago - Health

FDA authorizes mix-and-match for COVID booster shots

Photo: Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) on Wednesday gave its approval for Americans to get booster shots that are different from the COVID vaccine they initially received.

Why it matters: The recommendation from the FDA, which also authorized booster shots for people who received Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines on Wednesday, paves the way for an expansion of booster shots.