Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 7:43 PM GMT on September 03, 2009
Tropical Storm Erika has weakened steadily this afternoon, and has not generated any sustained winds of tropical storm force (39 mph) at any weather stations in the Lesser Antilles Islands today, according to our wundermap for the region. Erika has dumped some heavy rain on the islands, with 8.03" of rain measured on Dominica over the past two days. The Hurricane Hunters are in the storm now, and have thus far found top winds of 36 mph at the surface and at their flight level of 1000 feet. Radar animations out of Martinique show that the areal coverage and intensity of rain echoes has diminished greatly since this morning, and IR satellite loops also show a major decrease in heavy thunderstorm activity. Visible satellite images (Figure 1) show that the low-level center has become exposed to view, and there is very little heavy thunderstorm activity near Erika's center. Erika is probably just a tropical depression now.
Figure 1. Visible satellite image of Erika showing the exposed swirl of its low-level center southeast of Puerto Rico.
The forecast for Erika
Erika is headed west, in defiance of most of the computer models that predicted a northwest or west-northwest track. Regardless, Erika's track will take the storm into a band of significantly higher wind shear of 25 - 35 knots, Friday through Saturday. Considering that Erika is steadily weakening and is barely alive now, the storm should dissipate by Saturday, and perhaps much sooner. Erika's remains will still be capable of dumping very heavy rains of 3 - 5 inches over the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and the northern Lesser Antilles Islands, and 1 - 3 inches over Haiti and the Southeast Bahamas over the next few days. However, the recent decrease of Erika's heavy thunderstorms makes lower rainfall totals more probable. By Monday, when the remains of Erika should have penetrated through the band of high wind shear over the Greater Antilles, shear may fall low enough to allow redevelopment. This is a scenario offered by the NOGAPS and GFS models. The other models predict quite a bit more shear in the region, and I believe any redevelopment of Erika early next week is unlikely. The GFDL and HWRF models continue to insist that Erika will head northwest, brush off the high shear, and intensify into a Category 2 hurricane five days from now.
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Elsewhere in the Atlantic
A large, strong tropical wave with plenty of spin emerged from the coast of Africa this morning. The wave is not yet generating much in the way of heavy thunderstorms, but has the potential to gradually develop into a tropical depression by early next week. NHC is giving this wave a low (less than 30% chance) of developing into a tropical depression by Saturday. The GFS model continues to predict development of this wave into a tropical depression early next week.
I'll have an update Friday.
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