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

Share

NHC outlining two areas to watch over the coming days

NHC map showing two areas to watch over the coming days

NHC map showing two areas to watch over the coming days

While the deep tropics remain quiet with no sign of development anytime soon, we do have a couple of areas to monitor farther west, and closer to land.

The first is a disturbance or weak surface trough situated in the northeast Gulf of Mexico. It is nearly stationary for the time being and could form a low pressure area within the next couple of days. However, the main issue here will be the very heavy rain that is forecast by several of the computer models. In some cases, rain could be excessive, especially for portions of Florida, southern Georgia and Alabama as the low pressure area just mills around in the region.

I do not see much chance of this becoming a tropical storm and so wind won’t be a factor but the rain is sure to be. If you live in the area or plan to travel to or through, be advised that the potential exists for flooding rain which will make travel difficult. It is impossible to know precisely which areas will receive the heaviest rain but widespread areas of several inches seems likely for parts of the Florida panhandle and along portions of the western peninsula.

Meanwhile, what was once invest area 96L is back again with convection beginning to develop in an area north of the Leeward Islands.

The NHC indicates only a 20% chance of development over the next few days as it tracks generally west-northwest and eventually turns more north with time.

Several global models develop this system once it gets in to the southwest Atlantic. How strong and how far west remains to be seen but it looks like we just might have something coming together off the Southeast coast sometime next week. It certainly bears watching and it probably won’t be too long until it gets termed as an “invest” once again. At that point, we will begin to see more computer models run on the system and have a better idea of where it will go and what the intensity looks like. Until then, it’s just a vigorous tropical wave that looks to slowly organize.

In the east Pacific, an area of showers and thunderstorms near the coast of Mexico, not far from Manzanillo, will move northwest and merge with the remnants of what was once hurricane Earl in the western Caribbean and Bay of Campeche. The system is expected to develop and track northward towards the Baja peninsula, probably as a tropical storm. Interests in the area should be monitoring closely over the coming days.

I will have a video discussion of all the goings on in the tropics posted later this afternoon followed by another blog post tomorrow morning.

M. Sudduth 10:45 AM ET Aug 6

Share

Bonnie leaving, now we turn attention to the Gulf of Mexico

Tropical depression Bonnie well off the NC coast this morning, finally moving away

Tropical depression Bonnie well off the NC coast this morning, finally moving away

After hanging around the Carolina coast for several days, the year’s second named storm is finally moving on. Tropical depression Bonnie is far enough off the North Carolina coast to finally have taken the rain with it. This trend will continue and eventually, the system will become absorbed within a larger weather pattern and that will be that – no more issues from Bonnie.

In the east Pacific, invest area 91-E is struggling a bit as of late with limited convection associated with it. As such, the NHC has lowered the chance for further development to 60% over the next five days. The system remains well to the southwest of Mexico and there are no indications that it will be turning back towards land even if it does manage to develop.

Now we turn our attention to the Gulf of Mexico where it is possible that we will have to deal with a broad low pressure area that is forecast to take shape over the coming days.

Computer models are in generally good agreement that energy arriving from the Caribbean Sea will gradually consolidate around the Yucatan peninsula this weekend, eventually making its way in to the southern Gulf of Mexico where it could become a tropical storm.

GFS computer model output showing weak low pressure in the Gulf of Mexico early next week. Notice how almost all of the "heavy weather" is located on the east side of the low, a sign of a generally disogranied, sheared system

GFS computer model output showing weak low pressure in the Gulf of Mexico early next week. Notice how almost all of the “heavy weather” is located on the east side of the low, a sign of a generally disorganized, sheared system

Before folks get too worried about this, let me say that this is not something that appears to be a big wind and surge issue, if it forms at all. What does concern me is the chance for heavy rain for parts of the Florida peninsula next week. As we have seen in Texas with the continued bombardment of rain there, freshwater flooding is a big deal, even coming from so-called “weak” or “lopsided” tropical storms. Even though nothing like that has affected Texas so far this year, rain is rain and the resulting flooding can be devastating and dangerous.

Taking a look at the latest GFS computer model, we can clearly see the overall disorganized look to this potential system at around the 96 hour mark. The low pressure center hangs back over the Gulf while most of the rain and any wind would be located on the east side. This is very typical of June tropical storms due to the fact that upper level winds are still strong across the region, pushing the system faster than it can line up vertically and become better organized, such as what we would see in a hurricane. In this case, even though water temperatures are warm enough for a hurricane, the pattern does not look anywhere near conducive enough for that to take place.

Right now, the NHC is giving the future disturbance a 50% chance of developing. We’ll see if this goes up over the coming days, which I suspect it might. However, what could end up happening is that we just see a broad, strung out low pressure area develop, almost like a frontal wave instead of a true tropical storm, and head towards Florida with plenty of rain.

Elsewhere in the tropics, nothing of concern brewing and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. I’ll have an in-depth look at everything I mentioned in this post during my daily video discussion which will be posted later this afternoon.

M. Sudduth 7:10 AM ET June 3

Share

Gulf Stream aiding in comeback for Bonnie? Also, southern Gulf area to watch in coming days

Tropical depression Bonnie as seen in early morning visible satellite very near the NC Outer Banks

Tropical depression Bonnie as seen in early morning visible satellite very near the NC Outer Banks

The NHC will begin issuing advisories again on what was once TS Bonnie, now a tropical depression again very near the North Carolina Outer Banks.

It seems that the close proximity of the warm Gulf Stream has helped to refuel enough organized convection to aid in the recovery of the system. The main threat will be continued heavy rain and some gusty winds, along with locally rough seas (ocean and sound). I do believe the Hurricane Hunters will be flying a mission in to the area later today and we’ll know more about the wind field at that point. Right now, I am not seeing anything to suggest rapid strengthening though it would not be unreasonable to suggest that Bonnie could attain tropical storm intensity before all is said and done.

Unfortunately, the steering currents are still quite weak across the region and thus Bonnie will be aggravatingly slow to move out. It looks like by later tomorrow, the pesky storm system will finally move on out to sea. Until then, if you have plans to visit the Outer Banks or are there now, just keep in mind the fact that occasional bands of heavy rain will impact the area.

Meanwhile, we will soon need to turn our attention to the southern Gulf of Mexico where it looks like we may see yet another system try to develop some time next week.

Almost all of the reliable computer models are suggesting a broad area of low pressure will develop from energy piling in to the western Caribbean over the next few days. Upper level winds won’t be ideal but water temps are certainly warm enough and there is a decent chance that a tropical depression or even a tropical storm could form and head generally towards Florida.

GFS 850mb map showing energy associated with a broad area of low pressure in the Gulf of Mexico in about 5 days

GFS 850mb map showing energy associated with a broad area of low pressure in the Gulf of Mexico in about 5 days

One thing to keep in mind, the models are not indicating a very strong system, at least not yet. As an example, I have posted a pic of the overnight GFS model which shows the winds and vorticity (spin in the atmosphere) at the 5,000 foot level or what we all the 850 millibar level. This gives me an idea of how well organized or compact a given storm might be. The more round and “bundled” the energy, the stronger it is likely to be in the real world. Notice in the image, the energy is spread out over a fairly large area, not concentrated and totally symmetrical. This tells me that what ever develops could be more spread out and thus weaker than say a hurricane would be. Obviously this can change but for now, it looks like a lopsided, sheared system with plenty of heavy rain potential, which should never be underrated. From the wind and surge perspective, so far, there is not much to indicate any major issues. I will obviously continue to monitor the situation and will post regular updates here and via my daily video discussions over the coming days.

Last but not least, a tropical depression is likely to form in the east Pacific well to the southwest of Mexico over the next few days. No matter how strong it becomes, the track will be away from land with no impact what so ever for Mexico.

I’ll have more here early this evening on Bonnie and an update on the potential Gulf system as well.

M. Sudduth 8:55 AM June 2

Share

Quiet time short-lived? Some model support for Gulf development

Substantial MJO pulse forecast by the ECMWF over the next two weeks

Substantial MJO pulse forecast by the ECMWF over the next two weeks

The rest of this week is likely to remain nice and quiet across the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf but once we get to next week, things could change. Here’s why…

First of all, the time of year supports Gulf of Mexico or western Caribbean development. We shift away from the Cape Verde region and the waters between there and the Lesser Antilles towards a pattern that favors development much closer to land areas. We might be seeing that come to fruition in the coming days.

The other reason I think development could happen is the progression of a strong MJO or Madden-Julian Oscillation pulse. Think of it as a period of fertility in the tropics. Instead of dry, sinking air, the MJO typically brings with it an increase in convection and a general rising motion in the atmosphere. These things are needed to even have a chance for a tropical storm or hurricane to develop.

According to the GFS and the ECWMF, the MJO is about to amplify significantly in to the phases that would, in theory, support development either in the southeast Pacific or the western Caribbean/Gulf of Mexico regions.  Water temps are plenty warm and so now it’s just a matter of watching to see what happens. So far, both the GFS and the ECMWF show signs of developing a tropical storm in the 8 to 10 day time frame. For what it’s worth, the two models are in remarkable agreement on the timing and the general placement of such development – the southern Gulf of Mexico. I usually don’t pay much attention to model forecasts beyond the 5 to 7 day time frame but when the two (rival) models are in agreement, it is worth watching a little closer.

Right now, nothing to worry about at all. It’s important to remember that we are still very much in hurricane season and it’s not over until it’s over. There are signs beginning to come in to focus that we might have one more system to deal with before all is said and done. Obviously I will keep a close eye on how things shake out over the next week or so.

I’ll have more here on this tomorrow.

M. Sudduth 8:35 AM ET Oct 14

Share