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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CMC develops no storms after Alex.

GFS develops the CV wave over Africa and a system off the East Coast.

NOGAPS develops no storms after Alex

ECMWF develops a system off the east coast and has been doing that for a couple of days. ECMWF picked up on Alex first, so we'll have to watch the East Coast.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1497. Levi32
Quoting tropicfreak:


Why? its moving NW.


NHC track is almost always very close to the model consensus. It's very predictable with them.
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1496. Levi32
Quoting kmanislander:


Can you imagine if it had skirted the TCHP to the N and shot through the Yucatan channel ?. We would be looking at a Cat 2 before entering the GOM.

I pray they get that oil leak sorted real soon because it is only a matter of time before we see something major heading that way. If June can produce Alex what next ?.


Yup....the US has plenty of landfalling storms in its future this season. Having Alex potentially chalking up 1 for both the named storm and hurricane scoreboards in June is scary enough. Every sign is pointing towards a nasty rest of the season ahead. This is only the beginning. The beginning of July is likely to see interesting things as well.
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Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
Quoting hurricane23:
winds are up to 65mph on alex.


Just what I thought, a moderate TS by this afternoon.
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1492. WAHA
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
DAMN! Ghana 2-1.

you DO realize I am 13, right?
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winds are up to 65mph on alex.
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Quoting Levi32:
NHC will likely shift the track south again this advisory.


Why? its moving NW.
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Quoting Levi32:
NHC will likely shift the track south again this advisory.
With the model consensus shifting so southerly I wouldn't doubt it.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
1486. Grothar
Quoting StormW:


The feature over Calif. is a strengthening ULL (Upper Level Low). As Levi mentioned, there is basically a trof split (you notice on the image, what looks like another not so deep trof.) The Calif. feature has a trof trailing it, which appears to be deepening (getting stronger).



Thank you Storm. I would have posted it, but I couldn't find my glasses. Much clearer to us now. Important bit of information.
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000
WTNT31 KNHC 262031
TCPAT1
BULLETIN
TROPICAL STORM ALEX ADVISORY NUMBER 5
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL012010
400 PM CDT SAT JUN 26 2010

...AIR FORCE PLANE FINDS A STRONGER ALEX...WEATHER DETERIORATING
FAST IN BELIZE AND THE YUCATAN PENINSULA...


SUMMARY OF 400 PM CDT...2100 UTC...INFORMATION
----------------------------------------------
LOCATION...17.3N 87.8W
ABOUT 30 MI...50 KM ESE OF BELIZE CITY
ABOUT 90 MI...145 KM SSE OF CHETUMAL MEXICO
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...65 MPH...100 KM/HR
PRESENT MOVEMENT...W OR 280 DEGREES AT 12 MPH...19 KM/HR
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...996 MB...29.41 INCHES
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1484. jpsb
Quoting reedzone:


This has been my thinking, so I am thinking what you both are thinking... Gotta go for a while, great video btw.
And here I thought you were talking about the trof in the east. The one everyone said "might" tug Alex north. You should have told us you were thinking of the unexpectedly deep trof out west! It's not nice to kept such things secret.

Anyway nice call. You might just be right.
Member Since: June 30, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1010
Quoting StormW:


Just incredible. This storm is truly fascinating.


Can you imagine if it had skirted the TCHP to the N and shot through the Yucatan channel ?. We would be looking at a Cat 2 before entering the GOM.

I pray they get that oil leak sorted real soon because it is only a matter of time before we see something major heading that way. If June can produce Alex what next ?.
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Quoting WAHA:

Someone said to me that Alex will eat Darby for Breakfast...I said Breakfast ended at 10:30, but it might be still going on a little longer! It is weakening! :-O


Are you kidding me!? Breakfast never ends for Alex!
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Ok, I'm going to make a 5PM EDT advisory.

Max Winds: 60mph
Pressure: 998mb
Coordinates: 17.2˚N 87.3˚W
Motion: WNW at 9mph

Please verify after it comes out.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
1479. Levi32
NHC will likely shift the track south again this advisory.
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Quoting tropicfreak:


Why do trolls have to sign their name at the end of every comment they post. Just find it funny.


sorry shouldn't have said that
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Based on the model trends this afternoon iam not even sure whether alex even gets into the BOC. Thankfully this is not going to be an issue for the gulfcoast.
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1476. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting StormW:


Just incredible. This storm is truly fascinating.
just think this is only storm number one we may have 20 more yet to come
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Quoting StormW:


Could be close enough to affect the ridge (possibly) in about 36 hours. Alex would have to be around 50 kts to begin being fully affected by mid level steering.


Ok Thanks Storm. :) Can't say I'm thrilled with this new development. But its important to know.
SmileyCentral.com
Member Since: August 15, 2008 Posts: 10 Comments: 3665
1473. Grothar
Levi and Miami09

here is the link:

Link
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1472. Ossqss


Not much to slow him down ahead
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Quoting Snowlover123:


Lol. Not going to the NW.

-Snowlover123


Why do trolls have to sign their name at the end of every comment they post. Just find it funny.
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1470. WAHA
Quoting Snowlover123:
http://icons-sf.wunderground.com/data/images/ep201005_sat_anim.gif

Darby is being sheared by Alex!

-Snowlover123

Someone said to me that Alex will eat Darby for Breakfast...I said Breakfast ended at 10:30, but it might be still going on a little longer! It is weakening! :-O
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2-1 Ghana. 94'. Playing until 120'
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Quoting Snowlover123:


Okay, okay! It's going to the NW. :P

-Snowlover123
LOL!
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
1467. Levi32
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Tropical storm Christine in 1973 formed over land.



Pretty cool.
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DAMN! Ghana 2-1.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
Quoting Hurricanes101:


based on recon obs, it did move more to the NW
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Don't be so sure. I was looking at fast visible loops of Alex and it looked like it is taking a NW jog.
Quoting tropicfreak:


WHAT????!!


Okay, okay! It's going to the NW. :P

-Snowlover123
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1463. Grothar
Quoting Levi32:


Yeah I see now....that was just off the top of my hat. I can't remember the one.


From 1973 archives:

Later in August, Tropical Storm Christine became the easternmost forming tropical cyclone on record when it developed formed over the western African country of Guinea. The most intense storm of the season was Hurricane Ellen, a Category 3 cyclone that remained over open water. The final named storm was meteorologically significant in that it became the first recorded tropical cyclone to transition into a subtropical cyclone.

(Redundant, but true)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Tazmanian:
and it has 40kt of shear waiting for it
Alex or the wave that is going to emerge off of Africa?
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
Quoting tropicfreak:


Alex is the most powerful TS I have ever seen to tell you the truth.


Or at least one of the biggest.;)

-Snowlover123
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Quoting Snowlover123:


Lol. Not going to the NW.

-Snowlover123


based on recon obs, it did move more to the NW
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Quoting Snowlover123:


Lol. Not going to the NW.

-Snowlover123
Don't be so sure. I was looking at fast visible loops of Alex and it looked like it is taking a NW jog.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
Quoting Snowlover123:


Lol. Not going to the NW.

-Snowlover123


WHAT????!!
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Quoting weatherwatcher12:
Does anyone have reports on what is happening in Belize.




rainy and windy,lol....any chance of some wx for swfl tomorrow associated w/that band over cuba(w/it move NE towards the coastline of fl???)
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and it has 40kt of shear waiting for it
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5089 Comments: 114050
Quoting Snowlover123:
http://icons-sf.wunderground.com/data/images/ep201005_sat_anim.gif

Darby is being sheared by Alex!

-Snowlover123


Alex is the most powerful TS I have ever seen to tell you the truth.
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Quoting Hurricanes101:
nhc site crashed lol
Why so early? LOL!
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
Quoting tropicfreak:


That and it is now taking a jog to the NW which means even less time when you add the direction to the speed.


Lol. Not going to the NW.

-Snowlover123
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nhc site crashed lol
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1-1 FT. Going to an extra 30 min. USA - Ghana
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Quoting StormW:


You and me both!


I just saw the vortex message with 56 knot surface winds. So close to Cat 1, only needed another few hours.
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About JeffMasters

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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