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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How often do we get the official updates now?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Tazmanian:
do i see 2 spins with Alex or is it my eyes

you drank to much beer last night.
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43.5 knots (~ 50.0 mph)
Tropical Storm
(not contaminated)

999.0 mb
(~ 29.50 inHg)

That makes a little more sense, although I think its more like 60 mph.
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Quoting ElConando:


Why so?


Why?

His is from 16:30

The current is 18:00
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Quoting MrstormX:


Contaminated?

yes sometimes driving rain can make the winds appear stronger.
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So what are we looking at now? 50-60 mph TS?
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Here we go, as I figured the SW quad holds some surprises.

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Quoting MrstormX:


Contaminated?
Likely.
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:


Thats quite a bit old.

Latest:


Why so?
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:
Flight level winds are up to 60mph and the pressure is down to 999
One SFMR shows winds of 67 knots. Likely contaminated though.
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Quoting sammywammybamy:



What Would be Surface Wind Speed for 60 Knots?


925mb extrapolation would make a 60kt flight-level wind equivalent to 45 knots at the surface, or 50mph.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Recon finding a pressure of 998.7mb and surface winds of 60 knots. Rather impressive, imo.


Contaminated?
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4438
934. jpsb
Quoting reedzone:


12Z CMC
Texas Landfall, trough catches Alex
Hmmm, have not seen anyone call for a solution like that. CMC really develop the troff. hmmmm
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Flight level winds are up to 60mph and the pressure is down to 999
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do i see 2 spins with Alex or is it my eyes
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115243
930. IKE
Quoting amd:
center is definitely at 17.2 N 87.3 W and winds are substantially stronger in the sw quandrant.

Thanks Levi for the explanation earlier about the conflicting wind reports. That makes a lot of sense.


That's slightly further south then the latest NHC coordinates.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
San Pedro, Belize reports 1003,7mb

Link

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Quoting ssmate:
Don't sell yourself short, you had an injury during Fay otherwise you would have nailed it.


BWWWWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!!

I think it might have been a brain injury.
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Quoting WinterAnalystwx13:


Like, how strong?


59 kts at flight-level and 67kts on SFMR which is likely a little bit high due to heavy rainfall contamination.
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Recon finding a pressure of 998.7mb and surface winds of 67 knots. Rather impressive, imo.
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Wind shear is being caused by the interaction of the anticyclone and the upper level low on the northern Gulf Coast. The wind shear is moving northeast, away from ALex, slowly, but it's moving away. This should make conditions favorable, even maybe ripe for development IF Alex enters in.
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Quoting Weather456:


Thats quite a bit old.

Latest:
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921. amd
center is definitely at 17.2 N 87.3 W and winds are substantially stronger in the sw quandrant.

Thanks Levi for the explanation earlier about the conflicting wind reports. That makes a lot of sense.
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Quoting charlottefl:
COC?




The Radar loop will not show circulation like a normal loop.

I am referring to the area without rain just south west of The Half Moon Cays.

I am not saying I am positive, but if you look back at the RGB loops, you will see that the true track of the center has been on the 17.0N line all day.
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Quoting Tazmanian:
wind shear is varyhigh like 40 to 50kt TX is safe vary safe go out and in joy your BBQ


taz i thought you were excited about this lol, what happened
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Intensity Estimates

ADT - 59 knots
AMSU - 36 knots
SATCON - 40 knots
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Quoting ssmate:
Don't sell yourself short, you had an injury during Fay otherwise you would have nailed it.


A brain injury?
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Quoting Hurricanes101:


just think to what this system looked like 3 or 4 days ago when it was having trouble organizing

this is the thing that fascinates me the most about these storms


It didn't surprise me how fast and potent Alex ramped up to be. Remember we are dealing with a storm that has the characteristics of a Western Pacific system. This is why we are seing impressive deep convection, soo much energy, once combined, it blew up.
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Very strong winds being measured in the SW quad.
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wind shear is varyhigh like 40 to 50kt TX is safe vary safe go out and in joy your BBQ
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115243
912. IKE
Radar definitely showing the center. About 60 miles til landfall.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting hurricanelover236:
I was telling everyone in the chat yesterday that the storm would hit the yucatan and mexico and not be a US threat and once again I am right.You guys shud listen to me about the upcoming season. The only storm i have ever forecatsed wrong was Fay of 2008. Every single other prediction has been accurate.
Don't sell yourself short, you had an injury during Fay otherwise you would have nailed it.
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Quoting WinterAnalystwx13:


poof.


Try "poofer".
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Quoting hurricanelover236:
I was telling everyone in the chat yesterday that the storm would hit the yucatan and mexico and not be a US threat and once again I am right.You guys shud listen to me about the upcoming season. The only storm i have ever forecatsed wrong was Fay of 2008. Every single other prediction has been accurate.

false. 100 percent false. You said 2 weeks ago we would have no storms in JUNE, and we do. You said shear would destroy any storms in the Carribean, wrong, you said you are always right, wrong. Yo said "why s thr NHC wasting there time with 93L they are making fools of themselves...
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Quoting Weather456:
Should be used for all future references to upper anticyclones


excellent.
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998.7mb 60kt winds at flight-level and SFMR

000
URNT15 KNHC 261826
AF302 0301A ALEX HDOB 23 20100626
181700 1720N 08723W 9245 00695 0009 212 210 117029 030 036 002 03
181730 1719N 08723W 9247 00689 0005 214 208 111027 029 036 003 00
181800 1717N 08724W 9244 00691 0004 206 206 093023 026 035 002 00
181830 1716N 08725W 9245 00686 9999 215 208 057020 022 035 001 03
181900 1714N 08725W 9244 00687 9997 220 209 039020 022 033 001 03
181930 1713N 08724W 9242 00686 9994 216 213 027014 017 999 999 03
182000 1712N 08723W 9248 00676 9992 199 199 035009 010 037 007 05
182030 1711N 08721W 9245 00674 9990 197 999 262003 008 034 008 01
182100 1710N 08720W 9244 00677 9989 203 203 269011 013 033 007 05
182130 1709N 08720W 9239 00680 9987 199 199 258015 016 030 003 05
182200 1707N 08720W 9250 00674 9994 200 200 252016 017 032 004 01
182230 1706N 08719W 9242 00689 9997 216 216 247017 018 029 000 00
182300 1704N 08719W 9253 00682 0005 210 210 247016 017 032 001 00
182330 1703N 08719W 9248 00693 0009 207 207 268013 015 030 003 00
182400 1701N 08719W 9244 00696 9990 202 999 272014 016 032 007 05
182430 1700N 08718W 9273 00661 9990 196 999 244018 025 035 007 01
182500 1658N 08717W 9212 00720 9990 193 999 270031 038 041 010 01
182530 1657N 08716W 9257 00690 9990 192 999 248035 037 046 012 01
182600 1656N 08715W 9237 00707 9990 181 999 219053 059 067 034 05
182630 1655N 08714W 9251 00699 9990 180 999 213050 054 999 999 05

$$
;
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Interesting stuff going on according to microwave data...

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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Lowest non-contaminated data.

1002.0 mb
(~ 29.59 inHg)
Yea and they turned Extrapolated
Surface Pressur off after that reading hasnt come back yet
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
No way 1002.0 mb is a 45 mph TS.


Could be... its happened before... 2005 Tropical storm Bret was only 40 mph but 1002mb.
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Quoting charlottefl:
COC?




May be.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting CybrTeddy:
No way 1002.0 mb is a 45 mph TS.


And there is no way Hurricane Opal (916 mbar) was a category 4 hurricane, but sometimes the winds can't keep up with the pressure.
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4438

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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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