Published September 19, 2017
The “cone of uncertainty” became a household phrase as Hurricane Irma approached the southern tip of Florida. Time and again, meteorologists informed us that predicting the weather isn’t an exact science. With some forecasting wizardry, however, they developed “spaghetti models” with a dozen or more “noodles” of probability. Their detailed charts showed winds speeds, ocean currents, barometric pressures, water temperatures, upper level atmospheric highs and lows—all lending an appearance of certainty to their prognostications.
Yet, like a defiant adolescent, Irma impulsively shifted her eerie eye from the eastern coast and Miami to the central wetlands of the Everglades to the western coast and Fort Myers. Interstates were jammed with long streams of evacuees crawling northward as first one side of the Sunshine State and then the other scrambled for safer havens somewhere.