Storm Loses Some Punch As It Becomes Ragged and Disheveled in Gulf
Tropical Storm Karen has been fighting a valiant fight since it formed on Thursday morning, but the odds may be just too much for the storm to overcome. While a Hurricane Watch remains in effect for the Gulf Coast from Grand Isle, Louisiana to Destin, Florida, Karen weakened slightly to just have maximum sustained winds of 60 miles per hour with gusts to 70 mph. Minimum central pressure has risen slightly to 1003 millibars, or 29.62 inches of Hg.
With tropical storm force winds extending some 140 miles from the center of circulation as of the 8:00 AM EDT Advisory from the National Hurricane Center, a Tropical Storm Warning is in effect from Grand Isle, Louisiana to the Mouth of the Pearl River, and a Tropical Storm Watch is in effect from west of Grand Isle, Louisiana to Morgan City, Louisiana including the City of New Orleans, Lake Maurepas, and Lake Pontchartrain. A Tropical Storm Watch is also in effect for portions of the Florida Panhandle from east of Destin, Florida to Indian Pass, Florida.
As it pushes ahead to the North-Northwest at 10 miles per hour some 275 miles to the South-Southwest of the Mouth of the Mississippi River, Karen’s appearance looks much more ragged and disorganized than it did yesterday, and it was a lopsided storm at best before then with the bulk of its convection to the east of its center of circulation. The storm has also slowed down a bit from its forward speed of 13 miles per hour on Thursday. A turn to the right is expected to begin on Friday.
Karen is still over very warm water in the Gulf, but it continues to battle dry air and shear to the north and west of it. The wind shear affecting Karen is as high as 20 to 25 knots, or about 25 to 30 miles per hour. The intensity forecast is problematic at best due to the interaction between Karen, dry air, westerly shear, and a small upper level trough. The strengthening of this system is also dependent on whether or not it begins to make its more easterly turn over water. Some models such as the Canadian model indicate that the turn to the east will not occur until after landfall in Louisiana while the GFS has a much more dramatic turn to the right.
Right now, the European model calls for a 10 millibar drop in pressure with Karen after the turn to the right while the GFS, HWRF, and GFDL indicate much more significant deepening. Regardless of how much it strengthens, the biggest concern with this system will be the rain with rainfall amounts anticipated to be anywhere between 4 to 8 inches with isolated areas receiving as much as a foot. This much rain is the last thing that areas in the Southeast need after a very wet summer with a rainfall surplus of over a foot. Storm surges along the Gulf Coast could be as high as 3 to 5 feet.
All residents along the Gulf Coast from Morgan City to Tampa should continue to monitor the situation with Karen, and make necessary preparations.
Watches Issued for Portions of Gulf Coast; Storm Already Has 60 MPH Winds
Almost 18 years to the day, a storm has formed in the Gulf of Mexico, and could deliver a blow to the Northeastern Gulf Coast. Within the past few minutes, the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida has classified the disturbance in the Southeastern Gulf as Tropical Storm Karen. The storm already has maximum sustained winds of 60 miles per hour with gusts up to 70 mph, and a minimum central pressure of 1004 millibars, or 29.65 inches of Hg.
Currently, Karen is located some 500 miles south of the Mouth of the Mississippi River, and the storm is moving to the North-Northwest at 13 miles per hour. Hurricane Hunter aircraft has been flying in and around the storm since yesterday, and finally detected a closed circulation just to the north of the Northern Yucatan coast. The storm is a lopsided or asymmetrical system with the bulk, if not all of its convection, to the east of the center of circulation. However, high pressure aloft has developed over the storm, and sea surface temperatures in this region are always very warm. So, further strengthening is not out of the question. There is some discrepancy though on how strong Karen will become and where it will go.
The reason for the disagreement between the various forecast models such as the European and the GFS is because there is dry air pushing into the Western Gulf to the west of the storm. The models are in general agreement that Karen will move around the periphery of a mid-level ridge ahead of a mid-level trough. But they differ on the exact track into the Gulf Coast. The European has Karen going further west into Louisiana and Southern Mississippi while the GFS has the storm taking a more easterly track into Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. The discrepancy in these tracks has an impact on how strong Karen will be at landfall.
With the European model’s more western track, Karen moves into the drier air moving into the Western Gulf, and comes ashore on Saturday as a minimal tropical storm or depression. On the other hand, the GFS’ more eastern track has the storm over more moist air in place in the Eastern Gulf, and as a result, Karen is a much stronger storm. As a result of this discrepancy in the models, the GFS has put Karen as a minimal hurricane within 36 hours, and has posted both hurricane and tropical storm watches for the Gulf coast. This could be a dangerous situation developing in the Gulf. We could have a scenario very similar to Hurricane Opal in 1995.
Opal formed further west in the Bay of Campeche before rapidly developing into a high end Category Four Hurricane, and picking up forward speed before crashing into the Florida Panhandle on October 5th. Another similarity between Opal in 1995 and this storm is that the country is distracted with other news headlines. Back in 1995, the country was gripped with the suspense of the verdict in the O.J. Simpson trial while this time, the nation is dealing with a federal government shutdown that has even closed down some NOAA web sites. The NHC and NWS are not affected by the shutdown since they both help protect life and property.
Karen is aiming at a portion of the Gulf Coast that has finally recovered from the impacts of Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and Hurricane Dennis in 2005. So, a significantly stronger storm for this region later in the weekend would not be ideal. Up to this point in the season, there have been 11 depressions and 11 named storms, but only two hurricanes and no major hurricanes. Could that change with Karen. It is very possible that this storm could become the season’s third hurricane, but can it become the first major hurricane of 2013. Too early to tell.
Could Impact the Central Gulf This Weekend; Jerry Meanders In Central Atlantic
The Tropical Atlantic has been relatively quiet for much of this season. Yes, there has been 10 named storms already, which is still ahead of the average pace, but there has been only two hurricanes, and most importantly, no major hurricanes, and no landfalling systems.
Normally, September is an active month, and this year, it was more active than August was. There were five depressions, four named storms, and the season’s only two hurricanes this past month. Nevertheless, the activity by September standards were still rather tepid. There is still two months officially remaining in the 2013 season, and there is usually a second peak in tropical activity during the month of October.
Looking around the tropics on this late Wednesday afternoon, there are a couple of trouble spots. Tropical Storm Jerry is still churning in the Central Atlantic. As of the 5:00 PM EDT advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Jerry is located some 1080 to the West-Southwest of the Azores. Maximum sustained winds remain at 40 miles per hour with gusts up to 50 miles per hour while minimum central pressure is still high at 1009 millibars, or 29.80 inches of Hg.
The storm is moving to the Northeast at 7 miles per hour, and that general motion is expected over the next few days with an increase in forward speed. Little change in strength is expected over the next 72 hours, and the storm is expected to become post-tropical within four days. A larger concern lurks in the Northwestern Caribbean as an area of disturbed weather that has been monitored over the past several days, is becoming better organized, and could be the next storm in the Atlantic.
Located some several hundred miles from the Yucatan Peninsula, the disturbance has looked more impressive over the past several hours as showers and thunderstorms have become better organized. Chances of this disturbance becoming a tropical cyclone in the next 48 hours have increased from 40 percent on Wednesday morning to 70 percent on Wednesday afternoon, and up to 80 percent in the next five days. A depression could form at any time according to the latest tropical outlook from the NHC. Currently, the disturbance is in a favorable environment for development. Sea surface temperatures in the Western Caribbean are always very warm, and there is very little in the way of shear.
Taking a look at the long range forecast for this disturbance, the storm is expected to impact somewhere along the Central Gulf Coast over this coming weekend. However, the cyclone is not expected to intensify into a major storm by the time it reaches the Gulf because of strong upper level winds developing over the region by the time the storm comes ashore. Regardless, residents along the Gulf should closely monitor the progress of this system as it heads into the region later in the week.
Protecting Life and Property Help NOAA Weather Sites Stay Online During Government Impasse
A little less than 24 hours ago, the government officially shutdown as a result of the impasse that has developed between the House of Representatives, Senate, and White House. While many government functions have been stopped including several NOAA web sites, the National Weather Service web site and National Hurricane Center web site are still online since they are crucial to protecting life and property. So, we will still be able to get the latest weather information and warnings as well as the latest information on Tropical Storm Jerry and a disturbance in the Western Caribbean.
Gabrielle and Humberto Dissipate, but Humberto Could Regenerate in a Couple Days
The Atlantic Tropics continue to get interesting as we now have our second hurricane of the season. The other day, I had mentioned in the blog that Ingrid could be in the making. Well, the storm not only came to fruition, and rapidly intensified into a minimal hurricane in the very warm waters of the Bay of Campeche region in the Gulf of Mexico.
Ingrid first became a depression on Thursday afternoon, and began its onslaught on Mexico with torrential rainfall. Gaining more and more energy from the bath water of the Gulf, Ingrid strengthened more and became the ninth named storm of the season on Friday morning. The intensification didn’t stop there either. Thirty hours later, the storm grew into a hurricane. Located some 195 miles to the East of Tuxpan Mexico and 275 miles to the Southeast of La Pesca, Mexico, Ingrid still continues off slowly to the north at 7 miles per hour.
As of the 4:00 PM CDT Advisory from the National Hurricane Center, maximum sustained winds with Ingrid are at 75 miles per hour with gusts in excess of 90 miles per hour. Minimum central pressure has dropped to 987 millibars, or 29.15 inches of Hg (Mercury). The Government of Mexico has issued a Hurricane Warning for the Mexican East Coast from Cabo Rojo to La Pesca, and a Tropical Storm Warning from north of La Pesca to Bahia Algodones and south of Cabo Rojo to Tuxpan. All warnings issued south of Tuxpan to Cotzacoalos have been discontinued.
The big story with Ingrid is the forward motion. The reason I say that is because of two things. First and foremost, slow moving tropical systems means lots and lots of rainfall. When there is torrential rainfall that goes on for long periods of time over this part of the world, you have to worry about life threatening floods and mudslides. Right now, Ingrid is expected to produce around 15 inches of rain for portions of Eastern Mexico with some isolated areas getting over two feet of rain. The other reason that the slow movement is critical is simply because of where Ingrid is located.
As mentioned earlier, Ingrid is still over very warm water in the Bay of Campeche region of the Gulf of Mexico. With sea surface temperatures as high as 85 degrees coupled in with the fact that upper levels winds in this area are usually light, the ingredients are there for some significant, if not explosive development. The latest discussion from the National Hurricane Center in Miami indicates that a mid-level ridge is expected to establish itself over the Southern U.S., and the clockwise flow around that ridge will help turn Ingrid into eastern Mexico. However, forecast models diverge on the timing of all of this.
The NHC discussion points out that the GFS solution has Ingrid moving to shore the slowest, and making landfall in about 60 hours time. The official NHC guidance indicates a landfall within 48 hours. The 48 to 60 hour window is still a lot of time when you are talking about a tropical cyclone in a very conducive environment. Remember, a little more than 48 hours ago, Ingrid wasn’t even on the map, and now it is a Category One Hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. Another 48 to 60 hours in this very supportive environment could bring about even more strenghtening. Right now, the NHC has Ingrid strengthening to an 85 mile per hour hurricane, but it is quite possible that the storm could reach Category Two or even Cat Three levels.
We’ll have to see how everything shakes out with Ingrid. For now, residents along the East Mexican coast should complete the necessary preparations, take cover and evacuate if possible. Residents in South Texas should monitor the progress of this storm.
Disturbance in Gulf Getting Better Organized; Has 60 Percent Chance of Becoming Depression or Storm in next 48 Hours
Things continue to pick up in the Atlantic Tropics on this early Thursday afternoon. We still have Gabrielle in the Western Atlantic and Humberto in the Eastern Atlantic. Both of those systems haven’t changed much in strength over the past 18 to 24 hours with Humberto still having maximum sustained winds estimated at 85 miles per hour while Gabrielle still is hanging on as a minimal tropical storm. Humberto is picking up a bit more speed to the north while Gabrielle is moving more slowly to the north.
However, there is activity in the Bay of Campeche region of the Gulf that is drawing some interest right now. The area of disturbed weather that had moved across the Yucatan Peninsula on Wednesday has now re-entered the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and is getting better organized. According to the latest outlook from the National Hurricane Center in Miami, shower and thunderstorm activity has increased and upper level winds and sea surface temperatures are becoming more favorable for development. The NHC is now giving this disturbance a 60 percent chance of forming within the next 48 hours, and an 80 percent chance of developing into a depression or storm over the next five days.
The real concern with this disturbed area is the slow forward movement of it. With the slow motion, the disturbance has not only a better chance to strengthen in the warm waters of the Bay of Campeche, but it also has a very good chance of dumping torrential rainfall over portions of southern and eastern Mexico, which could in turn produce dangerous flash floods and mudslides. If the disturbance were to become a named storm, it would be called Ingrid, the ninth named storm of the 2013 season. There has been a lot of tropical activity in this region this year. Recently, TD #8 had formed, and quickly came ashore before becoming a named storm.
Back on August 25th, Tropical Storm Fernand formed in the Southwestern portion of the Bay of Campeche before making landfall to the North-Northwest of Veracruz, Mexico just after midnight on the 26th. Earlier in the season in mid-June, Tropical Storm Barry formed a bit further south in the Northwestern Caribbean near the country of Belize. So, we could be seeing our fourth tropical cyclone in this general area develop this season, which would have almost half of all the storms that would have developed to date.
Elsewhere in the tropics, there is an area of disturbed weather associated with a broad area of low pressure some 500 miles to the east of the Lesser Antilles. While pressures are falling quite dramatically in this area, shower and thunderstorm activity with this low is limited, and more importantly, environment conditions such as upper level winds are not favorable for development at this time. The NHC is giving this disturbance about a 10 percent chance of developing into a tropical cyclone over the next 48 hours, and a 20 percent chance over the next five days.
Humberto Emerges and Is Poised to Become Season’s First Hurricane; Gabrielle Regenerates
Today is the statistical peak of the 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season, and almost on cue, the tropics seem to be finally firing up. Not only did the disturbance that Hurricaneville had been monitoring develop into the season’s eighth named storm, but it is also poised to become the season’s first hurricane, and the seventh named storm of the season also regenerated.
Tropical Storm Humberto became a depression late Sunday afternoon and has been gradually strengthening ever since in the Eastern Atlantic. Bringing Tropical Storm conditions to the Southern Cape Verde Islands on Monday, Humberto was classified as a storm early Monday morning, and now has winds of 65 miles per hour as it heads off to the West-Northwest at 9 miles per hour in the Eastern Atlantic some 150 miles to the West of the Southernmost Cape Verde Islands.
Satellite imagery estimates that Humberto has wind gusts in excess of hurricane force at 75 miles per hour while the minimum central pressure in the storm is estimated to be about 998 millibars or 29.47 inches of Hg (Mercury). Tropical storm force winds extend some 80 miles from the center of circulation. Humberto is currently on a gradual strengthening trend according to the latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center, and should become a hurricane later today. If it does, it will be the second latest that an Atlantic hurricane season has gone before having its first hurricane. The longest wait was in 2002 before Gustav formed on September 11th.
The good thing about Humberto is that it appears at this time to be a storm for the fish in the Atlantic. The latest forecast track from the NHC has the storm turning towards the north by Wednesday afternoon, and not turning back to the west until Saturday. By then, Humberto will already be at a latitude of the Northern Bahamas and it will still be in the Central Atlantic. So, it is unlikely that it will affect land in the United States, but it is still too early to tell. Hurricanes and tropical storms can be fickle and unpredictable storms, and although forecasts have improved greatly, these storms can still occasionally pull off a trick or two.
Meanwhile, closer to home in the Western Atlantic, the remnants of Gabrielle regenerated early Tuesday morning some 185 miles south of Bermuda. The storm has continued to track north in the past few hours, and a Tropical Storm Warning has been issued for Bermuda. Maximum sustained winds with Gabrielle are at minimal tropical storm force at 40 miles per hour with gusts up to 50 miles per hour, and a minimum central pressure of 1008 millibars, or 29.77 inches of Hg. The storm is moving to the north at 14 miles per hour, and it is expected to strengthen a bit to have 50 mile per hour winds before it becomes post-tropical in the next five days.
Eighth Depression Comes Ashore in Mexico, But Impressive Wave Shaping Up Off West Africa
Only two days from the statistical peak of the 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season, the current tally of storms is 8 depressions and 7 named storms. We are still waiting for the first hurricane of the season to fire up. As a matter of fact, the 2013 season is just three days shy of tying the season with the latest formation of a first hurricane (2002).
However, there are some things happening around the tropics. First, there was a tropical depression that formed in the Southwestern Gulf of Mexico late this past week, but it came ashore before it had a chance to develop any further into the eighth named storm of the season. Over the last 24 hours though, a new tropical wave emerged off the coast of Africa, and it is already quite impressive. As a matter of fact, the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida has already given it a 80 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone within the next 48 hours, and a 90 percent chance of forming over the next five days.
As of the 2:00 PM Tropical Weather Outlook from the NHC, the now tropical low is located some 250 miles to the East-Southeast of the Cape Verde Islands. The low has continued to become better organized with more showers and thunderstorms. Keep in mind that the classification and description of this low is based upon satellite imagery. Hurricane Hunter aircraft do not take any reconaissance flights into the Far Eastern Atlantic because there are no nearby bases that can be used for flights to take off and land. Upper level winds and sea surface temperatures appear to be favorable for development, and there is a chance that the low could become a depression later on Sunday or sometime on Monday. In the least, the Cape Verde Islands should expect heavy rains and gusty winds with this low passing near or through there.
Elsewhere in the tropics, we are still dealing with the remnants of Tropical Storm Gabrielle, which are currently located some 400 miles to the Northeast of the Southeastern Bahamas. The circulation associated with this low is not very well organized according to the NHC, and the shower and thunderstorm activity associated with it is east of the center. Remember, you need a well defined circulation and thunderstorms coalescing around it in order to have a chance a tropical development. Moving to the Northeast, this remnant low has a 10 percent chance of formation over the next 48 hours, and a 30 percent chance over the next five days.
One more area that bears watching is the Bay of Campeche section of the Gulf of Mexico. Sea surface temperatures in this area are always at an optimum level during hurricane season. Upper level winds appear to be getting favorable as a trough of low pressure is expected to develop here. Now, when you have a trough of low pressure in the tropics, something can spin up off of it. So, we’ll have to watch to see if something not only does, but it also persists. The NHC is giving very little in the way of a chance of this developing over the next two to five days.
Couple Waves in Eastern Atlantic Could Become Trouble Spots Later in the Week
The Atlantic wound down again with Fernand dissipating over Mexico on Monday afternoon. We are still looking for our first hurricane of the season. There have only been six depressions and six named storms with many of the storms being modest at best, and none have really impacted the United States. Keep in mind though that we didn’t get our first hurricane of the 2011 season until Hurricane Irene developed towards the end of August that year, and we all know how that turned out.
With that in mind, we take a look around the Atlantic tropics tonight. First, we’ll take a look at our most immediate concern, which is an area of disturbed weather off the coast of South Florida. The disturbance is a product of an upper level low along with a weak surface trough. As of right now, this area has the best chance of development, and that is not saying much. Pressures are still high in this area, which means that you don’t have enough rising air to create the type of thunderstorm development essential for tropical formation. No significant development is expected with this disturbance over the next 48 hours to 5 days.
Moving further to the east, we find that there are a couple areas of possible trouble on the horizon. There are two tropical waves in the Eastern Atlantic. One is several hundred miles to the west-southwest of the Cape Verde Islands while the other has just moved off the coast of Africa. Both of these waves currently have a low probability of developing over the next 48 hours, but their probabilities increase as we head further along in the week. Wave number one has a 30 percent chance of development over the next five days while wave number two has a 20 percent chance.
As we approach the Labor Day holiday and the end of meteorological summer, we also enter the peak of the Atlantic Hurricane Season with the classic Cape Verde storms more and more a possibility. The statistical peak of the Atlantic season falls on September 10th. So, despite the somewhat sluggish start to the season here in the Atlantic, nobody along the United States coastline from Maine to Texas is off the hook yet. There is still a lot of season left to produce just that one storm like Hurricane Andrew (1992), Hurricane Floyd (1999), Hurricane Katrina (2005), and Hurricane Sandy (2012). Hurricane season usually ends on November 30th.
Downgraded to Depression after Briefly Becoming Fifth Named Storm of Season
On Wednesday night, the Tropical Atlantic had become the most active it had been since the end of July when two disturbances emerged. A short time later, one of those disturbances became Tropical Depression Five in the Eastern Atlantic just to the south of the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of West Africa. Less than 12 hours after that, TD #5 became the fifth named storm of the season, Tropical Storm Erin. Unfortunately, conditions in the Atlantic continue to make things difficult for tropical systems to get their act together and flourish.
Battling cooler sea surface temperatures and relatively stable air, Erin has not been able to get any stronger than a minimal tropical storm with 40 mile per hour winds after first being classified as a tropical storm on Thursday morning. According to the latest forecast discussion from the National Hurricane Center, conditions will remain hostile towards development as the downgraded depression is expected to encounter more southwesterly shear as well as continue to move west within a stable environment of sinking air. Tropical storms and hurricanes need warm, moist air that rises and becomes unstable. Rising, unstable air are key ingredients for thunderstorm development, and thunderstorms are essential for tropical formation.
Currently, Erin has maximum sustained winds of 35 miles per hour and a minimum central pressure of 1008 millibars, or 29.77 inches of Hg. Wind gusts are estimated to be around 45 miles per hour. Located some 540 miles to the west of the Cape Verde Islands, Erin has picked up a bit of forward speed to the West-Northwest at 17 miles per hour. Intensity forecast is now calling for Erin to experience little change in strength throughout the entire duration of the five day forecast period. The forecast track is calling for Erin to continue moving to the West-Northwest for the next 48 to 72 hours before turning more to the right. As of now, Erin doesn’t appear to be a threat to the United States.
So far this season, there has been five depressions and five named storms in the Atlantic. No hurricanes have developed yet despite calls for an above average season with anywhere from 13 to 19 named storms, 6 to 9 hurricanes, and 3 to 5 major hurricanes with winds of 111 miles per hour or greater.
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