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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Alex is way south; going nowhere near the spill.
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3148. xcool
skepticall2 //// THIS CRAZY SH----
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
Well....a stronger than expected trough might cause stronger than expected SW shear over Alex.

Which would be a good thing.


It would but for now, the anticyclone remains in tact with Alex. Also the interaction between the anticyclone and the upper level low is causing that band of high shear. Should stay away from Alex.
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Quoting txsweetpea:
BaltOcane,
No you are not on my ingnore list...Amazing isnt it. I hope that is not the case , but I willnot be surprised.


Thanks, buuuuuuuuuuddy (a la Pauly Shore)

oooo... sure to get me banned. But the kids have no idea who he is!!!

this is bad too...

Link

No bueno.
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anyone have a good link to the new gfs
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Hurricane HUnters tasked for Monday---they will not fly over land.
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Quoting NCHurricane2009:


Interesting, I didn't know you speculated that Alex was a minimal hurricane just before landfall. It'll be interesting to see what the NHC says in its post-storm analysis.

Did you find any obs that confirm the possibility of minimal hurricane force winds before landfall?


post 3111 look at the pressures.
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Quoting Patrap:










Exxon oil spill: Cordova, Alaska

Memories of Valdez spill just below the surface for town's residents


broken people
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3138. xcool
MrstormX .WOW.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Blog Update!

- June 26, 2010 - 10:40 PM EDT - Quick Update On Tropical Storm Alex -


Interesting, I didn't know you speculated that Alex was a minimal hurricane just before landfall. It'll be interesting to see what the NHC says in its post-storm analysis.

Did you find any obs that confirm the possibility of minimal hurricane force winds before landfall?
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Huge blowup of white in the last frames. I seriously think it's intensifying over land, or at least holding at 60.
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BaltOcane,
No you are not on my ingnore list...Amazing isnt it. I hope that is not the case , but I willnot be surprised.
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Thanks skepticall2 for Hurricane Hunter schedules - so next mission is in a little under 2 hrs!
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New GFS, Alex still heading towards Texas.
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Also notice the NW jog on ALex's track after it made landfall, at least from Allstars map, expect some more jogs to the NW. Alex may be starting to feel some effects of the trough.. However, land tends to lift storms north. This has also been my thinking since this afternoon, a WNW to NW track over the Yucatan.
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Quoting Seastep:


Yes. Would be nice to have less tankers running... since they result in the most oil spillage.

But, hey, stop drilling and more tankers. Brilliant!

Where do you get off tossing around logic?

(Hi, step)
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3127. xcool
BaltOCane .HUH
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Pat...I thought that was from the Rocky Horror Picture Show! KOTG...Just don't post that Sweet "T" video!
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3125. will45
Im pretty sure the NHC is aware of the ridge
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Quoting xcool:
BaltOCane :0


uh oh, what did I do now?
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3123. xcool
... "I don't like what i see on new GFS
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Big model shifts.. and strengthening.



AOI

AOI

AOI

Hurricane Hunter Data

TS BUSTED FORECAST ALIBI
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so far, the latest GFS is right in line with my current thinking.
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3119. GetReal
Starting to feel a little vindicated with shift of the models further north. I never could understand how nearly all the models were ignoring the approaching trough from the west, along with a stronger than anticipated Alex approacing from the south.
Member Since: July 4, 2005 Posts: 204 Comments: 8874
Path of least resistance tells me Alex is going to head to that 1003.8 Reading to the NW of current position.
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3117. xcool
BaltOCane :0
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3116. Seastep
Quoting Patrap:










Exxon oil spill: Cordova, Alaska

Memories of Valdez spill just below the surface for town's residents


Yes. Would be nice to have less tankers running... since they result in the most oil spillage.

But, hey, stop drilling and more tankers. Brilliant!
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Awesome responses thanks everyone. Seems the path took a more south turn before landful - maybe is why some models adjusted but it has since bounced back WNW they say... interesing for sure! The latest NHC graphic sure shows a SW motion then once it hit land NW almost?
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Link

This is the third time I've put this up... am I on ignore? 2 models I've seen have pulled it north
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Uugh I can't find my first post, heck I can hardly find any of my old posts. Dissapointing
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Howdy.

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11:00 pm National Hurricane Center Advisories
**GRAPHICS UPDATE**






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I think earlier in the day it was opined that a weak storm would not be appreciably effected by the trough--a strong storm would be. So the strength of alex when the trough is there will determine the direction he goes. We have to wait?
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3108. Patrap










Exxon oil spill: Cordova, Alaska

Memories of Valdez spill just below the surface for town's residents
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Quoting txsweetpea:
Reedzone,
can you post the link for the Euro?
Raleighwx ECMWF
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21193
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
You are a good guy Miami!
Thanks man.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21193
Reedzone,
can you post the link for the Euro?
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**NEW** GFS 00z 30 Hours

Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21193
You are a good guy Miami!
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11:00 pm National Hurricane Center Advisories
**GRAPHICS UPDATE**






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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:


Don't look for the one where I said no named storms in May and you said "...." :)
LOL! I remember my first response. It was from Ike and it read "Are you JFV?". And I was like WTH? LOL. Still looking...
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21193

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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.