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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I guess I should have said hello first !
..waves at everyone !
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Yucatan may just maroon it NW, damn Yucatan.
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2297. drj27
whoa at the gfdl hey alex just stay away from the fla panhandle we dont want you here lol
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2296. scott39
Quoting IKE:


Looks like an explosion of thunderstorms off of the WNW side of the huge circulation of Alex. If that storm had gone through the Yucatan channel it would had been a disaster for the gulf coast + the oil.
Looks like if Alex keeps going W its going to have a hard time getting in the BOC.
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2295. Patrap
ALEX www.hurricanecity.com/closeup NASA Viewer
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2294. IKE
Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:
Looks like the 18Z GFDL breaks down the ridge


GFDL 36 hours






I don't see how it goes NNW almost immediately if it's weakening now?
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2293. amd
Quoting Skyepony:
MIMIC of Alex..looks like it been cruising NW since it hit land.


I wonder if that is due to the increased thunderstorm develop along the NW tip of the Yucatan. It seems that the thunderstorm complexes have had tremendous pull on the direction of Alex. It doesn't seem to me that it is much of a surprise that Alex has not gained latitude, because much of the convection has been south of Alex.

Now, that the convection along the coast of Belize is slowly weakening due to landfall, and new convection is forming along the NW tip of the Yucatan, I think it is possible that Alex may finally begin a more NW motion. IMHO
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Ok GFDL has it going like it is, but when it gets off the Yucatan it goes NNW then NW for a while then back WNW into TX. Interesting. Well lets see if it jumps NNW once it gets off the Yucatan
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2291. IKE
Quoting jpsb:


Ike what is happening in the BoC? Alex reforming way north? Can't be.


Looks like an explosion of thunderstorms off of the WNW side of the huge circulation of Alex. If that storm had gone through the Yucatan channel it would have been a disaster for the gulf coast, plus the oil volcano.
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Quoting lopaka001:
I ran this visible through some IR filters, just imagine if Alex had more time over water..



Very nice!
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2289. Patrap

RGB Color Infrared Loop
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2287. jpsb
Quoting IKE:
GFDL run is file 13 based off of what the NHC is saying.


Ike what is happening in the BoC? Alex reforming way north? Can't be.
Member Since: June 30, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1190
Looks like the 18Z GFDL breaks down the ridge


GFDL 36 hours




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Quoting HurricaneSwirl:
Aww Geoffrey beat me by probably 15 seconds. Amazing how we all got sucked into Alex. The TWO's been out for 20 minutes. Then again, there's nothing in there of interest anyway.


Dumb luck...just happened to be on the page.
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2284. IKE
Quoting lopaka001:
I ran this visible through some IR filters, just imagine if Alex had more time over water..



That's a nice visual.
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Quoting RitaEvac:
someone show me the gfdl showing the northern track...


18Z GFDL
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2282. cg2916
Quoting Patrap:




I'd say landfall.
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Quoting IKE:


RIP? I've never paid one second of attention to that invest.


LOL me either, what the hell did it ever look like...
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2280. IKE
Quoting RitaEvac:
someone show me the gfdl showing the northern track...


Link
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Quoting bjdsrq:


Yes, but i wouldn't give it much attention yet unless it gets consistent over next few runs, AND more models converge on the same solution. The consecutive runs have been anything but consistent. I think the only certain forecast for Alex is it's making landfall in the Yucatan tonight.


Yes, I agree with that..:)
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2278. jpsb
Quoting Joanie38:


WHOA! Upper Texas coast?? Is this the new model?
I will believe a north move when I see it.

Goes and looks at this http://www.atmos.washington.edu/~ovens/loops/wxloop.cgi?wv_east_enhanced+12

hmmm, whats happening in the south Bay of Campy?
Member Since: June 30, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1190
I ran this visible through some IR filters, just imagine if Alex had more time over water..

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2276. will45
Quoting srada:
theres a low right now sitting over NC..I wonder if that is what the GFDL is picking up as far as the storm off the coast of NC/SC next week

No what the GFDL is putting there isnt there yet. Its later on in the run
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Quoting IKE:


RIP? I've never paid one second of attention to that invest.


I agree. Might be deactivated sometime tomorrow.
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someone show me the gfdl showing the northern track...
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2273. IKE
Quoting scott39:
Where was that high 36 hours ago when most of the models had Alex going to the oil slick? I dont understand how they couldnt see that then, and now its in the forecast. Thank God its not forecasted to go over the oil slick now, but will that change in 24 hours?


I think it was forecast by the NHC...and by Bastardi...and StormW...and others with experience...Levi...456, etc.

I think the media hyped it a little too much....
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Quoting GlobalWarming:
Ike, shhhhhhh, you are dissapointing the wishcasters in TX, by revealing what the latest HRWF model is showing. LOL.


That's TexasCaster to you BUD! SmileyCentral.com
Member Since: August 15, 2008 Posts: 10 Comments: 3665
Aww Geoffrey beat me by probably 15 seconds. Amazing how we all got sucked into Alex. The TWO's been out for 20 minutes. Then again, there's nothing in there of interest anyway.
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2270. Patrap


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ZCZC MIATWOAT ALL
TTAA00 KNHC DDHHMM
TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
800 PM EDT SAT JUN 26 2010

FOR THE NORTH ATLANTIC...CARIBBEAN SEA AND THE GULF OF MEXICO...

THE NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER IS ISSUING ADVISORIES ON TROPICAL
STORM ALEX...LOCATED 15 MILES SOUTHEAST OF BELIZE CITY.

1. DISORGANIZED CLOUDINESS AND SHOWERS EXTENDING FROM THE NORTHERN
LEEWARD ISLANDS NORTHEASTWARD INTO THE ATLANTIC FOR SEVERAL HUNDRED
MILES ARE ASSOCIATED WITH A TROPICAL WAVE INTERACTING WITH AN
UPPER-LEVEL TROUGH. CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED TO REMAIN UNFAVORABLE
FOR TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION AS THIS SYSTEM MOVES TOWARD THE
NORTH-NORTHWEST AT 10 TO 15 MPH. THERE IS A LOW CHANCE...NEAR 0
PERCENT...OF THIS SYSTEM BECOMING A TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE
NEXT 48 HOURS.

ELSEWHERE...TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION IS NOT EXPECTED DURING THE
NEXT 48 HOURS.

$$
FORECASTER BRENNAN
NNNN
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2268. IKE
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
1. DISORGANIZED CLOUDINESS AND SHOWERS EXTENDING FROM THE NORTHERN
LEEWARD ISLANDS NORTHEASTWARD INTO THE ATLANTIC FOR SEVERAL HUNDRED
MILES ARE ASSOCIATED WITH A TROPICAL WAVE INTERACTING WITH AN
UPPER-LEVEL TROUGH. CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED TO REMAIN UNFAVORABLE
FOR TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION AS THIS SYSTEM MOVES TOWARD THE
NORTH-NORTHWEST AT 10 TO 15 MPH. THERE IS A LOW CHANCE...NEAR 0
PERCENT...OF THIS SYSTEM BECOMING A TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE
NEXT 48 HOURS.



RIP? I've never paid one second of attention to that invest.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Station is Belize reporting a pressure of 996mb. I think it's safe to say Alex is or is about to make landfall. Lol, looks like I was spot on with the 8PM EDT landfall.



Speaking of 8PM, I forgot about the 8PM advisories and TWO.

No intensity change for Alex at 8PM, moving W at 12 mph.

And 94L is down to a near 0% chance.
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Its like ive been saying, CMC has been a good track model after all.
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Quoting cg2916:


That's 996, and the storm isn't even at it's fullest, judging by the wind.
Winds are usually low near the center. Strongest winds reported by recon I believe where in the SE quadrant.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21109
2264. xcool
ilove my Satellite Image refresh every 10 minutes
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
2263. SeALWx
Quoting reedzone:
GFDL now in agreement with the northern track.. The new runs are now seeing how deep and strong the trough really is.. Told ya I was basing my forecasts with maps and stuff. I don't wishcast... much. Last year, I went a bit over the line lol.


Watch out reedzone. If you keep straddling that fence you're bound to get a rash.
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2262. FLSWEDE
Alex looks to be heading for a land fall in MX/TX, but for those of you that can remember Yogi Berra,( It ain't over till it's over). been watching Hurricane for over 50 yrs.... that saying been true many times...
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2261. Skyepony (Mod)
MIMIC of Alex..looks like it been cruising NW since it hit land.
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2260. scott39
Quoting washingaway:
NHC has already accounted for this. the high will build back in and pushing alex back to the west.
Where was that high 36 hours ago when most of the models had Alex going to the oil slick? I dont understand how they couldnt see that then, and now its in the forecast. Thank God its not forecasted to go over the oil slick now, but will that change in 24 hours?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1. DISORGANIZED CLOUDINESS AND SHOWERS EXTENDING FROM THE NORTHERN
LEEWARD ISLANDS NORTHEASTWARD INTO THE ATLANTIC FOR SEVERAL HUNDRED
MILES ARE ASSOCIATED WITH A TROPICAL WAVE INTERACTING WITH AN
UPPER-LEVEL TROUGH. CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED TO REMAIN UNFAVORABLE
FOR TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION AS THIS SYSTEM MOVES TOWARD THE
NORTH-NORTHWEST AT 10 TO 15 MPH. THERE IS A LOW CHANCE...NEAR 0
PERCENT...OF THIS SYSTEM BECOMING A TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE
NEXT 48 HOURS.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting RitaEvac:
Went out to eat and everybody shouting NW and TX, what the hell is going on now??

18Z GFS and GFDL have joined the 12Z CMC's following (at least for now).
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Station is Belize reporting a pressure of 996mb. I think it's safe to say Alex is or is about to make landfall. Lol, looks like I was spot on with the 8PM EDT landfall.

Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21109
2255. beell
Quoting StormW:


Hard to say right now...could be in response to that trof...or I've seen them flop back on the next run. The 12Z and 00Z runs are the more accurate. About as good as I can give ya at the moment.


Maybe a little overdone on intensity.
Showing 986mb just of the Yucatan coast. Currently 996mb with the last NHC advisory. Maybe if it does not weaken at all over land.

Certainly woke up the blog!
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Quoting StormW:


Hard to say right now...could be in response to that trof...or I've seen them flop back on the next run. The 12Z and 00Z runs are the more accurate. About as good as I can give ya at the moment.


I am going with a more left approach than forecast, based on my previous comment that every model consensus and forecast has trended more left each time and current observed motion.
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2253. cg2916
Quoting HurricaneSwirl:


Wow, 29.42


That's 996, and the storm isn't even at it's fullest, judging by the wind.
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2252. srada
theres a low right now sitting over NC..I wonder if that is what the GFDL is picking up as far as the storm off the coast of NC/SC next week
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Went out to eat and everybody shouting NW and TX, what the hell is going on now??
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2250. srada
Quoting will45:
Still has that spinoff on the east coast also


Yeah I saw that too..
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2249. IKE
Quoting HurricaneSwirl:


I agree it'll be moving W for a while.. but if it moves W for 2 days it'll never come back over water, even if 280 is technically just N of W, but not enough to be classified WNW. (270 is pure W)


Looking at a wide range view of the western ATL, Alex looks to be moving on a path right now that would get it in the extreme southern BOC for a short time only....if that.

It needs to move more WNW or it's chances of reaching a cat 1 are...very slim and none.

Look at this wide view.....and note the direction it's moving>>>Link
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About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.