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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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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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.



Definitely a possibility still seems more likely it will jog NW once its over land, and reappear in the Southern BOC.
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4355
Quoting Baltimorebirds:
Is it a possiblity that alex could reach cat 2 status? Like dolly of 2008??
Highly unlikely. The chance increases in the GOM but not in the Caribbean.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Likely contaminated.
If it is suspect they will note it
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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.



There's a lot of room for forecast tracks to bust with this system.
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Quoting Baltimorebirds:
Is it a possiblity that alex could reach cat 2 status? Like dolly of 2008??


Cat 2, when ??. It isn't even Cat 1 yet and does not have the time to be more than a TS before landfall IMO
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Well we know its raining:
32 mm/hr
(~ 1.26 in/hr)

65 mph uncontaminated SFMR:
57 knots
(~ 65.5 mph)
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Quoting largeeyes:
1-0 Ghana if anyone cares
I'd love for USA to win, but I'm expecting Ghana to dominate them. Alex's birth has been so interesting yet frustrating to watch. It just shows that even when conditions are favorable, things can still take longer than you might expect.
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Quoting jpsb:
67 kts? Cat 1 hurricane.

those are flight level winds, the higher in a storm you go the more intense the wind. Our categories are based on surface winds. 67knts flight level is about 45-50 mph surface
Member Since: August 26, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2162
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.



I noticed that too. Almost Arthur like. Still, even the ECMWF shows Alex entering the BOC. I imagine the NHC will shift the track further south once again.
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
Just stopping in to say, "Hello"! By the grace of God I have been working over the past 3 weeks, and my personal laptop is going to Toshiba for warranty work.

Hope everyone is doing well and I hope to spend more time online soon :o)!!
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I hope my ticker can handle the stress this USA team puts me through every game.
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Quoting reedzone:
I'm looking at winds to increase to 50-60 mph. at 5 p.m. Probably just 50 mph knowing the NHC :P
If Recon finds some strong TS winds or CAT 1 winds it is likely they will issue a special advisory.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
Quoting Floodman:


I believe the word is "poofter"


Yes. Thats the one.
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Quoting jpsb:
67 kts? Cat 1 hurricane.
Likely contaminated.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
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.

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Quoting Floodman:


I believe the word is "poofter"

i thought it was poofist?
Member Since: August 26, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2162
I suspect given the recon data, and Alex's proximity to land we will get a Special Advisory issued before 4:00.
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4355
Quoting sarahjola:
elaborate please:)


Possible beginnings of an eyewall.

Quoting largeeyes:
1-0 Ghana if anyone cares


Please don't rub it in...
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Quoting WinterAnalystwx13:


I'm not a poofer.... :P


I believe the word is "poofter"
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977. jpsb
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Recon finding a pressure of 998.7mb and surface winds of 67 knots. Rather impressive, imo.
67 kts? Cat 1 hurricane.
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Quoting TexasHurricane:


meaning?


Meaning the strongest winds will be found there, and they are indeed finding some very strong winds. The central pressure is also down to at least 998mb, making this stronger than a 40kt TS, which I opined was probably the case earlier.

It doesn't look like they pinned the exact center because there were still some light winds when they found the 998mb, so they may take another pass before issuing a vortex message.
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I'm looking at winds to increase to 50-60 mph. at 5 p.m. Probably just 50 mph knowing the NHC :P
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Quoting utilaeastwind:


The SW quadrant is actually the COC.


Wrong.

The SW quad has the strongest winds.
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.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
Pressure readings are giving out for some reason, but strong SW winds are being observed above 50 knots at flight-level. SFMR readings are all suspect due to heavy rain, but there are a lot of readings above 55kts by that instrument.

000
URNT15 KNHC 261836
AF302 0301A ALEX HDOB 24 20100626
182700 1653N 08714W 9245 00705 9990 +179 +999 215044 046 066 045 05
182730 1652N 08714W 9251 00707 9990 +179 +999 221049 051 060 037 05
182800 1651N 08715W 9257 00697 9990 +179 +999 223051 052 062 034 05
182830 1650N 08716W 9235 00717 9990 +180 +999 222053 053 059 029 05
182900 1649N 08716W 9251 00703 9990 +180 +999 225052 052 056 018 05
182930 1648N 08717W 9245 00709 9990 +180 +999 230048 048 055 019 01
183000 1647N 08718W 9251 00704 9990 +180 +999 233047 048 059 022 05
183030 1646N 08719W 9246 00710 9990 +180 +999 237045 045 056 025 01
183100 1646N 08719W 9250 00709 9990 +180 +999 237043 044 058 026 05
183130 1645N 08720W 9246 00714 9990 +180 +999 237040 041 056 027 05
183200 1644N 08721W 9248 00713 9990 +178 +999 241041 041 052 030 01
183230 1642N 08722W 9248 00715 9990 +175 +999 251038 039 057 025 01
183300 1641N 08723W 9244 00718 9990 +176 +999 248038 040 058 026 05
183330 1640N 08723W 9244 00720 9990 +180 +999 248040 041 056 032 01
183400 1639N 08724W 9251 00712 9990 +179 +999 250039 040 053 030 05
183430 1638N 08725W 9245 00721 9990 +180 +999 249038 038 051 021 05
183500 1637N 08726W 9246 00722 9990 +180 +999 246038 039 049 017 01
183530 1636N 08726W 9250 00719 9990 +185 +999 246038 039 047 013 01
183600 1635N 08727W 9247 00723 9990 +187 +999 247038 038 045 008 01
183630 1634N 08728W 9246 00725 9990 +187 +999 246038 038 044 008 01
$$
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This is always on when Im watching recon.

Link
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Quoting TexasHurricane:


meaning?


The SW quadrant is actually the COC.
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Quoting FLWeatherFreak91:
There are large numbers of people showing up at clinics throughout the gulf coast with signs of chemical poisoning. 72 so far in Louisiana alone... I'm starting to think that a tropical system sitting over the oil spill would actually help by bringing in some fresh air.

It's the only way nature is going to heal what we've done....


Where can I find a story on this?
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Quoting TerraNova:
Interesting stuff going on according to microwave data...

elaborate please:)
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Quoting TexasHurricane:
How often do we get the official updates now?
Intermediate advisory: 2AM/2PM, 8AM/8PM. Complete advisory: 11AM/11PM, 5AM/5PM.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
1-0 Ghana if anyone cares
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Dang readings are ALL contaminated on the next HDOB.

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If you reduce the 67 mph flight level reading, translated to about 50-55 mph. I say that's what we're looking at.
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MIMIC shows a developing core. If this had 12-24 more hours over land...

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Quoting Levi32:
Here we go, as I figured the SW quad holds some surprises.



meaning?
Member Since: July 2, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 2811
There are large numbers of people showing up at clinics throughout the gulf coast with signs of chemical poisoning. 72 so far in Louisiana alone... I'm starting to think that a tropical system sitting over the oil spill would actually help by bringing in some fresh air.

It's the only way nature is going to heal what we've done....
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Alex is a large storm and the outflow is outstanding!!
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looks like we may have a strong TS or weak cat 1 H
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Quoting Levi32:
Here we go, as I figured the SW quad holds some surprises.

Very very interesting.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
Focusing only on the track
its possible when Alex heads over land, it could start jogging more so NW like Hurricane Keith.

Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4355
How often do we get the official updates now?
Member Since: July 2, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 2811

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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.