After Fred, probably going to be quiet for a little while

Fred was an amazing event- bringing hurricane conditions to a small portion of the Cape Verde Islands yesterday; something not seen in well over 100 years in that region.

Now Fred is weakening as it encounters cooler water and more stable environment overall. The short-lived hurricane added a few ACE points to the season total which is now near 20 for those keeping score. ACE is the seasonal accumulation of actual energy that is output by tropical storms and hurricanes. Normally we see an ACE “score” of around 104 – most predicted 40 or less for this season. We are half way there and it’s only September 1.

Wind shear map from Univ of Wisconsin showing very strong winds (blue-ish color) blasting through the tropics

Wind shear map from Univ of Wisconsin showing very strong winds (blue-ish color) blasting through the tropics

So what’s happening now that Fred is on the way out? In short, not much. Take a look at the upper level winds on the graphic. I have highlighted the strongest band of upper level winds which are literally tearing across the deep tropics right now. We are talking about several thousand miles of ocean and the atmosphere above it that is essentially shut down from a tropical development stand point. Any westward moving tropical wave will be met with strong eastward moving wind that will literally tear the system apart.

There are some signs that this could change in the coming week to ten days but don’t look for anything drastic, maybe a slight relaxation of the shear. This would come as a more favorable MJO or Madden-Julion Oscillation migrates through the Western Hemisphere as indicated by the GFS and the ECMWF models. However, it doesn’t look to be very strong and as such, I don’t see much chance for any development over the next five to seven days.

Meanwhile, the Pacific continues to put on quite a show. Hurricanes Kilo, Ignacio and Jimena all remain out over open water, far from land. The record pace of the Pacific season is not just due to the El Nino but a warm north Pacific as a whole, something we have not seen in quite a while.

TD 14-E track map from the NHC

TD 14-E track map from the NHC

In the east Pacific, TD 14-E is forecast to strengthen in to a tropical storm as it tracks generally northward. However, conditions do not appear to favor a hurricane forming out of it and even if it did, weakening is indicated later in the forecast period. I see no reason for this to be an issue for the Baja or elsewhere along the Pacific coast of Mexico.

That’s it for now. Enjoy the fairly quiet start to September. This is typically the busiest month of the season, even in El Nino years. Will we end the month without a hurricane strike along the U.S. coast? Only one way to find out!

I’ll have more tomorrow.

M. Sudduth 11:30 AM ET Sept 1

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Erika gone, new tropical storm developing near Africa, Pacific as busy as can possibly be

NHC map showing remnants of Erika (orange) and invest area 99L (red)

NHC map showing remnants of Erika (orange) and invest area 99L (red)

There is a lot to talk about today. I do realize it is also the 10th anniversary of Katrina’s historic landfall but instead of piling on more about that right now, let’s save it for another time, another in-depth blog post perhaps. For now, let’s focus on the current goings on.

Erika caused quite an uproar this past week with model mayhem galore. One day it looked like Florida would see an end to the hurricane drought. The next day, look out Carolinas! It just went on and on and yet Erika completely failed to behave as the models suggested – most of them anyway.

Now, to be clear, Erika had major consequences for some locations in the Caribbean Sea. Dominica has had terrible loss of life and an overwhelming loss of infrastructure. All of this due to one seemingly benign effect: rain. Over the centuries, I bet freshwater flooding has led to more misery than any other hazard from tropical cyclones. Storm surge poses the greatest risk in any one vulnerable location but flooding from too much rain seems to rear its ugly head one time too many as of late.

Erika is now just a remnant low moving across the southern portion of the Florida Straits. I do not see anything that leads me to believe that it has a chance of any significant comeback. While we need to certainly monitor its progress in case of any surprise endings, I wouldn’t worry too much about the left-overs becoming more than a nuisance – though it might bring heavy rain which of course has its own potential for causing issues.

Invest area 99L just off the coast of Africa

Invest area 99L just off the coast of Africa

Meanwhile, another strong tropical wave and associated low pressure system just off the coast of Africa is likely to be our next named storm: Fred. However, it won’t last very long. The favorable environment that it is currently a part of will be short-lived. It will be interesting to see the effects on the Cape Verde Islands as it looks like the system will pass over that location while intensifying some. I fully expect it to die out over the open eastern Atlantic some time next week.

One thing to note – if this system (99L) does in fact become a tropical storm or even a hurricane, it will be the third in a row to come from the so-called MDR or Main Development Region. I bring this up because this alley-way was supposed to be almost completely dead this year due to hostile conditions. I believe the warmer than normal water that has developed across much of the MDR has changed things somewhat. But, the upper level winds are still just too strong and as we saw with Danny and Erika, we may have MDR development but it will be tough for it to survive or thrive very long.

In the Pacific, we have three incredible hurricanes going on at once: Kilo, Ignacio and Jimena. None pose a substantial threat to land but all three are a testament to the remarkably warm water of the northern Pacific Ocean. This really has little to do with the El Nino itself, just a much warmer Pacific, away from the Equator, than we are used to seeing.

Hurricane Ignacio forecast track map from the CPHC

Hurricane Ignacio forecast track map from the CPHC

Hurricane Ignacio could bring tropical storm conditions to parts of Hawaii and as such, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center has posted a tropical storm watch for the Big Island. As long as Ignacio remains on track, the overall impact will be minimal to the area.

It has been a busy couple of weeks and it looks to remain that way going forward. So far, the United States has had little to deal with from the tropics. As we saw 10 years ago, that can change and have long-lasting effects that linger for generations. As August draws to a close, we know that September is traditionally the peak month for hurricane activity. We’ve been fortunate so far in 2015 (except for Dominica) and we can hope to have a quiet second half ahead of us. Only time will tell.

I’ll have more here tomorrow.

M. Sudduth 5:10 PM ET August 29

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End of the road coming up for Erika? More like hitting a brick wall…

It has been a tough few days for hurricane forecasters and not because of something like Katrina 10 years ago. This time, it has been because the storm in question, Erika, has been such a pain in the neck to forecast. Fortunately, any deviations from the ideas set out by the National Hurricane Center, then echoed by others (including me), have been positives in terms of overall impact. In other words, Erika has not lived up to expectations and that is a good thing.

Before I get in to the (likely short) future of Erika, let’s not forget what happened around this time yesterday. Copious amounts of rain fell as deep convection developed right over Dominica in the eastern Caribbean Sea. This led to the unfortunate loss of life and terrifying flash flooding in the mountainous terrain of the island. Please let this be a reminder that even a tropical storm can be lethal. So much emphasis is placed on wind speed and pressure and category that the general public loses sight of the overall idea that we are talking about a destructive weather phenomenon. Rain is absolutely an impact from tropical cyclones as the people of Dominica were painfully reminded of yesterday.

So what does the future hold for Erika and any potential impacts to the United States? The answer to that question is rooted within what happens during the next 24 hours or so.

Satellite photo showing the poorly organized structure of TS Erika as it approaches Hispaniola

Satellite photo showing the poorly organized structure of TS Erika as it approaches Hispaniola

Erika is poorly organized but does have a fairly large envelope of energy. Tropical storm conditions are mainly being felt to the east of the center of circulation which itself is located just to the southeast of the Dominican Republic. In fact, you can see in the satellite photo that a burst of convection has popped up right near that center, giving Erika a little longer before the brick wall.

The United States and even Cuba for that matter owes a great deal of its hurricane protection to the island of Hispaniola. It’s all a matter of luck and geography but the fact remains that without Hispaniola in the way, many more powerful hurricanes would have lashed Florida, Cuba and eventually other locations along the western Atlantic Basin. This comes with a price though. The high terrain of the island literally wrings out the moisture from passing tropical storms and hurricanes. The resultant flash floods and mudslides can produce appalling loss of life and mind-boggling damage. Erika is headed right for the island and will slam in to it – likely bringing very heavy rain to the region.

As the storm traverses the rugged terrain, the low level center will almost certainly dissipate and we will be left with a trough of low pressure that was formerly Erika. Now, there’s a chance that the tenacious storm will just dance across and emerge in to the Florida Straits ready to go. I wouldn’t bet on that happening but you never, ever turn your back on a tropical anything coming through water that is near 90 degrees F! The next day or so is the key. If there is anything left of Erika once it passes over Hispaniola, then Florida might have to deal with a tropical storm and maybe, just maybe, a hurricane. So much will depend on how much warm water it has to work with and what the upper level winds are like. For now, Erika is headed for the Caribbean Road Block otherwise known as Hispaniola. What happens after that is beyond my ability to figure out – it’s a wait and see deal, nothing more.

Meanwhile, in the Pacific, hurricane Ignacio continues to track northwest in the general direction of Hawaii. The five day forecast keeps the center north of the island chain but we know how that can go. Obviously, interest out that way should keep watching and be ready to act should the track shift south even by a little bit. Water temperatures in the east Pacific, especially the northern Pacific, are quite a bit warmer than normal. So far, Hawaii has escaped major calamity this season – we’ll see if that luck holds.

I’ll have a video discussion on Erika and other happenings in the tropics, including a look back at Katrina 10 years ago today, posted later this afternoon.

M. Sudduth 8:55 AM ET August 28

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One last hurdle for Erika, if it makes it, Southeast coast beware

There’s a lot going on this morning, not only with Erika but also with another storm – in the Pacific – that could impact Hawaii next week.

Actually, my thoughts on Erika will be fairly short and to the point.

Radar image from San Juan, PR showing a few outer bands of Erika moving through. The rain will increase in coverage and intensity as the day wears on

Radar image from San Juan, PR showing a few outer bands of Erika moving through. The rain will increase in coverage and intensity as the day wears on

Right now, the storm is moving through the northeast Caribbean where the rain it is bringing is badly needed. Take a look at the radar from San Juan, PR. Not much rain yet but the bands from Erika will begin to move through as the day progresses. A few inches could fall and in fairly short order, thus flooding could be a concern, especially in higher terrain areas.

I think it all comes down to the next 48 hours, maybe less. Right now, Erika is doing well for itself despite moderate shearing winds that are continuing to displace the convection away from the low level center. The pressure has been up and down a few millibars overnight with a slight uptick in wind speed.

Wind shear map from the University of Wisconsin CIMSS site. I have added some annotation to help define the track that Erika needs to live through before it can strengthen significantly

Wind shear map from the University of Wisconsin CIMSS site. I have added some annotation to help define the track that Erika needs to live through before it can strengthen significantly

Before we even begin to think about where Erika might end up, we need to see what happens over the next two days. I believe that if Erika can get through the strong band of upper level winds that appears to be waiting just to its west, that we will in fact have quite a hurricane to deal with somewhere along the Southeast coast. Keep in mind, it’s all about the impact – not just where the eye goes. Erika is likely to kick up some serious surf and cause a great deal of anxiety for people from Florida up through the Carolinas. That’s assuming the storm survives this one last gauntlet of strong upper level winds.

Looking at the graphic, you can clearly see where Erika is in relation to the stronger upper level winds that are blowing across the tropical storm. I have highlighted in red the area that I think Erika has to navigate and if it does so intact, it’s open for as much intensification as the environment will allow. The models generally see this, though some waffle back and forth from run to run. The end result is that a majority of the intensity guidance suggests that Erika will survive the shear and come out the other side ready to strengthen and do so quickly as it approaches the Southeast coast.

So let’s see what happens over the next 36 to 48 hours and go from there. I’ll certainly post updates between now and then but there’s no use worrying about where Erika will end up until we have a sure thing that there will be much of an Erika at all. If the shear kills off the storm, then the rest of the story is moot. The clock is ticking, we’ll see what happens over the next day or two.

TS Ignacio track map in the east Pacific showing a course towards Hawaii early next week

TS Ignacio track map in the east Pacific showing a course towards Hawaii early next week

Meanwhile, newly upgraded hurricane Ignacio could impact Hawaii next week. It is tracking WNW right now. The forecast calls for it to become a major hurricane over the warmer-than-usual waters of the northern east Pacific. Hawaii has had a few darts thrown their way this season, so to speak, with everything missing for the most part. Will Ignacio follow suit or break the streak and bring hurricane conditions to the islands? As usual, it’s too soon to know for sure.

Most of the model guidance suggests, at least at this point, that the hurricane will track just to the north of Hawaii. This will be something to watch closely and interests in the region should be doing so.

I will have another blog post here this evening but before that, I will post a video discussion early this afternoon concerning Erika and Ignacio. There will be a lot to cover, that is for sure. The tropics are busy, even in a year when the Atlantic was supposed to be “quiet”. Right now, it is anything but.

M. Sudduth 9AM ET August 27

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