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 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: 4355
Quoting scottsvb:


Your aloud to speak your opinion and you did well by saying WHY you think it will move to Texas. But the trough will miss anything west of 90W...I dont see this getting north of 22N but its too early. Have to wait another 24hr @ least.


I agree, need to wait some more until this gets off the Yucatan, maybe it won't, maybe it'll stall and die out, who knows.. It's a wait and see situation.
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897. IKE
Quoting charlottefl:
COC?




Could be because I see the center between 87-88 west.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Just north of 17
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Quoting amd:
i'm confused. Surface observations of nnw winds at san pedro suggests a center near 18 north, but the latest recon is still finding ese winds at 925 mb @ 17.37 north, which suggests a center closer to 17 north.


Surface winds are angled due to friction, especially over land. The winds 5000 feet above San Pedro are likely more on the order of northeasterly.
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Quoting Weather456:
Should be used for all future references to upper anticyclones



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
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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 165 Comments: 52383
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.
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Alex's circulation is now clearly visible on Belize radar
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Lowest non-contaminated data.

1002.0 mb
(~ 29.59 inHg)
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
Should be used for all future references to upper anticyclones

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Quoting Hurricanes101:


so the 999 in the mb field is one of those bad readings right?


999 denotes a missing reading. If it suddenly appears like that and then jumps back to another value, or remains 9990 for several time indices in a row, then it's the error code for a missing data value. You can usually tell if it's really a pressure reading of 999mb.
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886. amd
i'm confused. Surface observations of nnw winds at san pedro suggests a center near 18 north, but the latest recon is still finding ese winds at 925 mb @ 17.37 north, which suggests a center closer to 17 north.
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COC?


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1002.0 mb
(~ 29.59 inHg)
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No way 1002.0 mb is a 45 mph TS.
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Quoting txsweetpea:


Look at post 846


yes, I saw that....
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Quoting Levi32:
The recon plane is easily verifying at least 40kt winds, but it has yet to sample the very deep convection in the SW quad of the system.
That's is where we are going to find our 50+ knot winds.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
Quoting Hurricanes101:


so the 999 in the mb field is one of those bad readings right?


Yes.
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Recon is heading for the part of the storm where readings could get more interesting.

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Borderline TX/MX is my forecast based on maps I've looked at, water vapor shows the trough forming well in the midwest. Alex will have to feel some effect, especially if it strengthens to a Hurricane in the GOM or BOC. It has to tug a bit more north then as the ridge builds, it heads west. Almost a similar situation with Frances in 2004, except that storm was near Florida.
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Quoting Levi32:


NHC site
Thanks a lot.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
Quoting weatherwatcher12:

How do you get the Recon obs. above the clouds.


I put the recon layer over a visible satellite layer.
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Lots of contaminated data.

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Quoting btwntx08:

that there is around corpus christi area


Hi btwntx....
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Quoting Levi32:
The recon plane is easily verifying at least 40kt winds, but it has yet to sample the very deep convection in the SW quad of the system.


so the 999 in the mb field is one of those bad readings right?
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Quoting Weather456:


One is a direct obs (recon), the other is an estimate (dvorak). It is easy to get a difference because the satellite presentation of Alex is impressive but I guess not much is going on under all this. Another thing, Alex is huge so energy will dissipate at higher volumes.
That's sorta kinda what I meant, you just said it much clearer, lol.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
What is the link for these?


NHC site
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Quoting Levi32:
Recon hasn't yet entered the area of the storm where strongest winds will be found, but it is closing in on the center.


How do you get the Recon obs. above the clouds.
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The recon plane is easily verifying at least 40kt winds, but it has yet to sample the very deep convection in the SW quad of the system.
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Quoting Levi32:
1002.0mb. No wind shift yet. It could still go lower.

000
URNT15 KNHC 261816
AF302 0301A ALEX HDOB 22 20100626
180700 1746N 08704W 9244 00719 0030 +221 +211 150020 021 027 000 03
180730 1745N 08706W 9252 00709 0030 +220 +215 144016 017 030 000 03
180800 1744N 08707W 9244 00716 0031 +219 +215 138018 019 031 000 03
180830 1743N 08709W 9249 00714 0029 +222 +213 125018 019 031 000 03
180900 1742N 08710W 9248 00714 0029 +225 +211 129019 020 031 000 00
180930 1741N 08711W 9248 00712 0029 +225 +211 133019 019 030 000 00
181000 1740N 08712W 9248 00714 0026 +230 +211 128019 019 030 000 00
181030 1739N 08713W 9246 00715 0026 +231 +210 124020 021 029 000 00
181100 1737N 08714W 9245 00715 0025 +235 +208 122021 021 030 000 03
181130 1736N 08715W 9248 00712 0025 +238 +204 121023 024 032 000 00
181200 1735N 08716W 9248 00712 0024 +243 +199 122023 023 033 000 00
181230 1733N 08717W 9245 00713 0021 +244 +201 111020 021 034 000 03
181300 1732N 08718W 9252 00706 0022 +240 +196 114022 024 036 000 00
181330 1730N 08718W 9250 00707 0020 +246 +183 114025 026 039 000 00
181400 1729N 08719W 9248 00707 0021 +238 +181 116030 031 039 000 03
181430 1728N 08720W 9247 00708 0022 +228 +192 114030 034 037 000 03
181500 1726N 08720W 9248 00704 0023 +210 +209 113036 036 034 002 00
181530 1725N 08721W 9246 00702 9990 +192 +999 104034 035 039 003 01
181600 1723N 08722W 9250 00696 9990 +194 +999 106031 032 037 005 05
181630 1722N 08722W 9248 00694 9990 +194 +999 116029 030 037 003 05
$$
What is the link for these?
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
Quoting TexasHurricane:
I think I will just keep an eye on it regardless. Storms can be unpredictable....so I say it is better to be safe than sorry. As long as there is even a hint of possibility this could co more north,then I am not going to assume the upper TX coast is in the clear.


Look at post 846
Member Since: June 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 546
Quoting reedzone:
Yet again guys, I'm proving my statements with facts, which means I am NOT wishcasting this. I just dont see how thr trough misses Alex unless Alex continues to move at teh general speed, but as with most storms that cross the Yucatan, Alex should slow down tomorrow. Based on facts, not wishcasting, it's my opinion and I'm subject to it!


Your aloud to speak your opinion and you did well by saying WHY you think it will move to Texas. But the trough will miss anything west of 90W...I dont see this getting north of 22N but its too early. Have to wait another 24hr @ least.
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Quoting Jeff9641:
Models are hinting at Bonnie off JAX later next week. GFDL & GFS interesting looks like a piece of Alex breaks off and developes Bonnie.
That is just bad model 101.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
70mph TS? Recon finding otherwise.


One is a direct obs (recon), the other is an estimate (dvorak). It is easy to get a difference because the satellite presentation of Alex is impressive but I guess not much is going on under all this. Another thing, Alex is huge so energy will dissipate at higher volumes.
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Quoting Jeff9641:
Models are hinting at Bonnie off JAX later next week. GFDL & GFS interesting looks like a piece of Alex breaks off and developes Bonnie.


Interesting, Link please?
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4355
.....
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17.767N 87.050W
1003.0 mb
(~ 29.62 inHg)
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21032


Pressure @ San Pedro, Belize = 1004;
Winds NNW @ 25, gusting to 35

San Pedro Weather
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1002.0mb. No wind shift yet. It could still go lower.

000
URNT15 KNHC 261816
AF302 0301A ALEX HDOB 22 20100626
180700 1746N 08704W 9244 00719 0030 +221 +211 150020 021 027 000 03
180730 1745N 08706W 9252 00709 0030 +220 +215 144016 017 030 000 03
180800 1744N 08707W 9244 00716 0031 +219 +215 138018 019 031 000 03
180830 1743N 08709W 9249 00714 0029 +222 +213 125018 019 031 000 03
180900 1742N 08710W 9248 00714 0029 +225 +211 129019 020 031 000 00
180930 1741N 08711W 9248 00712 0029 +225 +211 133019 019 030 000 00
181000 1740N 08712W 9248 00714 0026 +230 +211 128019 019 030 000 00
181030 1739N 08713W 9246 00715 0026 +231 +210 124020 021 029 000 00
181100 1737N 08714W 9245 00715 0025 +235 +208 122021 021 030 000 03
181130 1736N 08715W 9248 00712 0025 +238 +204 121023 024 032 000 00
181200 1735N 08716W 9248 00712 0024 +243 +199 122023 023 033 000 00
181230 1733N 08717W 9245 00713 0021 +244 +201 111020 021 034 000 03
181300 1732N 08718W 9252 00706 0022 +240 +196 114022 024 036 000 00
181330 1730N 08718W 9250 00707 0020 +246 +183 114025 026 039 000 00
181400 1729N 08719W 9248 00707 0021 +238 +181 116030 031 039 000 03
181430 1728N 08720W 9247 00708 0022 +228 +192 114030 034 037 000 03
181500 1726N 08720W 9248 00704 0023 +210 +209 113036 036 034 002 00
181530 1725N 08721W 9246 00702 9990 +192 +999 104034 035 039 003 01
181600 1723N 08722W 9250 00696 9990 +194 +999 106031 032 037 005 05
181630 1722N 08722W 9248 00694 9990 +194 +999 116029 030 037 003 05
$$
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Yet again guys, I'm proving my statements with facts, which means I am NOT wishcasting this. I just dont see how thr trough misses Alex unless Alex continues to move at teh general speed, but as with most storms that cross the Yucatan, Alex should slow down tomorrow. Based on facts, not wishcasting, it's my opinion and I'm subject to it!
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:
CI# /Pressure/ Vmax
3.8 / 991.0mb/ 61.0k
t


That's cranking up.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
70mph TS? Recon finding otherwise.


recon hasnt hit the strongest winds
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
70mph TS? Recon finding otherwise.


Just based on DVORAK.

Nothing else...
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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.