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 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



OH WOW! Sure does! Thanks Miamihurricane!!
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Quoting TexasHurricane:


which model is this one?


18z GFS
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4438
Quoting StormW:


No such thing as a dumb question.


<3 Thank you sweets! -poofs-
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Quoting MrstormX:


Can you give a link please?
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GFS seems real wacky this season.
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4438
Quoting MrstormX:


which model is this one?
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Quoting StormW:


AUG and SEP.


Thank you storm! And I kinda felt like that was a duh on my part lol. I'm feeling a bit sheepish, but no question is a dumb question? I'm hoping at least in this case. hehe. With that bit of information. I bid you adieu for a turn. I shall be back later maybe! If not you all have a pleasant evening!
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Quoting txsweetpea:



Reedzone I appreciate your input, very much. If Alex does hit Mexico I really hate it for them. I've lost a house due to a hurricane and certainly dont want to go thru that again, SO that is why I am trying to get all possible tracks for Alex and I feel that Alex impacting land right now has affected the model consensus at this time. Any input would be greatly appreciated.


No problem, I try my best to put down the facts. Sometimes I'll be called a wishcaster, but I do put down references based on my forecasts.
Member Since: July 1, 2008 Posts: 13 Comments: 7362
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4438
1988. xcool
Joanie38 askStormW .
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15648
Quoting Joanie38:


Link plz? :) thanks!
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

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1986. xcool
sarahjola :)
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15648
Quoting Weather456:
This is how a TS looks in late June, cant imagine how one will look in a few months



Including outer spiral bands, current latitude-longitude diameter is 19 x 18 deg...
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Quoting xcool:
StormW .hmmm


xcool, what are you hmmm'ing about???
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what do mode runs show for 94L?
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114948
The models are going to move around until Alex moves over the Yucatan and the dominant steering flow becomes more clear
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Quoting txag91met:
ECMWF hinting at another TD in about 7-10 days in the Caribbean...


Does it originate from Africa?
Member Since: September 6, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 3712
1978. gator23
Quoting animalrsq:


Following this conversation, I DO admit it. I DO NOT want death and destruction, but a TS, Cat 1, yeah. And I'm 47, married, own 2 houses, have bills to pay, etc. Been through Frances, Jeanne, Gustav. LOVE being without power, eating PopTarts, etc. For Frances and Jeanne, had no power, no phone, no water for a week. But I've got 2 years of batteries, 400 gallon water tank, etc. Also spent 8 weeks living and working in LA immediately following Katrina and Rita. MRE's, sleeping on parking lots. Still cry over the destruction but I didn't miss one creature comfort while I was there. If this sounds crazy, so be it.


did you live in 2 different places? Gustav went to way different places than Jeanne and Frances
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is it at all possible for alex to ride the coast line before going in like storms do on our coast? thanks in advance:)
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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.
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Quoting txag91met:
ECMWF hinting at another TD in about 7-10 days in the Caribbean...


Link plz? :) thanks!
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1974. xcool
StormW .hmmm
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15648
My opinion is the models has change, it is a fact, but we dont know exactly throug where till pass Yucatan and reach the Gulf waters.
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Quoting reedzone:
So after seeing some of the new models do you guys still think I'm crazy in turning Alex north to the borderline instead of Southern Mexico??



Reedzone I appreciate your input, very much. If Alex does hit Mexico I really hate it for them. I've lost a house due to a hurricane and certainly dont want to go thru that again, SO that is why I am trying to get all possible tracks for Alex and I feel that Alex impacting land right now has affected the model consensus at this time. Any input would be greatly appreciated.
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Quoting reedzone:
So after seeing some of the new models do you guys still think I'm crazy in turning Alex north to the borderline instead of Southern Mexico??


Borderline … feels like I'm goin' to lose my mind...
You just keep on pushin' Alex over the borderline...
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ECMWF hinting at another TD in about 7-10 days in the Caribbean...
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Quoting Floodman:


For me it was being 5 and watching a tornado take out the block behind my house...14 more tornados, 2 hurricanes and numerous TS, TD and supercells later I'm still thrilled, but not as apt to runout in the yard and watch


Following this conversation, I DO admit it. I DO NOT want death and destruction, but a TS, Cat 1, yeah. And I'm 47, married, own 2 houses, have bills to pay, etc. Been through Frances, Jeanne, Gustav. LOVE being without power, eating PopTarts, etc. For Frances and Jeanne, had no power, no phone, no water for a week. But I've got 2 years of batteries, 400 gallon water tank, etc. Also spent 8 weeks living and working in LA immediately following Katrina and Rita. MRE's, sleeping on parking lots. Still cry over the destruction but I didn't miss one creature comfort while I was there. If this sounds crazy, so be it.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
I haven't had a chance to read your blog posts so that's probably why I didn't know, but I'll make sure to catch it later.


Okies I'm gone for a bit. Miamihurricane <3 Thanks for keeping us up to date on useful info.
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Quoting reedzone:
So after seeing some of the new models do you guys still think I'm crazy in turning Alex north to the borderline instead of Southern Mexico??

18z runs...no trusty. See what happens with the ECMWF tonight...I can't rule out Brownsville.
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1965. xcool
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15648
Quoting Weather456:


low level is anywhere below 500 mb....AEWs are found at 600-700 mb. Why do you use 850 mb vort to track AEWs when in the two blogs i presented on AEWs illustrated that AEWs have little influence below 700 mb.
I haven't had a chance to read your blog posts so that's probably why I didn't know, but I'll make sure to catch it later.
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CMC, GFS, GFDL, NAM & DGEX have been spying on reed lol.
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4438
Even at this hour, heat index around my area is around 100. And we need some rain soon. Grass is getting brown and crunchy again.
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storm should be long gone in 5 days much less 156hrs
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Quoting AstroHurricane001:


Does that graphic show thunderstorms in the Great Lakes?

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This is how a TS looks in late June, cant imagine how one will look in a few months

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Quoting reedzone:
So after seeing some of the new models do you guys still think I'm crazy in turning Alex north to the borderline instead of Southern Mexico??


I think the models have been eavesdropping on you my friend.
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4438
Looks like pattern to me
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So after seeing some of the new models do you guys still think I'm crazy in turning Alex north to the borderline instead of Southern Mexico??
Member Since: July 1, 2008 Posts: 13 Comments: 7362
18z DGEX Model run now pushes Alex towards Texas as well. Anyone see a pattern here?

Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4438
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Low level circulation? 850mb vorticity is barely non-existent.


low level is anywhere below 500 mb....AEWs are found at 600-700 mb. Why do you use 850 mb vort to track AEWs when in the two blogs i presented on AEWs illustrated that AEWs have little influence below 700 mb.
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Quoting StormW:


LOL! I hear ya! been around 95-96 with a Heat Index of 102 at my house.


We've had the heat index at 110+ today!
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Quoting MrstormX:


Yes good for moisture, but in my opinion bad for track. Just as the CMC has recently been good with track but bad with intensity... every model has its shortcomings (except for the euro that is)
The ECMWF has problems with intensity, but all global models do.
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GFS 18Z 156h interesing land it near Houston
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Been in Galveston today, water is emeral green/blue mix, beautiful weather, thunderheads way out in the Gulf, perfect summer day.
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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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