Tag Archives: hurricanes

Emily Organizes; Gulf Threat Decreases

Tropical Storm Emily struggled through most of last night and today with disorganization, an aftereffect of its multivortex structure as an unnamed disturbance.  However, it has become better stacked today, with convection blowing up over its center.  It still has a long way to go, despite its more pleasing appearance in satellite photos.

Steering in the short term is straightforward.  Emily has been generally on the left side of the forecast track for most of the day, and it is now expected to make landfall in the Dominican Republic as a tropical storm.  Weaker systems generally weather the mountains better than stronger ones, provided that they do not linger in the area; therefore dissipation of the system seems comparatively unlikely.


Models conclude that trough will miss Emily

The models have largely converged on a scenario in which the trough that is to weaken the Bermuda High will be gone before it can force the full recurvature of Emily.  The ridge is expected to build back in, and the GFS shows the hurricane being trapped off the coast of Florida, unable to move ashore because of another ridge, stalling until a shortwave trough lifts it away.  The GFDL and HWRF models, which take their input from the GFS, both show a very close approach to the east coast of Florida, with the HWRF showing near-hurricane-force winds onshore.  The NOGAPS shows this same scenario without the stall.  In this scenario, a landfall on the Outer Banks of North Carolina occurs, followed by a pull up the Atlantic seaboard (offshore) and out to sea.

The Canadian model shows a very weak system, probably no more than a mild tropical storm, making landfall on the east coast of Florida and then being merged into the shortwave.  I should observe that the Canadian model now shows the first low strengthening to 988 mb at sea and reducing the Bermuda High to its winter stage (the Azores High), which does not seem remotely reasonable to me for an August system.  I am not putting a lot of faith in this aspect of the Canadian solution.

The European model also shows a “screwy” solution, amplifying the shortwave trough to 992 mb at sea, while completely dissipating Emily over Hispaniola.  Although unlikely in my opinion, dissipation of the tropical storm is certainly possible, as yesterday’s blog entry said, but I am having great difficulty believing that either of the baroclinic low pressure systems involved in this will reach 990 mb levels.  The first trough is currently located in New England producing a severe weather risk, and it is analyzed at 1002 mb.

Bottom line, I am giving a highly skeptical eye to anything that destroys the Bermuda High at the beginning of August and amplifies low pressure cores to winter levels, especially when they have not been doing this consistently.  Any land-free recurvature of Emily depends entirely on such “bombs,” and the approach to the East Coast will be so close that a weaker trough or shortwave will make all the difference in the world in what wind speeds are felt onshore and whether landfall occurs.


Gulf Coast threat decreases… for now

As should be apparent, the threat to the Gulf Coast states has decreased over the course of the day (with a caveat).  The current thinking is that the trough will lift Emily northward enough to miss an entrance into the Gulf of Mexico.  However, this could change if the storm stays south and west enough, or the trough is weaker than expected at sea.

Emily Is a Threat To the U.S.

After days of teasing weather watchers (and the National Hurricane Center), a tropical wave in the Atlantic has formed into Tropical Storm Emily.  The storm is rather disorganized and not at all “attractive” in the tropical cyclone sense, an artifact of its having had multiple competing vortices for several days that prevented its consolidation into a single system.

Because of its delay in getting organized, Emily is a threat to the United States.  I am going to blog regularly about this system as long as that remains the case.


What’s the synoptic setup?

Emily is going to move mostly west, slightly WNW, along the southern end of the Bermuda High.  Its strength will depend primarily on possible land interaction during this time.  The National Hurricane Center forecasts an impact on the island of Hispaniola, which would weaken the system.  How much remains to be seen; many a major hurricane has been reduced to a tropical storm by this island, but some systems that are much weaker have survived passage.  It is terribly difficult to forecast how much effect the mountains will have on any particular storm.  A lot depends on how well-organized the system is when it reaches the island (I do not mean its intensity; intensity and cyclonic organization are not the same thing), how long it stays there, and whether there are any additional destructive factors such as dry air intrusion and wind shear that are hitting the storm at the same time.  It is arguable that there’s not a lot of point in making a forecast for Emily after its interaction with Hispaniola at all, because what happens to it after that will be heavily influenced by its strength at that point.  I’ll discuss the various possibilities, however.

The high is going to be weakened on its left flank by a trough coming off the Atlantic coast in a couple of days.  This should pull the storm to the north.  How much depends on how weak Emily is and how strong the trough has managed to become.  The stronger Emily is, the more northward it is expected to move, all things being equal with respect to the trough.  I think that the trough will be the most important player here, though, and should be watched at least as closely as the tropical system.  It is very uncommon to have a strong trough coming off the East Coast at the beginning of August, and there has been a pattern this year of the GFS (the U.S.’s long-range weather forecast model) overdoing the strength of lows in the days before they arrive.  I am not inclined to buy into a strong trough unless I see it materialize, but it’s always best not to count anything out, either.

Emily is probably too far south and west to have a land-free recurvature (“fish storm”) path.  It’s not impossible, but it is unlikely.  It simply took too long to develop for that to be the most likely track.


What’s the model spread?

Models generally have clustered around the state of Florida as of Monday evening, with the NOGAPS (U.S. Navy model) farthest west and the GFDL farthest east.  The NOGAPS is showing an implied strike on the Florida panhandle (it has Emily stalling in the Gulf and not making final landfall within a 7-day period), and the GFDL shows a “fish storm” recurvature.  It is important to observe that this trend for the GFDL is relatively new; until the past 24 hours or so, that model was showing a strike on the East Coast of Florida and the HWRF model was showing a recurvature.  Now that has reversed itself.  In the meantime, the NOGAPS has been consistent in its Gulf track.  Consistency alone is not a reason to support a model’s output, but it is generally indicative of a model’s having a better grip on the environment than one that is prone to the “windshield wiper effect.”


Is the Gulf Coast at risk?

Short answer:  yes, but it’s not set in stone.  As of now, I still would say that the Florida peninsula is most likely to get hit, but the Gulf is a definite possibility, especially if Emily is weakened by interaction with land and/or the trough is weak.

Several forecasts indicate that the storm will remain weak for long enough to stay south and get into the Gulf of Mexico before making the recurvature.  This is not a fluke, or a one-off from some model; it has been a solution for the NOGAPS, Canadian, and UK several times over the past two days.  Furthermore, models such as the HWRF have been hinting at a Florida East Coast strike at a perpendicular angle, indicating a strengthening ridge that would force Emily westward again.  While these models do not go out far enough yet to indicate what would become of Emily after the Florida strike, entry into the Gulf (in a weakened state) is certainly possible in this scenario.


90L: Weak and Into the Gulf

The area of interest in the Atlantic, 90L, has become more likely to enter the Gulf of Mexico.  After a time yesterday when it was trying to spin up, the system has stayed weak and is now beginning to encounter land.  This land interaction will keep 90L weak as it passes through the Caribbean, making it even more likely to avoid the weakness in the Bermuda High that will be created by a trough.  90L currently has an area of moderate 700 mb to 850 mb vorticity associated with its convection.  This area of vorticity is what currently passes for a circulation.

It is important to note that, even though the current state of the system is less organized than yesterday and the National Hurricane Center has lowered its percentage of becoming a tropical cyclone in the next 48 hours (which I would completely agree with), 90L has gained additional model support for its long-term development prospects.  The cyclone-specific HWRF model was on board with 90L yesterday, taking it just south of Cuba and bringing it to 60 mph by the time it passes by.  Today the HWRF keeps the system even farther south, intensifies 90L to a Category 1 hurricane, and sends it into the Yucatan.  Additionally, the GFDL cyclone model, which was not doing anything at all with 90L yesterday, is today showing a Category 2 hurricane striking the Yucatan.  I think that is overdoing it, personally, but this system is showing indications of going into the Gulf of Mexico and intensifying then.

In recent hours, it has become possible that 90L is experiencing a center reformation.  The center has been located in the part of the system that is now south of Puerto Rico.  However, increased convection just south of Hispaniola (Fig. 1) is changing the polarity of the system, as is evident in upper-level divergence charts (Fig. 2).  This convection is likely associated with the mountains and therefore does not indicate improvement in the tropical structure of 90L.  However, if the center reforms to the northwest, this will throw a great deal of uncertainty into even the survival of 90L, as it will come much closer to the destructive mountains of Hispaniola and Cuba.  If the reformation does not occur, we are looking at a track like that of the GFDL and HWRF.  For my part, I am finding it hard to get on board with a center reformation over a more destructive environment that will make it hard for existing centers to stay together, let alone new ones to form, but time will tell.

One more important point to note for the GFDL model run is the strong ridge that would, in that scenario, serve to block 90L from moving north after it enters the Gulf.  The blocking ridge does not extend that far west in the HWRF run, making a Central Gulf landfall possible.

In summary:  90L is in a state of transition at present, and the outcome of a number of possibilities will determine its fate.  If the center reforms to the northwest, the GFDL and HWRF tracks should not be considered because they assume the present center.  The result of a reformation would be more land interaction, which means a weak system, delays in development, and the possibility of complete dissipation.  If the center does not reform, the GFDL and HWRF scenarios are in play, opening the doors for a significantly stronger system (and it should be noted that those models only go out to 126 hours, and have the system as an organized hurricane or near-hurricane in the middle of 90°F waters and low shear).  The ultimate landfalling location of 90L will then depend on the strength and extent of the ridge.

Figure 1: Rainbow-enhanced infrared image of 90L, Saturday evening.

Figure 2: Upper-level divergence over 90L.

A Tropical System For the Gulf To Watch

A tropical wave, designated 90L by the National Hurricane Center, is worthy of being watched by the Gulf Coast states. This system is arguably the first tropical system of real interest to the Gulf states in the U.S., as Tropical Storm Arlene was regarded as a Mexican storm (correctly so) almost from its inception, and Tropical Storms Bret and Cindy were never a threat to any land areas.  However, 90L is in a situation that will strongly favor its reaching the Gulf of Mexico, where conditions are favorable for development.

The system has been steadily increasing its convection over the course of the day, and with this increase has come an improvement in its cyclonic structure.  Cyclonic curvature is evident on satellite (Fig. 1), and upper-level divergence (Fig. 2) indicates good ventilation for the system.  Lower-level convergence (not shown) is not so impressive, indicating that the system needs to form a strong low-level circulation to be considered a tropical cyclone.  This is usually the last step that developing tropical cyclones take.

90L is in a simple steering regime, being located south of the Bermuda High.  In about 3 days, a trough associated with a cyclone is expected to be located off the East Coast of the U.S., eroding the high somewhat.  It was previously assumed that this temporary weakening of the ridge would result in 90L being drawn north for a recurvature.  However, recently, it has become likely that the trough will be weaker than previously believed.  90L is also expected to take longer to develop owing to shear and likely land interaction.  The net result will be a stronger ridge and a weaker tropical system, and the consensus is that 90L will be forced into the Gulf of Mexico (Fig. 3).

90L will have to pass through an area of 20-knot wind shear (Fig. 3, Fig. 4), which is moderate, but will inhibit strengthening for as long as the system is located under that wind regime.  The GFS model does not indicate a sharp spike in wind shear over the course of 90L’s trek toward the Gulf of Mexico.

Unless the expected path drastically changes, 90L should enter the Gulf in about four or five days.  Models are unreliable for storms like this in the long range, and it should be noted that some of the models, like the GFS, are not particularly impressed with this system in the first place.  However, the cyclone-specific model HWRF does develop 90L into a 60 mph tropical storm, keeping it south of Cuba by the end of its run (126 hours out).  For my part, I am disinclined to accept a forecast of zero land interaction at this point.  However, the salient point is that any interaction with Cuba or Hispaniola will have a profoundly negative effect on 90L’s short-term intensity even if it becomes a tropical storm before reaching those areas, and avoiding those landmasses will result in a stronger cyclone that has not been delayed by a reorganization after being disrupted.

My gut forecast for a week or more out (in other words, break out the salt!) is that this system will become a tropical cyclone of moderate intensity (I’ll say Category 1, max, because of mild levels of shear in the Gulf even though the temperatures are well over 90 degrees in many areas) and that it will make landfall somewhere west of Pensacola.  I will have updates about this system if it continues to be a concern.

Figure 1: Shortwave infrared satellite of 90L, late Friday night

Figure 2: Upper-level divergence for 90L, late Friday night

Figure 3: Google Earth overlay of model tracks and shear for 90L, late Friday night

Figure 4: Wind shear tendency, late Friday night

Ringing In the 2011 Hurricane Season

I think it’s safe to say that I am joined by a substantial part of the Southeast and Midwest in bidding a very loud “GOOD RIDDANCE” to the 2011 spring severe weather season, even as a student meteorologist. This season took a toll on me in a way that I honestly did not expect. It is painful to watch such atmospheric carnage unfold when the career you have embarked upon, whether as a forecaster or a research scientist, is intended to minimize such tragedies. Even when it is fairly universally recognized that the disaster was not in any way the fault of meteorologists, that only leaves a sense of helplessness. So yes, I am quite ready to say “good riddance” to the tornadoes, at least in this particular corner of the world, for a few months. The Southeast, along with much of the rest of the East, is embroiled in a heat wave at the moment, a fairly sure sign that a summer pattern has taken hold. On that cue, enter hurricane season. Hurricanes were my first atmospheric “love” and even the season of 2005 did not change this for me. It is with a sense of excitement that I start opening up my tropical web browser bookmarks regularly again.

I don’t see a lot of point in making a specific numerical forecast for this year’s hurricane season. Suffice it to say that my best guesses that I formed in winter are unchanged, and that I expect an active season with a higher-than-average chance of American strikes, unlike last season. I am not expecting a transition to El Niño, which would tamp down activity in the Atlantic, but I am not entirely sold on the expectation that the ENSO state will remain neutral throughout the season.  I think there are close to even odds that it will begin to return to La Niña conditions again by autumn, albeit milder than those of last winter.  However, either pattern will promote tropical activity.

Did I mention checking tropics-related web bookmarks once more?  Well, it turns out that the Atlantic basin is following the “official” calendar right on schedule, so I have reason to look at the tropics regularly already.  There is a disturbance in the Caribbean Sea that is the first really interesting possibility for tropical development.

Here is an image of how this disturbance looked at 11:00 PM Thursday night:

For reference, here is a true visible satellite image of the same disturbance a few hours earlier, which shows the mid- to low-level circulation of this system better:

There are two “blobs” in the Caribbean, but the first image makes it clear that the one to watch is the one closer to Central America. That is the one that, according to loops of visible satellite images, has visible rotation occurring, and it is analyzed as a low pressure center in official maps:

The area of convection to its east is associated with a tropical wave that is expected to merge with the low, adding energy and moisture to the brew.

This system is interesting for so early in the season because it has some atmospheric variables in its favor despite the calendar. The low has been developing low-level convergence (winds drawing together) and upper-level divergence, both of which are conducive for tropical cyclogenesis, though these areas of convergence and divergence need to become better aligned with each other:

As the images indicate, the area of convergence is the chief culprit in the misalignment. The divergence is occurring above the area of convection, indicating that the low is developing a system for ventilating itself.

An analysis of vorticity shows that the system has positive vorticity at the 850 and 700 mb levels and that the two levels are basically aligned, which in a tropical cyclone (or proto-cyclone) is positive for development:

850 mb vorticity

700 mb vorticity

Shear is all right above the system but not especially favorable in the surrounding environment:

This is no surprise for this early in the season, but the National Hurricane Center expects the environment to become more favorable for this system in the next couple of days. An examination of the GFS model indicates that they are probably correct in this expectation; though shear is expected to be prohibitive of any tropical activity in the Gulf of Mexico, it is supposed to lighten up around the low pressure center.

Incidentally, the GFS doesn’t seem to do much with this cyclone other than letting it churn in place. Don’t expect a hurricane out of this! At best, I’d say it might rate a tropical depression. It is primarily an interesting feature to watch for so early in the season, a harmless storm that we tornado-weary weather folk can observe without anxiety. Tropical cyclogenesis is a fascinating, somewhat mysterious, and awe-inspiring phenomenon, and instances like this that are not the classic “Cape Verde wave in September starts to spin in the middle of the Atlantic” pattern are particularly interesting because the process of genesis for them is not cut-and-dry like the well-known central Atlantic tropical wave process is. This system may very well be a harbinger, but that remains to be seen. For now, it’s a neat feature to watch.

Getting Ready: An Early Preview of the 2010 Hurricane Season

From the point of view of a snow lover, it was an excellent winter. But that is now long over for those of us in the Eastern United States. Many areas have already hit 90°F! Here in MS we have not, but I anticipate that some spot in the Gulf Coast states will reach this wretched milestone early in May.

Before I get to the topic about a future event, I feel compelled to talk about one closer to the present. Severe weather season is upon us, though it is off to a slow start. The Southeastern states are arguably past the springtime peak and seem to have gotten off quite light, but we must not forget that it is the months of May and June when so many major tornado disasters have occurred. Jarrell, TX… Moore, OK… the May 2003 outbreak sequence… Greensburg, KS… Parkersburg, IA… those are all F5 or EF5 events except for 2003 (and even it had a tornado that was considered by some to have been underrated as F4). The list goes on, and it does not require an EF5 tornado to do massive, tragic damage. But it is very difficult to forecast severe weather more than a few days in advance, let alone a month or more.

Hurricane season is a different matter, and it is quite possible to make long-range forecasts about the overall activity level of a particular season, especially now that we are merely a month and a half away from the beginning of the Atlantic season. 2010’s hurricane season is not, I believe, going to be anything at all like 2009’s.

The strong El Nino event that gave the Eastern U.S. such a cold and snowy winter (and killed off much Atlantic hurricane activity) is fading fast. The majority of ENSO models predict a return to ENSO-neutral conditions by the June-July-August period (link: PDF).

However, El Nino has left its mark. As is typical following a significant El Nino event, sea surface temperatures in the eastern Atlantic are well above average, and in fact, the anomalies for this year are greater than the anomalies in April of 2005, a year that had record heat across the ocean. In the far eastern part of the ocean, there are areas that are already at 30°C.

Apr. 12, 2010:

Apr. 12, 2005:

Note: All graphics in this post are created by NOAA and are therefore public domain. I have downloaded the graphics current for 04/12/2010 to my server to avoid taking U.S. Government bandwidth. Links to the pages where these graphics were found will not point to the same images at dates in the future.

If this continues and shear decreases as expected, this year may be quite good for long-tracked Cape Verde systems. Indeed, these temperatures are apparently a record in terms of warmth.

The Gulf of Mexico is below average, but this is because of the cold winter. With surface temperatures reaching into the upper 70s and low 80s in the Gulf states for the foreseeable future, and little cloudiness to moderate the effect, it’s likely that this body of water will warm up. Indeed, observing the sea surface temperature anomaly maps for the past few weeks indicates that this warmup is occurring already.

A limiting factor at present may be wind shear, which is above the climatological average:

(Link takes you to the current shear map on NOAA.)

This will continue to be a limiting factor for cyclone development if it persists into the early season. However, as the El Nino fades, shear should decrease. Indeed, the current above-average level of wind shear may only be a temporary event, as overall it has been below average for much of the past several months:

(Link takes you to the current shear graph on NOAA.)

The Bermuda High, an area of high pressure that extends to the western Atlantic, is not yet established. The location of this feature will be important to watch, as it determines whether long-tracked Cape Verde hurricanes tend to strike land—and what landmasses that they strike—or recurve to sea. The farther west it goes, the more likely that such hurricanes will hit a coastline, but too far west and storms tend to be steered south of the United States, as was the case in 2007.

In short: Sea surface temperatures are likely not going to be a problem in 2010. I think the features to watch, here in the pre-season, will be the evolution of ENSO, the location of the Bermuda High, the warmup of the Gulf and far western Atlantic near the Bahamas, and the levels of wind shear as compared to climatology. If the ENSO level decreases to neutral by the peak of the season and shear decreases to the climatological average (and these two factors are very intimately connected, I should note), but sea surface temperatures continue to remain high, I fully expect to see some beasts brewed up and for “Category 5” to make a reappearance in this basin for the first time since 2007.

Unless the ENSO prediction models are mostly wrong, the Atlantic coasts are not going to get off light this year. It’s impossible yet to determine what areas are likely to be targeted, since we do not know how far west that the Bermuda High will set up, but at present I would go out on a limb and say that somebody is in for a bad year. It’s time to start getting ready.

The blob race is on

Our three invests have been intensifying all day. All of them have developed banding features and notable rotation. The race is on to see which one is deemed TD 12 first.

96L is a massive system. The cyclonic rotation is very evident on it and I am surprised that it hasn’t been called a TD yet. The size of this storm’s rotation could be an impediment to rapid development, as well as its latitude.

97L has made quite the comeback today from the exposed swirl it was earlier. Models take this to a hurricane, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it happen.

94L is sheared on the west side, but it too has put on a burst of convection today. It seems headed for Mexico and doesn’t appear likely to have the chance to develop into a powerful system.


Well, the Atlantic has awakened from dormancy once again. We have four features to track, three of which are a potential threat.

First, Subtropical Storm Jerry got named today. Its satellite photos show a classic subtropical storm. It is forecast to develop tropical features before merging with an extratropical system. I’m not sold on the tropical transition happening, but whether it does or not, it’ll provide extra energy to the system it is merging with and may prove to be a threat to shipping interests if it develops into a nasty high seas cold-core storm. Either way, it’s heading out.

Closer to home is 94L in the Gulf of Mexico, and the computer models are taking this one anywhere and everywhere, although it should be noted that none of them take it farther northeast than Texas. The SHIPS forecasts it to become a hurricane. I would disregard this if not for the inconvenient little fact of Humberto. Shear in the Western Gulf is forecast to be high, though, so SHIPS may indeed be out to lunch. At the moment the system doesn’t look like much; it would have to get organized soon to reach that intensity. On the whole, I’d deem this a rainmaker for Texas–which is unfortunate, as it does not need it.

Next is 96L, in my opinion, the most interesting. This one is looking good, with banding already showing up in the satellites. 96L is a potential Cape Verde system located in the Atlantic, and any interaction with land is many days away… however, SHIPS forecasts it to be a major hurricane by the time it reaches the Caribbean. I see nothing in the short term to prevent this from happening and expect this system to develop. Models are in agreement on a WNW track, with the global models forecasting a more NWly bend at the end, but the GFDL keeping it going WNW. At this point it’s tough to tell whether it will recurve at sea. For some reason, the HWRF and GFDL don’t develop this system beyond a tropical storm, but I think this is unrealistic, and am thus disinclined to put a lot of trust in their current solutions, including track, which at this time of year is very dependent on the strength of the system. The bottom line, keep an eye out. This one could be an East Coaster. Not saying it will, of course, but I want to point out the possibilities.

97L is in the Central Atlantic and is forecast by the models to enter the Caribbean. This one was recently declared and currently doesn’t look so hot, although better than 94L. If it wants to become anything, it needs to get its act together before it hits the infamous “dead zone” in the Caribbean. I’m unable to pull up model runs for this system yet. However, if it does develop, it seems that it is likely to go south of the big shear masses that are forecast to develop over the Caribbean.

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.