Earl headed for landfall in Belize, hurricane conditions likely

Satellite image of strengthening tropical storm Earl in the western Caribbean Sea

Satellite image of strengthening tropical storm Earl in the western Caribbean Sea

There’s not much to say about Earl this morning. The tropical storm continues to strengthen and is almost a hurricane. Air pressure is down to 989 mb and the winds have increased to 70 mph. It won’t take much to have the first hurricane of the season (there was a hurricane in January but I don’t count that one as being in the season for obvious reasons).

For residents and visitors in Belize, the impacts will depend on just how strong Earl gets before landfall. There is still time over the very warm western Caribbean for it to strengthen and it seems almost certain that it will become a hurricane.

Aside from the heavy rain that will accompany Earl, the NHC mentions storm surge of 3-5 feet above normal tide levels impacting areas to the north of where the center makes landfall. This is not severe but enough of a danger to be taken very seriously.

I am not as concerned about the wind right now – assuming Earl becomes a category one hurricane, those winds can be dealt with as long as people use common sense and stay out of harm’s way. My concern is the heavy rain and coastal storm surge. We lose more people to water than wind – by far.

Once the 11am NHC advisory is issued, I will produce a video discussion covering the impacts that Earl are likely to bring to the region. I’ll post that here, in our app and on our YouTube channel.

M. Sudduth 10:05 AM ET Aug 3

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

High chance of seeing another tropical system develop and head towards Florida

Track forecasts from the various computer models showing the potential for a Fllorida landfall from what ever develops in the Gulf of Mexico early next week

Track forecasts from the various computer models showing the potential for a Fllorida landfall from what ever develops in the Gulf of Mexico early next week

The tropics continue to be busy during this young hurricane season with another system developing in the northwest Caribbean Sea this weekend. This time, it will track towards Florida and bring with it copious amounts of rain and the possibility of severe weather.

Overnight, shower and thunderstorm activity has increased quite substantially over portions of the northwest Caribbean Sea. The latest outlook from the National Hurricane Center gives an 80% chance of the system developing in to at least a tropical depression over the next few days. As it slowly organizes, the disturbance will bring heavy rain and occasional gusty winds to portions of the Yucatan peninsula this weekend. After that time, what should eventually become perhaps a tropical storm will move northward in to the Gulf of Mexico and then turn northeast towards Florida.

So far, the computer models only show modest strengthening due to strong upper level winds that will be present over the top of the system as it moves towards Florida. This should keep the wind from being too strong and I do not see any evidence right now to suggest a hurricane threat. On the other hand, I think we all know by now that one does not need a hurricane to have big problems, especially when considering the very heavy rain that is likely headed for Florida.

It is difficult to know this far in advance which areas will receive the heaviest rain. Right now, it looks as though south Florida will be spared the worst of the weather while points farther north, especially along the west coast, could be in for a rough start to the week. The possibility of severe weather exists too as strong upper level winds tearing across the tropical system will help to aid in severe thunderstorms which could bring their own locally intense down burst winds and the chance for tornadoes. This is something that people in the region will need to monitor closely over the next few days.

Once the system develops further, assuming that it does, we will know more about specific impacts to Florida. I think the bottom line is that we will be looking at a large, low-end tropical storm from a wind perspective, with plenty of heavy rain and possible severe weather. While not a hurricane threat, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of understanding all of the hazards associated with even “weak” tropical storms.

I will have another update on this system tomorrow morning.

M. Sudduth 9:00 AM June 4

92L in the Caribbean likely to bring a lot of rain to Yucatan as tropics begin to ramp up

Computer model plots for 92L courtesy of Hurricane Analytics

Computer model plots for 92L courtesy of Hurricane Analytics

Invest area 92L is looking more organized today with deep convection taking on a more curved look in satellite imagery. Also noted is a more well established upper level outflow pattern. This will aid in the development of this system over the next couple of days while conditions remain favorable over the very warm waters of the Caribbean Sea.

The NHC notes that a low pressure center may be forming somewhere between the Caymans and the Yucatan. The low is forecast by most of the computer models to move to the northwest and possibly cross the Yucatan and in to the Gulf of Mexico. This means that a lot of rain and some increase in wind is headed for the region today and tomorrow. Interests in the area need to be aware of this large weather system and understand the rain threat is significant. Fortunately, it does not look like 92L will have much chance to rapidly strengthen but it wouldn’t take much for it to become a tropical depression or tropical storm.

Beyond the next 48 hours, the track is quite uncertain. Some of the model guidance indicates a track towards the U.S. Gulf Coast while others are more west towards Mexico. As we have seen so many times before, it will come down to the timing of how an upper level trough interacts with the system over the coming days.

If the trough can create a weakness in the steering pattern to the north of the disturbance, then it can have a hole, if you will, to move in to and thus towards the Gulf Coast states.

On the other hand, if the trough is not strong enough to erode the high pressure to the north of the disturbance, and the high actually builds back in once the trough lifts out, then it will get pushed westward across the Bay of Campeche and towards Mexico. There’s no way to know which scenario will play out – we’ll just have to wait and see. Right now, most of the reliable guidance is pointing towards the Gulf Coast but this can change as more data becomes available for each new run of the models. If you live along the U.S. Gulf Coast anywhere from Texas to Florida, just keep an eye on this feature over the next couple of days. As I said, intensity forecasts from the various models do not indicate much chance for strengthening and hopefully that will remain the case. We’ll watch and see how things progress today and tomorrow.

Elsewhere, we have invest area 93L far out in the eastern Atlantic. This system has a solid chance of becoming a tropical depression before it moves in to a more stable environment where the mid-level air is drier. It’s only of concern to interests in the Cape Verde Islands right now.

All of this activity is part of the pattern that is slowly beginning to unfold across the tropics. We’ve seen a lot of storm activity in the Pacific, now it’s the Atlantic’s turn. The next several weeks are likely to become increasingly busy throughout the Atlantic as there are signs that the upper level pattern is about to become quite favorable. Despite all the talk of dry air, dust and a lack of activity, it is still going to be a very busy season. There are just too many overwhelming signals in favor of that to be ignored. Now is the time to be prepared. Take that generator to a small engine repair shop to have it looked at in case you need it later. Do the little things now that can help alleviate the stress that comes with an approaching hurricane. It’s about to get very busy out there and as such, people need to be ready.

I’ll have another post here later on this evening.

M. Sudduth 1pm ET August 14

Ernesto likely headed for Yucatan then where?

TS Ernesto certainly has improved its appearance since this time yesterday. As noted in the latest NHC discussion, appearances can be deceiving and Ernesto has, in fact, weakened some. I see this as probably temporary as the storm is pulling in air from South America and to some extent, the Caribbean islands to its north. Remember, tropical cyclones can be very sensitive to even the slightest changes in their environment. Once Ernesto gets to about the same longitude as Jamaica, it should start to intensify and become a hurricane.

It is very puzzling as to why the various global models do not “see” Ernesto very well. This is called initialization and the models are not initializing the storm very well. I have read quite a bit on various message boards about how this could be throwing the future track forecast off. The logic is that if the models do not see the storm at the beginning of the run, then how can they predict where it will go later in the run? Let’s look at it from an entirely different point of view.

Forget that Ernesto is even in the picture. Then look at the computer models. I’ll take the GFS as an example. What does the large scale pattern look like three to five days down the road? Is there going to be a weakness in the big high pressure area over the Gulf of Mexico that would allow the would-be hurricane to turn more to the north? Not really. There seems to be just enough subtropical ridge nosing in from the Atlantic, across the eastern Gulf, to keep Ernesto on a WNW track towards the Yucatan and then in to mainland Mexico. So whether or not Ernesto is strong, weak, picked up in the models or not, I do not think it matters. The steering pattern strongly suggests that it will not directly impact the U.S. down the road. The only possibility that I see right now is south Texas but even that is a long shot in my opinion. So all this talk about the models not initializing the storm and thus not trusting them is non-sense to me. The trend has been more west with the tracks and since we are not quite in to the time of the season when deep troughs dig in to the Lower 48, I just don’t see a way for Ernesto to hit the U.S. Can there be a sweeping change coming up? I suppose so, you never say never but track forecasts are getting pretty good these days so I wouldn’t count on there being any big changes over the coming days.

TCHP Track Map

TCHP Track Map

With all that being said, let’s focus on the Yucatan now. Obviously with a hurricane aimed at that location, people need to be aware and ready to take action. Ernesto has to cross some fairly high ocean heat content (see graphic where the track is plotted on the current TCHP map). However, it is not forecast to go over the highest values, none the less, the western Caribbean is notorious for creating strong hurricanes and I urge people along the eastern side of the Yucatan from Belize to Cancun to watch this system carefully. It has the potential to be a serious hurricane for the region next week.

Beyond the Yucatan, as I said, the data suggests another landfall in mainland Mexico, south of Texas. We’ll worry about that later since it is still perhaps over a week away.

Next we have Florence out in the tropical Atlantic. This will be an interesting feature to track but should not pose a problem for land areas. It is already at a fairly high latitude and developed well east in the Atlantic, meaning that is destined to head out to sea. While there are certainly instances when long track hurricanes have made it all the way across, most do not and Florence is likely to not break precedence here.

The other feature to watch is just off the Florida coast. I think the only issue here is the increase in showers and thunderstorms for boating and beach interests. Otherwise, ignore it, nothing will come of it that will have any great consequence on your weekend plans.

I’ll post a video blog detailing Ernesto’s future in our HurricaneTrack app for iPhone shortly with another full post here this evening.