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Tropical Train is leaving the station...
Submitted by Tim Buckley on Wed, 08/17/2011 - 8:27am.
All aboard! The tropical wave train has started and will pick up steam in a big way by next week. Already, some of our computer models are going crazy spinning up huge hurricanes slamming into the US. Inside the weather community, many are buzzing about one potential big storm affecting somewhere on the East Coast late next week. Now, there's no reason for alarm just yet, but I'm going to try and sort out what we're looking at right now, what it does mean for us, and what it doesn't mean. Here we go...
Right now the tropical setup doesn't feature any named storms. Gert was a "fish storm" as we call them, and now we're left with countless tropical waves. This doesn't mean that it isn't active out there though -- it is!
The first area of interest lies in the Caribbean. An area of thunderstorms just south of Hispanola has a slight shot at becoming a tropical system in the next few days, but I'm not too keen on what I've seen from this storm so far. The wave continues to go through cycles of development only to weaken again, but lately the model trends have been downward on it's intensity. At this point I'm surprised if it develops into "Harvey", and even if it does - it's of no consequence to us here in the Carolinas.
With the Caribbean out of the way, and the Gulf clear as a bell, that leaves us with the open Atlantic. As any good Carolina Coast resident knows, this is usually where our hurricanes are born. Could it be that one of those is being born right now? We'll have to revisit that question in a few weeks - but it's possible.
As you can see, the "tropical wave train" as I call it is set up and marching across the ocean. One wave is starting to separate itself from the pack right now (cluster underneath the word 'waves'), and is the area I'm most concerned about looking at the next week or so. This wave is currently struggling to organize for a couple of reasons. One, it's a little too far south - systems usually need to be north of 10-deg latitude to get the amount of spin needed to organize. Two, it's battling some dry air from the African continent. Look at this satellite image:
This image shows in orange and red the "Saharan Dust Content" of the air over the Atlantic. Simply put, this is a satellite analysis of where tons of airborne dust particles from the Sahara Desert are flying across the ocean at a given time. As you might guess, dry desert dust is not good for hurricane formation. Our tropical wave is battling that dust to it's north right now.
IF the wave can get a little farther north, and IF it can beat out the dust it's facing right now, things get a little interesting. Several of the main computer models we use for forecasting around the globe say that this wave does develop into a storm by next week. These models are also hinting that it's not just a little storm, but a big storm.
Just to give you an idea of some of the scenarios that are being spit out from the computers, here's an image from this mornings run of the GFS -model (US Global model we use heavily). This puts a major hurricane over the Florida peninsula next Friday.
Here's the CMC-model (Canadian Global Model) for next Friday night.
As you can see, if you take those verbatim, there's major hurricane potential late next week. The question is, does this actually pan out? Over 10 days away from a storm, it's really tough to take anything at its word on placement and timing of a major hurricane. Simply put, we're not that good yet with our technology to be able to pinpoint a storm that far in advance. So -- we don't know when or where a hurricane will make an impact next week.
With that being said -- we can say by looking at these models that there's something in the global pattern right now that suggests intense development is likely in the Atlantic over the next week, especially with this wave in particular. At this point, I'd give the wave a high chance of developing into our first hurricane given these trends.
The only question is where will it go - which is all speculation right now. As it heads northwest, there's a number of equal chance possibilities. It could head straight into Florida, and then re-emerge over the Gulf, it could head out to sea, or it could head up the East Coast and smack us here in the Carolinas. That's what we don't know right now.
Looking at the projected weather pattern, a strong cold front will move through the Eastern US early next week with a sprawling area of high pressure coming in behind. Historically, this has favored hurricane activity in the Southeast, which would make sense for some sort of interaction with a tropical system. This gives me more reason to think these models could be onto something.
Bottom line, if you're into hurricanes and hurricane forecasting - this is your time of year. It will be very interesting to see how this develops in the coming days and weeks ahead as we enter the meat of our tropical season.
By: Tim Buckley