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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699. ATL
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Ok I'll be the only one to post the 2PM advisory. Please don't post it 12 times.

Pretty sure that's been said every season and it's never worked. I'll refrain from posting it though...
Outer bands are spreading over Grand Cayman right now and producing some heavy showers here. The winds were calm for a few hours but have now picked up in the squalls. Some decent 25-30mph gusts here oin the west side.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Ok I'll be the only one to post the 2PM advisory. Please don't post it 12 times.


More like 30000 times. Lol.

-Snowlover123
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Ok I'll be the only one to post the 2PM advisory. Please don't post it 12 times.


good idea to coordinate who is going to post what prior to release/updates..
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:
Recon hasnt sent out an HDOB in 29 minutes.

Odd.
Usually happens when they are descending but they were already at the surface so that is kind of weird.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21372
Quoting scott39:
Great video presentation Levi, One question Why did some models pick up on that high building in and kicking Alex back W and why others didnt?


Some models are better than others :) I still think the ECMWF is too far south, but it led the way in dragging the model consensus west, and that's not surprising since it is one of our best models in the tropics.
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:
Last visible image of the day...


I'm going to save that. That's incredible. Likely future Bonnie. What will the conditions for it be once it exits the coast?
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17.N,87.5W looks like a center fix, IMO
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Ok I'll be the only one to post the 2PM advisory. Please don't post it 12 times.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21372
Quoting extreme236:


GFS parallel Link


Thanks.

Quoting 1900hurricane:

How is the upgrade verifying against the standard GFS and other models such as the ECMWF?


So far I haven't seen anything really impressive about the GFS since the upgrade occurred. We'll be able to tell better when we start getting hurricanes one after the other.
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:
Last visible image of the day...




That is amazing; feeder bands and ALL!!!
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Recon hasnt sent out an HDOB in 29 minutes.

Odd.
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Quoting tropicfreak:


Whats CDO.

Central Dense Overcast

This is the cirrus cloud shield that results from the thunderstorms in the eyewall of a tropical cyclone and its rainbands. Before the tropical cyclone reaches hurricane strength (33 m/s, 64 kts, 74mph), typically the CDO is uniformly showing the cold cloud tops of the cirrus with no eye apparent. Once the storm reaches the hurricane strength threshold, usually an eye can be seen in either the infrared or visible channels of the satellites. Tropical cyclones that have nearly circular CDO's are indicative of favorable, low vertical shear environments.(from AOML)
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:
Last visible image of the day...


Now that is really an interesting site. Don't see twisting like that much over the continent.
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Quoting DauphinNotDolphin:
From the 12z Alex GFDL, another system forming off the Southeast coast:



Link


Looks like a spinoff from Alex
Member Since: July 18, 2009 Posts: 1 Comments: 1039
landfall is now immenent in the next 2 hours!!!!
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
It is doing the same as the GFS. It can't properly feedback a tropical storm, so it just splits it up into 2.



what you are saying is incorrect. The GFDL sees alex but develops another system by the panhandle. what you are saying makes no sense
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Quoting stillwaiting:
proabably a 50mph TS IMO...
I'm more eager to see the coordinates rather then its intensity.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21372
Quoting txag91met:

GEM is a horribly inconsistent model in the tropics.


I hope so! Cuz I'm not liking that run at all! But it has been focused on Texas for a while.
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Quoting Levi32:
Good morning all.

Special tropical tidbit for Saturday, June 26th, with Video
Great video presentation Levi, One question Why did some models pick up on that high building in and kicking Alex back W and why others didnt?
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recon has not updated in 20 minutes
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Quoting txag91met:
GFS has been a joke for years...the new upgrade is going to help some. ECMWF upgrade has even proven to be better in the tropics. Remember the GFDL/WRF use the GFS for boundary conditions...I have been saying for years for the NHC to run the GFDL/HWRF off of the ECMWF.

Does that mean when the GFS upgrade is preformed, the GFDL and HWRF will also improve?
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:


LOL

The 12z GFDL does it too.

Embarrassing.


The GFDL is a pretty good model. I do not look to the ECMWF for too much beyond 3 days. They are making improvements though.
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:


A relocation is not taking place...


It looks like there is a swirl moving quickly along the forecast track and a new COC is forming in the area mentioned. 16.8N 87.4W

RGB LOOP http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/goes/flt/t1/flash-rgb.html
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proabably a 50mph TS IMO...
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Last visible image of the day...
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Quoting Levi32:


GFS is a joke. This is our US model? Give me a break. It can't even properly feedback a tropical cyclone so it has to split it into 2 systems. Embarrassing to have our flagship model doing that.

So claim the CMC. Alaska's just the 3rd Yukon Territory anyhow. (LOL)



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Quoting Levi32:


Where do you get the "new version"?


http://www.nco.ncep.noaa.gov/pmb/nwpara/analysis/index_carib.shtml
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Quoting DauphinNotDolphin:
From the 12z Alex GFDL, another system forming off the Southeast coast:



Link
It is doing the same as the GFS. It can't properly feedback a tropical storm, so it just splits it up into 2.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21372
alex is about to make landfall near san pedro,belize!!!!.....,moving west along 18N
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Quoting Levi32:


GFS is a joke. This is our US model? Give me a break. It can't even properly feedback a tropical cyclone so it has to split it into 2 systems. Embarrassing to have our flagship model doing that.

How is the upgrade verifying against the standard GFS and other models such as the ECMWF?
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Quoting extreme236:


At least the new version of it doesn't do that.
GFS has been a joke for years...the new upgrade is going to help some. ECMWF upgrade has even proven to be better in the tropics. Remember the GFDL/WRF use the GFS for boundary conditions...I have been saying for years for the NHC to run the GFDL/HWRF off of the ECMWF.
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Link
Yep definitely had 40 mph gust here in grand cayman
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Quoting Levi32:


Where do you get the "new version"?


GFS parallel Link
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Quoting cancunnicky:
hi everyone new here. just wanted to let know we have been getting rain in cancun with some gusts all morning long the waves on beach are getting bigger

Stay safe!
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Quoting jaevortex:

Thank you commented it's amazing update!


Thank you :)
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http://moe.met.fsu.edu/tcgengifs/cmc/2010062612/slp18.png

Is the CMC model good with Tropical Cyclones?
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are TS wiil have high wind shear in the gulf waiting for it
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Quoting extreme236:


At least the new version of it doesn't do that.


Where do you get the "new version"?
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From the 12z Alex GFDL, another system forming off the Southeast coast:



Link
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The center of Alex is probably somewhere in the Belize radar range now, but it's hard to pinpoint the exact spot. You can see the rotation though. The center is likely north of the coldest cloud tops east of Belize.

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hi everyone new here. just wanted to let know we have been getting rain in cancun with some gusts all morning long the waves on beach are getting bigger
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Quoting Levi32:


GFS is a joke. This is our US model? Give me a break. It can't even properly feedback a tropical cyclone so it has to split it into 2 systems. Embarrassing to have our flagship model doing that.


At least the new version of it doesn't do that.
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if i remember correctly isn't the CMC really good with depicting troughs?
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Quoting Levi32:


GFS is a joke. This is our US model? Give me a break. It can't even properly feedback a tropical cyclone so it has to split it into 2 systems. Embarrassing to have our flagship model doing that.


lol...Its always annoying watching the GFS split a cyclone and over amplify the trough. Maybe its time to take notes from the European.
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Quoting Levi32:
Good morning all.

Special tropical tidbit for Saturday, June 26th, with Video

Thank you commented it's amazing update!
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Quoting Levi32:


GFS is a joke. This is our US model? Give me a break. It can't even properly feedback a tropical cyclone so it has to split it into 2 systems. Embarrassing to have our flagship model doing that.


LOL

The 12z GFDL does it too.

Embarrassing.
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Quoting Snowlover123:


WOW. The 2nd model I've seen that looks like Alex will bomb out once it goes into the GOM.

-Snowlover123

GEM is a horribly inconsistent model in the tropics.
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Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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