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.

Good news and not so good news concerning Debby

I have some good news to share tonight about Debby. I also have some not so good news. First, the good….

TS Debby

TS Debby

The deep convection with Debby is really falling off. This means that the strong showers and thunderstorms that drive the heat engine are not functioning too well. You can easily see the void of deep convection in the graphic. The green circle indicates the area where the center is located. Without deep thunderstorm activity near the center, a tropical cyclone cannot thrive. This is important because it means that the storm is not strengthening and may be on a weakening trend. Now I cannot possibly know for sure, but seeing the collapse of the deep convection that was definitely there last night and for a good deal of today is a good sign. Perhaps the GFS’ idea of a sheared, weaker, pulsing convection type storm is really what will pan out. The ECMWF forecast of a deeper, stronger system seems to be fading quickly.

NE Gulf Heat Content Map

NE Gulf Heat Content Map

The other issue is heat content. Hurricanes get their energy from the latent heat which is stored in vast quantities in the worlds’ oceans. The deeper the warm water (about 80 degrees F) extends, the more heat content (also called upper ocean heat content) is available. Shallower water tends to hold less heat content and the shallow shelf waters off the eastern parts of the Florida panhandle are notorious hurricane killers due to this lack of energy (see the graphic to the right- the deep blue is low ocean heat content region). I think that the slow movement of Debby is helping to churn up this shallower water, exhausting what little heat content there is; further diminishing Debby’s ability to maintain deep convection.

All of this adds up to the prospect of Debby weakening and not having much of a chance of recovering. This would keep the wind and surge issues to a minimum but the rain is another problem. This is the not so good news part.

Tropical cyclones = rain. That is how they release the heat stored in the oceans. Condensation is a warming process and the release of all that rain also releases heat. This is the very nature of what makes a tropical cyclone tick, so to speak. Unfortunately, too much rain will lead to problems and it looks like the potential exists for a lot of rain for portions of the Florida panhandle and the peninsula. There is no way to know how much rain will fall and where. This all depends on the convection that I mentioned earlier. If rain bands develop, they will drop heavy rain. But those bands can fall apart very quickly too. So the timing and areal coverage of the rain is difficult to forecast. This is why it is important to keep up with what Debby is doing several times per day. The storm is dynamic, it changes. You need to use more than a few resources to keep up with what’s going on. Whether it’s the NWS site (weather.gov) or a commercial outfit such as your local TV station or other website (like us), you will want to know what the rainfall situation is even between the major advisories issued by the NHC. One great resource is the HPC site linked here where you can get detailed precipitation forecasts. The bottom line is that you need to be aware of the fairly quick changes that Debby could bring your specific area. There are numerous ways to do that.

I’ll have more updates throughout the day tomorrow. And for our Client Services subscribers, do not forget, we have a LIVE broadcast each weekday at 2pm ET where I go over detailed graphics LIVE. We also have exclusive use of Stormpulse maps, live chat and other great features that allow you to gain even more info that can help you stay informed.

 

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Debby going to be a forecast challenge

The latest computer model guidance regarding tropical storm Debby has not helped to paint a clearer picture of where the storm, forecast to be a hurricane, will eventually make landfall. In fact, this could be one of the more complicated storms to deal with in quite some time.

Currently, Debby is experiencing some shear which means the upper level winds are blowing across the top of the storm from a certain direction rather than fanning out in all directions. The shear is keeping the storm from being able to align itself vertically and the deepest convection is displaced well away from the center of circulation. This shear is forecast to relax but as mentioned in the latest NHC discussion, it is not a guarantee, so Debby may have some intensity issues over the next few days. It is important to note that intensity forecasting is where the least amount of skill lies and significant changes up or down are possible. The latest forecast maintains the notion that Debby will become a hurricane as it turns west across the warm Gulf of Mexico.

The track forecast is turning out to be quite difficult. What was once a fairly straight forward forecast that Debby would turn west under a developing ridge of high pressure has turned in to a potential huge change coming up. The NHC mentions the ECMWF model which has shown Debby moving west and even south of west towards Texas for the last several days now has the storm making landfall in Louisiana in about three days. As I mentioned, this is a big change from previous runs and we’ll have to see what happens with each subsequent run. In other words, is this the beginning of a trend of just a temporary “goof” by the model and it will get back on its “west” idea soon. We’ll have to wait and see. Track forecasting is sometimes quite easy, this time, it looks to be just opposite.

HPC 3 Day Precip Forecast

HPC 3 Day Precip Forecast

Let’s talk about rain fall. Taking a look at the HPC’s precip forecast for the next three days, we can plainly see that Debby has a tremendous amount of moisture to dump along its path. The Florida peninsula through the central Gulf Coast could receive several inches of rain as Debby moves quite slowly, allowing the rain fall totals to pile up. This is not to be taken lightly. Fresh water flooding from excessive rains generated by tropical cyclones is a leading killer. Often times flooded roads are accessed by people who think that they can navigate the waters. This is a dangerous idea and I urge people to be mindful of the potential flooding impact from the rain. I would like to point out that you can use weather.gov for a wealth of information regarding your local conditions. Just type in your ZIP Code and the landing page will likely contain all sorts of locally based watch/warning info, hurricane local statements and more. This info is for your area, not a national broad brush forecast. Remember: weather.gov

I am currently in Georgia after wrapping up a project I had with CNN to launch a weather balloon and its payload to high altitude yesterday morning. The prep and launch were spectacular, I cannot wait to show you the video of that. The ascent went very well and we were able to track the payload using APRS. I will post a separate blog about this project later tomorrow, complete with some video of the launch. I’ll also talk about what went wrong and why we were not able to recover a majority of the payload after the balloon burst.

Once I return home from GA later today, I’ll begin preparing equipment for a trip to the Gulf Coast to provide on-scene coverage and info as Debby passes by or perhaps makes a direct impact on the region. I’ll lay out my plans tomorrow as a lot will hinge on what the forecast track is and how strong Debby gets. Meanwhile, everyone along the Gulf Coast should keep close tabs on the latest forecast info from the NHC and your local NWS. I’ll have another post here tonight with frequent updates on Twitter.

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Gulf system slow to develop, not sure where it is headed

As you know, 96L is being closely monitored for developments as it slowly moves out of the Caribbean Sea and in to the southern Gulf of Mexico. This morning’s satellite pictures reveal very deep convection associated with the system but it still lacks sufficient organization to be classified as a depression. That being said, the NHC continues to note that pressures are falling in the region while upper level winds are forecast to become more conducive for development.

Hopefully the Hurricane Hunters will fly in to the region today and provide much more data on what the structure and overall organization is with 96L.

The future track and intensity will depend a lot on where a solid low level center develops and how quickly the system strengthens. It is interesting to point out that the SHIPS intensity model indicates a moderate tropical storm and not a hurricane. This is obviously good news especially when we also consider that the usually aggressive GFDL and HWRF intensity models both show a very weak system. This can change and probably will as the low takes shape and gets better organized. At least for the time being, we’re not looking at a potential hurricane – let’s hope it stays that way.

As for where this system will end up? It’s too tough to call right now. Some of the model guidance suggests a track in to the central Gulf of Mexico with a turn back to the west and even south of west towards Texas/Mexico. Other models keep the would-be storm heading towards the northeast portion of the Gulf, with possible impacts in Florida. Right now, everyone along the Gulf Coast should just keep an eye on what goes on with 96L today and tomorrow. It’s not moving very fast and there will be plenty of time to react and prepare if needed.

I am on the road today and tomorrow but will post updates regularly. Fortunately, the rest of the tropics remain nice and quiet.

 

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Global models indicating chance for tropical cyclone formation in the Gulf of Mexico

The NHC has outlined an area of disturbed weather that is situated in the southeast Gulf of Mexico. Right now, it is broad and disorganized and upper level winds are simply too strong to support additional development. However, this could change over the next few days and this just might lead to the development of at least a tropical depression if not a named storm (the next one would be Debby).

Water temps in the Gulf are plenty warm with ample heat content to support tropical storm formation. I think the question will come down to how much the upper level winds calm down to allow for the divergence aloft needed to promote deep convection or thunderstorm activity. Since we do not have a low level center to track or for the models to latch on to, it’s difficult to determine what might eventually happen with this system. The bottom line is that it is likely going to be a slowly developing storm that has potential for impacting the weather over some portion of the Gulf Coast next week. Stay tuned.

The rest of the tropics are nice and quiet even as TS Chris spins away in the northern latitudes. It remains only an interest to shipping.

I’ll post another update here tonight and will discuss the Gulf system further during my appearance on the Barometer Bob Internet show. I’ll be calling in around 8:15 ET tonight. You may listen in here: Barometer Bob Show

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Tropics a little more active today

The tropics are getting to be more active as we head towards the end of the month. Tropical storm Chris formed yesterday despite being over the cooler waters of the North Atlantic. Chris is only a concern to shipping interests and even that impact is minor since the storm is small and obviously not intense.

Now I am keeping an eye on the disturbance in the waters around Cuba and Florida for possible development later this weekend. Several of the global computer models indicate that a more defined area of low pressure will form from this mess somewhere in the central Gulf of Mexico. It should then get pulled eastward towards Florida as a strong trough sweeps in over the eastern United States. At the very least, it looks like more rain is in store for Florida (the peninsula anyway) over the next several days. It is also possible that a tropical depression or weak tropical storm could form from this system though that is not currently forecast by the National Hurricane Center. Right now, their outlook indicates only a 20% chance of development. Remember, this only goes out to 48 hours. I am thinking that beyond that time, over the weekend, that we’ll see a more organized system develop in the open Gulf. For now, it’s something to keep tabs on as I do not see any indications that we’ll get much more than a weak tropical storm, mainly a rain maker, out of this system.

In the east Pacific, 95-E is weakening due to several negative factors that will not allow for it to develop. The remainder of the east Pacific is finally free and clear of any development potential. I’ll post another update on the system in the Gulf/Caribbean this evening.

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