Gustav Undergoing Rapid Intensification?

Good evening everyone. As you can see from what I’ve done on the site today, I’ve been trying to get myself into tropical storm and hurricane mode finally over spending much of the summer focused on basketball. I caught myself a break over the past two or three days when Gustav struggled to keep itself together after coming ashore over Southwestern Haiti, and weakening to a tropical storm with 45 mile per hour winds.

Speaking of Gustav, have you been watching the central barometric pressure readings over the past 18 hours? While Gustav moved through the island of Jamaica during the overnight on Thursday and Friday, the pressure had risen to 993 millibars, or 29.32 inches of Hg (Mercury) at 2:00 AM EDT on Friday morning according to that particular advisory from the National Hurricane Center. Since that time, the pressure has dropped an average of a millibar per hour to 975 millibars, or 28.79 inches of Hg as of the latest (8:00 PM EDT) advisory from the NHC. The storm, which was reclassified to a minimal Category One Hurricane with 80 mile per hour winds. Could this pressure drop be an early indication of a rapid intensification phase?

Looking at the latest discussion from the NHC, there is an indication that a rapid intensification with Gustav could occur. The SHIPS model indicates that there is a 35 percent chance that Gustav will undergo a 30 knot, or a 35 mile per hour increase in its sustained winds over the next 24 hours. The conditions are there for rapid development. The sea surface temperatures in the Western Caribbean are close to, if not optimal. SSTs in this region are probably the warmest throughout the entire hurricane season. Upper level dynamics are also supportive to strengthening. Bottom line is that the situation is just right for Gustav to make that jump from a fledgling hurricane to a major hurricane. Many storms that go through rapid intensification start off as a tropical storm or minimal hurricane, and then rapidly intensify to a powerful hurricane of Category Four or Five strength.

Classic examples of this rapid intensification were: Hurricane Katrina, Rita, Wilma, Andrew, and Ivan. All five of these storms ended up as Category Five Hurricanes at one point in their lifetime, and after a rapid intensification phase. Going back to the latest discussion from the NHC, the forecast calls for Gustav to peak as a strong Category Three Hurricane with winds of 110 knots, or 125 miles per hour. Even at 72 hours, winds will still be at 120 miles per hour, which will still be nothing to sneeze at as it closes in on some point along the Gulf Coast of the United States.