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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2599. Patrap
ALEX Viz to Night IR Loop
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2598. Levi32
Quoting scott39:
How concerned are you of Alex intensifing to a major hurricane? Alex hasnt had its shot over that much water yet.


If it makes landfall north of 23N on the west gulf coast, then I think it will have enough time over water to have a shot. Right now I think a Cat 2 is very likely, and a major hurricane isn't out of the question, but a lot of that will depend on how the storm looks upon emerging from the Yucatan, and how long it will take to reorganize.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26548
Bret also kept going north and then finally got shoved west when ridge built back in
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Be back in a bit.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
2594. Patrap
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the GEM have a VERY VERY strong hurricane hiing TX



AND NO I DONT HAVE THE LINK
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114728
Quoting Levi32:


That high weakens during the next 48 hours, which is what will make Alex slow down and try to make a NW move, but whether it gets forced right back to the west quickly will depend on how long the trough remains over the eastern US before getting kicked out. There are a lot of unknowns still, but I believe we will see a NW motion at some point in the Gulf of Mexico into the weakness in the ridge, but how far north it gets is something we have to have patience to figure out.
I'm sure we will see NW motion in the GOMEX, but currently I doubt there is real NW motion.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
Claudette in 03 was moving NW and finally got shoved west into Matagorda Bay when the ridge built back in, that storm was a lot farther north than what Alex is though
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2590. xcool
reedzone good job sir
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2589. pottery
Good Evening all.
The USA played well today. Hard luck on that one.

Alex (the name of one of my Grandsons, and who is quite docile and gentle at 3 years old. Maybe a Good Portent!) needs to keep tracking as west as it can, for obvious reasons....
I am hoping he does just that.

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Quoting USSINS:
Any thoughts on the COC possibly reforming a bit further north over the Yucatan?

Before landfall there seemed to be two very distinct areas with some big tops. Now, at landfall the southern area seems to have drawn most of that energy; but, as the mimic imagery showed, there seemed to be a bit of a nwest jog right at landfall, and now the last visibles, imo, seem to show a more pronounced rotation slightly further north - maybe 18.5n,88w? Then again, my nearsighted vision is not that good.


i'm curious about this as well.
interesting looking possible re-centering:
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I see the Bamm models have shifted north.. see my forecast wasn't at all a wishcast. I back my forecasts up with evidence.
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2586. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
01L/TS/A
MARK
17.8N/89.1W
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53296
Quoting Levi32:


It will still take a huge northward influence to get this into Texas. We have to wait for the longterm trends, especially after Alex emerges into the Gulf of Mexico.
My thinking is that Alex will emerge into the Gulf of Mexico as a tropical storm. Now the second question is, how far north or south will it emerge?
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
2584. scott39
Quoting Levi32:


I pretty much discounted Louisiana in my forecast this morning, and I really don't think it will get that far east. Now if the trough over the eastern US surprises us and digs in more than the models anticipate, and Alex shows a significant NNW motion in the Gulf of Mexico, then we may have to worry about them being affected, but this is all speculation. We have to get Alex in the gulf before nailing the landfall. My forecast from this morning has him making landfall in northern Mexico at 25N, which is a little south of the Rio Grande.
How concerned are you of Alex intensifing to a major hurricane? Alex hasnt had its shot over that much water yet.
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2583. JLPR2
wow
Darby was Alex's victim, our large Atlantic storm outflow did a number on small hurricane Darby
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Quoting Ivanhater:
Trough digging strong

Link

YIKES!
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if you click records on that page there you will see that at that location pressure dropped to 1005 mb
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2580. Levi32
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
With the ridge by the SE U.S strengthening so much I doubt that the current NW motion is real motion, but rather a jog.

990-999mb steering.



That high weakens during the next 48 hours, which is what will make Alex slow down and try to make a NW move, but whether it gets forced right back to the west quickly will depend on how long the trough remains over the eastern US before getting kicked out. There are a lot of unknowns still, but I believe we will see a NW motion at some point in the Gulf of Mexico into the weakness in the ridge, but how far north it gets is something we have to have patience to figure out.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26548
2579. USSINS
Any thoughts on the COC possibly reforming a bit further north over the Yucatan?

Before landfall there seemed to be two very distinct areas with some big tops. Now, at landfall the southern area seems to have drawn most of that energy; but, as the mimic imagery showed, there seemed to be a bit of a nwest jog right at landfall, and now the last visibles, imo, seem to show a more pronounced rotation slightly further north - maybe 18.5n,89w? Then again, my nearsighted vision is not that good.

This could put Alex back over water sooner, with a shorter trek across the peninsula, and slightly more northwards as well.
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Quoting Ivanhater:
Trough digging strong

Link
Woah, didn't expect that.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
if current models are correct.... tx/mx border is a good bet
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2575. hercj
Quoting muddertracker:

Thats funny. LOL
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2574. Levi32
Quoting louisianaboy444:
What scares me Levi is that you never know what the trough will do....or how strong this will be one little change and its a whole new ball game....many storms have gotten caught in troughs and moved due north at a high rate of speed hitting the Tx/La area..Audrey to be specific....this setup has happened before and i just hope history doesn't repeat itself


It will still take a huge northward influence to get this into Texas. We have to wait for the longterm trends, especially after Alex emerges into the Gulf of Mexico.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26548
2573. xcool
Ivanhater :) bigtime
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Quoting natrwalkn:


Just out of curiosity, what did this "JFV" guy do that has kept people talking about him for so long on here?
To answer that question would take about 10,000 posts.
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With the ridge by the SE U.S strengthening so much I doubt that the current NW motion is real motion, but rather a jog.

990-999mb steering.

Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
Trough digging strong

Link
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2569. 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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Quoting CybrTeddy:


..Is that you JFV???? lol.


Just out of curiosity, what did this "JFV" guy do that has kept people talking about him for so long on here?
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2566. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53296
What scares me Levi is that you never know what the trough will do....or how strong this will be one little change and its a whole new ball game....many storms have gotten caught in troughs and moved due north at a high rate of speed hitting the Tx/La area..Audrey to be specific....this setup has happened before and i just hope history doesn't repeat itself
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2546. TerraNova 1:14 AM GMT on June 27, 2010
Quoting Tazmanian:
you guys are forgeting that the storm will be meet up with MR and MS wind shear


So what do you think will happen with Alex, Taz? ;




not sur any more lol
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114728
Quoting MrstormX:
If it does go to Texas then that will be one sharp turn.


GFDL is the only run really showing a sharp turn
Member Since: July 12, 2008 Posts: 11 Comments: 422
If it does go to Texas then that will be one sharp turn.
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4436
Quoting Thundercloud01221991:
what do you all think the highest sustained wind we will see is from this landfall

A. 45 mph - 49 mph
B. 50 mph - 59 mph
C. 60 mph - 69 mph
D. 70 mph - 74 mph
E. Hurricane Force
B.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
Quoting hercj:

The GIV synoptic mission is the smoothest and most boring of the tropical recon missions. its flown at 45.000 feet and in the boundary layers of the ridges and troughs. It is 9.5 hours of just flying around and making pre programed turns. What is funny up until a couple of years ago Hurricane Research Division supplied a science crew for the flights but I noticed the last couple of years its just AOC personnel on the aircraft. Not sure why.

Maybe the scientists didn't know any good drinking games...
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what do you all think the highest sustained wind we will see is from this landfall

A. 45 mph - 49 mph
B. 50 mph - 59 mph
C. 60 mph - 69 mph
D. 70 mph - 74 mph
E. Hurricane Force
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Tazmanian:
you guys are forgeting that the storm will be meet up with MR and MS wind shear


..Is that you JFV???? lol.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23573
Quoting louisianaboy444:


yeah but remember even Southeast Texas can ruin a bbq especially when i'm on the east side(bad) side of the storm
Honestly, I don't think it'll make it that far east, but nonetheless keep an eye on it.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
The last few frames of the MIMIC do show a more NW to WNW movement.

Link - Be warned... it's a JAVA link and takes a while to load.

If you speed it up you can definitely see it. May be a short term wobble but a more northwest component nonetheless.
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2555. Patrap
NOAA G-IV Reconnaissance Mission in the Pacific...

Starting in Paradise (Hawaii), sampling weather along the way across the Pacific, incredible sights along the way, and coming into Anchorage during to Blizzard conditions.



Roger tower.

WUnderground 340 Road Runner rolling...





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Quoting jpsb:
Come on over Joanie, I got you a six pack. lol


OH GOODIE!! I am on my way!!! Could use a few...:)
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Na, you'll be ok. I though you were in Texas. Despite your username being "louisianaboy" LOL!


yeah but remember even Southeast Texas can ruin a bbq especially when i'm on the east side(bad) side of the storm
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2552. Levi32
Quoting Joanie38:


What about Southwestern LA landfall??? :)


I pretty much discounted Louisiana in my forecast this morning, and I really don't think it will get that far east. Now if the trough over the eastern US surprises us and digs in more than the models anticipate, and Alex shows a significant NNW motion in the Gulf of Mexico, then we may have to worry about them being affected, but this is all speculation. We have to get Alex in the gulf before nailing the landfall. My forecast from this morning has him making landfall in northern Mexico at 25N, which is a little south of the Rio Grande.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26548
Quoting Thundercloud01221991:


and now that the backside of the storm (the side with the strongest winds so far) is moving ashore now we can see just how strong he is
Indeed.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
Quoting louisianaboy444:
Oh yeah this is cute!

Image and video hosting by TinyPic


Touching ain't it.
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4436
2549. hercj
Quoting muddertracker:
Well, if I was ever on that plane, I'd have to be hammered just to make it through the flight! Doesn't it get really topsy turvy loosey-goosey (technical terms, of course)

The GIV synoptic mission is the smoothest and most boring of the tropical recon missions. its flown at 45.000 feet and in the boundary layers of the ridges and troughs. It is 9.5 hours of just flying around and making pre programed turns. What is funny up until a couple of years ago Hurricane Research Division supplied a science crew for the flights but I noticed the last couple of years its just AOC personnel on the aircraft. Not sure why.
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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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