Tropical Storm Alex bears down on the Yucatan; extreme heat for Africa and Russia

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:12 PM GMT on June 26, 2010

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The first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season of 2010 is here. Tropical Storm Alex formed last might from an African tropical wave that plowed through the Caribbean this week. Alex's formation location is a typical one for June tropical storms, and the formation date of June 25 is also a fairly typical date for the first storm of the season to form (we average about one June named storm every two years in the Atlantic.) Heavy rainfall will ramp up through the day in Honduras, Belize, and Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, as Alex continues to intensify, and flooding from these heavy rains will be the main concern from Alex today and Sunday. Satellite loops show that Alex's heavy thunderstorm are growing in intensity and areal coverage at a respectable pace. There is an upper-level high pressure system a few hundred miles west of Alex, and the clockwise flow air around this high is bringing upper-level winds out of the northwest of about 10 knots over the storm, contributing to the 10 knots of wind shear observed in this morning's wind shear analysis from the University of Wisconsin's CIMSS group. Sea Surface Temperatures are very warm, 29 - 30°C, and dry air is not a problem for Alex. We currently don't have a Hurricane Hunter aircraft in the storm, so we will have to wait until 2pm this afternoon to get an updated estimate of Alex's surface winds. The latest satellite estimates of Alex's winds at 8am EDT put the storm's strongest winds at 40 mph.


Figure 1. Satellite image of the tropics at 9am EDT Saturday 6/26/10. Image credit: GOES Science Project.

Forecast for Alex
As I discussed in last night's post, an examination of the nineteen tropical cyclones that have formed in the Western Caribbean and hit the Yucatan Peninsula over the past twenty years reveals that 8 went on to make a second Gulf Coast landfall in Mexico, 5 hit the U.S. Gulf Coast, and 6 died after hitting the Yucatan. The ones that died all took a more southerly path across the Yucatan, spending more time over land than Alex will. Alex is large enough and moving far enough north across the Yucatan that passage over the peninsula will not kill it. So, will Alex follow the path climatology says is more likely, and make a second landfall along the Mexican Gulf Coast?


Figure 2. Forecast swath of tropical storm force winds (34 - 63 knots, green colors) and hurricane force winds (yellow and orange colors) as predicted by this morning's 2am EDT run of the HWRF model. Image credit: Morris Bender, NOAA GFDL team.

The key question remains how Alex will react to the trough of low pressure expected to swing down over the Eastern U.S. on Monday. Some of yesterday's model runs predicted that this trough would be strong enough to pull Alex northwards through the oil slick region into the northern Gulf of Mexico coast. However, the models that were predicting this (the GFS, GFDL, and HWRF models) are all backing off on that prediction. It now appears likely that Alex will cross the Yucatan, emerge into the Gulf of Mexico, then slow down as the trough to its north weakens the steering currents in the Gulf of Mexico on Monday. By Tuesday, the influence of the trough will wane, high pressure will build in, and Alex will resume a west-northwest, or possibly a due west or west-southwest motion, towards the Texas/Mexico border region. Based on the current trends in the models, Alex's tropical storm force winds are likely to stay well south of the oil slick region (Figure 2.) I put the odds of Alex bringing tropical storm-force winds to the oil slick region at 10%. The most significant impact Alex will likely have on the oil slick region is to bring 2 - 4 foot swells that may wash oil over some of the containment booms. These swells will reach the oil slick region on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Continued intensification of Alex is likely today, up until landfall. It is a good thing the storm waited until last night to get organized; had it formed a day earlier, it could have easily been a hurricane in the Western Caribbean today. Once Alex emerges back into the Gulf of Mexico on Monday, it will likely take the storm at least 24 hours to get re-organized, particularly since the total ocean heat content is low for the 100-mile-wide stretch of water on the west side of the Yucatan Peninsula. Once Alex moves more than 100 miles from the Yucatan, total heat content of the ocean increases substantially, and Alex will have the opportunity to intensify significantly. Steering currents will be weak in the Gulf next week, and it appears that Alex will have time to intensify into a hurricane before making its second landfall along the South Texas/northern Mexico coast. Wind shear is expected to be light, and dry air not a significant impediment. Most of the models are calling for landfall on Wednesday, but I wouldn't be surprised to see this delayed until Thursday. I give Alex a 60% chance of becoming a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico next week.

Elsewhere in the tropics
A tropical wave (Invest 94L) is a few hundred miles northeast of the northernmost Lesser Antilles Islands. This wave is producing a modest amount of heavy thunderstorm activity, and is passing beneath a trough of low pressure that is generating 30 - 40 knots of wind shear, and is not a threat to develop today. However, by Monday, the storm will be in a region of much lower wind shear, and NHC is giving the storm a 10% chance of developing into a tropical depression by Monday morning. None of the models currently develop 94L, but Bermuda should keep and eye on this system, as it will pass very close to the island on Tuesday.

Extreme heat wave in Africa and Asia continues to set all-time high temperature records
A withering heat wave of unprecedented intensity and areal covered continues to smash all-time high temperatures Asia and Africa. As I reported earlier this week, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Chad, Niger, Pakistan, and Myanmar have all set new records for their hottest temperatures of all time over the past six weeks. The remarkable heat continued over Africa and Asia late this week. The Asian portion of Russia recorded its highest temperate in history yesterday, when the mercury hit 42.3°C (108.1°F) at Belogorsk, near the Amur River border with China. The previous record was 41.7°C (107.1°F) at nearby Aksha on July 21, 2004. (The record for European Russia is 43.8°C--110.8°F--set on August 6, 1940, at Alexandrov Gaj near the border with Kazakhstan.) Also, on Thursday, Sudan recorded its hottest temperature in its history when the mercury rose to 49.6°C (121.3°F) at Dongola. The previous record was 49.5°C (121.1°F) set in July 1987 in Aba Hamed.

We've now had eight countries in Asia and Africa, plus the Asian portion of Russia, that have beaten their all-time hottest temperature record during the past two months. This includes Asia's hottest temperature of all-time, the astonishing 53.5°C (128.3°F) mark set on May 26 in Pakistan. All of these records are unofficial, and will need to be certified by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). According to Chris Burt, author of Extreme Weather, the only year which can compare is 2003, when six countries (the UK, France, Portugal, Germany, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein) all broke their all-time heat records during that year's notorious summer heat wave. Fortunately, the residents of the countries affected by this summer's heat wave in Asia and Africa are more adapted to extreme high temperatures, and we are not seeing the kind of death tolls experienced during the 2003 European heat wave (30,000 killed.) This week's heat wave in Africa and the Middle East is partially a consequence of the fact that Earth has now seen three straight months with its warmest temperatures on record, according to NOAA's National Climatic Data Center. It will be interesting to see if the demise of El Niño in May will keep June from becoming the globe's fourth straight warmest month on record.

Wind and ocean current forecast for the BP oil disaster
East to southeast winds of 5 - 15 knots will blow in the northern Gulf of Mexico today through Wednesday, according to the latest marine forecast from NOAA. The resulting weak ocean currents should push the oil to the west and northwest onto portions of the Louisiana and Alabama coasts, according to the latest trajectory forecasts from NOAA and the State of Louisiana. I would expect Mississippi to have its most serious threat of oil yet early next week as these winds continue. The long range outlook shows a continuation of east to southeast winds along the northern Gulf of Mexico coast.

Resources for the BP oil disaster
Map of oil spill location from the NOAA Satellite Services Division
My post, What a hurricane would do the Deepwater Horizon oil spill
My post on the Southwest Florida "Forbidden Zone" where surface oil will rarely go
My post on what oil might do to a hurricane
NOAA's interactive mapping tool to overlay wind and ocean current forecasts, oil locations, etc.
Gulf Oil Blog from the UGA Department of Marine Sciences
Oil Spill Academic Task Force
University of South Florida Ocean Circulation Group oil spill forecasts
ROFFS Deepwater Horizon page
Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery from the University of Miami

Wunderground's severe weather expert Dr. Rob Carver will likely be posting at least one update on Alex this weekend. My next update will be Sunday morning.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting Chicklit:

LA Woman is showing tracks of Rita.
Thus my response.
The discussion is about a more northerly course if the trough lifts it, which is a possibility.
My point is, even if it goes a little more north from the bottommost part of the Bay of Campeche into Mexico, it will still not get farther north than Texas at the most.


I am in total agreement with that.
Sorry 'bout biting your head off... didn't mean to.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Ridge to the north of Alex weakened considerably. That would explain the motion with a more northerly component.



Definitely starting to become a bigger concern. The current NHC track doesent look like it's even close to what the actual track is going to be.
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I can't believe you all! Calling me a wishcaster for predicting a northward trend as now being shown by models. You're ridiculious! I'm not saying it's gonna be a category 5 and hit Houston, I'm just predicting a stronger trough which is clearly evident on the water vapor. We can forecast, this is what this site is for, expessing opinions. Though you bash me every way you can because of how innacurate I was last year.
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Quoting RitaEvac:


Can see it better on rainbow loop
Yeah, that's the only one that I could post on the blog so I just went with that one. But yeah a more defined northerly component in motion is definitely evident on rainbow and pretty much every other loop.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
Quoting xcool:
any from SW Louisiana to tx keep eye on alex




.. and that would be me.
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3293. beell
Kind of a crude example but a bit more on that spurious vorticity from the NHC forecaster. If you cancel that out, the actual 500mb ridge may line up closer to the dashed line in the graphic and Alex might be inclined to follow the edge of the western ridge (the left "H")

Note the western shortwave is gone. 00Z GFS pretty much wipes it out by 36-42 hrs. The actual ridge weakness is a result of the trough over the east and its approximate location is indicated by the red line.

Still a couple little vorts floating around in the northern GOM in this run. Quite a bit more believable than the 18Z run. But there still may be some alleged "false" ridge erosion remaining in the 00Z. Maybe not. Could be dead on. A stronger storm would be influenced by the ridge weakness. Tough call but some turning to the right in track seems just as likely as a turn to the left.

00Z GFS 500mb @72 hrs

Photobucket
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Quoting CyclonicVoyage:


GFS


Am I reading that correctly, does it have the storm hitting the TX/LA border?
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Quoting louisianaweatherguy:
hey canesfanatUT you've got mail LOL


Ahh - didn't see it. Been here 3 years but never gotten mail before. Haha
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3290. xcool
MiamiH you smart ,
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Quoting CaneAddict:


I believe it will emerge into the Gulf alot further north then what the NHC is forecasting..there is a very evident amount of northward movement..it's moving more NW then WNW in my opinion.
Looks to be taking the northernmost part of the 11PM cone of error so you may be right.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
Quoting louisianaweatherguy:
the lastest models have been going back towards HOUSTON??!?!?!? ugghhh... oh great here we go...
with all due respect the 5 day cone of uncertainty has always had Houston in it.... Remember it could be anywhere in that cone....

Taco :o)
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Quoting BaltOCane:


again, no one has said anything about NOLA except you.

LA Woman is showing tracks of Rita.
Thus my response.
The discussion is about a more northerly course if the trough lifts it, which is a possibility.
My point is, even if it goes a little more north from the bottommost part of the Bay of Campeche into Mexico, it will still not get farther north than Texas at the most.
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3286. xcool
any from SW Louisiana to tx keep eye on alex


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Quoting reedzone:


I based my point with evidence form maps and graphs. I'm sorry if I lost your respect last year. It's a new year, I studied more.. I admit, I went over the limit last year, except with Bill, I nailed that storm. With Alex, I'm basing my forecast with the fact that the trough was stronger then initially thought. I have people that can back me up on my stand with this storm.


Alot of people have you on ignore so your eventually going to be arguing points with nothing but blog air.
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Quoting BaltOCane:


again, no one has said anything about NOLA except you.


Thinking we are still trying to figure out where this storm will make landfall. Could comparison to Rita that eventually headed toward Louisiana be because it turned right to the north after being forecast to continue to the west and possibly have a landfall in Northern Mexico or Souther Texas, just like current forecast is for Alex? If Alex gets turned to the North, there is a small chance it could turn farther right towards NOLA, right? I think with storm being over land right now and for several more hours there is a great amount of uncertainty. I sure don't know where this will go and how strong of a storm this will be.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
There is an anticyclone aloft so I doubt convection is being "blown" off. Below I put an animation, it's kind of crappy but you get the point. I'm also seeing WNW/NW motion.



Can see it better on rainbow loop
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Ridge to the north of Alex weakened considerably. That would explain the motion with a more northerly component.

Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
Seems to me as if you're assuming a whole lot here. For the record, Ritas path of distruction ended near Morgan City(ish) not even close to New Orleans. You're thinking of a different beast, her name was Katrina. But that's a moot point, I'm not referencing a similiar path, I was referencing the fact that it was suppose to be a south Tx/Mexico event and ended up much differently than what most had forecasted.
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Quoting xcool:
Its time to cut the B-- and move on BaltOCane .thanks.


i agree. My bad. not usualy like that. I just don't like when people jump all over someone and put words in their mouths... my bad.

see, this is why I lurk and haven't said anything for 3 years.
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hey canesfanatUT you've got mail LOL
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Quoting LouisianaWoman:
Goodness! I never once implied that I think Alex will follow a similiar path, nerely that at this point in time that tracks change and nothing is set in stone.
as far as tracks change, Ike is a better comparison as all us South Floridians will attest to.
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MODEL FRENZY!!
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
There is an anticyclone aloft so I doubt convection is being "blown" off. Below I put an animation, it's kind of crappy but you get the point. I'm also seeing WNW/NW motion.



I believe it will emerge into the Gulf alot further north then what the NHC is forecasting..there is a very evident amount of northward movement..it's moving more NW then WNW in my opinion.
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Quoting jpritch:


DARPA's producing jet fuel from algae now at about the same price we can produce it from fossil fuels. They can produce oil from algae for about $2 a gallon (a little over $80 a barrel) and expect the cost to eventually go down to about $1 a gallon, which is far cheaper than oil from fossils - and it's nearly carbon neutral.


How much do they produce? How much land would it take to make 250 thousand bbl's of mogas per day?

Serious.
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Quoting jpritch:


DARPA's producing jet fuel from algae now at about the same price we can produce it from fossil fuels. They can produce oil from algae for about $2 a gallon (a little over $80 a barrel) and expect the cost to eventually go down to about $1 a gallon, which is far cheaper than oil from fossils - and it's nearly carbon neutral.

Cool. We don't need any legislation whatsoever, then. Economics wins. Always.
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3272. xcool
too much drama
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Quoting 954FtLCane:

Dude you are always the ultimate wish/doom/caster......


I based my point with evidence form maps and graphs. I'm sorry if I lost your respect last year. It's a new year, I studied more.. I admit, I went over the limit last year, except with Bill, I nailed that storm. With Alex, I'm basing my forecast with the fact that the trough was stronger then initially thought. I have people that can back me up on my stand with this storm.
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3270. xcool
Its time to cut the B-- and move on BaltOCane .thanks.
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I'm outta here...too much drama for someone that want's to have a civil discussion about the tropics. Can't do that tonight..too many newbies and too many petty little argruments. Good night all..i'll be back in the morning when more of the regulars and knowledgeable folks are in here.
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Quoting RitaEvac:
NW movement becoming evident on satellite, unless thats convection just happening to be blowing off that way
There is an anticyclone aloft so I doubt convection is being "blown" off. Below I put an animation, it's kind of crappy but you get the point. I'm also seeing WNW/NW motion.

Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
Quoting LouisianaWoman:
I've answered you unless you missed it. The point is tracks change this far out, as clearly shown with Rita. It was suppose to be a south Texas/Mexico hit and we all know how that went. Too many things are playing big factors in where Alex will land. At 5 days out the cone of uncertainty is huge. As a person who thought they were "safe" during Rita, I kindly found my yard covered in 7 feet of water. Point is, nothing is set in stone until Alex is making his move onto land for good.
Here is an awesome graphic of the history of Rita's track
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3266. 7544
is alex moving at all and if he stalls and thats a good trof coming down if alex gets further north hes bound to be pushed by it . and im not saying where lol
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3265. jpritch
Quoting CanesfanatUT:


There's a reason transportation is predominately based on hydrocarbons, brah.

It's called economics.

Motor gasoline doesn't grow on trees either - you can't wish we all get Mr. Fushion's on our cars to where we can use beer cans and banana peels to drive...


DARPA's producing jet fuel from algae now at about the same price we can produce it from fossil fuels. They can produce oil from algae for about $2 a gallon (a little over $80 a barrel) and expect the cost to eventually go down to about $1 a gallon, which is far cheaper than oil from fossils - and it's nearly carbon neutral.
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the lastest models have been going back towards HOUSTON??!?!?!? ugghhh... oh great here we go...
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Goodness! I never once implied that I think Alex will follow a similiar path, nerely that at this point in time that tracks change and nothing is set in stone.
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4 out of 7 models that i have looked at so far. i know there are more but i don't know how to get to them.:)
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
Reed...Please knock off of "Poor Me" I am the "Wishcaster". It is getting very tedious.


Pretty much the reason I ignored him.
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Quoting Chicklit:
Rita took an entirely different track.
Alex is way the heck down in the southwestern Gulf. And even if a trough could lift it up at this point, rest assured, it will not lift it all the way up to NOLA.



again, no one has said anything about NOLA except you.
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Quoting GNDcanewatcher:
every university can build a car to cross north america on solar power using only students but we still need gas because the car and oil companies tell us!!


How much do those cost to build? You think that's why those aren't on car lots?
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Quoting tennisgirl08:
Personally, I think that Alex has not gained enough latitude to feel the effects of the trough. This is going to be a mexico event. NHC are the experts for a reason!

Leaning very heavily that direction, myself. Some, but small, chance of a more northward solution...small chance. Small. Tiny.
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will it be a timeing event,weather Alex slows down or the trough advances faster?
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NW movement becoming evident on satellite, unless thats convection just happening to be blowing off that way
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3254. xcool
Its time to cut the B -and face facts.Its time to cut the B- and face facts.Its time to cut the B- and face facts.
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Rita took an entirely different track.
Alex is way the heck down in the southwestern Gulf. And even if a trough could lift it up at this point, rest assured, it will not lift it all the way up to NOLA.

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Quoting winter123:

Not 94L, that is an upper level low. 94L was to the east of it but 94L is dead now.

edit: eek, quoted myself instead of editing the post. My cue to go to sleep. Night all, we'll see how alex looks early afternoon as it exits then go from there. No point wishcasting now IMO, it all depends on the strength when it emerges. I personally think it will hold TS strength.
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Quoting reedzone:
I've been saying this the whole day, about how the models were initializing the trough too weak, but instead, I got called a wishcaster, northcaster.. Heck I was even putting maps out proving my point. Sorry, but that is not wishcasting. I was never leading this storm into the oil, that would be a catastrophe, however it will happen with another storm. I'm holding on strong to a Mexico/Texas borderline landfall until I see more sophisticated models move north like the
EURO and HWRF.

Dude you are always the ultimate wish/doom/caster......
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Quoting dsenecal2009:


Impressive spin on 94L, animate & rock

Not 94L, that is an upper level low. 94L was to the east of it but it is dead now.
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Reed...Please knock off of "Poor Me" I am the "Wishcaster". It is getting very tedious.
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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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