National Hurricane Center (NHC) began monitoring a
tropical wave over western Africa on August 26.
 The tropical wave moved off the coast of the continent late on August 27. Throughout the next two days, showers and thunderstorms associated with the wave became better organized and gradually coalesced into a
low pressure area, as the system passed just south of and then through the
Cape Verde Islands on August 29,
 with the NHC stating that any significant organization of the disturbance would result in the classification of a tropical depression.
 Further organization over the next 24 hours or so led to classification of the disturbance as Tropical Storm Irma, at 15:00 UTC on August 30, based on
scatterometer data and
 With warm
sea surface temperatures and low wind shear, strengthening was anticipated, with the only hindrance being slightly cooler waters and drier air.
satellite image of Hurricane Irma on September 3
The nascent storm began developing upper-level poleward
outflow, as an
anticyclone became established over the system, with
banding features becoming increasingly evident in satellite images.
 Early on August 31, shortly after the development of a
central dense overcast (CDO) and an
eye feature, Irma
rapidly intensified beginning at 09:00 UTC on August 31, with winds increasing from 70 mph (110 km/h) to 115 mph (185 km/h) in only 12 hours.
 On September 2, a ship passed 60 mi (90 km) to the west of the center of Irma, recording maximum winds of 45 mph (70 km/h), which indicated that the eye of Irma remained compact.
 A strengthening subtropical ridge over the central North Atlantic pushed Irma from a western to southwestern direction on September 2 and 3.
 The first
aircraft reconnaissance mission departed from
Barbados on the afternoon of September 3, discovering an eye 29 mi (47 km) in diameter and surface winds of 115 mph (185 km/h).
Infrared loop of Hurricane Irma approaching the northern Leeward Islands on September 5, around the time of its upgrade to a Category 5 hurricane
On September 4, after moving into more favorable conditions, Irma strengthened into a Category 4 hurricane.
 As it continued approaching the Leeward Islands, Irma underwent a second and more robust period of rapid intensification, becoming a Category 5 hurricane by 11:45 UTC on the following day, with winds of 175 mph (280 km/h).
 As it began to take on
annular characteristics, the extremely powerful hurricane continued to intensify,
 with maximum sustained winds peaking at 185 mph (295 km/h) near 18:00 UTC on September 5 – which would remain steady and unchanged for the next 37 hours. Six hours later, Irma made landfall along the northern coast of
Barbuda near peak strength.
 Later that day, around 18:00 UTC, the storm's pressure bottomed out at 914 hPa (27.0 inHg) – this was the lowest in the Atlantic since
Dean in 2007. While maintaining its intensity, Irma made successive landfalls on September 7, at approximately 12:00 UTC on
Sint Maarten, and at 17:00 UTC on
Ginger Island and
Tortola, in the
British Virgin Islands, all while it was at peak intensity.
Sea surface temperatures in Hurricane Irma's path.
Shortly before 06:00 UTC on September 8, Irma made landfall on the Bahamian island
 About three hours later, an
eyewall replacement cycle caused Irma to weaken to a Category 4 hurricane, but the storm regained Category 5 status 18 hours later before making landfall in Cuba. After weakening to a Category 3 due to land interaction with Cuba, Irma reintensified into a Category 4 hurricane while crossing over the
Straits of Florida. At 13:10 UTC on September 10, Irma made landfall in
Cudjoe Key, Florida with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph (215 km/h) and a central pressure of 929 hPa (27.4 inHg).
 Later that day, at 19:35 UTC, Irma made landfall in
Marco Island with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph (185 km/h) and a central pressure of 940 hPa (28 inHg); the Marco Island Police Department recorded a wind gust of 130 mph (215 km/h).
Naples, FL Municipal Airport measured wind gusts up to 142 mph (229 km/h). About a half an hour later, Irma made landfall in Naples at the same intensity. Irma weakened into a Category 2 storm once inland, and below hurricane intensity at 12:00 UTC on September 11. At 03:00 UTC on September 12, Irma weakened to a tropical depression over the Georgia-Alabama border, and degenerated into a post-tropical low about 24 hours later north of
 Irma's remnants continued moving towards the northwest over the next day, before turning northward and then accelerating to the northeast on September 14.
 Early on September 15, Irma's remnants began moving off the New England coastline, becoming increasingly disorganized while continuing to weaken. Later on the same day, Irma's remnants began interacting with a cold front stretching over
 On September 16, Irma's remnant circulation collapsed, and the majority of Irma's remnant moisture was absorbed into
Hurricane Jose later that day.
Data collected by NASA showed that ocean surface temperatures in the path of Irma were above 30 °C (86 °F) at the time, more than enough to sustain a
Category 5 hurricane.
 Additionally, ocean surface temperatures in areas along the
Strait of Florida extended to 32 °C (90 °F),
 which could support a
maximum potential intensity of 200 miles per hour (320 km/h), if ideal conditions had been met.