Ernesto skirting the southern Bay of Campeche as rest of tropics brew but not yet boiling

Atlantic Conditions

Atlantic Conditions

TS Ernesto is close to making its final landfall along the Mexican coast this morning in the extreme southern Bay of Campeche. Top winds were near 70mph as of the latest NHC advisory at 5am ET. There is still a window of opportunity for Ernesto to become a hurricane again but time is running out – luckily. Once Ernesto is on shore, it will obviously weaken and do so quickly over the increasingly rugged terrain of Mexico. However, the threat of excessive rain fall will exist for a couple of days until the circulation completely dissipates.

Elsewhere, hurricane Gilma in the east Pacific poses no threat to land and never will. There is also invest area 93-E (E for east Pacific) which bears watching over the next few days but should not become a problem for land areas either, at least not in the near term.

The Atlantic Basin, aside from Ernesto, is not looking too bad. Even though 92L is out in the open Atlantic between Africa and the Lesser Antilles, I see little reason to believe that it will amount to much over the coming days. The pattern is actually quite negative in the upper levels for development right now. A series of large and persistent upper level low pressure areas is creating a lot of strong winds aloft which in turn is preventing much from happening in the deep tropics. None of the global models, which handled Ernesto very well, show 92L developing in to anything to worry about. It may still bring a period of squally weather to the Lesser Antilles this weekend but that should be about it.

A large tropical wave is about to emerge from Africa and it could develop once it reaches the warm Atlantic but here too, the global models simply do not show much happening. Perhaps the warming of the Pacific is finally taking its toll on the Atlantic in terms of strong upper level winds. Perhaps it is something else. I don’t know for sure but the signs are not there right now for anything serious to brew up over the next few days. We know how quickly this can change so we’ll certainly want to keep tabs on conditions as we move deeper in to August.

I’ll have another blog post later this morning concerning the first update we’re about to push to the HurricaneTrack app.

Ernesto about to make landfall along Yucatan while the rest of the tropics remain fairly active

Hurricane Ernesto is only hours away from making landfall along the eastern coast of the Yucatan. Top winds were last reported at 85 mph with higher gusts. The pressure has fallen all day and as of 8pm ET was down to 980 mb. From the looks of the size of the hurricane, it is a good thing that Ernesto had so many problems intensifying as it could have turned out to be a powerful hurricane.

As it stands, the effects will be pronounced but not severe. That is to say, we should not see the kind of damage that a much stronger Caribbean hurricane would cause (obviously). However, because Ernesto is currently in strengthening mode, it will likely have more damaging wind gusts than would a weakening or steady-state hurricane. This is due to the convection or thunderstorm activity reaching up in to the wind field, bringing the strong winds down to the surface in downbursts within the heavy rain. Anyone who has been through and intensifying hurricane knows what I am talking about. It’s not pleasant but at least Ernesto is not a major hurricane.

The fairly quick pace of movement will get Ernesto inland and weakening rather quickly and thus the rain threat will not be too bad. However, any tropical rainfall that is dumped over an area can produce flash floods and mudslides along hilly terrain. We’ll hope for a quick transit of Central America by Ernesto, thus lessening the overall effects.

Elsewhere, the east Pacific has a new named storm, Gilma, but it is forecast to track generally westward and away from land, so no worries there.

In the tropical Atlantic, we’ll be watching things closely as invest area 92L marches west and a series of large, organized tropical waves move off over the coming days. There is pretty good agreement among the major computer models, the ones that predicted almost exactly what Ernesto has done up to now, that we’ll see development between Africa and the Lesser Antilles over the next few days. In fact, I would not be surprised to see two or three systems get going over the next week to 10 days. Keep in mind that there is no evidence to suggest any threat to land areas, not yet. So even though some of the long range guidance might be interesting to watch, it is to be considered only for “hmmm” value and nothing more. We know we are entering the peak time of the hurricane season is that it is time to watch things a little closer. As far as getting worked up over something in the long range models? There’s no use in doing so, just keep up to date and what ever happens, happens. We’ll know in plenty of time for people to react if need be.

I’ll have more here tomorrow including a continuation of the daily video blog for our new HurricaneTrack app for iPhone. I’ll also be announcing plans for our first update to the app in the coming days as well as progress on the Android version.

Ernesto on its way to becoming a hurricane as it heads towards Belize

TS Ernesto over the Caribbean Sea

TS Ernesto over the Caribbean Sea

Conditions around Ernesto have improved and now the storm is really starting to ramp up. The main issue was dry mid-level air and the storm’s fast forward motion. It simply could not line itself up vertically and allow for the convective process that drives its heat engine to work efficiently.

Water temps are plenty warm and it is obvious by looking at satellite imagery that the outflow is well established now. Ernesto should become a hurricane before the day is out.

The threat to the U.S. is all but gone now and so the focus will be on Central America, specifically Belize.

As it looks now, Ernesto will be intensifying as it makes landfall. This is never good news. As I have written about before, it has been our experience in dealing with hurricanes in the field that when they hit while intensifying, their effects are amplified. This is due to the convection or upward motion of the clouds that act to bring the strong winds down to the surface. We noticed this most notably during hurricane Charley in 2004 and never forgot what it was like. While Ernesto is not expected to become as strong as Charley, I hope that folks in Belize realize that this is not going to be a weak, sheared and dried out tropical storm when it hits- not anymore. Wind damage could be a real issue with Ernesto along with the other hazards of coastal storm surge and torrential rains.

Farther up the Yucatan where Cancun and Cozumel are, the impacts will be far less. Since Ernesto is not an especially large storm, its effects will be confined to the areas south of the northeast tip of the Yucatan. There may very well be some passing squalls from the outer rain bands but I do not see any reason to believe that Ernesto will post any big problems for Cancun and vicinity. In fact, that area is only under a tropical storm watch at this time. If you have plans to visit the area, do not cancel as Ernesto is only a problem farther south.

Once the soon-to-be hurricane crosses the Yucatan, it could get buried over Central America and rain itself out. This will obviously have negative impacts on the region with excessive rainfall a possibility. The official track does take the storm back out over the extreme southern Bay of Campeche with a final landfall in Mexico near the end of the week. How much time Ernesto spends over land will likely determine how strong it can get once it reaches the water again, if it does not simply die out over land.

The rest of the tropical Atlantic is quiet for now. Florence has dissipated and will likely not be able to make any appreciable comeback. We’ll see, you never know in August.

In the east Pacific, the NHC is keeping tabs on invest area 92E which is forecast to become a tropical depression and eventually a hurricane by many of the intensity models .However, the steering pattern continues to favor a general westward track away from Mexico. This is not typical of an El Nino year and lends more evidence to the fact that the atmosphere is not behaving as if we were in El Nino conditions. With a fairly strong high pressure area over the eastern Pacific it is no wonder that recent hurricanes in the east-Pac have moved westward. It is also keeping the progress of the developing El Nino at a slow pace which could have implications on the Atlantic season from here on out. I’ll discuss that in more detail in tomorrow’s blog post.

Ernesto likely headed for Yucatan then where?

TS Ernesto certainly has improved its appearance since this time yesterday. As noted in the latest NHC discussion, appearances can be deceiving and Ernesto has, in fact, weakened some. I see this as probably temporary as the storm is pulling in air from South America and to some extent, the Caribbean islands to its north. Remember, tropical cyclones can be very sensitive to even the slightest changes in their environment. Once Ernesto gets to about the same longitude as Jamaica, it should start to intensify and become a hurricane.

It is very puzzling as to why the various global models do not “see” Ernesto very well. This is called initialization and the models are not initializing the storm very well. I have read quite a bit on various message boards about how this could be throwing the future track forecast off. The logic is that if the models do not see the storm at the beginning of the run, then how can they predict where it will go later in the run? Let’s look at it from an entirely different point of view.

Forget that Ernesto is even in the picture. Then look at the computer models. I’ll take the GFS as an example. What does the large scale pattern look like three to five days down the road? Is there going to be a weakness in the big high pressure area over the Gulf of Mexico that would allow the would-be hurricane to turn more to the north? Not really. There seems to be just enough subtropical ridge nosing in from the Atlantic, across the eastern Gulf, to keep Ernesto on a WNW track towards the Yucatan and then in to mainland Mexico. So whether or not Ernesto is strong, weak, picked up in the models or not, I do not think it matters. The steering pattern strongly suggests that it will not directly impact the U.S. down the road. The only possibility that I see right now is south Texas but even that is a long shot in my opinion. So all this talk about the models not initializing the storm and thus not trusting them is non-sense to me. The trend has been more west with the tracks and since we are not quite in to the time of the season when deep troughs dig in to the Lower 48, I just don’t see a way for Ernesto to hit the U.S. Can there be a sweeping change coming up? I suppose so, you never say never but track forecasts are getting pretty good these days so I wouldn’t count on there being any big changes over the coming days.

TCHP Track Map

TCHP Track Map

With all that being said, let’s focus on the Yucatan now. Obviously with a hurricane aimed at that location, people need to be aware and ready to take action. Ernesto has to cross some fairly high ocean heat content (see graphic where the track is plotted on the current TCHP map). However, it is not forecast to go over the highest values, none the less, the western Caribbean is notorious for creating strong hurricanes and I urge people along the eastern side of the Yucatan from Belize to Cancun to watch this system carefully. It has the potential to be a serious hurricane for the region next week.

Beyond the Yucatan, as I said, the data suggests another landfall in mainland Mexico, south of Texas. We’ll worry about that later since it is still perhaps over a week away.

Next we have Florence out in the tropical Atlantic. This will be an interesting feature to track but should not pose a problem for land areas. It is already at a fairly high latitude and developed well east in the Atlantic, meaning that is destined to head out to sea. While there are certainly instances when long track hurricanes have made it all the way across, most do not and Florence is likely to not break precedence here.

The other feature to watch is just off the Florida coast. I think the only issue here is the increase in showers and thunderstorms for boating and beach interests. Otherwise, ignore it, nothing will come of it that will have any great consequence on your weekend plans.

I’ll post a video blog detailing Ernesto’s future in our HurricaneTrack app for iPhone shortly with another full post here this evening.

Ernesto gaining organization as we usher in new tropical depression

TS Ernesto with Increasing Convection

TS Ernesto with Increasing Convection

TS Ernesto has developed rather deep convection tonight right over the center of circulation. You can plainly see this improvement in structure on various satellite imagery. The question is, will this be a temporary stay of execution before the inevitable happens and it’s ripped up or are we seeing the start of a significant intensification process? Wish I knew. This part (intensity forecasting) is the toughest aspect of tracking tropical cyclones. So many factors are at play and it is impossible for today’s computer models to grasp the totality of the complex nature of the inner core. So, we can only sit back and watch sat pics as they refresh, giving us another frame to the movie, quite literally. Of course, it helps to have recon out there as well but when none are flying, the eye in the sky, some 22,500 miles above the Earth, is how we watch these systems wax and wane. And tonight, it appears that Ernesto is on the up-tick, how long it lasts remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, out in the far eastern Atlantic, we now have tropical depression six. The NHC began advisories a little while ago and this too will have to be watched as it begins the long trek across the tropical Atlantic. There are some hurdles along its route but conditions seem to be a little more favorable than perhaps was earlier thought this year across the deep tropics and we may see quite a pattern coming up of several developments over the coming weeks.

As for 91L, the disturbance off the Florida coast, while it looks rather impressive on satellite imagery. it still lacks a well defined surface low and without that, it won’t develop much. However, these tropical disturbances can dump a lot of rain and bring gusty winds with any rain squalls that move over your area. Be aware of that this weekend across SE Florida. While there is a chance of further development, I do not see this system becoming a big problem for anyone outside of the heavy precip that is possible.

I’ll have regular updates throughout the weekend with frequent posts on Twitter and Facebook. I’ll also keep adding video blogs to the newly released HurricaneTrack iPhone app. Check it out in the App Store via the banner ad up on the top right column.