Tropical Storm Erika's future highly uncertain

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:21 PM GMT on September 02, 2009

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The tropical wave we were calling Invest 94 finally decided to stop dawdling and become Tropical Storm Erika yesterday. However, Erika seems intent upon keeping us guessing about its intentions, as the storm's future track and intensity remain highly uncertain. After a modest burst of intensification to a 60 mph tropical storm last night, Erika has become quite disorganized this morning. The Hurricane Hunters found multiple swirling centers inside Erika early this morning, and the main center took a jump to the southwest to relocate itself under a batch of intense thunderstorms. The exact location and path of Erika remain uncertain at this point, and it is possible the storm will have another center relocation later today. Wind shear analyses from the University of Wisconsin diagnose a moderate 10 - 15 knots of shear over Erika, a decrease from yesterday. SSTs are warm, 29°C. Why, then, is Erika so disorganized? The trouble with the various wind shear analyses we use is that they take a crude average of winds over a thick layer to arrive at an average shear, and this large-scale average shear does not capture thin layers of shear that can dramatically affect a tropical cyclone. Upper air data from Guadeloupe and Saint Martin from last night show a complicated shear pattern in Erika's region, with 30 knot winds out of the south to southwest at 200 mb height, nearly calm winds between 300 - 500 mb, and northeasterly winds of 10 - 20 knots from the surface to 500 mb. Some extremely dry air with humidities near 10% was present in a thin layer near 600 mb on the Guadeloupe sounding, so dry air from the Saharan Air Layer is probably being injected by a northeasterly jet of wind into the core of Erika. The shear of 30 knots at the top of the storm is ripping away the heat and moisture Erika's thunderstorms are lifting there, and the result of the shear and dry air is a very disorganized tropical storm.

Erika is embedded in a weak steering current pattern, and the future track of the storm will depend greatly upon how strong the storm gets over the next few days. A stronger Erika will extend higher into the atmosphere and be steered more to the northwest by upper-level winds. A weaker Erika will be steered more by the low-level winds, which will keep the storm on a more westerly track. Given the complicated nature of the wind shear pattern in the region, it is difficult to forecast how strong Erika will get. Virtually anything can happen over the next five days, from dissipation (as forecast by the ECMWF model) to intensification to a Category 3 hurricane (as forecast by the HWRF model). Large-scale wind shear is expected to increase to 20 - 25 knots between 3 - 4 days from now, so Erika will have to deal with an increasing amount of adversity. The storm is a long-term threat to the Bahamas and U.S. East Coast, particularly if the storm stays weak over the next three days. Potential landfall solutions from the models range from Florida on Tuesday (GFS model) to North Carolina on Wednesday (Canadian model).


Figure 1. Morning image of Tropical Storm Erika, showing a false center over Guadaloupe--one of several surface swirls the Hurricane Hunters found in the storm.

Elsewhere in the tropics
The tropical wave off the coast of Africa we were watching on NHC's Tropical Weather Outlook as having a low chance of developing into a tropical depression has been done in by the dry air of the Sahara, and is no longer a threat to develop. A large and well-organized tropical wave will emerge from the coast of Africa on Thursday, and several of the models develop this low into a tropical depression by early next week. The remains of an old cold front off the coast of North Carolina could serve as a breeding ground for some tropical development Friday or Saturday, but anything that forms in this region would get swept quickly northeastward into New England by Sunday without enough time to become a tropical depression.

Hurricane Jimena nears Baja
Hurricane Jimena has steadily weakened over the past day, and is now down to a Category 2 hurricane with 105 mph winds. The storm should continue to steadily weaken over the next 24 hours as the waters under the hurricane cool from 28°C to 27°C. Jimena is battering a relatively unpopulated stretch of coast, and largely spared the tourist mecca on the southern tip of Baja. It now appears unlikely that moisture from Jimena will reach the Southwestern U.S., and the hurricane appears poised to stall out over Baja and die five days from now.


Figure 2. Hurricane Jimena on Tuesday, Sep. 1, 2009, as seen by NASA's MODIS instrument. Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory.

Baja's hurricane history
The most powerful hurricane on record to hit the west coast of Baja occurred last year, when Hurricane Norbert made landfall on the central Baja coast with sustained winds of 105 mph (Category 2) . Norbert's central pressure of 956 mb at landfall made it the 3rd strongest hurricane to hit the Pacific coast of Mexico since record keeping began in 1949. Norbert killed eight, knocked out power to 20,000 homes, and damaged or destroyed 40% of the homes on the islands of Margarita and Magdalena. Norbert crossed the Baja Peninsula and made landfall on Mainland Mexico as a Category 1 hurricane with 85 mph winds.

Only two major hurricanes have made landfall on Baja since record keeping began in 1949. Both hurricanes hit the east (Gulf of California) side of Baja. The first was Hurricane Olivia of 1967. Olivia made landfall on October 13, 1967 as a Category 3 hurricane with 125 mph winds. Due to its small size and the unpopulated region of coast it hit, damage was minimal. The second major hurricane was Hurricane Kiko, which made landfall on August 27, 1989, as a Category 3 hurricane with winds of 115 mph (minimal Category 3). Kiko was a small hurricane and hit a relatively unpopulated area, resulting in no loss of life and only scattered reports of damage.


Figure 3. A plot of all the major hurricanes to pass within 200 miles of Mexico's Baja Peninsula since 1949. Image credit: NOAA Coastal Services Center.

California fire webcams
As I discussed in yesterday morning's post, you can use our wundermap for Los Angeles with the fire layer turned on to see where the fire and smoke are located, and track the temperatures and winds during today's air pollution event. We also have two webcams with views of the fire: Altadena and Tujunga.

I'll have an update by 4pm this afternoon, when the data from the next hurricane hunter flight into Erika will be available.

Jeff Masters

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Hey, keys33070, you asked me a while back what tosspot meant? It comes from middle English and means, pretty much, someone who is addled by drink...recently it's become synonomous with a wanker, who is addled by something else entirely

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810. JRRP
Quoting Weather456:
Good afternoon

what is the weather like 456?
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12 Z Statistical/Simple Models (CLIPER,BAMs,LBAR,other Statistical Models)





12 Z Dynamic Models (More sophisticated models)

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Quoting Drakoen:
The GFDL and GFS 12z may have the best track forecast for this system
Please explain further about those models Drak.
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gentlemen and ladies, i have been reading the post and so far i have yet to agree with any of the synopsis that most have posted, erika is not done storms will fall off thier development some timees during dmin and pick up back when dmax is at its peak,i would not go as far to say it is done, the high presure building to the east will push Erika into the caribbean "no doubt about that" after that who knows this storm is reaally a witch.
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Quoting hurricane23:


Its ok...I already have my shutters up ready for the 15-20kt winds.


Hey, if your going to dish it, expect some in return. Just poking fun is all. Waters are around 31C between the Bahamas and the coast and shear may relax, you never know. I never pull cards off the table before the game is over.
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805. A4Guy
Funny...it looks like there is a force field around the islands that will just not let the thunderstorms through!
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Quoting Drakoen:
The GFDL and GFS 12z may have the best track forecast for this system


Maybe...maybe not, Who cares? This storm is pathetic.
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The latest 12z GFDL run for the first time actually makes some since in my view.

Continues its westward trends.

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802. MahFL
They won't ley me use Firefox at work.....not the wisest decision ever.........
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Quoting Drakoen:
GFDL 12z:

drak does it look like erika will last through the day
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The ignore option is useless when people quote someone that is probably on a lot of users ignore list. They are just looking for attention and some are giving them just what they want. My 2cents
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Quoting Patrap:
Gulf and Tropics (Updated every ~1/2 hour



Thanks for the link. When is that "trough" digging in south of LA and MS supposed to lift out? Looks pretty strong right now.
Member Since: September 2, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 105
Quoting stormsurge39:
Here come the trolls!!


school must of let out early today.
Member Since: August 18, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 157
GFDL 12z:

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Quoting MahFL:
My online scanner at work says Wundergound is infected with a virus.


It is,..malware again in the Frigging Google ads.

I tell ya,,Dr. Masters needs to Kick some of the IT schmucks at wu in the Butt and get them on the Job ASAP.

My Zone Alarm went off Like a Fire was in my LapTop
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Quoting DestinJeff:
a new, never-before seen type of 'caster' ...

Regurgicaster: One whose own thoughts on current/future cyclone status are nothing more than re-packaged (regurgitated) information from other bloggers (or mood of the blog) or official products, with no true reasoning or attempted understanding
I thought we already had one of those called weather student.
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yes there is a colony of american expatroits living in cabo you can find similiar colonies in costa rica pavonnes and another near jaco. thanks for the pictures oz
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The GFDL and GFS 12z may have the best track forecast for this system
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Here come the trolls!!
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Quoting Weather456:
Good afternoon
weather what is your opinion on erika at this time
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Quoting MahFL:
My online scanner at work says Wundergound is infected with a virus.
Get a Mac, or make sure you are using firefox
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HH's still finding TS winds at the surface.

AF309 171630 1746N 06201W 9594 00440 0089 +231 +168 072026 027 036 000 00
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Quoting lurkn4yrs:


Can you stop with the yelling! By the way whats with your user name being posted after every time you type something like if you were Max Mayfield. Its right there we don't need to see it twice.. If you think its done and you want to put a fork in it then do it already and stop wasting space on the blog...



I feel some love here.
Member Since: May 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 960
This thing is getting torn apart *yawns* NEXT
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785. MahFL
JS/Exploit-Packed.c.gen
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783. MahFL
My online scanner at work says Wundergound is infected with a virus.
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Good afternoon
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Aren't the clouds to the Southeast of Erika's CONVECTION a sign of dry, stable air? The ones that look almost like a comb?

I seem to recall that being a sign of dry, stable air...
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Quoting stormno:
the nexy advisory ericka will be dowhgraded to a tropical depression and thats being generous..she is getting sheared all up...ERICKA IS WELL DONE YOU CAN STICKTHE FORK IN HER....Stormno
Stormno how many forks do you have?
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Quoting TheCaneWhisperer:
But people, this is SURELY going out to sea, right. LOL :-)



Its ok...I already have my shutters up ready for the 15-20kt winds.
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Quoting toasterbell:
Sadly, if you go to Pancho's (bad Mexican chain restaurant), that's the flag you raise for a waiter. I figure if they can't get their flag right, I surely won't eat there.

Out of curiosity, let's say it heads west and gets torn up by DR and Haiti. As a remnant low, would it be able to pick itself back up again later, or is getting torn up the end, period?


Depends on all manner of factors...typically once it gets shredded over the DR and Haiti it's over but not necessarily
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777. JRRP
Quoting hurricane23:


Garbage...serious issues intensity wise.

as always... exaggerated intensity
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Quoting Drakoen:
What a difference a day makes. The models now show a stronger ridge of high pressure north of Erika which would prevent the system from recurving out to sea.


So nice to see you on here.. So what do think about models?

Thanks
Brandy
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Quoting 1900hurricane:

That's exactly what happened last night. Erika started blowing off massive amounts of convection, but because the structural organization just wasn't there, Erika couldn't sustain herself, which leads her to her current state: blatantly unhealthy.


So Erika gave herself a "wedgie" in human terms?
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stormsurge look at the surface maps what do you need man a brick bldg to fall on you...ILL SAY THIS AGAIN ERICKA IS HISTORY YOU SHOULD BE TURNING YOUR ATTN TO THE GOM NOW THATS WHERE THE ACTION WILL BE IN 72 HOURS...Stormno
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Quoting TheCaneWhisperer:
But people, this is SURELY going out to sea, right. LOL :-)



yea TCW it is funny reading on here a few days ago when people guaranteed this would be a fish storm
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Gulf and Tropics (Updated every ~1/2 hour

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But people, this is SURELY going out to sea, right. LOL :-)

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Quoting stormno:
the nexy advisory ericka will be dowhgraded to a tropical depression and thats being generous..she is getting sheared all up...ERICKA IS WELL DONE YOU CAN STICKTHE FORK IN HER....Stormno


Can you stop with the yelling! By the way whats with your user name being posted after every time you type something like if you were Max Mayfield. Its right there we don't need to see it twice.. If you think its done and you want to put a fork in it then do it already and stop wasting space on the blog...

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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
no one is downcasting but accepting the possible fact that this may become nothing if current trends continue and may disapte alltogether as indicated by the NHC themselves we have been told not be surprized if she disapates alltogether and thats exactly what she may do


guess we will see, I feel she will survive
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Quoting cdnbananabelt:
BTW, has anyone heard from Oz? He was joining some hurricane chasers yesterday afternoon and heading up the Baja coast. Anyone know when he's planning to check in?


from last night:

I am back.

Sorry for the length...I've got alot to report.

After the beach in Cabo, I left to return to my room to upload pictures to you folks. I had walked from my hotel, and I started walking back.

When I got to the road, for some reason...and I don't know why...I stopped. I stood there for many minutes...and I struggled with my head "why aren't you moving your feet! The hotel is just right up there." But I kept standing and waiting...it was so weird.

After 5 minutes, a car pulled up beside me. It was full of Americans. The guys in front said I looked like a "retar..." standing there with this confused look on my face and some kind of weird helmet suit. So they stopped and asked me if I needed help.

I told them I just had to go to that hotel. What are you doing here they asked. I told them I was intercepting Jimena. GET IN! they all shouted at me.

The hotel was only two blocks away. The older gentleman in front asked me if I needed anything. I replied that the only thing I really needed was a chauffer.

And thus began a great adventure up the western coast of Baha. These two guys who picked me up this afternoon were awesome...and for the first time ever, I actually had fun covering a hurricane.

But there were moments of real fear...and those moments will only be revealed on "Experience Hurricane Jimena."

Finally, and before I show you some pretty cool images from this PM, I need to let you know that Good Morning America has been calling everyone to contact me. My wife, my daughter have gotten calls, plus my yahoo e-mail has a direct email and one sent from YouTube that they visited. (I guess they saw my Dolly video, huh?)

Anyway, they're calling me here at the hotel like anytime now. They want me on tomorrow morning's show.

So, that's all for now. All I say in closing is that no one, except the poor few on the deserted central coast of Baha got any closer today to Jimena than me. I've got compelling footage of another near miss! :)


Update:

GMA called me back and "soft booked" me, and then did not call this AM...no prob...

Looks like I made the news yesterday. MSNBC and all the other internet news outlets had an article where I was both quoted and pictured.

That's how GMA found out about me.

Here are the pics I took from Cerritos Beach last evening....

Waves crashing into the point at Cerritos Beach


View of the eastern edge of Hurricane Jimena from Cerritos Beach, 7:15 PM local - Tropical Force Winds Were Present


Cerritos Beach Webcam - That was the internet place to be today!!! Were any of you on it? :)
The owner was pretty proud of it! His pride and joy on this day...I can imagine. Best webcam available for Jimena! Wow!



The Cerritos Beach Surf Club. I met the locals today. They are a proud and aloof bunch of local pro surfers. The quote of the day came from one of them: "Famous don't mean s**t here."
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Quoting BurnedAfterPosting:
let the downcasting begin lol


oh well
no one is downcasting but accepting the possible fact that this may become nothing if current trends continue and may disapte alltogether as indicated by the NHC themselves we have been told not be surprized if she disapates alltogether and thats exactly what she may do
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Quoting stormsurge39:
Its amazing how anybody right now, thinks that Erika is definitely done!!!!! Look at her boxing record people! Shes good for more rounds! You can bet on it!!


With that kind of convention i give her another 10 days.
Member Since: May 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 960
catch y'all later.
Member Since: August 24, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1867
Quoting apocalyps:
Erika is not done yet.
It has a lot of convention.
...LOL
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Quoting rwdobson:
Right now "downcasting" is what's supported by all the available data. Nothing's over till it's over, but there is no real reason to predict any strengthening any time soon.


I believe recon will find her to be stronger than the 11am.

Modified for clarification.
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Its amazing how anybody right now, thinks that Erika is definitely done!!!!! Look at her boxing record people! Shes good for more rounds! You can bet on it!!
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Quoting rwdobson:
Right now "downcasting" is what's supported by all the available data. Nothing's over till it's over, but there is no real reason to predict any strengthening any time soon.


The majority of the forecast models still call for strengthening close to hurricane force
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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