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 Thundercloud01221991:
the convection is already starting to increase on the other side of the peninsula


Looks like Alex is already setting up his moisture on the other side, probably trying to find a new place to relocate to once he weakens.
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If Alex makes it into the gulf it would have to move NNW and if it moved in that direction it would more than likly recurve
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2046. drj27
Quoting drj27:
could this be another opal for the panhandle just asking i dont think it will be but what do i know
nevermind just looked at the models no way it makes it here
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Quoting MississippiWx:
Reedzone--

Feed me, feed me, feed me! LOL.

Could be the start of a trend. You could be right. I'm still going to stick with the NHC track. Would like to see 00z runs before I fluctuate my opinion.


I'm really not wishcasting, heck I live in Florida lol.. I'm just going by what I see in the pattern, models have been initializing the trough weak when you can see on the water vapor clearly tat the trough is much stronger then thought. This allows Alex, especially if he's amazingly a TS after getting beat up by land, to feel the trough. I believe Alex will weaken to a depression, maybe reform a circulation further north in the waters while the old one dies out. I've seen this with many tropical storms that have passed through the Yucatan. It's a wait and see, so far, due west movement continues. The trough and land interaction should boost Alex up a bit in track.
Member Since: July 1, 2008 Posts: 13 Comments: 7387
2044. xcool
MODELS caught onto NW NOW.
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15670
Quoting Jeff9641:


Hopefully northward component doesn't become NE as the system stalls in the western Gulf.
Unlikely that it will at the moment.
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the convection is already starting to increase on the other side of the peninsula
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Quoting Snowlover123:


Good Evening! It means that simply the storm could travel more north. The model consensus has shifted further North, to possible impacts in Texas now! Does anyone think that these models are accurate or not?


Good Evening Snowlover..:)
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My point exactly about the reliability of the GFS, and its branch models is that they are inaccurate. Take for example this 18z DGEX run:



Its completely illogical, people on here complain about the CMC being bad but when you see something like this it makes you appreciate other models. I mean come on 962mb, from a system thats not even heading near Texas yet... its silly.
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2039. drj27
could this be another opal for the panhandle just asking i dont think it will be but what do i know
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Quoting Joanie38:


Upper Texas coast, or at Brownsville??
Just like a more northerly component instead of plain westward motion, so southern Texas with the highest chances, and then chances decreasing as you increase in latitude.
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Alex will decrease in intensity crossing the Peninsula but not enough to kill the circulation. Alex will reintensify once reaching the GOM.
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is it possible that the trof is having an effect on alex already? thanks in advance:)
Member Since: September 10, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1293
Quoting KeithInSoFL:
I have plotted my best guess based on models since this thing became Invest and each day, the location of the storm and overall model consensus has shifted left each time. I think we will see this trend continue (more left).
Well there was a point where they were trending progressively further east...
Member Since: December 1, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 3620
2033. IKE
18Z NOGAPS... takes Alex into northern Mexico and takes another vorticity in around the northern/NE GOM...similar to the GFS. Appears to spin up a low on the approaching SE USA trough and puts it inland over SE LA.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting Joanie38:


HOLY COW! So what does that mean??...exactly??


Good Evening! It means that simply the storm could travel more north. The model consensus has shifted further North, to possible impacts in Texas now! Does anyone think that these models are accurate or not?
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Quoting homelesswanderer:


Whats really weied. Emcwf is sending Alex into Mexico but the thing they show hitting here is the same time gfs shoes Alex hitting here 168 hrs???
I personally would throw away the GFS over the ECMWF.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
A possible recurvature towards Texas instead of plain westward motion into Mexico.


Upper Texas coast, or at Brownsville??
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Quoting atmoaggie:
Our intensity modeling is sooo very poor....

NO one calling for 65 knots today as of this morning...2 CHIPS ensemble members did call for it later. The ensemble mean was worse than most anything else, though.



So bad, it's tough to call it guidance.


I agree with you our intensity modeling is piss poor, but to be fair we only have a 55 kt storm, and two of thoses models are the interpolated versions.
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2028. JLPR2
Quoting StormW:


8-19-23-32-36


awesome! Got to play those numbers!
XD
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Quoting StormW:


Right...may not be exactly west...but I agree 100%...I've been watching the pattern since May. After the A/B high has been doing it's shift toward the Azores, and trofiness has been present in the ATL, the pattern has been consistent in reloading to the pattern, or close to the pattern we are in now, and have been since May.


Same pattern as 2008?
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10247
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
I don't know whether it is a tropical depression or not, but it is a low.

ECMWF 12z 168 Hours



At 216 hours it's in the middle of the Caribbean.

ECMWF 12z 216 hours



Whats really weied. Emcwf is sending Alex into Mexico but the thing they show hitting here is the same time gfs shoes Alex hitting here 168 hrs???
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Alex looks to be making landfall right now, or just made landfall, which is why convection has warmed..

Member Since: July 1, 2008 Posts: 13 Comments: 7387
Reedzone--

Feed me, feed me, feed me! LOL.

Could be the start of a trend. You could be right. I'm still going to stick with the NHC track. Would like to see 00z runs before I fluctuate my opinion.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10247
Quoting Joanie38:


HOLY COW! So what does that mean??...exactly??
A possible recurvature towards Texas instead of plain westward motion into Mexico.
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2019. gator23
Quoting Jeff9641:


LOL! I was going to let that one slide.


well, you know me.
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Weather is getting bad here in Belize its been raining on and of all day but now we are starting to get heavy down pours . The wind is still light but increasing
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Quoting StormW:


That trof is reaching down deeper. Go here and animate.

WATER VAPOR


HOLY COW! So what does that mean??...exactly??
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Quoting Claudette1234:


Link

No problem Here you have GFS Models for caribean


Thank you!
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Quoting StormW:


That trof is reaching down deeper. Go here and animate.

WATER VAPOR


so in your opinion, what does that mean?
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Quoting TexasHurricane:


Can you give a link please?


Link

No problem Here you have GFS Models for caribean
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Look at the SIZE of that thing!!! Sheeeesh!!!

What do we have to look forward to in August - September? (shudder)
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Quoting Weather456:
What caught my attention is that Alex moved west rather than north, which is a pattern typical after mid-July. I think Arthur did the same in June 2008. More than likely how drastic can the steering change in 2 months?...not much...which means Alex is dictating potential paths this season.


Does that mean we could see 2007 tracks this season?
Member Since: July 7, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 3237
Quoting WAHA:

That doesn't look accurate.


Thats what im saying... or at least thats the point im trying to make, it looks wacky.
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2004. mobal
No dumb?....What will tonights lotto #'s be....:)

Quoting StormW:


No such thing as a dumb question.
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2003. WAHA
Quoting MrstormX:

That doesn't look accurate.
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Quoting TexasHurricane:


Can you give a link please?


No Problem:
Link
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What caught my attention is that Alex moved west rather than north, which is a pattern typical after mid-July. I think Arthur did the same in June 2008. More than likely how drastic can the steering change in 2 months?...not much...which means Alex is dictating potential paths this season.
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StormWWhat is xcool hmmm'ing about??
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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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