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 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: 13841
she will come back tonight and then crawl towards s or central fl. gonna be a slow mover just hope it isnt fay.
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Welcome EarthMuffin....

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


I as well..so you'll fit right in.

I'll steer ya clear of the Bad uns here.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I will take the cookie!!
(maybe my husband will start listening to me more? lol)
Member Since: September 1, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 672
Quoting truecajun:


do you live in mexico?


that's not a Mexican flag...trust me, i know because we have plenty of them here in Houston!
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Quoting TheCaneWhisperer:


Notice the hook to the west on the end of the run


Oh, yes. I hesitated to comment, lest the inference was that it was heading for Anchorage. I just had to interject a bit of sarcasm here, if I may be so permitted?
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Quoting connie1976:
now, if I am correct and this storm doesn't become much of anything...what do I get?


A Texan cow
Member Since: May 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 960
Quoting PanhandleChuck:


A cookie


LMAO!! best one yet!!!
Member Since: August 18, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 157
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?
Quoting IKE:
12Z GFS puts Erika in the GOM in 180 hours...


Complete 180 from the last run. Where will it go next? Lol. I wouldn't start worrying about models until they come together or show consstancy.
Member Since: August 15, 2008 Posts: 10 Comments: 3665
Quoting fmbill:
Erika...over the Keys next Tuesday?!

12z GFS 144hour




It will never happen -- thats my -------cast
Quoting connie1976:
maybe the problem with this storm is that it isn't really going to be much of a storm?? what do you think?


I think its going to be a monster
more days for the little darlings to be off of school. I see kids being off a school for 3 weeks because of erika
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Quoting Patrap:
Finally..One Year ago today.

2 Sept 2008

And a shout out to the Se. La. River Parishes for a Continued recovery from Gustav.





Finally finished repairs on our home from Gustav, hopefully better prepared for what may come. :)
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Quoting connie1976:
now, if I am correct and this storm doesn't become much of anything...what do I get?


A cookie
Member Since: May 13, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1414
Quoting LariAnn:
Seems to me that, after studying the floater #2 visible and infrared imagery, that the low, which is the essence of Erika, is moving west, out from under the anticyclone, leaving the convection area behind as well. If so, and it it continues, Erika will then be prancing west, totally naked. Does it look that way to anyone else?


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..
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Quoting homelesswanderer:


Hmmmm? Well like I said everyone's got a right to state their opinion. I hope it does dissipate or go out to sea. But you don't know any more than anyone else....PERIOD. :)


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...
now, if I am correct and this storm doesn't become much of anything...what do I get?
Member Since: September 1, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 672
Quoting DestinJeff:
For anyone having trouble with the Ignore Feature .... just figured this out...

You must first "have a blog" before you can use Ignore. Simply click on the Create a Blog link on the screen that pops up after you Ignore a user. Once you do that then you'll have the controls on the right side of the screen to Modify Ignored List, etc...
aha.. thanks! I just put two posters on hide instead for now but will do that!
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Quoting stormpetrol:

I posted the same thing(quikscat) early this morning but got no reply,I guess the NHC doesn't think it will a mount to much.

It doesn't look closed, and actually looks more like a completely open wave - more like a convergence zone at low levels. (it stretches NE/SW). It is also awfully far south for being that far west.
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people on the islands will be very happy with there new big swimmingpool.
Member Since: May 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 960
Erika...over the Keys next Tuesday?!

12z GFS 144hour

Member Since: May 27, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 469
639. eddye
i know that so i guess nobody know what going to happen
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Quoting DestinJeff:


I know you didn't mean it that way ... but re-read that with cold eyes ... pretty funny.


Should read the update I sent through my group on Facebook where I send weather updates.
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Quoting LUCARIO:
erika will end overpopulation


great then we won't need the Science Czar to do that for us
Member Since: August 24, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1867
let see and wait recon on the way to erika
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Quoting IKE:
12Z GFS puts Erika in the GOM in 180 hours...


Now, you've done it. LOL.
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no
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Quoting DestinJeff:
For anyone having trouble with the Ignore Feature .... just figured this out...

You must first "have a blog" before you can use Ignore. Simply click on the Create a Blog link on the screen that pops up after you Ignore a user. Once you do that then you'll have the controls on the right side of the screen to Modify Ignored List, etc...

Thank you! I've never gotten ignore to work.
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 8
632. eddye
erika looks like it developing convention
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Quoting eddye:
what up cchsweatherman do you think this could miss th dominican republic


I really wish you would learn how to comprehend all my comments. When I say "I don't know." that means "I don't know."
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630. JLPR
Quoting stormpetrol:

I posted the same thing(quikscat) early this morning but got no reply,I guess the NHC doesn't think it will a mount to much.


yep Erika is taking all the attention xD
I guess this one might not do much with the grim portrait the NHC paints for it
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 36 Comments: 5223
Quoting justalurker:

??????


your flag.
Member Since: August 24, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1867
IKE, I could have gone all day without seeing that. :p
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maybe the problem with this storm is that it isn't really going to be much of a storm?? what do you think?
Member Since: September 1, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 672
Member Since: May 27, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 469
ERIKA Rapid Dissipation flagged
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56140
Quoting taco2me61:

A little more westerly than they are right now....

Taco :0)




Change in the COC models?
Quoting LUCARIO:
erika will end overpopulation


will it end starvation too?
Member Since: August 18, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 157
620. slavp
Quoting IKE:
12Z GFS puts Erika in the GOM in 180 hours...
And look at the train behind her...
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Quoting Grothar:


This will most likely be revised on their next run. Depending on the re-location of the center of Erika, if it can be determined. (Is re-location the correct word) I know there was a heated debate last night about the use of "curve", "recurve", "recurvature", "recurvaturization" Enjoy the graphic and please do not ask me to explain it. I just post pictures without comment!


Notice the hook to the west on the end of the run
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IKE... how dare you drop "G BOMB"! lol
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Quoting LUCARIO:
erika will end overpopulation


So it is impossible it hits Texas.
Member Since: May 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 960
616. eddye
what up cchsweatherman do you think this could miss th dominican republic
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Quoting EarthMuffin:


Warren. I trust you know where that is. Ironically, I just came back from Youngstown an hour ago...
.

LOL

Were you there in 85 when the tornadoes ripped through that area? .... Ah never mind, you probably weren't even born yet. LOL
Member Since: May 13, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1414
613. Bonz
Wow, they sure blew the shear forecasts. Took them totally off-guard. This storm hasn't done what they expected, that's for sure.

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Organization remains poor at best...

Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 47 Comments: 11709

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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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