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 , 4:56 PM GMT on September 26, 2005
Caribbean tropical disturbance
The main area of concern today is a tropical disturbance in the central Caribbean sea, south of Hispanolia. This disturbance has now split in two, which should slow down its development. Wind shear values have increased this morning over the leading (western) portion of the disturbance, and are now about 10 knots, which is only marginally favorable for a tropical depression to form. The trailing (eastern) portion of the disturbance south of Puerto Rico has less shear (5 - 10 knots) over it, and this portion of the disturbance is showing the greatest growth in deep convection this afternoon. This portion of the disturbance has the best chance of development. The shear is forecast to remain constant or decrease over the next 48 hours as the disturbance tracks west-northwest at 15 mph. While surface pressures have started to fall, there are currently no signs of a surface circulation, and the disturbance is still relatively small and disorganized. A reconnaissance airplane is scheduled to visit the area on Tuesday, if necessary.
An upper-level low pressure system over Cuba is forecast to weaken and move northwards during the next three days, which would lessen the shear over the disturbance and steer it more to the northwest, as seen in the early track model forecast from the BAMM model, shown below. The latest 12Z (8am EDT) run of the GFS model takes the disturbance across western Cuba and into the Gulf of Mexico by Saturday. These model results are not reliable, given that the disturbance has split in two and that this was not anticipated by the models.
I give this disturbance a 60% chance of becoming a tropical storm by Friday.
A tropical disturbance located about 1200 miles east of the Lesser Antilles remains poorly organized, and is suffering from wind shear imparted by a large upper-level low pressure system to its west. Development of this disturbance is not expected for the next two days.
Elsewhere in the tropics
A cluster of thunderstorms accosiated with the tail end of the cold front that pulled Rita northeast across the U.S. is now emerging over the northern Gulf of Mexico, near the Florida panhandle. Strong upper levels winds should prevent any development in this area for the next two days.
Long range models show the possibility of tropical storm development off the coast of Africa during the week, as well as the Caribbean. We still have about three weeks remaining of the peak period of hurricane season, and I expect two or three more tropical storms will form between now and mid-October.
I mentioned in my blog yesterday how Port Arthur got a direct hit by the eye or Rita, but escaped catastropic storm surge damage. The image below, constructed by NOAA's Hurricane Research Division based on data taken by the NOAA hurricane hunter aircraft, confirms that this occurred because the east eyewall of Rita with its powerful southerly winds never blew over the bay Port Arthur lies on. Thus, water from the open ocean was not forced up into the bay by the eyewall's winds. The maximum storm surge hit a very sparsely populated area of the Southwest Louisiana coast. The small town of Cameron (population 2000) was the largest town along this stretch of coast, and suffered damage similar to what was seen in Mississippi from Hurricane Katrina. The winds of the east side of the eyewall made landfall due south of Lake Charles, pushing the worst storm surge up to that city.
Figure 2. Winds of Rita at landfall as measured by the Stepped Frequency Microwave Radiometer (SFMR) instrument on the NOAA hurricane hunter aircraft.
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