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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Quoting cchsweatherman:


Just because convection may be increasing, it doesn't mean its strengthening. Its got such a poor low-level structure that it doesn't matter how much convection it has. You need to have a defined low-level structure in order to have a strengthening system and its really lacking that at this time. Wouldn't surprise me to see this be downgraded to a tropical depression at 5pm unless it can start developing a nice low-level circulation structure.

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.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
truecajun, my apologies - you're dead on correct. Italian flag it is. (Also Mexican colors - but hey, they both speak Latin-based languages - no accounting for similarities, though ;)
709. JLPR
Quoting fmbill:


Oops, sorry. I thought you meant the tropical wave from yesterday by Cape Verde.

The blob at 45 is just activity within the ITCZ.


and it has a full LLC =P
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 36 Comments: 5223
Quoting Cotillion:
It's Italian.


very good..
Member Since: August 18, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 157
Quoting hydrus:
French? ...just a guess.


it's italian. my bad
Member Since: August 24, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1867
Quoting Chiggy007:
Anyone see anything developing from that mass of convection around 45W south of 10N...

Thoughts??


Oops, sorry. I thought you meant the tropical wave from yesterday by Cape Verde.

The blob at 45 is just activity within the ITCZ.
Member Since: May 27, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 455
It's Italian.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
shes stationary with sporatic moment and jumping convective cells lack organization mainly surviving on downdrafts causing updrafts to maintain convection that is failing to inilize into a more organize feature and may collapse altogether overtime as energy is taken from the surface with little movement over new surface conditionsthis may be its final outcome moreso if it begins land interaction to cause even more disruption to the feature
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting StormW:


I'll get back with you. I have to start my analysis. Then I'll have some answers for everyone here.


Thank you!! :)
Member Since: September 1, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 672
701. Chiggy007
5:07 PM GMT on September 02, 2009
Too much SAL?...there ain't any at that location...in fact in the whole ATL - relatively speaking.. not sure where you get that from..?! :)
700. keys33070
5:07 PM GMT on September 02, 2009
Where is that penguin?
699. Barbados
5:07 PM GMT on September 02, 2009
Quoting JLPR:


I did notice the NHC mentions it as a wave
TROPICAL WAVE EXTENDS FROM 16N40W TO 8N37W MOVING W 10-15 KT.
THIS WAVE REMAINS ILL-DEFINED AS IT HAS DRY AIR INTRODUCED AS
INDICATED BY TOTAL PRECIPITABLE WATER IMAGERY. WAVE IS ALSO
EMBEDDED WITHIN SAHARAN DUST THUS LIMITING ANY SHOWERS OR
CONVECTION.


But the latest quickscat says it has a very nice, closed LLC


I don't understand it myself.
Member Since: August 9, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 253
698. apocalyps
5:06 PM GMT on September 02, 2009
Quoting justalurker:
can we say that the RIP of erika hour is over,

now back to hurricane 1 status for next hour..


It is a Texas flag
Member Since: May 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 960
697. JLPR
5:06 PM GMT on September 02, 2009
Quoting MelbourneTom:


Looks like it is going nowhere right now.


I dont trust that :|
last night it was saying 17N while the storm was at 16N so bahh T_T
we need the HH to tells us where the real center is
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 36 Comments: 5223
696. cchsweatherman
5:06 PM GMT on September 02, 2009
Quoting eddye:
dude the convention growing hurricane 23


Just because convection may be increasing, it doesn't mean its strengthening. Its got such a poor low-level structure that it doesn't matter how much convection it has. You need to have a defined low-level structure in order to have a strengthening system and its really lacking that at this time. Wouldn't surprise me to see this be downgraded to a tropical depression at 5pm unless it can start developing a nice low-level circulation structure.
Member Since: April 14, 2007 Posts: 8 Comments: 5169
695. homelesswanderer
5:06 PM GMT on September 02, 2009
Quoting PSL2007:
So if the system remains weakened or even degrades to a TD, then the chances are Erika may wind up in the GOM or is there supposed to be a trough that will ensure it stays out?

has stormW commented today? Is there a way to delete this avatar?


Lol. Don't know about a trough. But when I changed my avatar I had to completely delete my other one from the site. Then upload a new one and it finally gave me the option again to make it an avatar. Nothing else worked til then. :) good luck
Member Since: August 15, 2008 Posts: 10 Comments: 3665
693. cdnbananabelt
5:06 PM GMT on September 02, 2009
Quoting truecajun:


oh, well then what flag is it?


Just Googled - it's the Mexican flag colors without the central symbol.
692. justalurker
5:06 PM GMT on September 02, 2009
can we say that the RIP of erika hour is over,

now back to hurricane 1 status for next hour..
Member Since: August 18, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 157
691. CaribbeanWave
5:05 PM GMT on September 02, 2009
I know Erika is going to pass right over St. Croix. I just have a bad feeling about this. I posted earlier that she will follow the same path as Tropical Storm Jeanne in 2004.
Member Since: July 17, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 78
690. hydrus
5:05 PM GMT on September 02, 2009
Quoting justalurker:


what other flag has those colors? come on you can do it? think..
French? ...just a guess.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21200
689. fmbill
5:05 PM GMT on September 02, 2009
Quoting Chiggy007:
Anyone see anything developing from that mass of convection around 45W south of 10N...

Thoughts??


Too much SAL. Just a low level swirl.
Member Since: May 27, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 455
688. PanhandleChuck
5:06 PM GMT on September 02, 2009
Quoting EarthMuffin:


I was alive and well, actually, though my mom still picked my clothes out for me in the morning. LOL That tornado obliterated Newton Falls and Niles... If you drive through NF you can still see the trees that got ripped down. Kind of creepy.


I was playing basketball that afternoon. I didn't have much to worry about, just graduated from Ursuline. I told my friend that there was going to be some bad weather later on in the day. He laughed and said you're crazy, it's 85 and sunny. I said mark my word. He called after seeing the evening news that night and he asked how'd I know that. I said I could smell it in the air.
Member Since: May 13, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1412
687. connie1976
5:04 PM GMT on September 02, 2009
StormW,

don't you think that the storm is going to be an open wave soon? and if not...don't you think DR is going to make it an open wave then?
Member Since: September 1, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 672
686. hydrus
5:04 PM GMT on September 02, 2009
Quoting btwntx08:

erika is stronger and cirucation so she will eat up that wave for lunch or dinner
lol!..Like a pac-man game.If Erika goes much further west, would,nt that put the storm in the extreme N.E. Caribbean sea?
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21200
685. apocalyps
5:03 PM GMT on September 02, 2009
Quoting eddye:
look at all convention growing

agree,that convention is impressive.
Member Since: May 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 960
684. pearlandaggie
5:03 PM GMT on September 02, 2009
Quoting truecajun:


oh, well then what flag is it?


looks like an Italian flag......
Link
Member Since: September 14, 2007 Posts: 3 Comments: 3963
683. justalurker
5:03 PM GMT on September 02, 2009
Quoting truecajun:


oh, well then what flag is it?


what other flag has those colors? come on you can do it? think..
Member Since: August 18, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 157
681. truecajun
5:03 PM GMT on September 02, 2009
Quoting truecajun:


oh, well then what flag is it?


oh, it's Italian.
Member Since: August 24, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1867
680. Chiggy007
5:02 PM GMT on September 02, 2009
Anyone see anything developing from that mass of convection around 45W south of 10N...

Thoughts??
679. truecajun
5:02 PM GMT on September 02, 2009
Quoting pearlandaggie:


that's not a Mexican flag...trust me, we have plenty of them here in Houston!


oh, well then what flag is it?
Member Since: August 24, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1867
678. eddye
5:02 PM GMT on September 02, 2009
look at all convention growing
Member Since: August 12, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1272
677. homelesswanderer
5:01 PM GMT on September 02, 2009
Quoting EarthMuffin:


Did I suggest otherwise? Catch me if I'm wrong, but I believe I have said all along it appears to be a N/S Carolina or otherwise East Coast storm. But in my *opinion* (which is a logical guess, just like everyone else), it will either dissipate or strengthen, shifting north.

By the way, I am "socially handicapped", so if I appear rude, I dont intend to, I just have very poor social skills. Seriously...and sorry...


NP. You're doing a great job.
Member Since: August 15, 2008 Posts: 10 Comments: 3665
676. fmbill
5:01 PM GMT on September 02, 2009
Quoting hurricane23:


Yea it also had Bill as a cat 7 in new orleans.


LOL!!!

I love it when people come in my office and ask, "where is it going?" I ask them, "where would you like it to go? I'm sure there is a model that says it is going there." :-)

Member Since: May 27, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 455
675. eddye
5:01 PM GMT on September 02, 2009
dude the convention growing hurricane 23
Member Since: August 12, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1272
673. MelbourneTom
5:01 PM GMT on September 02, 2009


Looks like it is going nowhere right now.
Member Since: June 2, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 619
672. justalurker
5:01 PM GMT on September 02, 2009
Quoting bluewaterblues:


A convention is a gathering of friends or associattes.



i cant take this anymore..LMAO!!
Member Since: August 18, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 157
671. EarthMuffin
5:00 PM GMT on September 02, 2009
Quoting PanhandleChuck:
.

LOL

Were you there in 85 when the tornadoes ripped through that area? .... Ah never mind, you probably weren't even born yet. LOL


I was alive and well, actually, though my mom still picked my clothes out for me in the morning. LOL That tornado obliterated Newton Falls and Niles... If you drive through NF you can still see the trees that got ripped down. Kind of creepy.
670. hurricane23
5:00 PM GMT on September 02, 2009
Quoting eddye:
this looks like a 60 mph storm


Barely at TS.
Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13787
669. truecajun
5:00 PM GMT on September 02, 2009
Quoting EarthMuffin:


Did I suggest otherwise? Catch me if I'm wrong, but I believe I have said all along it appears to be a N/S Carolina or otherwise East Coast storm. But in my *opinion* (which is a logical guess, just like everyone else), it will either dissipate or strengthen, shifting north.

By the way, I am "socially handicapped", so if I appear rude, I dont intend to, I just have very poor social skills. Seriously...and sorry...


that's funny. it's good to embrace and acknowledge. i appreciate that. not that you were ever "rude" to me. i just love it when people embrace their handicaps (nerdiness.....whatever)
Member Since: August 24, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1867
668. BurnedAfterPosting
4:59 PM GMT on September 02, 2009
Quoting poknsnok:


I agree with you. how the heck does one guy see this blob gett it together and others like mee see a waning system.. I got a dollar that says TD in the morning..


That isnt the real center of the system, as Dr M posted above
667. PSL2007
4:59 PM GMT on September 02, 2009
So if the system remains weakened or even degrades to a TD, then the chances are Erika may wind up in the GOM or is there supposed to be a trough that will ensure it stays out?

has stormW commented today? Is there a way to delete this avatar?
666. bluewaterblues
4:59 PM GMT on September 02, 2009
Quoting eddye:
erika looks like it developing convention


A convention is a gathering of friends or associattes.
Member Since: August 6, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 164
665. LUCARIO
4:59 PM GMT on September 02, 2009
Quoting fmbill:
Erika...over the Keys next Tuesday?!

12z GFS 144hour



I see fred and grace

I think Grace is going to be just as major as erika.

FRED is bill part 2

grace ike part 2
664. taco2me61
4:59 PM GMT on September 02, 2009
Quoting connie1976:
now, if I am correct and this storm doesn't become much of anything...what do I get?

With all due respect
"You will get the cardboard Blog of the Day"

Taco :0)
Member Since: July 7, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 3261
663. eddye
4:59 PM GMT on September 02, 2009
this looks like a 60 mph storm
Member Since: August 12, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1272
661. hurricane23
4:59 PM GMT on September 02, 2009
Quoting fmbill:
Erika...over the Keys next Tuesday?!

12z GFS 144hour



Yea it also had Bill as a cat 7 in new orleans.
Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13787

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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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