Hurricane watch for portions of Haiti, all of Jamaica

Recent visible satellite image of Matthew. Notice the clearer eye now, it had been clouded over earlier in the morning.

Recent visible satellite image of Matthew. Notice the clearer eye now, it had been clouded over earlier in the morning.

The latest update from the NHC now indicates a hurricane watch for two areas in the Caribbean Sea: all of Jamaica and the western portion of Haiti. This means that hurricane conditions are possible in the watch area within the next 48 hours or so.

Matthew continues to move slowly west with winds of 145 mph. Some westerly shear has impacted the circulation and caused the hurricane to weaken overnight from its incredible peak of 160 mph. As of this writing, the eye seems to be clearing out again meaning that perhaps some slight re-organization is taking place but these ups and downs are to be expected, especially with exceptionally strong hurricanes. It is likely that Matthew will be a strong hurricane as it approaches Jamaica and western Haiti on Monday.

Interests in the two island regions need to be preparing for a hurricane at this time. Heavy rain, which will surely lead to flash flooding and mudslides in the mountains of the two countries, along with dangerous seas and high winds will be the expected impacts. To what extent each of these hazards will affect the area remains to be seen. We will know more tomorrow as Matthew gets closer and we can see how strong and well organized it is. Obviously the closer the core tracks to either location, the more pronounced the effects will be.

Next up will be a landfall in southeast Cuba along the Caribbean coast. The mountain range that runs east-west across Cuba at that latitude will disrupt the circulation of Matthew some but it is forecast to reach category three intensity once again over the very warm waters of the southwest Atlantic.

The next few days are fairly certain in terms of the forecast track for Matthew. It’s what happens after Cuba that has tremendous uncertainty. Essentially it’s another duel between the GFS global model and the ECMWF global model with other models picking sides either way. Instead of trying to figure it all out with lengthy explanations of why one model shows this and why one shows that I want to set a benchmark – point in space and time to watch for.

If Matthew goes over Jamaica, the center of the hurricane that is, then the GFS seems to have the right forecast so far. If it goes over Haiti, then the latest runs of the ECMWF are doing better. We will absolutely know the “winner” by Monday. It’s that simple in terms of the short-term (3-day) window of which model is performing best on track. From there, we will have ample time to prepare in the Bahamas and the United States as needed.

I will post one or two video discussions on Matthew later today here, our YouTube channel and to our app, Hurricane Impact.

M. Sudduth 11:05 AM ET Oct 1

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Recon had to abort mission in to 97L but doesn’t change outcome for Jamaica and points west

The tropical wave known as 97L still does not have a well defined low level circulation and is thus not a tropical storm as of now. However, the deep thunderstorms associated with it will bring heavy rain to Jamaica tonight

The tropical wave known as 97L still does not have a well defined low level circulation and is thus not a tropical storm as of now. However, the deep thunderstorms associated with it will bring heavy rain to Jamaica tonight

Quick early evening update on 97L.

The Hurricane Hunter plane suffered some mechanical issues and had to return to Mississippi before sampling the tropical wave that is nearing Jamaica. However, just because we don’t know for sure what the winds at the surface are or that the system is or is not a tropical storm doesn’t matter much. The effects for Jamaica will be the same – named storm or not.

So that being said, what can people there expect tonight? The main impact will be periods of heavy rain and squalls as the wave of low pressure and developing surface low passes by. It looks as though the loose center of circulation, what little of it there is right now, will pass south of Jamaica. This means a bulk of the shower and thunderstorm activity will rotate over Jamaica, approaching from the north and east.

Fortunately, the wave is still moving briskly to the west at 20 mph or so. This will keep the time period of heavy rain to a minimum but expect some localized flooding – something that is impossible to predict ahead of time in terms of precisely where.

Winds will be nearing tropical storm strength in some of the squalls and at higher elevations. Otherwise, this is a rain event and at least the island will receive some much needed fresh water – just not too much at once hopefully.

After passing Jamaica tonight, the wave should finally strengthen and become a tropical storm. From there, it’s hard to say how strong it might get. Water temps are as warm as they can get really and so it will all come down to the upper environment.

I’ll have more on the system tomorrow morning with posts to Twitter as needed throughout the evening and tonight.

M. Sudduth 5:35 PM ET Aug 1

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Tropical storm forming in the Caribbean Sea – will be named Earl, track towards Jamaica, Yucatan

Invest 97L well on its way to becoming a tropical storm later today as convection and overall organization increases

Invest 97L well on its way to becoming a tropical storm later today as convection and overall organization increases

The difference between yesterday and now with invest area 97L is impressive. Satellite images show a much better defined area of deep thunderstorms or convection and improving outflow in the upper levels of the atmosphere. The NHC is reporting that winds are already over tropical storm force and that a surface circulation is becoming better defined. It won’t be long now until we have a tropical storm to track – its name will be Earl.

As I have mentioned several times already, water temps in the Caribbean, especially the western portion, are exceedingly warm. Once this storm forms, there won’t be much to hold it back from strengthening up until land interaction in a few days.

As for today, squally weather will begin to impact Jamaica and the Cayman Islands with fringe effects continuing for portions of Hispaniola. By tonight, it is possible that tropical storm conditions will be felt in Jamaica coupled with very heavy rain. The island needs the rain, so as long as it won’t be too much in too short a time period, what would be Earl could bring beneficial moisture to the area.

Track forecast models showing a fairly tight overall path for what would be TS Earl - headed generally towards the Yucatan peninsula and southern Gulf of Mexico

Track forecast models showing a fairly tight overall path for what would be TS Earl – headed generally towards the Yucatan peninsula and southern Gulf of Mexico (click to enlarge)

Strong high pressure to the north of the developing storm will keep it moving generally westward over the coming days. This will not allow the would-be storm to track in to the Gulf of Mexico – at least not until after crossing the Yucatan peninsula. Interests along the east side of the Yucatan need to be monitoring the progress of this system closely. It is possible that this system will go on to become a hurricane, especially considering the very warm water and high amounts of upper ocean heat content in the western Caribbean.

After passing over the Yucatan, depending on how far north the system would be, it could enter the southern Gulf of Mexico and strengthen again before making landfall well south of Texas. We can wait and see how well organized it becomes between now and landfall along the Yucatan before worrying too much about these details. Obviously the more time over land it spends, the harder time it will have intensifying again later on.

Elsewhere in the tropics, the east Pacific refuses to shut down. We now have TS Howard well off the coast of Mexico. It is moving northwest and towards cooler water and a more stable background environment. Howard should not pose any threat to Hawaii and will eventually die out over the open Pacific.

It is now August and in about two weeks, the rapid rise towards the peak of the season begins. If 97L goes on to develop in to a tropical storm and then a hurricane, it would put the season well ahead of where we should be for this time of year. Water temps in the Main Development Region and elsewhere across the western Atlantic are very warm. I have seen several indications that the next 45 to 60 days or so will be very busy in the Atlantic Basin. It’s never a guarantee one way or another, but the signs are difficult to ignore. It’s not the kind of season to sluff off and hope that nothing happens. With no El Nino and its associated strong shear machine cutting across the Atlantic, I feel as though we are in for a busy time going forward. If ever there was a season to be prepared compared to the last few, this is it in my opinion. If I am wrong, everybody on the coast comes out a winner. If I am right, and it’s not like I see this and no one else does, then hurricanes will be making headlines once again for the United States and elsewhere across the western Atlantic Basin.

I will have continuing coverage of 97L with frequent updates posted to Twitter (@hurricanetrack) throughout the day. I will also post a video discussion early this afternoon as well. Follow along in our app too, it’s on the App Store, search Hurricane Impact – all of my Tweets, blog posts and video discussions are posted to the app instantly. Get it and have everything all in one place!

M. Sudduth 10:30 AM ET Aug 1

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Tropics showing signs of activity and of possible impacts in coming days

Area of disturbed weather in the Caribbean Sea that has potential for development over the coming days

Area of disturbed weather in the Caribbean Sea that has potential for development over the coming days

Just as we are about to end September, which was as quiet as you will likely ever see it, things begin to become more active across the Atlantic.

Here is a run down of what’s going on and where…

In the central Atlantic, a tropical wave that had been tangled up with an upper level low pressure area has become better organized today. The NHC says it could become a tropical depression over the next day or so as it remains well out to sea and away from any land areas. It could eventually become a weak tropical storm but it should not last too long considering the fairly hostile environment over the Atlantic right now.

The other area to watch, which is of greater concern right now, is in the Caribbean Sea. An area of showers and thunderstorms has developed in association with a large pressure fall in the region. Several of the global models go on to develop this system as it moves northwest and eventually in to the southeast Gulf of Mexico.

Ocean heat content is still quite high across the Caribbean Sea and in to parts of the SE Gulf of Mexico

Ocean heat content is still quite high across the Caribbean Sea and in to parts of the SE Gulf of Mexico

While none of the guidance shows anything very strong at the moment, one must keep in mind that the water is very warm in this area and will be along much of the track of this potential system. The mitigating factor seems to be upper level winds which do not appear to be very conducive for significant strengthening over the coming days. Nevertheless, rain and squally weather is likely to spread across portions of the Caribbean Sea and eventually impact Jamaica and Cuba before reaching the southeast Gulf of Mexico.

Beyond that time, we will just have to see what we’re dealing with in terms of storm structure, upper level winds and steering flow. Speculating about potential impacts to Florida beyond the five day time period is pointless right now except to say that folks along the west coast should be keeping an eye on this feature – just as you would any October tropical development. With the recent heavy rains for parts of the state, a tropical cyclone of any intensity would not be good news. We’ll see how things play out over the next few days and whether or not we actually have a tropical depression or storm develop from this system.

Elsewhere, the eastern Atlantic looks to try and spin up another weak storm as the pattern tries to make up for lost ground in recent weeks. There are some indications that the MJO or Madden-Julian Oscillation, which promotes tropical convection and upward motion, could become more favorable across the Atlantic Basin in the coming weeks. This could result in a very busy October, especially considering the warm water temps that are in abundance right now. It is important to at least pay attention to the tropics as the old saying goes about it not being over until it’s over…

I’ll have more here tomorrow, sooner if something develops and warrants an additional post.

M. Sudduth 2:10 pm ET Sept 28

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