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 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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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.
Guess the Europeans killed us in that one.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21195
Quoting bappit:

Hooray! Today a well established CDO.


Whats CDO.
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WOW!

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

The storm should move more NW when it gets into the GOM.
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Quoting bappit:

Hooray! Today a well established CDO.
Finally.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21195
Quoting GetReal:


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.
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643. IKE
Quoting asgolfr999:


No offense IKE, just wanted to ask StormW a question....did I promote or demote you? :-)


LOL.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Damn, look at those cloud tops, some -90˚C.


Hooray! Today a well established CDO.
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Quoting utilaeastwind:
Looks like a new COC is forming at 16.8N 87.4W.

Slowing down also.


A relocation is not taking place...
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640. ATL
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
I don't know why but systems tend to stall in this area before landfall. If you are right some nasty RI might take place.

Not with half the storm over land already. Maybe a 55kt TS but that's about it before the whole thing is forced to move over land.
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Quoting IKE:


?


No offense IKE, just wanted to ask StormW a question....did I promote or demote you? :-)
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Quoting Inactivity:
Anyone know when it should take a more NW turn?


Not anytime soon by the looks of it. He's quickly headed west towards southern Belize looking at the latest vis loop. The farther south it comes ashore, the better. Heck, it might not even survive the traverse over the Yucatan that far south.
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Member Since: July 4, 2005 Posts: 204 Comments: 8898
12z CMC shows some of my fears, but my track will still take this into Mexico near 25N. Texas should keep an eye on it and realize that such a large storm will likely impact them with heavy rains and TS-force winds even if it makes landfall in northern Mexico.
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634. IKE
Quoting asgolfr999:


Why so far east all of a sudden...Master Chief?


?
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:


It probably wont anymore.

Its too late.


Are you being sarcastic or realistic? I can't tell.

-Snowlover123
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I think we're getting tropical storm force wind gust here on Grand Cayman.
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Quoting utilaeastwind:
Looks like a new COC is forming at 16.8N 87.4W.

Slowing down also.
I don't know why but systems tend to stall in this area before landfall. If you are right some nasty RI might take place.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21195
1 more time...
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Quoting Inactivity:
Anyone know when it should take a more NW turn?


It's rotating around the High off of the East Coast. It should take a more NW track when it makes landfall, and move into the GOM.

-Snowlover123
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* JUNE 26, 2010, 12:52 P.M. ET

Adm. Allen: Will Decide Next Week Whether To Evacuate Well Site


NEW ORLEANS (Dow Jones)--The U.S. Coast Guard will decide in the next few days whether to halt oil containment efforts in the Gulf of Mexico ahead of Tropical Storm Alex, Admiral Thad Allen said Saturday.

Evacuating for the storm would interrupt oil containment for about two weeks, he said in a press conference.

Tropical Storm Alex is expected to reach the Gulf of Mexico early next week, though recent projections put the storm's path west of the site of the leaking BP PLC (BP, BP.LN) well, which is about 50 miles southeast of Louisiana.

Evacuating the area would require moving as many as 6,000 vessels and over 38,000 people, including two rigs that are collecting about 24,500 barrels of oil a day from the well, Allen said.

The decision to evacuate will come 120 hours before gale-force winds are expected to reach the area, Allen said.

"At this point (Alex) does not threaten the site, but we know that these tracks can change," Allen said.

...

http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20100626-700879.html
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Quoting IKE:
12Z CMC


Why so far east all of a sudden...Master Chief?
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Quoting WAHA:

Darby is a category 2 storm.

This is true, but gigantic Alex and his accompanying anticyclone is also having larger effects to the upper atmosphere than puny Darby. The image below helps to illustrate that point.

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Looks like a new COC is forming at 16.8N 87.4W.

Slowing down also.
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Quoting Levi32:
Recon will likely find a much stronger storm than a 40kt TS. Ships are reporting TS-force winds 200 miles north of the center, and satellite appearance certainly proclaims an intensity more along the lines of 50-55 knots (60-65mph).
I wouldn't be surprised to see a CAT.1 right before landfall later this evening.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21195
Quoting IKE:
12Z CMC


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

-Snowlover123
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GFDL...
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621. WAHA
Quoting jpsb:
Alex eats cat 2's for breakfast.

It's past 10:30! Breakfast is over! I just had lunch!
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Link

Latest GFDL
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Quoting Inactivity:
Anyone know when it should take a more NW turn?


It probably wont anymore.

Its too late.
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Damn, look at those cloud tops, some -90˚C.

Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21195
Recon will likely find a much stronger storm than a 40kt TS. Ships are reporting TS-force winds 200 miles north of the center, and satellite appearance certainly proclaims an intensity more along the lines of 50-55 knots (60-65mph).
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Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21195
Anyone know when it should take a more NW turn?
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Quoting txag91met:
Drakeon---> When in doubt use the Euro.

I expect the next run of the ECMWF to be further south again. Only problem it is coming out a little far north.


You're talking to yourself? He's not here. Lol.

-Snowlover123
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612. IKE
12Z CMC
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Quoting DauphinNotDolphin:
12z Canadian:



ughhhh....
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Quoting txag91met:
Drakeon---> When in doubt use the Euro.

I expect the next run of the ECMWF to be further south again.

?
Draks not here...
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hopes and prayers for weather456 and his family.
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Quoting scott39:
How long until Alex hits the Yucatan?
I'm thinking later this evening, around 8PM EDT. But rarely these systems stall, sooooo, but I think landfall tonight is likely.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21195
Euro track seems very plausible at this point. Probably spend a couple of days over the Bay of Campeche before hitting Mexico again.
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Looks like Alex is making a bee line to the coast of Belize. The sooner, the better.
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Quoting WAHA:

Darby is a category 2 storm.


A weakening and tiny category 2 storm. Small hurricanes can get tor apart easily.

-Snowlover123
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Looks like Alex is giving a big smile. See it?

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Quoting txag91met:
Drakeon---> When in doubt use the Euro.

I expect the next run of the ECMWF to be further south again. Only problem it is coming out a little far north.


Why are you singling him out when he is not even here?

Kind of seems a bit immature of you to do so
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602. jpsb
Quoting WAHA:

Darby is a category 2 storm.
Alex eats cat 2's for breakfast.
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Good morning all.

Special tropical tidbit for Saturday, June 26th, with Video
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Quoting Inactivity:


As soon as it enters the Atlantic,it could immedietly become a yellow...or mabye even an orange circle.It has happened before,like with Bertha in 2008 and Ana in 2009.


If it gains more model support, yeah that could happen.
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I have a feeling alex is going to suprise us trackwise once onshore.....
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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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