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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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
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
2248. xcool
MrstormX NOW I'M CRAZY WOW LMAO
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Quoting HurricaneSwirl:


That's strange. The coloring says CAT 3, I don't think they go by categories above the surface, since categories are used to predict and assess the damage of a storm. Model probably doesn't take that into account and just goes with the data that qualifies it for CAT 3 even if it isn't at the surface.
I believe that the HWRF and GFDL don't show wind speeds at the surface, but rather just above it.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Alex very well could jog back west.
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2245. xcool
GFDL SEE Trough THAT WHY.
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Quoting TerraNova:
I favor HWRF's current run track and intensity.


Me too.
Member Since: July 7, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 3237
2243. cg2916
Alex is huge!

You know, it's probably up to 70 mph right now, but the NHC wanted to keep the HH data in the advisory.
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Quoting HurricaneSwirl:


That's strange. The coloring says CAT 3, I don't think they go by categories above the surface, since categories are used to predict and assess the damage of a storm. Model probably doesn't take that into account and just goes with the data that qualifies it for CAT 3 even if it isn't at the surface.


It is possible though misleading to the unknowing person.
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Quoting BDAwx:
I think Alex passed directly over this station...


Wow, 29.42
Member Since: July 7, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 3237
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Those winds are at 900mb not at the surface.


That's strange. The coloring says CAT 3, I don't think they go by categories above the surface, since categories are used to predict and assess the damage of a storm. Model probably doesn't take that into account and just goes with the data that qualifies it for CAT 3 even if it isn't at the surface.
Member Since: July 7, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 3237
2238. bjdsrq
Quoting Joanie38:


WHOA! Upper Texas coast?? Is this the new model?


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.
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2237. xcool
Joanie38 LMAO
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NHC has already accounted for this. the high will build back in and pushing alex back to the west.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
He's on here on days that there is absolutely nothing in the Atlantic, and when there is actually something to watch, he isn't.


Drak keeps his own counsel, comes and goes as he pleases. Maybe he got disgusted at traffic.

Unless you know for a fact that someone is banned it is trollish to suggest they were. Blog is full enough of rumors.

456 was gone for a whole week and none suggested he was banned.

" Just the facts ma'am, only the facts."
Member Since: September 9, 2007 Posts: 36 Comments: 4687
Xcool is crazy lol
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imo i think the models will keep trending to the north through the night. i will be back later to see what is going on. thanks to all who have given me advice and answered my questions.
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I favor HWRF's current run track and intensity.
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2230. scott39
Here we go again with the N trend and Alex has only started to cross the Yucatan.LOL
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2229. xcool
IKE NW
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2228. cg2916
Wow, over the past hour, there's been one comment every 17 seconds!
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Quoting xcool:
WOWWWWWWWWW GFLD MODELS NOW SEE NW .


LOL xcool!!
Member Since: June 16, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 507
awe caca....the models are changing now? Is Alex moving more to the N now???
Member Since: September 5, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 3488
Quoting IKE:


Which is probably exactly where it's headed. Eight-four hours out is only 3+ days. NHC says it will be moving at about 280 degrees for the next 2 days.


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)
Member Since: July 7, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 3237
2223. IKE
To me it looks like Alex is moving just north of west.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
Quoting ElConando:


Cat 3 actually.
Those winds are at 900mb not at the surface.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
2221. scott39
Quoting washingaway:


The high that is across the gulf will retreat to east as the tough approches.
Wont this effect the path of Alex?
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2219. IKE
Quoting Joanie38:


WHOA! Upper Texas coast?? Is this the new model?


Yes.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
2218. BDAwx
I think Alex passed directly over this station...
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Quoting IKE:
I think you can throw that GFDL run out. It shows Alex turning NNW almost immediately.

That doesn't jive with......

"AT 700 PM CDT...0000 UTC...THE CENTER OF TROPICAL STORM ALEX WAS
LOCATED NEAR LATITUDE 17.4 NORTH...LONGITUDE 88.1 WEST. ALEX IS
MOVING TOWARD THE WEST NEAR 12 MPH...19 KM/HR...AND THIS GENERAL
MOTION IS EXPECTED TO CONTINUE FOR THE NEXT TWO DAYS.
ON THIS
TRACK...ALEX WILL MOVE INLAND OVER BELIZE AND THE YUCATAN PENINSULA
THIS EVENING...MOVE ACROSS THE YUCATAN PENINSULA TONIGHT AND
SUNDAY...AND ENTER THE SOUTHERN GULF OF MEXICO BY SUNDAY AFTERNOON
OR SUNDAY EVENING."


I may be blind but it is not moving west. lol. i give up
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Quoting GlobalWarming:


Total destruction of Galveston, Tx on that run, wow, lol. Good one, GFDL


Barely a cat3, it wouldn't totally destroy a city like galveston even if it were to come true.
Member Since: July 7, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 3237
2215. IKE
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
HWRF 18z 84 Hours - Still has Alex south of the Texas border.



Which is probably exactly where it's headed. Eight-four hours out is only 3+ days. NHC says it will be moving at about 280 degrees for the next 2 days.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
Quoting Ossqss:
What are the odds we see the center relocate in the BOC and not traverse the land mass? Just curious :)

an interesting question... i have no idea, sure appears like it could happpen though.
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Apparently it has not made official landfall just yet.
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Quoting IKE:
18Z GFDL


WHOA! Upper Texas coast?? Is this the new model?
Member Since: June 16, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 507
Quoting ElConando:


Cat 3 actually.


Yeah, 102 kt = 117 mph, Cat 3. Shear is questionable, GFDL is being too bullish IMO.
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Quoting scott39:
Intresting, I never read anything before about the high retreating.


The high that is across the gulf will retreat to east as the tough approches.
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2209. xcool
hwrf TO MX
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HWRF 18z 84 Hours - Still has Alex south of the Texas border.

Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
DGEX (derivative of GFS) might not be as bad as I said earlier, especially given the GFDL. Hmm I still think a major hurricane is extreme but maybe the track is okay.

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2205. IKE
GFDL run is file 13 based off of what the NHC is saying.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
Stormw what are your thoughts on the GFS and GFDL moving the storm more further north/Is this a trend.I know sometimes models begin to shift and they keep going
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I see it xcool, but this is probably most likely too far north. I'm leaning towards Mexico/Southern Texas. It actually all depends on how fast or slow the storm moves. The GFDL races Alex northward.
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uh oh GFDL just made a bigggg change
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Quoting homelesswanderer:


I've been seeing that since they said it was moving west. Phew! Not just me. lol


LOL!! That's what I have been seeing lately within the last hour...lol!!! :)
Member Since: June 16, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 507
2200. bjdsrq
18Z GFDL made a swing to the north. Looks like it agrees more with the last CMC run. It spikes intensity over 100knots prior to landfall just south of Galvenston bay.
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2199. xcool
reedzone////MODELS caught onto NW MORE TO COME.
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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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