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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3449. shakaka
Quoting tennisgirl08:


Hey Miami - the update blog you just posted states this:
"Current motion associated with Alex is towards the west at around 10-15 mph, with several NW jogs. If you have been following Jeff Masters' blog you will hear a lot of people suggesting that Alex has been moving towards the NW, this is untrue as a ridge to the north of Alex strengthened unexpectedly and stopped all motion except for due westward motion."

So, are you now saying that ridge has now weakened considerably?
I am so confused...LOL Just trying to get a handle on what's really happening here. I mean no disrespect..


don't disrepect the prepubescents lol!!!!!!!
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3448. Levi32
0z CMC still a nightmare.
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After the 2AM update..I'm outta here, need to get some sleep.
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3444. xcool




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Quoting 1965:

That would be horrid. E and SE wind blowing for days over the spill. What a mess.


The stalling part would give us mostly south winds...
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Quoting uplater:


lol. Maybe off the land pretty soon at this rate!


Just to make things even more complex, wouldn't it be something if Alex was to relocate it's circulation ? Lol.
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3440. will45
Quoting F4PHANTOM:
Anyone; Aren't there 2 GFS models?
Yes the old one and an updated one
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Quoting emguy:
Saw some good comments on DMAX and DMIN here...Also good to note that DMAX at night pertains to tropical systems over water, DMAX for systems over land (i.e. afternoon thunderstorms) occur during the day. There may be continued strong convection over Alex through the night, but the typical DMAX/MIN rules will not apply now that he's over land.


Great answer! That makes sense.
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3437. uplater
Quoting JLPR2:
Someone needs to tell Alex that he is overland
XD

Stop firing convection already! Jeez!
LOL


lol. Maybe off the land pretty soon at this rate!
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3436. xcool
gfld back to mx
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3435. jpritch
Quoting atmoaggie:

Huh?!? Why would we subsidize the most cost-effective method? That would be like subsidizing the use of untreated pine 2x4s in home construction...

Get some investors. Do it. If cheaper and as effective as petro, like I said, no legislation needed. It will sell.


Right now, petroleum is most heavily subsidized, followed by coal. The only renewable with any substantial subsidy is corn ethanol, which is inefficient and takes up cropland and pushes out food production. So we're currently paying people to produce fuels that are more expensive, dirtier, more dangerous to produce, and less efficient. We need to at least stop that.

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3434. emguy
Saw some good comments on DMAX and DMIN here...Also good to note that DMAX at night pertains to tropical systems over water, DMAX for systems over land (i.e. afternoon thunderstorms) occur during the day. There may be continued strong convection over Alex through the night, but the typical DMAX/MIN rules will not apply now that he's over land.
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3433. 1965
Quoting GetReal:


the latest GFS run has Alex making landfall in SW La., and stalling for two days!!!

That would be horrid. E and SE wind blowing for days over the spill. What a mess.

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Quoting Hurricanes101:


DMIN and DMAX really do not apply to systems that are developed


Also wasn't sure about that.
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3431. JLPR2
Someone needs to tell Alex that he is overland
XD

Stop firing convection already! Jeez!
LOL
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So Alex can't suck up a bunch of crude oil and burst into flame, can it? Flaming Hurricanes would really suck.
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Quoting reedzone:
Anybody have the latest NOGAPS? I know the GFDL and HWRF don't come out for another few minutes.

Thursday, 1 July 2010 22:00:00 GMT+1000 (AUS Eastern Standard Time)


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3428. fsumet
.
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3427. uplater
Quoting Hurricanes101:


DMIN and DMAX really do not apply to systems that are developed


Alex sure got affected by DMAX last night. I think sure, DMAX not affect major hurricane too much, but when still TD/TS, yes.
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
Okay...Here we are at 11:00 p.m. EST.



A little more north than the previous forecast. Let's see what happens at 2:00 a.m.


What that tells me is that until Sun. afternoon/evening most of what we are going to be doing on the blog is bickering with the occasional drop in from our reliable posters to say. "It's still over land. Can't be sure of anything till it's back on the water."
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Quoting ajcamsmom2:
Ya know...Alex would have to head almost due North to hit us here in Louisiana...Can it happen??? Yes...Will it happen??? Hopefully not....


It's unlikely at this point that even western Louisiana gets a landfall.

Still, keep your eyes peeled.
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Just did a blog on Alex.
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3422. RyanFSU
The NHC discussion discounts the GFDL and GFS models as being out to lunch. Since the GFDL relies on the global model's data assimilation and boundary conditions + initial conditions modified by the cyclone bogus scheme, the models are not independent.

The current GFS is a rather old model running at T382 spectral truncation or about 35 km grid spacing. It is being upgraded July 27 to T574 or 27 km grid spacing and more vertical levels. The ECMWF runs twice the resolution.

Regardless, currently the GFS upgraded model is running in parallel with the data downloadable for whoever wants it.
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3414...Okay...that's scarey...very, very scarey...
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Quoting TampaSpin:


The friction of Land and the counterclockwise spin will always make a surface Low move North some unless a High is directly overhead....and that is not the case here!


I understand that. However it's definitely moving more north then WNW.
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Quoting uplater:


DMAX in about 4hrs. It is sort of a slide into that has begun already, Alex already cooling off:




Ok, thanks.
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Quoting uplater:


DMAX in about 4hrs. It is sort of a slide into that has begun already, Alex already cooling off:




DMIN and DMAX really do not apply to systems that are developed
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3417. xcool
new HWRF to mx
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HUM.......big shift for the BAM models....here goes that north move.
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3415. uplater
Quoting natrwalkn:
When is Dmax coming and will that make a difference with Alex over land?


DMAX in about 4hrs. It is sort of a slide into that has begun already, Alex already cooling off:

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3414. GetReal


the latest GFS run has Alex making landfall in SW La., and stalling for two days!!!
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3413. fsumet
It is moving WNW which is clear from the Belize radar. The center appears to be at 18.0N 88.9W which would be .3N and .5W
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Quoting Orcasystems:


Oh there are so many ways to respond to that one, with some of the people on here :)

I will keep my Halo shiny.


Agreed!
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Ya know...Alex would have to head almost due North to hit us here in Louisiana...Can it happen??? Yes...Will it happen??? Hopefully not....
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3410. will45
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
Okay...Here we are at 11:00 p.m. EST.



A little more north than the previous forecast. Let's see what happens at 2:00 a.m.

Look between mon and tues. It will be pushed back west
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xcool.
can you explain...dont know how to read the model.If that is what you are "OH WOWING"about.Ha
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3408. bappit
Quoting Orcasystems:


Oh there are so many ways to respond to that one, with some of the people on here :)

I will keep my Halo shiny.

LOL (sincere laugh for a change)
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Okay...Here we are at 11:00 p.m. EST.



A little more north than the previous forecast. Let's see what happens at 2:00 a.m.
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Quoting BaltOCane:


i agree. My bad. not usualy like that. I just don't like when people jump all over someone and put words in their mouths... my bad.

see, this is why I lurk and haven't said anything for 3 years.


Yep, lurker for 2+ years, hardly ever comment, just here to learn. Posted tonight and had 2 people jump on it questioning whether I was telling the truth. Back to lurking.
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When is Dmax coming and will that make a difference with Alex over land?
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3404. xcool

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3403. xcool
OH WOW
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Quoting bappit:


About that DARPA wonder fuel ... where can I buy some?

Checkout http://twitter.com/Algae4Gas
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"Jog" is going to be the word of the season. Even though it doesn't amount to a hill of beans. (Whatever that means)
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Quoting houstongator:

Isn't that a CAT 3?. 110 knots is approx 125 mph and with Houston in the NW quadrant,it would get the brunt of the storm - this is a bad scenario for Houston. I'm not predicting it, but it is an ugly picture for my home.


close enough, right? doesn't look like a pretty picture, but that's 5 days out. Still a bit too soon I think.
My gut says run... or start to consider thinking about it.

but i was a squirrel in my previous life.

love that waffel

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Quoting houstongator:

Isn't that a CAT 3?. 110 knots is approx 125 mph and with Houston in the NW quadrant,it would get the brunt of the storm - this is a bad scenario for Houston. I'm not predicting it, but it is an ugly picture for my home.
NW quad would be like Ike or Rita (further from center) for Houston, not the dirtiest side...
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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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