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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What's the current forward speed?
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Quoting kmanislander:


For some I suppose but this storm has tons of rain with it and the highlands of Belize and Guatemala could wring out 2 feet of rain before it is all said and done.

I am afraid that flash floods and mudslides will likely lead to many fatalities inland. Belize itself is very low lying along the coast, no more than a couple feet above sea level. Not good for them.

One man's meat is another man's poision as they say.


when you put it that way... hummmm...

perhaps not so nice.. forgot about their mountains..

I just did not want this storm to get into GOM..

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I dont see anything that states this is a 50 kt system
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Quoting utilaeastwind:
Okay maybe this is real wishcasting, but from observing the Belize radar, is appears that an eye wall is forming at 17.1N 87.1W.

Belize Radar loop: http://www.hydromet.gov.bz/Radar%20Loop%20250km.htm


I called that pretty close eh?
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Quoting WinterAnalystwx13:


Its a possibility that Alex could become a Major Hurricane in the GOMEX...


That's some mighty thin ground...if it stays true to consensus (average) track, it won't have anything like the time it would need
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1043. IKE
KMAN...you may be correct. It's been located at 17.2N, so that's even further south then the coordinates listed on the last advisory.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
where is 17N at????
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115243
1041. Levi32
Hopefully we will get away with the ECMWF track through the southern Bay of Campeche with no oppertunity to significantly strengthen, but steering currents will be weakening in a couple days so it could still try to pull north. If the westward trend continues a lot of forecast tracks including the NHC's will get busted, but there is still potential for Alex to pull a weird track.
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Quoting tropicaltank:
Perhaps interaction with land will cause a more northerly jog.


I suspect so
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4438
Wondering if we'll see a special advisory on the quick intensification of Alex.
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Quoting Levi32:
This is really starting to wind up. Belize is lucky this doesn't have another day over water.

It could of been a hurricane by now if it weren't due to all the land interaction.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Quoting seflagamma:


wouldn't that be nice....:o)


For some I suppose but this storm has tons of rain with it and the highlands of Belize and Guatemala could wring out 2 feet of rain before it is all said and done.

I am afraid that flash floods and mudslides will likely lead to many fatalities inland. Belize itself is very low lying along the coast, no more than a couple feet above sea level. Not good for them.

One man's meat is another man's poision as they say.
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1035. RJT185
The westerly motion component seems rather persistent.
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Good afternoon all...

Haven't really been able to check in today. I see we have TS Alex as of this morning and a more westerly forecast. Anything else new?
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With how far south and west Alex has stayed, I wouldn't be surprised if it died over Mexico.
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Quoting reedzone:


50 mph.. Yep, I knew it!
50 knots, 60mph.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Quoting MrstormX:
Focusing only on track, I suspect Alex will probably do something like Keith did. With that NW jog over land.

Perhaps interaction with land will cause a more northerly jog.
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Tropical Storm Alex
60 mph, 998 mbs.


AL, 01, 2010062618, , BEST, 0, 172N, 873W, 50, 998, TS
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Quoting WinterAnalystwx13:


Its a 55 m/h TS...
They no longer write it as a 55mph system but rather 60mph.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
1027. gator23
Quoting Baltimorebirds:
Everyone I was talking about in the gulf not the carribean.


thats because most people on this blog live around the GOM. if you based where the majority of storms hit by this blogs demographic make up you would think the majority all hit Louisiana
Member Since: August 26, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2182
1026. Levi32
This is really starting to wind up. Belize is lucky this doesn't have another day over water.

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1025. SaoFeng
Quoting sarahjola:
wow! so its a hurricane now? or its becoming one now?


remember, eyes don't mean hurricane... some tropical storms develop them where as i've seen cat 2 hurricanes without them... nevertheless, alex is getting stronger
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1024. WAHA

It is supposed to say westnorthwest, not eastnortheast. sry. Anyway, this is my forecast, used with Google Earth.
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:
There it is!

AL, 01, 2010062618, , BEST, 0, 172N, 873W, 50, 998, TS, 50,





50 mph.. Yep, I knew it!
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Quoting wfyweather:


EXTREMELY unlikely given that it is only a 40 kt tropical storm and may die out over land. considering its going to be making landfall within 3 hours and it heading due west.
Actually it is moving WNW. And FTP concluded a 50 knot system.
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It does look like it is moving more westward lately plowing into Belize....

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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
They took the low 998mb pressure reading. They might issue a special advisory because of the 60mph winds.

AL, 01, 2010062618, , BEST, 0, 172N, 873W, 50, 998, TS, 50,


Probably will
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4438
They took the low 998mb pressure reading. They might issue a special advisory because of the 60mph winds.

AL, 01, 2010062618, , BEST, 0, 172N, 873W, 50, 998, TS, 50,
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
There it is!

AL, 01, 2010062618, , BEST, 0, 172N, 873W, 50, 998, TS, 50,


Down to 998 and 60mph
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Quoting WinterAnalystwx13:


Its a possibility that Alex could become a Major Hurricane in the GOMEX...


EXTREMELY unlikely given that it is only a 40 kt tropical storm and may die out over land. considering its going to be making landfall within 3 hours and it heading due west.
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Quoting TerraNova:


Possible beginnings of an eyewall.



Please don't rub it in...
wow! so its a hurricane now? or its becoming one now?
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Focusing only on track, I suspect Alex will probably do something like Keith did. With that NW jog over land.

Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4438
Quoting kmanislander:
If Alex continues on this more Westerly heading than forecasted it may not even make it to the Bay of Campeche but die off inland. At best, it looks like the very extreme Southern end of the BOC based upon the track so far.



wouldn't that be nice....:o)
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Ghana shouldn't dominate, but they sure are. Should be an interesting next hour.
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Quoting Levi32:


There's a lot of room for forecast tracks to bust with this system.


This storm is making a straight line run for Central Belize by the look of it and once these systems have momentum going on a particular track they are hard to turn. It looks to be trapped in the GOH.
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I want to get a vortex message to see what we're dealing at in terms of winds..
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1005. SaoFeng
AL, 01, 2010062618, , BEST, 0, 172N, 873W, 50, 998, TS, 50, NEQ, 0, 0, 20, 0, 1011, 200, 20, 0, 0, L, 0, , 0, 0, ALEX, M,

Officially 50kts

ftp://ftp.tpc.ncep.noaa.gov/atcf/tcweb/invest_al012010.invest
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Could the Trof still catch it ?
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Great scott! This isn't uncontaminated.
57 knots
(~ 65.5 mph)
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I've learned over many years that the NHC is pretty much on target 3 days out and not to bad 5 days out as well. (certainly more accurate every year) There have been exceptions, but very few. So, I bet Alex is going to stay on NHC track, hit MX (sorry for them; hope it's not to strong). Plenty of model support for it as well. There you have it. But here is a quetion for the group. Will Alex chop up the Gulf enough to halt "Oil spill" reclamation by BP? Does the whole Gulf get that choppy? I'm not a sailor, so really don't know. Thanks.
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1001. trey33
Quoting Floodman:


I believe the word is "poofter"


And I thought it was "poofster".... lol.
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1000. gator23
Quoting Stormchaser2007:
Well we know its raining:
32 mm/hr
(~ 1.26 in/hr)

65 mph uncontaminated SFMR:
57 knots
(~ 65.5 mph)

SFMR? crap those are surface readings!
Member Since: August 26, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2182
Hello All hope everyone is well. Just Curious has anyone seen the new 12z models they are showing something popping up around the 3rd or 4th of july near the carolinas and have been very consistant the lat few runs.
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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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