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 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: 21194
3098. xcool
0Z NEW GFS GOO north
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Quoting txsweetpea:
Any new interesting news on Alex?


Alex still looking nice on satellite imagery as it moves into the Yucatan, seems it will weaken only gradually over land (I personally think it'll be down to 50 mph maximum sustained winds by 2 AM).

Some arguments occuring about the models. GFS and GFDL models want to bring Alex northward toward Texas due to what the NHC alleges as a spurios vort max (GFS and GFDL give more influence to an upper trough over the central US that will weaken the ridge north of Alex for a turn), other models cluster to a turn to the west into Mexico after the trough lifts away and ridging rebuilds. Seems these models have Alex slow down due to a slight pause in steering as ridging weakens to the north.
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I think Alex will be fairly weak coming off the Yuc. and will not be vertically stacked enough to be affected by the trough. By the time it regains strength, it will be to late. After making landfall in MX, it may turn up into TX, but just a rainmaker or nothing much by then. imo
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Blog Update!

- June 26, 2010 - 10:40 PM EDT - Quick Update On Tropical Storm Alex -
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
3093. xcool
TampaSpin mail
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weatherguy03 has a great video blog talking about Alex....

Link
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3091. ATL
Quoting TampaSpin:


I think it is very easy to see why....the trough is very far south



I still don't get the NHC track.....watch for a Shift to the North......IMO

Is it farther south than actually progged or does it just look farther south to the eye? I would've thought the NHC would have taken this into account if the trough really was significantly stronger than predicted.
Quoting F4PHANTOM:
Doesn't it have more to do with the strength of the storm and not the size?


Yes when i said Size i was referring to the Strength of Alex...sorry for the bad verbage!
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Sorry I'm not on the blog, I'm looking for my first post. Lol.


Don't look for the one where I said no named storms in May and you said "...." :)
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3087. Seastep
Quoting bjdsrq:


Just to get some thinking outside a narrow scope...

1) Anyone with a IRA or 401k invested in the S&P500 owns oil company stock.
2) Offshore GOM drilling employs 150K people in the US.
3) 52% of all income in Louisana comes from oil & gas industry.
4) 31% of all US domestic oil comes from the GOM.


Could have more. ANWR would produce the equivalent of the entire gulf... on land. Using a minuscule amount of said refuge.

But, hey, can't do that because Congress owns it. Not you nor I, Congress.
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My forecast from earlier this afternoon.. May have to be adjusted north, waiting on the EURO..

Photobucket
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Quoting TampaSpin:


I think it is very easy to see why....the trough is very far south



I still don't get the NHC track.....watch for a Shift to the North......IMO
I agree 100%. The trough seems like it's going dig much more southerly than expected.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Quoting RCThunder:
I am sure it has been discussed. But what is the reason a few hours ago all models were into Texas and now many are shifting North into Texas and the Gulf more? Thanks!


I think it is very easy to see why....the trough is very far south



I still don't get the NHC track.....watch for a Shift to the North......IMO
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3081. edhanna
The gfs seems to be a tad more northwest at hour 60.
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3002 StSimonsIslandGAGuy "The other guy was trolling a few days ago defending the judge who stopped the offshore drilling moratorium"
3036 skepticall2 "Off topic though wouldn't you say?"

Hardly. Inadequate risk assessment&management and inadequate catastrophe-management preparation is why folks don't even want a sneeze in the Gulf of Mexico.
And Dr.Masters posts links to the topic as part of every blog now.
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gfdl, gfs, cmc, hwrf
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3077. Patrap
00z Early Cycle NHC model tracks
ALEX
Statistical/Simple Models (CLIPER,BAMs,LBAR,other Statistical Models)






Dynamic Models (More sophisticated models)






Early Model Wind Forecasts

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4 out of 7 models indicate the shift to the north
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3075. xcool
sarahjola .yeah alot more.
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Sorry I'm not on the blog, I'm looking for my first post. Lol.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
jog to the north as it makes landfall. i think the models will keep shifting more north.jmo:)
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Does anyone know when the next hurricane hunter mission is scheduled
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Quoting neonlazer:
I believe the trough coming from the west thru NM/AR..etc possibly going to weaken the high pressure over the northern GOM/gulf states..which will allow it to turn more north


Or it could just be the ole SPURIOUS VORTICITY MAXIMA!
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3069. will45
Quoting F4PHANTOM:
Doesn't it have more to do with the strength of the storm and not the size?
Yes it will have to have a very good vertical stacking to feel the weekness
Member Since: July 18, 2009 Posts: 1 Comments: 994
Any new interesting news on Alex?
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3067. Patrap
Quoting WaterWitch11:
StSimonsIslandGAGuy did you know your avatar has no clothes on?

just messin!


Looks Like around 1964,,Kodachrome maybe
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Quoting RCThunder:
I am sure it has been discussed. But what is the reason a few hours ago all models were into Texas and now many are shifting North into Texas and the Gulf more? Thanks!


The models are picking up on a trough over the eastern CONUS and making more pronounced than before. Though with the Bermuda High and High over the Central plains, I don't know if I believe it. Although, with a weak steering environment for the 29,1,2 days.. if Alex goes deep (low pressure). That poleward pull is going to effect it.
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Quoting RCThunder:
I am sure it has been discussed. But what is the reason a few hours ago all models were into Texas and now many are shifting North into Texas and the Gulf more? Thanks!
due to a weakness forming along the TEX/LA border.
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StSimonsIslandGAGuy did you know your avatar has no clothes on?

just messin!
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3062. Torgen
Is it just me, or has the blog had a huge surge in petty drama and internet bickering ever since the "climate control emails" scandal? :(

Of course, I "remember" talking about Charlie heading for Tampa in 2004 before making a sharp hook and flattening Ft Myers, but Dr Masters didn't start this blog until 2005. Maybe I'm remembering a different blog, or am going loopy in my old age :p
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Quoting KingofNewOrleans:


The Northern Yucatan is flat, Alex will be crossing a plateau in the Central Yucatan with elevations up to 500ft. And a hefty mountain range to it's South.


I think it will make the passage across just fine. Regain strength fairly quick, maybe cat 1 and head wnw into MX. No big changes ahead for Alex.
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3059. xcool
tampspin mail.,
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Quoting RCThunder:
I am sure it has been discussed. But what is the reason a few hours ago all models were into Texas and now many are shifting North into Texas and the Gulf more? Thanks!
I believe the trough coming from the west thru NM/AR..etc possibly going to weaken the high pressure over the northern GOM/gulf states..which will allow it to turn more north
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Link
good model link for gfs nogaps and cmc
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3056. xcool
btwntx08 hey.get readyyy
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I respectively disagree with those who think Alex is going to Texas. No way the trough will influence this enough to make it go towards the North.. the ridge building back in will push it due west once its WNW-NW track is finished. Alex however.. might manage up to 90-100 mph if it manages to slow down further than expected. Intensity forecasts are very difficult this far out, my prayers go out to the Yucatan in hope of only minor flooding.
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Things that make you go "hmmmmm":



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With the way Alex looks now, I think by 2 AM Advisory, it'll be downgraded to 50 mph winds. Any other opinions?
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I am sure it has been discussed. But what is the reason a few hours ago all models were into Texas and now many are shifting North into Texas and the Gulf more? Thanks!
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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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