Shear and some dry air impacting Cristobal – rest of Atlantic has potential for more activity

A recent satellite image of TS Cristobal showing the exposured center of circulation due to stronger upper level winds pushing the deep convection away

A recent satellite image of TS Cristobal showing the exposured center of circulation due to stronger upper level winds pushing the deep convection away

TS Cristobal is not very healthy this morning. Strong northerly winds are pushing the deep thunderstorms, or convection, to the south and southeast, away from the low level center. This means the storm is not getting stronger anytime soon. If the stronger upper level winds let up, then Cristobal has a chance to become the 3rd hurricane of the Atlantic season – which most intensity guidance suggests will happen.

The forecast track continues to indicate a turn to the northeast with time and keeps Cristobal away from the United States and Bermuda.

One effect that I mentioned yesterday, especially if Cristobal becomes a hurricane, is the ocean swells that will roll in and impact the coast this week. Surfers will delight in this but swimmers, especially younger ones and those with little ocean experience, need to be very careful. Rip currents and general dangerous surf conditions could make for a hazardous few days along portions of the East Coast. Your best bet is to ask local life guard officials about the current conditions. Also, you may consult your local NWS homepage for any hazards related to beach conditions.

Meanwhile, we have a new area of interest out in the tropical Atlantic that has potential for development this week. The NHC is giving it a 30% chance of becoming at least a tropical depression within five days. We’ll have plenty of time to monitor this feature as it moves westward this week. Interests in the Lesser Antilles should monitor this tropical wave closely – but you don’t need me to tell you that, it’s that time of year, anything coming out of the deep tropics is worth watching.

Elsewhere, not much going on for the time being but the overall pattern is fairly ripe for development in many areas. Water temps are plenty warm and we are approaching the time of year when we could see several systems develop in a short period of time. Do not be surprised to see quite a bit of activity in the coming weeks – it’s the “where and who” that is difficult to know right now, so keep paying attention on a daily basis at least.

In the east Pacific, hurricane Marie, which peaked out at cat-5 intensity yesterday, is now weakening. The forecast keeps Marie well off the coast of Mexico but powerful ocean swells will impact parts of the region for the next several days. Again, this is great for surfers who can handle such things but swimmers need to be very careful and know their limits.

TS Karina is also on a weakening trend and should fizzle out within the next few days posing no threat to land.

That’s it for today – I’ll have more here tomorrow including my plans to perhaps head out to the NC Outer Banks to cover the ocean swells coming in from Cristobal – especially if it becomes a hurricane. More on this tomorrow morning.

M. Sudduth 10:02 AM ET Aug 25

 

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Cristobal means nice surf days ahead for parts of East Coast, little threat of landfall

Track map showing TS Cristobal

Track map showing TS Cristobal

Tropical storm Cristobal looks rather messy this afternoon. The clouds are disorganized and there is not a lot of curved banding going on. This tells me that the storm is not strengthening very quickly, if at all.

The NHC forecast does indicate that Cristobal will become a hurricane as it tracks northward and eventually northeast, away from the Southeast United States. After almost a week of computer model mayhem, it looks as though everyone along the U.S. coast can relax, Cristobal is not likely to have a direct impact.

One positive side effect of Cristobal becoming a hurricane, assuming it does, will be the increase in swells heading towards the coast. This means a few days of decent surfing coming up for parts of the East Coast. It also means an increase in rip currents and occasional dangerous surf conditions so swimmers need to be aware. Hopefully Cristobal will bring a period of decent waves for the surf community which in turn brings a little economic bump to local businesses (restaurants, gas stations, surf shops, hotels). Just be careful out there once the swells begin to arrive in a few days. Check your favorite surf site for more info on what may be a great week ahead.

Once Cristobal turns northeast in a few days, it will head out in to the Atlantic, likely a safe distance from Bermuda and of course, Cape Hatteras. If it in fact does become a hurricane, it will probably be in the maps for a few days and help to pile up the seasonal ACE points. This is the measure of the energy output of tropical cyclones. Last year that number was very much below the long term average: 36. Cristobal has a chance add quite a few to this year’s total which is around 14 right now and slowly climbing. We’ll see how strong Cristobal becomes, the stronger it is, the more ACE points it adds.

Elsewhere in the Atlantic, we are watching a tropical wave out in the deep tropics far from land that has a chance to develop as the coming week progresses.

In the east Pacific, powerful hurricane Marie is churning well off the coast of Mexico. Top winds are 150 mph and it could make it to category five intensity later today. Fortunately, the hurricane is not forecast to track any closer to Mexico than it already is. However, dangerous surf conditions could impact parts of the coast and this extends up to southern California as well. Excellent surf but for those who are not used to such conditions, it can be harmful, so be careful and aware of local beach/surf information.

I will have more here tomorrow morning.

M. Sudduth 2:46 PM ET Aug 24

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96L Not a Tropical Storm Yet – Model Trend Shifting Westward

We’ve been watching Invest 96L, currently north of Hispaniola, for several days now and there hasn’t been much change in overall organization since Thursday.  However, now that the wave axis is moving away from the high terrain of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the center of the system is expected to consolidate and we could have a tropical storm within the next 12-18 hours.

There is still considerable uncertainty for the FL peninsula and the southeast US coast however.  96L is expected to start slowing down as steering currents collapse north of the Bahamas, which will give the system some time to organize over very warm waters.  After that, the forecast models are split into two distinct camps.

Latest models as /of 8AM EDT on Saturday, 8/23/2014

Latest models as /of 8AM EDT on Saturday, 8/23/2014

Scenario 1 has the system feeling a weakness in the subtropical ridge and moving north, impacting the southeast Bahamas before turning out to sea.  This scenario had been favored by both the GFS and Euro, but many other global and dynamic models have been advertising…

Scenario 2 leaves a more west-northwest moving system either over or very close to FL by the middle of next week – as a result of a slightly stronger ridge of high pressure blocking 96L and a track further south.

The graphic shows the older models from this morning, but the new guidance is coming in.  The GFS is close to the east coast of FL before recurving, the Euro has also shifted south and west but not as far west as FL.  The UKMET is showing a westward shift over FL and into the Gulf of Mexico (as does the NAVGEM) – and the GFS Ensembles are basically split between the above two ideas.

Of course, no one knows which is correct – however – environmental sampling and recon will be picking up starting tonight which will help feed the models better data.  And – once the center does develop it will give the models a better starting place to use to project possible track and intensity.  So – stay tuned throughout the weekend if you are any place in the southeast US or the Bahamas.

MWatkins – 8/23/2014 2:45PM EDT

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Watch 96L closely this weekend

Current radar from San Juan, Puerto Rico

Current radar from San Juan, Puerto Rico

As of this writing, the convection associated with 96L is beginning to burst and is likely bringing heavy rain and gusty winds to portions of the northeast Caribbean Sea. Areas such as Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic could see quite a bit of rain as the tropical wave and its weak low pressure area move through today.

So far, 96L has not become all that better organized but this has been expected per most of the reliable intensity models. Even the NHC makes mention of this in their outlook and we shouldn’t expect to see much strengthening until later in the weekend.

Once the system passes Hispaniola and vicinity today and tonight, it will begin affecting the southeast Bahamas with periods of heavy rain and general squally weather. It’s this point in time that we could see it begin to organize more and eventually become a tropical depression followed by a tropical storm. In fact, the NHC says this scenario is “likely” over the weekend.

Beyond the next couple of days, the forecast is very complicated for both track and intensity.

Right now, 96L is still a loosely organized, weak tropical low. Some of the intensity forecasts do increase the winds to hurricane force over the next few days. Other models do not see it that way. Water temps are plenty warm and vertical instability should become more favorable in the coming days. This means that we should see a steady increase in strength over time. Also, going by what we’ve seen so far this season, I would expect an increase in strength once the system gets north of about 24 degrees of latitude. It seems that we’re seeing tropical cyclones in the Atlantic (both of them this season anyway) reaching their peak intensity once clear of the dry, sinking air of the deep tropics. Do not be surprised if 96L eventually becomes the 3rd hurricane of the Atlantic season.

The track forecast is about as muddled as I’ve seen in quite some time. There’s been a lot of talk about this system reaching the Gulf of Mexico – at least earlier this week. Now, we have a lot of chatter about it simply turning out to sea, possibly impacting Bermuda. What people fail to realize is that the pattern is always changing and computer models are not as reliable as we would like to think. And in this situation, it’s even more complex due to the pattern that we happen to be in.

Basically it’s like trying to catch a bus. Let’s say for the sake of this discussion that 96L becomes a named storm which it is likely to do – the name will be Cristobal. It wants to catch the bus by virtue of finding a weakness in the Bermuda High or western Atlantic ridge, which ever term you like to use. That escape route is there now but seems likely to close and block the exit, forcing Cristobal to wait for another bus. This is becoming more and more plausible with each passing model cycle. Case in point – the ECMWF, highly regarded as the top global model on the planet, now gets the would-be storm much closer to the North Carolina coast than any other run of that model. And just this morning, the GFDL, for what it’s worth, looks eerily similar to the track of Sandy in 2012, bending what ever 96L does in fact strengthen in to back towards the Mid-Atlantic coast.

Yes, there are plenty of other model solutions that send the system off to the northeast, passing by or close to Bermuda and out to sea. My point is that we are starting to see more and more evidence that a possible threat to the Carolinas and points north from this system is not out of the question as we get in to next week.

It’s all a matter of timing – seems like it’s always that way, doesn’t it? Sometimes the forecast is fairly cut and dry and it’s a matter of who gets the impacts instead of if they get the impacts. In this case, we know that the Caribbean islands and eventually the Bahamas will feel some effects as the low moves through. After that – no one knows for sure but I’m here to tell you, I’ve seen it enough in the past to know not to write off something that is only a few days away from the U.S. coastline. School is starting back for many kids along the East Coast and families will be very busy with that (I know I will starting Monday morning). It is important, in my professional opinion, that people along the Southeast coast up to the Mid-Atlantic watch this system very closely. As I have said before, we can hope it heads out to sea but rest assured, hope is not a planning tool.

I’ll post more here tonight.

M. Sudduth 9:36 AM ET Aug 22

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Fork in the road developing?

Recent plot of various computer model guidance for the track of invest area 96L

Recent plot of various computer model guidance for the track of invest area 96L

Wanted to post a quick update tonight on 96L. Not much new really with the structure and current intensity but there is some new info regarding its future track.

As we saw a couple of days ago when people were posting day 8-9 images of a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico, today we’ve seen quite a bit of “it will turn out to sea” posts and blogs in social media. This may very well turn out to be the eventual fate of the system, no matter how strong it ever gets, but what if it’s not? Nothing is ever concrete with weather.

Take a look at the latest computer model plots for 96L. Note the obvious group of models that do in fact bend it out to the northeast with time.

Now look at the ones that take it more north and even some that bring it back westward towards the end of the five days. Look really close. One of them is the TVCA or consensus model (yellow track). This is significant in my opinion since it is often cited within NHC discussions as being a model of reference to build a forecast on. You’ll often times read “the forecast is X of the TVCA or consensus model” which means that the official forecast is usually not too far off that model’s track. It may be nothing and one model cycle does not mean a trend is beginning. Let’s see what happens over the next 24 to 36 hours. I think by this weekend, we’ll know whether or not 96L or Cristobal (the name it would get when/if it becomes a TS) is going to be something we need to be concerned with here along the Southeast U.S. coast.

For now, the low pressure area is bringing squally weather to portions of the northeast Caribbean Sea and this will spread westward tonight and throughout tomorrow. Heavy rain and occasional gusty winds will accompany the rain bands as they move through so interests in the region need to be aware and not get caught on a boat or otherwise unprepared.

I’ll have more here tomorrow morning.

M. Sudduth 10:21 PM ET Aug 21

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