Recon crew finds 99L not organized enough to be TD or TS yet

Visible satellite image showing a fairly disorganized tropical wave moving through the NE Caribbean Sea

Visible satellite image showing a fairly disorganized tropical wave moving through the NE Caribbean Sea

The value of the Hurricane Hunters is priceless. Their work and dedication is without equal in the weather world. Today, they proved it again with the flight in to invest area 99L. The data indicates that while the overall structure of the tropical wave has improved some, it’s not quite enough to name it a depression or a tropical storm.

Instead, we have a broad area of lower air pressure and plenty of general turning in the cloud motion. However, there is some fairly strong wind blowing over the top of the system and this is injecting dry mid-level air while also pushing any deep thunderstorms away from the weak low level center.

We can see this in the satellite image I have included here. Notice that the clouds are not symmetric in appearance but rather pushed off to the south and southeast. While there is clearly a weak circulation nearing Puerto Rico, it has yet to completely close off and become well defined. It may take another day before that happens which is generally what the models that develop this system indicate.

So for now, we still have a tropical wave but it is bringing with it strong winds and periods of heavy rain for portions of the islands of the NE Caribbean Sea. This will continue to spread WNW towards the Turks and Caicos and eventually the southeast Bahamas.

For what it’s worth, the latest GFS model run indicates once again that 99L will remain a weak system and never really impacts Florida. I do not understand why this is the solution the model is coming up with but it cannot be dismissed completely. We just don’t know – despite the insistence of the very reliable ECMWF or Euro model that this will become a hurricane and enter the Gulf of Mexico. Once I get a look at the latest output from this morning’s ECMWF run, I will post an update here, followed by a thorough discussion in my afternoon video blog. If you have our app, Hurricane Impact, be sure to check the video section later today for that update.

M. Sudduth 1pm ET Aug 24

Is Florida’s hurricane drought about to come to an end?

One look at the upper ocean heat content for the western Atlantic Basin and you can see why I am concerned for the Bahamas and Florida over the coming days.

One look at the upper ocean heat content for the western Atlantic Basin and you can see why I am concerned for the Bahamas and Florida over the coming days.

The past few days have been very tedious in terms of tracking invest area 99L and what it may or may not do over the coming days. Unfortunately, tedious may be traded in for anxious and stressful from here on out as it looks like we could be facing a potential hurricane threat for late in the weekend.

Before any concern arises for Florida, the system is first impacting portions of the northeast Caribbean islands with heavy rain and gusty winds. All of this mess will spread westward towards Puerto Rico and eastern Hispaniola later today through tomorrow. The potential for very heavy rain which could induce flooding is certainly there and needs to be considered as a serious threat.

As I type this blog post, the Hurricane Hunters are about to head out in to the broad area of low pressure to determine what its status is. There is a chance we will have a tropical depression by later today but overall, I think the organizational process will continue to be slow and steady.

The dry air we have heard so much about is likely going to be mixed out and the convective process will take over – meaning we will see sustained thunderstorm activity develop along with more curved banding. This indicates strengthening but also better internal structure which leads to even more strengthening. It is only a matter of time until we have a tropical storm to track and it looks to be headed towards the Bahamas as the week comes to an end.

This brings me to the possible impacts to the Bahamas and Florida there after. Assuming the system goes on to develop as most of the modeling now indicates, it will be a matter of how strong it becomes as it moves west-northwest and then bends back to the west. This is VERY important as history shows us that when tropical cyclones (tropical storms and hurricanes) bend westward, south of a strong ridge of high pressure in the atmosphere, that they strengthen, usually quickly. It all has to do with lining everything up under almost ideal conditions. Many hurricanes have done this in the past and in the general vicinity that this system would be in over the weekend. As such, the potential is there for south Florida to experience a hurricane before all is said and done. How strong and exactly where is hard to say right now. Water temps are plenty warm and the models are suggesting a favorable environment for intensification. We need to watch this very closely – it’s been more than a decade since the last hurricane affected the state directly. Preparedness will be critical, especially if we see a period of rapid strengthening. I am putting the region on notice, you had best be ready! We have a few days to go still before we know enough to say for sure what will happen but by then, it could be too late to react properly and no one needs to be in panic mode. Use this time to make sure you have a plan in place and be able to enact it should the need arise this weekend.

Unfortunately, the overnight models, namely the ECMWF or Euro, have come around to suggesting a track towards the west in to the southeast Gulf of Mexico early next week. This would give the would-be hurricane ample fuel and time to strengthen further. This is beyond the 5 day time frame so speculating on where it might end up is pointless right now. I know people want answers as soon as they can get them but it’s just too tough to make any definitive call at the moment. Needless to say, residents along the Gulf Coast from Texas to the Florida panhandle should stay on top of this and be ready in case it comes their way. We will have time to dissect the possibilities later on as more data comes in and the track and intensity becomes clearer.

To give you an idea of how seriously I am taking this situation, I am making plans now to pack up my gear and head to south Florida as early as Friday morning. With the potential for a hurricane crossing the region, it warrants a field mission to the area. I will talk more about my plans for Florida and a potential Gulf Coast landfall in future blog posts. It’s been a while since a full-throttle hurricane took aim at the United States. While the jury is still out on just how strong 99L could become, I am not leaving anything to chance. The technological firepower that I have in my possession is stunning. So much has changed since a decade ago and even the past five years. I’ll keep you posted on my plans and what kind of information to expect as I travel south for what could be a break in the streak of no hurricanes for Florida. As they say, stay tuned but let me add, be ready! Even if this does not pan out, it’s still very much hurricane season and we have a long way to go. Luck favors the prepared – always.

M. Sudduth 10:15 AM ET Aug 24

Conflicting signals in the computer models for 99L

Visibile satellite image showing 99L (left) and TS Gaston (right). Click to view full size.

Visibile satellite image showing 99L (left) and TS Gaston (right). Click to view full size.

It has been a very interesting few days when it comes to what may or may not happen with invest area 99L. As of this morning, there are still no easy answers despite the apparent better organization of the tropical wave.

The NHC is indicating a 60% chance of further development over the next five days. As of this writing, there is currently a Hurricane Hunter crew heading out to investigate the system and that will help tremendously with a better understanding of the structure and local atmospheric conditions.

What has changed somewhat in the past day is the fact that one of the best performing global models, the ECMWF, has begun developing 99L in the vicinity of the Bahamas and sends it in to Florida. Other models have followed such as the U.S. generated HWRF which did very well last season with Joaquin – once it formed. I will not worry too much about the intensity indicated by the various computer guidance but it goes without saying that the very warm water temps that lie in the path of 99L make for a concerning few days ahead.

As I mentioned, the organization of the tropical wave appears to be improving. Deep thunderstorms or convection has blossomed and managed to stick around and even expand in size as of late. This could be a sign that it will finally begin to form a low level circulation and slowly start its ramp up in intensity. The Hurricane Hunter crew will be able to observe that and relay that information to the NHC almost immediately.

Recent computer model projections for invest area 99L. The track could potentially bring heavy rain and gusty winds to portions of the NE Caribbean and the southeast Bahamas

Recent computer model projections for invest area 99L. The track could potentially bring heavy rain and gusty winds to portions of the NE Caribbean and the southeast Bahamas

With all of this being said, let’s talk about short-term impacts. As it looks now, 99L will move towards the extreme northeast Caribbean Sea later today and tomorrow. This will result in periods of squally weather for portions of the northern Leeward Islands, spreading west towards Puerto Rico and maybe Hispaniola. Heavy rain and gusty winds are to be expected with some areas receiving more than others depending on the actual track and how well organized it becomes. Flash flooding is a concern for any mountainous terrain of the Caribbean islands that the tropical wave interacts with.

Next up will be the southeast Bahamas. The same scenario holds true here – periods of heavy rain, possibly bands of it if the system goes on to develop. Winds could increase more so than we will see in the Caribbean, it all depends on how quickly 99L can form a low level center – if at all. Needless to say, interests in the Bahamas should be paying close attention to the progress of this developing weather system.

It’s what happens later in the forecast period that has a lot of people quite interested, and rightfully so. The overnight models have shown a marked trend towards the west with time once the system reaches the northern Bahamas in about 4 to 5 days.

We all know by now what tends to happen with tropical cyclones when they turn west under a strong area of high pressure anchored over the Southeast U.S. It usually does not end well. Now, there is a fine line between being informative and discussing the pattern and trying to just get people anxious over potentially nothing. With social media, it is easy to spread graphics showing cat-4 and 5 hurricanes hitting some specific locale. I will not do that unless it is part of the official forecast. Right now, we don’t even have a tropical depression and there is no guarantee that we ever will.

If I live in Florida along the east coast especially, I am just going to pay closer attention to this system and be ready to act if need be. The one major downside to this NOT being named yet is that it might not command the attention and respect that it would if it were a tropical storm, for example. On the other hand, I think enough people are aware who would normally be that they won’t be caught off guard.

It’s been a long time, over 10 years, since a hurricane of any strength has made landfall in Florida. While there is a chance that streak ends sometime within the next 10 days, it is impossible to say for certain whether or not that comes to pass. It’s the heart of hurricane season. You live in Florida. You should be prepared every year as if it’s the year for your area to be hit. Beyond that, we will have to wait and see and let nature literally take its course. The data will be plentiful with recon missions planned from here on out. That will help to get a better handle on current conditions. From there, we can plan based on what happens as things evolve. It’s usually not easy and this situation seems to be no exception.

In the mean time, if you like watching harmless hurricanes roam the ocean, then Gaston is tailor-made for you. Right now, it is a tropical storm but is forecast to become a hurricane and last for days and days out over the open Atlantic. This will add to the seasonal ACE score in a big way, likely leading the way in making 2016 the busiest season in four years – pretty much as predicted by most groups that issue such forecasts.

In the eastern Pacific, the are two well organized disturbances that are both likely to go on to become tropical storms and eventually hurricanes. The good news: both are well away from Mexico and moving generally west with no impacts to land.

I will post my daily video discussion here later this afternoon followed by another blog post late tonight. Follow along as well in our app, Hurricane Impact, for blog updates, social media and video info right on your iOS device. Search Hurricane Impact in the App Store.

M. Sudduth 10:15 AM ET Aug 23

Complicated forecast for 99L, easy one for 90L

Convection or thunderstorm activity has increased substantially over night with 99L. You can also see here that invest area 90L is well on its way to becoming a tropical depression.

Convection or thunderstorm activity has increased substantially over night with 99L. You can also see here that invest area 90L is well on its way to becoming a tropical depression.

As I mentioned yesterday in my blog post, it looks as though invest area 99L will continue to struggle and not be much of an issue for land areas anytime soon. However, the recent development of convection or deep thunderstorms suggests that perhaps things are changing, even if only a little bit right now.

The very latest info from the NHC indicates that development chances are going up slightly – now up to 50% in the five day time frame. It appears the warmer sea surface temperatures and a better overall environment are slowly playing in to favor of this system developing.

One aspect that I cannot get over is the large size of the overall envelope of energy with 99L. It is not a small, weak and fragile tropical wave. It’s quite the opposite in fact with a large area of circulation and deep precipitable water profile. What this means is that this feature is not just going away despite the marginal conditions in the atmosphere. As we have seen in the over night hours, convection actually began to increase and persist with 99L and this morning, the satellite shot indicates continued slow organization. If this continues, we may have something to deal with in the coming days as it moves generally WNW towards the Caribbean Sea. Interests in the northern Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico and Hispaniola need to monitor 99L closely. At the very least, it could bring periods of heavy rain and gusty winds as the week progresses.

5 day tropical weather outlook grpahic showing the likely development areas and tracks for 99L (orange) and 90L (red)

5 day tropical weather outlook grpahic showing the likely development areas and tracks for 99L (orange) and 90L (red)

The longer term outlook for 99L is tough to call right now. So much is based on whether or not it goes on to fully develop in to a tropical depression or a storm. Generally speaking, the weaker and shallower in the atmosphere a system is, the farther west it tracks under the low level flow pattern. For now, the NHC is showing a potential track area extending up in to the Bahamas by later this week. There are some indications that the track could be farther south but we will have to wait and see about that. Very warm water temps await this system and if conditions improve aloft, it could be an interesting week ahead with not much time to prepare should this threaten land areas from Florida northward to the Carolinas. While this is not indicated by any particular solid forecast right now, it goes without saying that the closer this gets to the U.S. the shorter the time frame for reacting will be.

As for the short term, I want to emphasize again that this large wave energy should bring heavy rain and squalls to portions of the Caribbean Sea over the next few days. Do not count 99L out just yet. It’s late August, water temps are very warm and we have a large system heading westward. Let’s not get caught off guard.

Meanwhile, what should become the season’s next hurricane, and a strong one at that, is developing in to a tropical depression right now far out in the eastern Atlantic.

The NHC should begin advisories on TD7 later today. The model guidance is in excellent agreement that it will strengthen quickly in to TS Gaston and eventually become a hurricane. I see nothing to suggest that this will ever affect land but it will add to the seasonal ACE score, something that is tracked to help size up the quality of the storms/hurricanes that form.

In the eastern Pacific, a pair of disturbances well off the coast of Mexico both have a shot to develop as they move west to west-northwest out in to the open Pacific. No other areas of concern are seen over the next several days for Pacific Mexico or the Baja peninsula.

I’ll have more here in my daily video discussion. Also, you can follow all of my updates using our app, Hurricane Impact, available in the App Store. This blog, social media posts, video updates and field mission reports/data all goes in to the app. We’ve had it since 2012 as a great way to keep up with info while on the go. Search “Hurricane Impact” on the App Store.

M. Sudduth 8:15 AM ET Aug 22

False alarm looking likely for 99L but tropical wave off Africa, 90L, is on its way to developing

99L and its proximity to the Saharan Air Layer compared to 90L to the east.

99L and its proximity to the Saharan Air Layer compared to 90L to the east.

It has been an interesting few days to say the least. A lot of attention was placed on invest area 99L in the eastern Atlantic. By all accounts, it looked like it had a good chance of becoming a tropical storm and possibly even a hurricane. Long range models suggested a possible landfall somewhere in the United States, others did not. It was back and forth but the bottom line appeared to be that “Gaston” was destined to form from this large, sprawling tropical wave.

I guess that’s what probabilities are all about. Unless it’s 100%, it’s not a guarantee – ever. The highest probability that I saw from the NHC regarding 99L developing in to a tropical depression or stronger was only 60%. That’s notable but not very high compared to say, 90%. In this case, for the next few days anyway, it looks like the 40% portion will win out and 99L will not develop much further.

I think the reason can be attributed to the large size of the tropical wave. It needs a lot of energy to keep going and to thrive. Right now, despite warm water temps, the atmosphere just isn’t providing. The ever-present Saharan Air Layer might be playing a role as well. But how can that be? Invest area 90L, which is just off the coast of Africa, is almost a shoe-in to become a tropical storm early next week. Isn’t its proximity to Africa enough to keep it from developing? One would think, after all, looking at the SAL analysis map I have posted here, you can see there is much more dry air and dust to the north of 90L than is surrounding 99L to the west. I just don’t know sometimes but the end result is that while we certainly won’t ignore 99L, it doesn’t look like much of an issue for now. It should bring some showers and thunderstorms, along with gusty winds at times, to portions of the Lesser Antilles early next week but beyond that, no development seems like the most likely outcome right now. We will see what happens when the energy makes its way in to the southwest Atlantic later next week. Until then, 99L will not become Gaston.

That leads me to discussing 90L which, as I mentioned, is situated just off the African coast, not far off from Senegal. The NHC and indeed most of the computer guidance, is telling us that 90L will go on to develop over the coming days. And true to what I posted yesterday about how soon systems develop and how that relates to their eventual impact to land, it looks as though the track will be out over the open Atlantic. Indeed, the sooner they develop, the less likely they are to ever reach the United States or other land masses in the western Atlantic. We can’t say for sure that this will have zero impact but odds are it will be a big ACE producer (that is the measure of energy output from tropical storms and hurricanes during a single season) and little more.

The negative phase of the MJO, outlined in red, dominates the Atlantic Basin right now. Unless this changes, hurricane development will be tough to come by.

The negative phase of the MJO, outlined in red, dominates the Atlantic Basin right now. Unless this changes, hurricane development will be tough to come by.

One other note. The lack of uplift or what we call upward motion is probably also partly aiding in the anemic look to the Atlantic Basin as of late. The favorable phase of the Madden-Julian Oscillation, which is a fancy way of saying that widespread favorable conditions exist, is no where near the Atlantic right now. In fact, it seems semi-stuck over in the west Pacific where a couple of storms spin off the coast of Japan. Tropical storms and hurricane can form without the MJO being favorable but its enhancing effects really seem to help when it is present. So far, none of the long range models show it reaching the Atlantic Basin anytime soon. This could make it tough to see much in the way of hurricane activity except in certain spots where favorable conditions exist – but those will be few and far between.

M. Sudduth 9:40 AM ET Aug 21