Plenty to monitor over the next several days but beware of “scary maps”

NHC map showing potential for development in the eastern Atlantic, spreading towards the Caribbean, as the days progress

NHC map showing potential for development in the eastern Atlantic, spreading towards the Caribbean, as the days progress

We have several areas to monitor in the Atlantic Basin and one area in the east Pacific. Fortunately, none pose a direct threat to land for the time being but one area, in particular, warrants close scrutiny in the days ahead.

First up, tropical storm Kay in the eastern Pacific. Not much to say here except that it will weaken as it tracks well off of the Baja peninsula and eventually turns westward over cooler water. I do not see any appreciable impacts from this storm for the southern Baja except some added moisture. Once Kay dissipates early next week, that should do it for the time being in the eastern Pacific with no additional areas of development seen.

Next we have tropical storm Fiona in the open central Atlantic. Top winds are only 45 mph with limited deep convection noted on satellite imagery. Overall the dry mid-level air, partly due to the incessant Saharan Air Layer (SAL), is keeping Fiona from strengthening and this will likely remain the case over the next five days. In fact, the NHC is forecasting the storm to weaken as it moves farther to the north and west, well to the southeast of Bermuda. While I do not anticipate any issues arising from this storm, we never just ignore them until they dissipate or are headed away from land areas.

Of greater concern, especially for the eastern Caribbean islands, is invest area 99L deep in the eastern tropical Atlantic. The NHC gives it a 50% chance of becoming a tropical depression or stronger within the next five days.

The overall envelope of energy with the tropical wave is impressive. The large sprawling size makes me believe that development will be gradual at best. The SAL is far enough to the north to allow for slow but steady organization and it should go on to become the next named storm. If so, it will be “Gaston”.

Computer models are very aggressive with strengthening, perhaps a little too much so. Most of the intensity guidance suggests 99L will become a hurricane but I think its large size and overall state of the deep tropics will limit intensification until later in the period.

Interests in the Lesser Antilles should be watching 99L closely. Almost all of the track models indicate a general westward movement in to the eastern Caribbean early next week. As we have seen time and time again, it does not take a strong tropical storm or a hurricane to cause life-threatening flooding. The people in parts of Louisiana know this all too well and we need only to look back at Erika last season as a reminder for the Caribbean. There’s not much you can do to prepare for heavy rain, just being aware and making sure there is safe haven is at least something as opposed to nothing.

There is no doubt going to be a lot of speculation about where 99L and its eventual transition in to a tropical storm (or hurricane) will end up. In today’s world, computer model forecast maps can be shared with literally millions of people at a moment’s notice. Under the wrong context, this can be harmful. Not everyone has the weather geek know-how to realize that a 5, 7 or 10 day map has extreme limitations. On top of that, graphs showing intensity will only lead to more anxiety when it is probably unwarranted.

My point is, we are likely going to have to deal with a tropical storm and possibly a hurricane some time next week. The first area of concern is for the eastern Caribbean Sea. Beyond that, it’s wait and see just like it has been since I began this site back in 1999. Sure, the Internet has made things a lot faster, more weather models are available and so forth but with great access comes great responsibility (sorry Spiderman, had to borrow your uncle’s catch-phrase). Staring at a map that shows a giant hurricane on it 10 days out is not helpful to most people. If you see such things in social media, say to yourself, “Hmmm, guess I better keep an eye on that one”. Worrying about it this soon is futile – instead, maybe do a little more to prepare in case this, or any future storm/hurricane, comes your way. I’ve said my piece on this issue but just know, it’s coming (the scary weather maps) and you’ve been warned. Be smart and don’t spread the fire by sharing such images.

Last in my list of things to cover, the NHC has highlighted the area just off the African coast, out in to the eastern Atlantic by a few hundred miles for possible development next week. This too is just something to monitor but hey, if you live in the Cape Verde Islands, you could be impacted by squally weather as this tropical wave moves by.

It’s getting towards late August and we were told this hurricane season could be the busiest in four years. So far, it has generally lived up to that expectation. We are headed in to a busy period with a lot to keep up with. Considering the world around us and the inherent, constant distractions, it will be more important than ever to stay aware and be ready….just in case.

I’ll have more in my video discussion later this afternoon followed by another blog post in the morning.

M. Sudduth 2:30 PM ET Aug 19

 

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Tropics about to get quite busy as we head deeper in to August

Satellite image of the eastern Atlantic where TS Fiona is moving out over open water. We are also watching for more tropical wave energy just off the coast of Africa for possible development.

Satellite image of the eastern Atlantic where TS Fiona is moving out over open water. We are also watching for more tropical wave energy just off the coast of Africa for possible development.

There are indications that things are going to be busier and busier over the coming days and weeks as far as the Atlantic Basin goes. You may recall that the east Pacific was producing storm after storm, with a few hurricanes thrown in too, back in July? While I do not see that much activity coming, I do think there is potential for several more development areas over the next two weeks.

First up is tropical storm Fiona. Obviously this system poses no threat to land and probably won’t as it moves generally northwestward over the open Atlantic.

The combination of dry mid-level air being ingested from time to time and some stronger upper level winds will likely keep Fiona from becoming too strong. Water temps gradually increase out ahead of the storm and if the background environment changes enough, the chance for it to become a hurricane is there. However, this would only affecting shipping lanes and add to the ACE score for the season. I just don’t see any reason right now to be concerned with Fiona directly impacting land.

As we watch Fiona, we also need to monitor activity just off the African coast for possible development down the road. Computer models are suggesting the possibility of additional development from one or two more tropical waves over the next five to seven days. This would be the most active the MDR or Main Development Region has been for quite some time. It also fits in perfectly with the time of year we are in as the latter part of August tends to see an increase in potential for development across much of the tropical Atlantic.

Meanwhile, the east Pacific will likely have a new named storm before too long. The NHC is tracking invest area 97-E well off the coast of Mexico. Conditions appear favorable for this to continue to develop and become a tropical storm as it moves northwest but off shore of Mexico and the Baja peninsula.

I will have more in my video discussion which will be posted here and to our app, Hurricane Impact, later this afternoon – followed by more blog coverage here tomorrow morning.

M. Sudduth 10:20 AM ET Aug 18

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Deep tropics closed – so we look west, closer to land

Recent satellite photo showing the areas of interest, and the shut-down eastern Atlantic

Recent satellite photo showing the areas of interest, and the shut-down eastern Atlantic  (click for full-size image)

Another large, suppressing surge of dry, stable air is moving off of Africa as of late and this will all but shut down the chance for development in the deep tropics – at least for now. With the eastern Atlantic out of play, where might we look for possible development over the coming days? The answer: farther west, closer to land areas.

Before I get in to what may be coming down the road, let’s look at the latest on Earl, which is still alive and somewhat well in the Bay of Campeche.

After making landfall in Belize, Earl managed to remain intact as a tropical storm as it moved across the Yucatan peninsula. It is now situated over the extreme southern portion of the Bay of Campeche and remains at tropical storm strength. The main threat to land will be continued heavy rain along with some gusty winds. The storm will make landfall again this evening in Mexico and begin to dissipate.

Something interesting will happen after landfall with Earl. It seems that energy from the storm will survive the terrain of Mexico and merge with a disturbance over the southeast Pacific, just off the coast. The NHC indicates that all of this will result in the formation of a low pressure area that is likely to become a tropical depression over the next few days. Since this will be happening so close to land, interests along the Pacific side of Mexico should be monitoring closely. Heavy rain is likely and eventually a tropical storm may form and affect the southern Baja peninsula.

Meanwhile, a complex situation is developing in the northeast Gulf of Mexico that bears watching. The NHC mentions that a trough of low pressure is forecast to develop over the warm waters of the northeast Gulf this weekend. This focal point for showers and thunderstorms could lead to the potential development of a tropical depression at some point. The longer it remains over the water (and farther out from land) then the higher this chance becomes.

Rain forecast for the next seven days showing an alarming amount for portions of the northeast Gulf Coast region. This will change and evolve over time but this gives you an idea of how much is forecast by the computer models.

Rain forecast for the next seven days showing an alarming amount for portions of the northeast Gulf Coast region. This will change and evolve over time but this gives you an idea of how much is forecast by the computer models.

One thing that seems almost certain is that an incredible, dangerous amount of rain is setting up for portions of the Gulf Coast states – mainly from southeast Louisiana eastward in to Florida. In fact, some of the rain totals that are being suggested by computer models are astounding. This is something that needs to be watched very closely. Even if nothing develops in terms of a tropical depression or more, the rain by itself will be a major problem.

Next we have the energy associated with what was once 96L and another tropical wave coming in from the east. While there is not much to look at now, there is some evidence in the computer models to suggest we see development in the southwest Atlantic in a few days. I do not see any indication of anything strong at this point, just something to watch since we are in August and the water temps in the western Atlantic are so very warm.

All in all, it looks to be an interesting few days ahead. The east Atlantic won’t be an issue at all due to the strong SAL or Saharan Air Layer that is dominating the region. So we must look closer to home, so to speak, and with that we do see a few areas of potential trouble brewing. I will add more with my daily video discussion to be posted later this afternoon followed by another blog update here tomorrow morning.

M. Sudduth 11:45 AM ET Aug 5

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East Pacific stays busy, Atlantic quiet for now

East Pacific satellite photo showing dying tropical storm Agatha (small convective blob) along with strengthening tropical storm Blas which is forecast to become a powerful hurricane over the open Pacific

East Pacific satellite photo showing dying tropical storm Agatha (small convective blob) along with strengthening tropical storm Blas which is forecast to become a powerful hurricane over the open Pacific

It looks like we will see a parade of storms and hurricanes in the eastern Pacific over the coming days. Right now, we have TS Agatha which is weakening over cooler water and TS Blas which is about to become a hurricane. Both systems continue to remain well off the Mexican coastline and will have virtually no impact on land.

The recent burst of activity in the east Pacific can be partially attributed to a more favorable pattern overall that has allowed convection to develop and thrive. This phenomenon is called a convectively coupled Kelvin wave or CCKW. What is that you ask? It is difficult to explain but essentially it is an eastward moving wave of energy, bound by the equator to its south, that seems to enhance convection and vorticity (spin) in the atmosphere. Another way to look at it – the spark that lights the fire. Often times the passage of a CCKW will trigger the development of tropical waves as they progress across the ocean. In this case, the east Pacific took advantage of the passage and now we have two tropical cyclones and a third likely later this week. The good news is that none of the systems seem bound to affect land areas.

Will the CCKW make its way in to the western Caribbean and/or Atlantic and thus set up potential development there? So far, I am not seeing much evidence to support that. The global models all indicate generally quiet conditions over the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf for the next several days. This is not surprising considering that when the east Pacific is active, the Atlantic is usually not. It’s also early July and from a climatology perspective, we are not supposed to see much activity right now anyway.

Radar image showing the eye of hurricane Arthur and my location over the Oregon Inlet early in the morning of July 4, 2014

Radar image showing the eye of hurricane Arthur and my location over the Oregon Inlet early in the morning of July 4, 2014

In other news, it’s now been two years since a hurricane of any strength made landfall along the U.S. coastline. That hurricane was Arthur in the very early morning hours of July 4, 2014.

I was in the eye of the category two hurricane over the Oregon Inlet in fact where the wind was about as calm as could be for about 20 minutes. Arthur produced moderate storm surge flooding, in some cases 4 to 5 feet of it, along portions of the Outer Banks, mainly south of Oregon Inlet. The disruption to tourist season was a major issue but the area rebounded quickly and fortunately, no other hurricanes had direct influence on the Outer Banks that season.

I will cover Arthur’s anniversary and more in my video discussion which will be posted later this afternoon.

M. Sudduth 10:15 AM ET July 4

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Two storms in east Pacific – one forecast to become major hurricane

NHC map showing the positions of tropical storms Agatha (left) and Blas (right). Boh systems are forecast to remain well off the coast of Mexico.

NHC map showing the positions of tropical storms Agatha (left) and Blas (right). Boh systems are forecast to remain well off the coast of Mexico.

And just like that, we now have two tropical storms in the east Pacific. After a very quiet start to the season in that region, things have become quite busy as of late.

First up is tropical storm Agatha, situated about 1000 miles WSW of the Baja peninsula of Mexico. There’s not much to say about Agatha as it is forecast to weaken over cooler water during the next few days and obviously will not be a problem for land.

Next we have tropical storm Blas, also well offshore of the Mexican coastline. Top winds are 60 mph and Blas is forecast to reach hurricane intensity by tomorrow. After that time, conditions appear favorable for Blas to continue to grow in to a major hurricane with winds of at least 120 mph. Fortunately, the steering currents are such that no matter how strong it gets, it won’t affect land either. There could be some additional ocean swells generated by the hurricane, especially if it gets stronger than forecast. Outside of that, neither system will pose any threat to Mexico.

In the Atlantic Basin, sinking air and a fairly dominant Saharan Air Layer (SAL) are keeping things quiet for the time being. This is quite typical for July when surface pressures are generally high and these SAL outbreaks are common. I do not see anything in the global models to suggest development over the next five to seven days.

Enjoy the celebrations this weekend and tomorrow! Be safe out there – especially if traveling. I’ll have more here tomorrow afternoon.

M. Sudduth 12:30 PM July 3

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