Dean strengthening, TD5 in Gulf

Good morning!

TS Dean has maintained its intensity of 45 knots overnight. Satellites from around 0900Z indicate that Dean is trying to wrap convection around an “eye”-like structure, which may in time develop into a true eye. The system has taken on the classic recognizable “comma” shape of a tropical cyclone, and in the face of low shear, should develop into a symmetrical and photogenic hurricane. Dean is in very low shear now, having escaped the 20kt that limited its intensification previously. This is good for development. However, since it’s happening during the day, Dean’s ability to utilize this may be limited. We’ll have to see.

NHC’s forecast has taken a westward shift, in line with what the computers are indicating. As I said in my previous blogs, I am on board with a Caribbean –> Gulf storm and do not intend to change this prediction unless the ridge is eroded too much for it to happen.

The GFDL and HWRF, our two tropical cyclone-specific models, are both in unfortunate agreement in their 00Z runs of taking Dean to a borderline Cat 3/Cat 4 in the central Caribbean and sending it south of Hispaniola. If this pans out, there is a chance that he will enter the Gulf as a Cat 3 or Cat 4 without ever having hit a large landmass.

I’m not happy about this. In such a scenario, we’d have to hope for shear towards landfall, because the very hottest Gulf waters are right offshore.

Closer to home, TD5 has formed in the Gulf, although according to the NHC it seems to have some problems getting together. Well, it’s a new system. That’s what usually happens. Quite honestly, in my opinion, TD5 could landfall in Texas as anything from a depression to (if conditions are perfect and it takes advantage) a low-end Category 1 hurricane. The NHC is forecasting a 40kt landfall. I think that, if TD5 gets organized in time, it has the potential for rapid development, and this forecast could be too low. With the depression, everything comes down to the timing of its organizing.

Dean holds steady

Tropical Storm Dean has held its intensity in the face of a small pocket of 20kt shear. Although its convection dropped off significantly during the diurnal minimum, this is cyclical, especially for a weak system. Dean used the day to do something more important than blowing up blobs of clouds, start developing the classic tropical cyclone structure. It has feeder bands forming, and as soon as it gets out of the pocket of shear, I’m expecting it to take off. The timing on this is important: If it breaks into the minimal shear area to its west at night (night for it, a few hours ahead of people in the Americas), the effect will be more pronounced in a short time. This is because of diurnal max. Dean is skipping along a tad south of due west at 20 mph.

I think it’s now fair to start discussing where Dean will end up and how strong he will be. I highly doubt that he will recurve, and I am not sold on a U.S. East Coast landfall either (including Florida’s east side). In the short term, I think it’s fair to say that Dean will be a weather-maker for the islands off Venezuela. I also have a bad feeling that he will get into the Caribbean. The water there is even hotter than in the Gulf. A major hurricane seems highly likely if this happens. Many people in the U.S. see a powerful hurricane hit Hispaniola, and see the mountains tear it up and weaken it (a good example is Georges of 1998), so that it has a hard time restrengthening before its final landfall, and they cheer. But the island nations can’t afford a hit any more than New Orleans can. The 12:00 run of the HWRF showed a Hurricane Allen-like system barreling headlong into the Dominican Republic at peak intensity. Needless to say, this would be horrific. The one good thing about Dean is that, since it’s a long-track Cape Verde storm, there’s plenty of time to watch it, and prepare for landfall.

Beyond the Caribbean, as I have stated, I have a really bad suspicion that this is ultimately a Gulf problem. I’m not going to change this guess until and unless the real, observed weather conditions change as Dean continues on its path and gets closer to the point where it must “decide” whether to curve out of the Caribbean or not. Fluctuations of models, which have had it from Central America to an Atlantic fish storm, don’t qualify. Real, large-scale changes in weather do.

The NHC, which has a tendency to underforecast the intensity of hurricanes, has Dean as a 95kt Category Two system in five days. Again, how quickly Dean gets its act together will determine when (NOT “if”) it becomes a hurricane and thus when it may hit Cat-2 or higher intensity. It has followed the NHC’s predicted intensity forecast thus far, and tropical storms usually take several advisories to get fully “with it” and reach a level of stability that permits them to develop eyes and become hurricanes. I see no reason to deviate significantly from the NHC forecast, with the one caveat that Dean might rapidly intensify after it becomes a hurricane.

Note: If anyone tries to tell you that Dean, or any other new TS, has an eye at any intensity under about 55 kt, they don’t know what they are looking at. Former hurricanes that made landfall, of course, are a different matter, and the eye structure could persist long after it lost hurricane-force winds. But newly-formed storms don’t start to develop eyes until they approach hurricane intensity.

Flossie and proto-Dean

Against all predictions, Hurricane Flossie in the Central Pacific exploded to a Category 4 and is posing a threat to Hawai’i, although it is expected to weaken and avoid a direct hit on the islands. It seems to the casual observer that the EPac has had all the activity this year. It might prompt the question, does the advent of Flossie signal a change in the ENSO pattern?


While it is true that, usually, the most intense hurricanes and typhoons in the Pacific basin occur during El Ni

TD4, 91L, and Flossie

As expected, former invest.90L strengthened in to Tropical Depression 4 this morning. The system is currently embedded in moderate shear. This has caused the depression to be elongated, as the satellite images show. It will keep it from becoming very strong for now. At a brisk pace of 20 mph, it should move out of this shear in a day or two, and we can then expect explosive intensification. I expect this system to become a hurricane by Thursday night. As for where it will go from there — I don’t know, neither do you, and neither do the computers!

A system in the north Caribbean/southern Gulf of Mexico is intensifying its convection. Shear is low in the area. It’s possible this may form into something, but I’m not expecting it.

Hurricane Flossie in the Pacific is starting to appear a little more ragged in its satellite, hopefully signaling the long-expected weakening. However, because it was a Category Four for so long, it has built up a large surge, which will threaten Hawaii in the form of waves as the hurricane approaches the islands.