About Mark Sudduth

Greetings! I am Mark Sudduth, the founder and editor of HurricaneTrack.com. The site began in 1999 as a way to post info concerning tropical storms and hurricanes for any interested visitors. Little did I know how big it would become in the years since. Now, we have millions of visitors from all over the world who have come to rely on the site as a no non-sense, tell it like it is resource for all things hurricane related. We are supported by a combination of corporate sponsors and our loyal Client Services members who subscribe to premium content on our sister site, premium.hurricanetrack.com. I am married with six energetic and intelligent children and live in southeast North Carolina. I graduated UNC-Wilmington in 1995 with a BA in Geography and have studied the effects of hurricanes on our society ever since.

Isaac getting stronger as it nears the Lesser Antilles as new depression forming in east Atlantic

TS Isaac Aimed at Greater Antilles and Florida

TS Isaac Aimed at Greater Antilles and Florida

The deep convection has really blossomed over the center of Isaac in recent hours. This is a sign that the stronger upper level winds are relaxing and that the dry mid-level air is being eroded away. Now, a much more unstable air mass is being tapped and Isaac is poised to strengthen, possibly to hurricane intensity.

As I mentioned in my last post, if we saw a burst of sustained deep convection, this could mean a rather rough day for the islands as Isaac passes through. The intense rain squalls that occur underneath such strong convection drag the winds down to the surface quite efficiently. I know from experience and the only good news here is that Isaac is not doing this as a major hurricane right now. So the next 24 hours or so will be quite tumultuous for portions of the Lesser Antilles and I hope people there are prepared and take it seriously. There is nothing quite like an intensifying tropical cyclone, no matter its initial strength. You can keep track of Issac’s progression through the region via Meteo France radar out of Guadeloupe by clicking here.

Once Isaac passes in to the eastern Caribbean, it is forecast to strengthen in to a hurricane. Just how strong it gets is up for debate. So many factors can shape the intensity of these systems that it is impossible to know for sure just how strong Issac will get. It would seem that with increasing ocean heat content and an apparently very favorable environment, that Isaac has the potential to become a strong hurricane before reaching Hispaniola. And that is a key milestone for the system and what eventually happens along the U.S. coastline.

The latest forecast from the NHC shows a track that would take Isaac over a good deal of the islands of Hispaniola and then eastern Cuba. If this does in fact happen, I would have to think that the rugged terrain would do quite a number on the circulation of Isaac and weaken it substantially. There are times when hurricanes have hit these land masses and never had time to fully recover. While this is great for interests further along in the forecast track, it would be terrible news for people on those islands. The threat of heavy rains and mudslides alone is enough to cause great concern. However, the geography is just right so that often times, the Greater Antilles have been the saving grace for many potentially deadly U.S. hurricane landfalls. Will that be the case again? I wish I knew. Let’s look at two models for some compare and contrast info.

First, the GFS. It has been doing pretty well this season and seems to have a good run to run handle on Isaac. It shows the system moving towards a break in the large high pressure area situated over the western Atlantic. This break or weakness would turn Isaac WNW and then NW at a point that would take it over the islands and possibly disrupt the circulation quite a bit. Obviously, the less land Isaac encounters, the less this disruption will impact the would-be hurricane.

5 Day ECMWF Model Showing Isaac South of Cuba

5 Day ECMWF Model Showing Isaac South of Cuba

On the other hand, the often praised for its superior forecast skill ECMWF model or Euro shows a weaker Isaac moving more west with time. It misses the big islands and turns Isaac in to the Gulf of Mexico as a formidable hurricane. In fact, the most recent run of the Euro was the western most forecast for Isaac yet, putting in to Louisiana in 10 days. I think we will have to watch and see one key element here. Does Isaac remain weak and get pushed along more by the lower level flow than it would if it were a deeper, larger storm in the atmosphere? Right now, it’s definitely growing in size in all directions. So unless it has issues getting stronger and extending up in to the atmosphere, I think the Euro can be discounted for now. Thus a threat to Florida, after Isaac passes over Hispaniola and Cuba, is a real possibility.

The other scenario would be that the turn NW happens even sooner and Isaac crosses Hispaniola rather quickly with no land interaction in Cuba after that. This would pose a threat farther up the coast of Florida and possibly even the Carolinas. This cannot be ruled out – remember Irene last year?

Today will be about the Lesser Antilles and what impact Isaac has there. Once it clears the islands, we can focus more on possible landfall solutions down the road. There is a considerable amount of time still left for Isaac to track in a number of directions and be at a variety of intensities. The best course of action for people in Florida is to just be on alert, check your generators, make sure you can put your hurricane plan in to action if needed. Just do the things now that can help make things a little less stressful should Isaac come your way. It has been seven years since any hurricane has hit Florida. A lot of people have no hurricane experience at all. Isaac might break the drought but it might not, we will just have to wait and see as hard as that may seem.

Meanwhile, invest area 96L out in the eastern Atlantic continues to become better organized. It should become a tropical depression later today and eventually TS Joyce as it moves westward across the deep tropics. There is no cause for alarm with this system just yet. Let’s deal with Isaac right now before worrying too much about a future storm. The east Pacific is nice and quiet.




Isaac’s first impact will be to the Lesser Antilles but to what extent?

TS Isaac With Some Deep Convection Tonight

TS Isaac With Some Deep Convection Tonight

TS Isaac is making news headlines and for good reason. While plenty of people are looking down the road, several days in fact, let’s not forget what’s in store for people in the Lesser Antilles over the next day or so.

While Isaac may be fairly weak right now, it could intensify rather quickly and if it does so while passing over the islands, it could mean a day of rather rough conditions. What I will be looking for is to see if very deep convection forms and takes the shape of a ball. This would tell me that a CDO or central dense overcast area of intense thunderstorm activity has developed. It is underneath these intense cores of copious rain fall that the strongest winds usually occur. If we see Isaac pushing up deep convection, then look out below as strong gusts of wind will likely result. This is why people in the warning area need to be prepared. It is impossible to forecast these convective bursts and we can only monitor via satellite and perhaps local radar where available. It’s just something to keep in mind since the Lesser Antilles are first in line to deal with Isaac.

As for later issues? We’ll have to take it one day at a time and see what happens as Isaac moves in to the Caribbean Sea. We’ve been through this enough times to know that there are no clear cut answers this far out. Different sets of models will show different results at different times of each day. For now, let’s see what happens as the storm passes through the Lesser Antilles. Hopefully it won’t be much but in case Isaac suddenly ramps up, people need to be prepared.


Tropical depression 9 forms, forecast to become strong hurricane in the Caribbean Sea

Tropical Depression Nine

Tropical Depression Nine

Well it took a bit of time but the tropical wave that we have been watching for the last several days has strengthened to TD #9. It is currently situated well east of the Leeward Islands but will close in rather quickly, bringing tropical storm conditions to the region within 36 hours.

The depression is currently winning the battle against the unusually dry air that has been in place all hurricane season across the deep tropics. Now that it is moving across ocean heat content that is considerably higher than in recent days, the amount of energy needed to fuel the deep convection is in place. Keep in mind that sea surface temperatures and heat content only increase ahead of the soon-to-be storm (which will be Isaac).

Interests in the Leewards need to be ready for a strengthening tropical storm and a large one at that. This means squally weather, heavy rains and winds gusting to near hurricane force in less than 48 hours.

Once past the Lesser Antilles, what would presumably be Isaac is forecast by the NHC to pass south of Puerto Rico and just clip portions of Hispaniola as it heads to a position just south of Cuba in five days. Now this part is extremely important. If the cyclone remains far enough south of these land masses, it could strengthen quite a bit. On the other hand, if the delicate circulation gets tangled up within the mountains of the Greater Antilles, it would almost certainly result in a weaker, disrupted storm/hurricane. The next few days will be critical in terms of what happens next.

I know it is natural to want to know what happens after the five day forecast period. There are certainly plenty of sites that have long range models available. Let’s just say that interests in Florida and indeed the Southeast U.S. as a whole need to watch the progress of this developing system very closely. There are some indications in the long range guidance that it could end up in the eastern Gulf of Mexico while other models suggest a path east of Florida. So there is the problem. It’s just too far out to even worry about right now. My best advice is to monitor and be ready to act. You should already have a hurricane plan in place for just such an event. If not, you better be ready, if not for this one, then for the rest of the season ahead.

We will have a lot more information in the coming days as recon planes from NOAA and the Air Force will be checking the system out thoroughly. This information will help to make the forecasts even better and will give us all the detail we need to prepare accordingly.

I would also like to remind our readers that we do have an app in the App Store that is available for purchase. It is a great way to keep up with the latest from HurricaneTrack.com on your iPhone, iPod Touch or even iPad. The app features this blog, our Twitter posts, Facebook updates, live weather data during landfall missions (might we have one coming up soon?), live web cam images from our own instrumented wind towers, video blogs EXCLUSIVE to our app and even a GPS tracking map to show our location while we are out in the field! To get it now click here. If what is a shoe-in to become Isaac makes landfall in the U.S., our app will literally take you there like nothing you have ever seen in a mobile app! It’s a great way to support our work while getting something innovative and informative in return.

I’ll post another update here later this afternoon. Keep in mind that our private clients who have not logged in this season that we do have our LIVE video briefing at 2pm ET on the Client Services site.


Gulf free of tropical troubles for now as we wait for 94L to develop

The Hurricane Hunters investigated 95L off the coast of Mexico in the western Gulf and found basically nothing. Winds were light and the system is losing organization. It appears that any chance of tropical storm formation is quickly dwindling. However, the overall pattern is somewhat unsettled across the region and periods of squally weather will persist across the region for a few more days.

Meanwhile, 94L continues to struggle to put up any deep thunderstorms. The dry air mass is simply too overpowering right now. It is interesting to note that the global models seem to want to ramp this system up after it passes through the Lesser Antilles. While I do not see anything intense coming out of the models just yet, it is possible that 94L will wait and wait and wait until it reaches the Caribbean Sea before developing. And the weaker it remains, the more west it will track. Some of the longer range models forecast the slowly developing system to move up towards Florida via the Greater Antilles first. This means that it could get tangled up in the high terrain of Haiti and Cuba if in fact it takes the track. So any threat to Florida should be considered minimal right now. I just don’t see this developing much over the next day or two. After that, we’ll see. The season has just been so hostile for deep tropical development that for it to all of a sudden change would be a surprise to me. This is why we have to just watch and see what happens. So far, there is nothing to indicate a major problem coming up for the Lesser Antilles or beyond. If that changes, we will still have plenty of time to react accordingly.

I’ll have more here tomorrow morning.


Tropics look busy but it’s all bark so far

Tropical Weather Outlook Map

Tropical Weather Outlook Map

Taking a look at the latest Tropical Weather Outlook map from the National Hurricane Center, one might think that things were really busy. In one sense, things are busy, with plenty of suspect areas to monitor. On the other hand, with the exception of Gordon, which passed through portions of the Azores as a hurricane, looks can be somewhat deceiving as there is nothing brewing right now that poses any significant threat to land areas.

As I mentioned, Gordon moved through the Azores last night as a hurricane and continues to move eastward where it will weaken over cooler waters, falling short of affecting Portugal.

The system that has the most attention right now within the hurricane blogosphere is 94L. It still lacks any deep convection and is surrounded by an awful lot of dry air which has been the calling card of the deep tropics this season. Neither the GFS or the ECMWF strengthen it much as it passes through the Lesser Antilles and in to the eastern Caribbean. It is also worth noting that the GFDL and HWRF both keep it weak as well. Granted, the statistical SHIP model does make 94L a hurricane but it has not done so well with intensity this season, so I discount that for now.

I think the environment is just too hostile right now, mainly the lack of deep moisture and resulting absence of vertical instability. This is a major factor and even though wind shear is light and we’re in the latter part of August, if the atmosphere is too dry, convection cannot commence and sustain and the entire process will never really get a good start. So until and unless we see a change in the thermodynamics of 94L’s surroundings, it will likely be a weak area of low pressure as it moves westward. I would think that we will begin to see an increase in convection as it moves towards higher ocean heat content in a day or so. Keep in mind too that 94L has a large envelope of energy that it has to bundle and focus around a common area of low pressure. In other words, it has a lot of work to do before becoming much of an issue for anyone. This is good news and for now, it should stay that way.

Elsewhere, 95L is along the eastern Mexican coast and poses little more than a rain threat for portions of Mexico. I doubt it will ever get back out over water enough to amount to anything and none of the reliable models indicate much happening.

Then we have 96L out near Africa. All I can say is read back about 94L and there you go. Anything coming out of the deep tropics so far has struggled and I see no reason why that will change anytime soon. Obviously, it bears watching as it tracks steadily westward but I would not worry about it for at least a week.

I’ll cover all of these areas and more on today’s video blog which will be posted to the HurricaneTrack iPhone app this afternoon. Then, I’ll have another blog post here early this evening, sooner if need be.