Alex continues to slowly organize

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 7:17 PM GMT on June 28, 2010

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Tropical Storm Alex continues to slowly grow more organized as it steams away from Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. Satellite loops show that Alex's heavy thunderstorms continue to increase in areal extent, and low level spirals bands are slowly building to the south and north. The clockwise flow around an upper-level high pressure system a few hundred miles west of Alex is bringing about 15 knots of wind shear to the storm, which is slowing intensification. Heavy thunderstorm activity is limited on the storm's northwest side, thanks to the shear and some dry continental air flowing off the coast of North America. Sea Surface Temperatures are very warm, 29°C. The latest Hurricane Hunter center fix, at 12:07 pm CDT, showed a central pressures of 990 mb, a 1 mb rise in six hours. Top winds were holding steady near 60 mph. Alex has stalled out the last few hours, as it began to "feel" the trough of low pressure to its north breaking down the high pressure ridge that has been pushing the storm to the west-northwest. This stall has allowed the storm to churn up cold water from the depths, which is probably interfering with development. Satellite loops show that Alex has a very large circulation covering about 2/3 of the Gulf of Mexico. We can expect that should Alex become a Category 2 or stronger hurricane, its storm surge will affect a much wider stretch of coast than Hurricane Dolly of 2008 did.


Figure 1. Afternoon satellite image of Alex.

Track forecast for Alex
The latest 12 UTC (7am CDT) runs of our most reliable computer models have come into much better agreement. A consensus forecast arrived at by averaging together most or all of the tracks of our top models--the GFS, ECMWF, GFDL, NOGAPS, HWRF, UKMET, and GFDN--is pretty much what NHC always uses as the basis of their forecast. This consensus forecast has narrowed in on the region just south of the Texas/Mexico border as being the most likely landfall location, with the usual cone of uncertainty surrounding it. The computer model that had been making the northernmost landfall predictions, the Canadian model, is now projecting a landfall 100 miles south of the Texas/Mexico border. There has been a general southward shift of the models in their latest runs, and the most northerly landfall location, near Port Mansfield, is now being predicted by the HWRF model. The earliest landfall time is Wednesday morning, and the latest is Thursday morning. Which model should you trust? Last year, the best performing models at the 3 day forecast period were the GFS, Canadian, ECMWF, and GFDL.

With steering currents relatively weak, the uncertainty in landfall location is high. The average error in an NHC 72-hour track forecast last year was 230 miles, which is about the distance from Brownsville to Port O'Connor. Consider also that the NHC cone of uncertainty is the region where 2/3 of the time (using the last 5 years of statistics) the center of a storm will go. Forecast errors tend to be equally large along track (speed errors) and cross-track (deviations from side-to-side), so that means that about 20% of the time a storm will not be in the cone of uncertainty. Given the slow motion of Alex and the recent uncertainty of the computer models, people living just beyond the edge of the cone of uncertainty should not be confident yet that Alex will miss them.

To get the probability of receiving tropical storm force winds or hurricane force winds for your location, I recommend the NHC wind probability forecasts. The 10am CDT (15 UTC) wind probability product predicted that Brownsville, Texas had the highest odds of getting a direct hit from Alex:

Brownsville, TX: 67% chance of tropical storm conditions (winds 39+ mph), 16% chance of hurricane force winds (74+ mph). This is the cumulative probability through Saturday morning. The wind probability forecasts also include separate probabilities for each 12-hour period between now and three days from now, and each 24 hours for the period 4 - 5 days from now.

La Pesco, MX: 49% tropical storm, 6% hurricane.

Tampico, MX: 31% tropical storm, 4% hurricane.

Corpus Christi, TX: 45% tropical storm, 6% hurricane.

Freeport, TX: 23% tropical storm, 2% hurricane.

Galveston, TX: 21% tropical storm, 1% hurricane.


Figure 2. Skill of computer model forecasts of Atlantic named storms during 2009. OFCL=Official NHC forecast; GFS=Global Forecast System model; GFDL=Geophysical Fluid Dynamic Laboratory model; HWRF=Hurricane Weather Research Forecasting model; NOGAPS=Navy Operational Global Prediction System model; UKMET+United Kingdom Met Office model; ECMWF=European Center for Medium Range Weather Forecasting model; CMC=Canadian GEM model; TVCN=one of the consensus models that lends together all (or most) of the above models; BAMM=Beta and Advection Model (Medium Layer.) Image credit: National Hurricane Center 2009 verification report.

Uncertainty in the NHC Cone of Uncertainty
A research project funded by NOAA known as the Joint Hurricane Testbed has produced a remarkable number of tools now in operational use at the National Hurricane Center to improve hurricane forecasts and warnings. One of these projects, called "Prediction of Consensus TC Track Forecast Error and Correctors to Improve Consensus TC Track Forecasts", was an effort by Dr. Jim Goerss at the Navy Research Lab to improve the accuracy of the NHC "cone of uncertainty" (AKA the "Cone of Death") showing where a storm is expected to track 2/3 of the time. The radius of the circles that make up the cone are based on error statistics of the official NHC forecast over the past five years. We can expect in certain situations, such as when the models are in substantial disagreement, a consensus forecast made using these models will have much greater than average errors. Since the NHC typically bases their forecast on a consensus forecast made using a combination of reliable hurricane forecasting models, it is instructive to view the "GPCE" (Goerss Prediction Consensus Error) circles to see if the uncertainty cone should be smaller or larger than usual. The consensus forecast I'll look at is called "TVCN", and is constructed by averaging the track forecasts made by most of (or all) of these models: GFS, ECMWF, NOGAPS, GFDL, HWRF, GFDN, and UKMET. In the case of this morning's 12 UTC (7am CDT) June 28 run of these models, here is what the radius of the "cone of uncertainty" should be, in nautical miles:

12 hours: 42 nm
24 hours: 73 nm
36 hours: 96 nm
48 hours: 112 nm
72 hours: 173 nm
96 hours: 327 nm
120 hours: 376 nm

And here is the radius of NHC's "cone of uncertainty" for their official forecast, based on the average errors for the past five years:

12 hours: 36 nm
24 hours: 62 nm
36 hours: 85 nm
48 hours: 108 nm
72 hours: 161 nm
96 hours: 220 nm
120 hours: 285 nm

So, the GPCE error estimates are showing that the latest forecasts for Alex out to 72 hours are 4% - 17% higher in uncertainty than average. The 4 - 5 day forecasts are 32% - 49% more uncertain than average--but of course, we expect Alex to be inland at those times.

Intensity forecast for Alex
Alex is currently over a region of ocean with relatively low total ocean heat content (about 10 - 30 kJ/cm^2). By Tuesday and Wednesday, the heat content will increase to 40 - 70 kJ/cm^2, which is high enough to allow Alex to rapidly intensify. Wind shear is currently a moderate 15 knots, and is projected by the SHIPS model to decrease to the low range, below 10 knots, on Tuesday and Wednesday. The combination of low wind shear and high ocean heat content should allow Alex to intensify into a hurricane. NHC is giving Alex a 78% chance of being a hurricane on Wednesday morning, and a 16% chance it will be a major hurricane at that time. Water vapor satellite images, though, show plenty of dry air over Texas and the adjoining waters, and this dry air may turn out to be a significant detriment to Alex. Another factor limiting Alex's intensification may be that the atmosphere is more stable than usual right now--temperatures at 200 mb are a rather warm -50°C, and are expected to warm an additional 1 - 2 degrees by Wednesday. Another factor limiting Alex's intensification may be its slow forward speed. Alex has already stalled out once, and may stall out later in its path, as well. A stalled-out storm tends to pull up cold water from the depths, limiting intensification. In short, Alex has the potential to intensify into a major hurricane, but there are enough roadblocks that I give a 20% chance of this happening.

Elsewhere in the tropics
None of the reliable computers models is calling for tropical storm formation over the the next seven days in the Atlantic.

Wind and ocean current forecast for the BP oil disaster
It currently appears that Alex will not directly affect the oil slick location, other than to bring 2 - 4 foot swells to the region on Wednesday. However, because Alex is such a deep low pressure region, strong southeast winds of 15 - 25 knots will blow over the oil slick region today through Wednesday, according to the latest marine forecast from NOAA. The resulting currents should act to push oil to the west and northwest onto portions of the Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama coasts, according to the latest trajectory forecasts from NOAA and the State of Louisiana. Oil will also move westward along the central Louisiana coast towards the Texas border.

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

Portlight continues its Haiti response
Hurricane season is here, and Haiti is not ready. Over 1.5 million Haitians are living outside in tents or under tarps, and are highly vulnerable to a hurricane. Portlight is working on constructing steel shelters out of shipping containers for homeless Haitians, as detailed in the Haitian Relief Recap blog post. Please visit the Portlight.org web site or the Portlight blog to learn more and to donate to Portlight's efforts in Haiti.


Figure 3. Still frame from the remarkable video taken inside the Haitian Presidential Palace during the 2010 earthquake.

To remind people of just how devastating the earthquake was, the Haitian government released a video earlier this month showing the inside of the Haitian Presidential Palace during the mighty Haitian earthquake.

Next post
Dr. Rob Carver is planning on making a post late tonight, and I'll have an update by 9:30am CDT on Tuesday.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting MrstormX:


Could have a hurricane in time for the 11:00 news.


we are getting close to what would be equivalent to a cat 2 hurricane pressure
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Quoting GlobalWarming:


breath in, and breath out.


lmao
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Quoting MrstormX:
Cameron County Judge (TX) claims that if Alex heads near Brownsville the Levees there might not be able to sustain the storm. Watch the video pretty scary stuff.


Oh give me a break, the levees are fine. This is just a political scare tactic to get the voters to approve bond issues in that county to raise the levees, like they did in neighboring Hidalgo County where I live.
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If we see a sub 980 mb TS that would be astounding.
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2103. tkeith
Billy Nunnguesser will put him on a backhoe if stays there long Pat...
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2102. LSU79
Quoting midgulfmom:
I think we need a N/NE support group.

Well I am by no stretch of the imagination an expert and when I looked at satellite imagery I saw it right away. I believe one poster advised people to quit satring at the image so long because it was playing tricks on their eyes. Well as blind as I am and I picked up on it well,nuff said.
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2101. scott39
What are the pressures of a Cat 1
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2100. Patrap
Quoting StormW:


Going good! Won't be on too much longer...back up at 5:00 a.m. How are you this evening?


Good stuff with Bob tonight Chief.

get some rack time.

See yas in the am,

Semper Paratus
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 423 Comments: 128240
Quoting CaneWarning:
Are we about to see Hurricane Alex?


Remember the winds have to catch up to the pressure fall. The lag will be an hour or two before the winds really respond
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
That's a 2 mb drop in an hour.
985.4 mb
(~ 29.10 inHg)

maybe it is RI
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Look at the storms in Central TX, if that aint weakness than I dont have a clue
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Still not at the center and a pressure of 985.4mb.

000
URNT15 KNHC 290204
AF304 0701A ALEX HDOB 33 20100629
015500 2107N 09106W 9251 00634 9955 +182 +173 143063 064 048 015 00
015530 2106N 09107W 9248 00634 9951 +186 +172 143064 065 047 012 03
015600 2105N 09109W 9249 00628 9944 +194 +171 143064 065 047 012 00
015630 2104N 09110W 9249 00625 9939 +196 +172 147065 066 047 013 00
015700 2103N 09111W 9255 00615 9933 +202 +173 149066 066 047 013 03
015730 2102N 09112W 9250 00615 9929 +199 +175 151066 066 049 014 03
015800 2101N 09113W 9249 00610 9922 +198 +177 152066 068 049 011 00
015830 2101N 09115W 9246 00608 9916 +199 +179 154067 067 049 010 00
015900 2100N 09116W 9252 00598 9908 +211 +181 157066 069 050 008 00
015930 2059N 09118W 9254 00592 9903 +211 +183 161064 066 049 006 00
020000 2059N 09119W 9249 00591 9900 +204 +185 161062 063 048 005 00
020030 2058N 09120W 9247 00590 9894 +208 +187 162062 063 046 005 00
020100 2057N 09121W 9250 00585 9889 +211 +188 165057 058 045 003 00
020130 2056N 09123W 9251 00579 9884 +213 +190 165053 054 043 004 03
020200 2056N 09124W 9248 00577 9877 +215 +192 165048 050 042 005 00
020230 2055N 09126W 9245 00573 9870 +222 +194 164045 046 041 007 00
020300 2055N 09127W 9247 00568 9866 +219 +196 162039 041 038 009 00
020330 2054N 09129W 9252 00557 9860 +220 +200 164032 035 035 007 00
020400 2054N 09130W 9246 00560 9856 +223 +203 158022 026 030 007 00
020430 2053N 09132W 9254 00550 9854 +220 +206 151013 016 026 005 00
$$
;


dude it gonna take forever for the winds to catch up though this things as big as the whole gulf coast
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NHC's favorite model: TCVN trends link:
Link
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2093. Max1023
That burst of convection is either random (good) or a developing CDO(BAD). If Alex is developing a CDO then an eye is likely not too far behind. Also this thing is pushing a LOT of water and air around, to me the wind and wave field seem more on par with an extratropical low than a tropical system, at least more than a few hundred miles from the center. If Alex makes it to 80 knots or so half the gulf might see 18 foot waves.
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Quoting CaneWarning:
Are we about to see Hurricane Alex?
Winds need to pick up a bit but I think we will have hurricane Alex within the next 18 hours.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21193
2091. xcool
GlobalWarming i..m just have fun wowww
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15670
Quoting Thundercloud01221991:
oh my we may have a sub 980 storm by the end of the night


Could have a hurricane in time for the 11:00 news.
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Quoting tennisgirl08:


Agreed. The models are spot on. TX/MX border
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2088. scott39
Quoting kmanislander:
Alex starting a new phase

Is he moving
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Quoting TropicalNonsense:


i would say something but your posts speak for themselves.

you have a lack of knowledge and a maturity problem Hurricaneswirl-
but quite obviously this is not a conversation for the Good Dr's Blog.




.... ...
..
....
Words cannot express what I'm feeling at the moment. However your conduct on this blog has shown just how mature you really are.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Still not at the center and a pressure of 985.4mb.

000
URNT15 KNHC 290204
AF304 0701A ALEX HDOB 33 20100629
015500 2107N 09106W 9251 00634 9955 +182 +173 143063 064 048 015 00
015530 2106N 09107W 9248 00634 9951 +186 +172 143064 065 047 012 03
015600 2105N 09109W 9249 00628 9944 +194 +171 143064 065 047 012 00
015630 2104N 09110W 9249 00625 9939 +196 +172 147065 066 047 013 00
015700 2103N 09111W 9255 00615 9933 +202 +173 149066 066 047 013 03
015730 2102N 09112W 9250 00615 9929 +199 +175 151066 066 049 014 03
015800 2101N 09113W 9249 00610 9922 +198 +177 152066 068 049 011 00
015830 2101N 09115W 9246 00608 9916 +199 +179 154067 067 049 010 00
015900 2100N 09116W 9252 00598 9908 +211 +181 157066 069 050 008 00
015930 2059N 09118W 9254 00592 9903 +211 +183 161064 066 049 006 00
020000 2059N 09119W 9249 00591 9900 +204 +185 161062 063 048 005 00
020030 2058N 09120W 9247 00590 9894 +208 +187 162062 063 046 005 00
020100 2057N 09121W 9250 00585 9889 +211 +188 165057 058 045 003 00
020130 2056N 09123W 9251 00579 9884 +213 +190 165053 054 043 004 03
020200 2056N 09124W 9248 00577 9877 +215 +192 165048 050 042 005 00
020230 2055N 09126W 9245 00573 9870 +222 +194 164045 046 041 007 00
020300 2055N 09127W 9247 00568 9866 +219 +196 162039 041 038 009 00
020330 2054N 09129W 9252 00557 9860 +220 +200 164032 035 035 007 00
020400 2054N 09130W 9246 00560 9856 +223 +203 158022 026 030 007 00
020430 2053N 09132W 9254 00550 9854 +220 +206 151013 016 026 005 00
$$
;



WOW. Sub 980 pressures anyone?
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That's a 2 mb drop in an hour.
985.4 mb
(~ 29.10 inHg)
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Quoting Patrap:
Alex has to separate that whole inner envelope where all his Mojo is currently from the Yucatan Proper and stack that Column and like a recent post mentioned. A cat One by Dawn is a reasonable route dujour atm.

Fondue anyone..?



Pat, are you concerned with the northward motion that Alex has been showing us?
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oh my we may have a sub 980 storm by the end of the night
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2081. Patrap
Quoting tkeith:
not for the shrimp...


Hes there for the supple odor of VOC's wafting thru da marsh.

Everyone knows dat.

Plus Jim iz a good Location man..

.."I gotta tell ya Folks,..them wunderbloggers are on top of things 99% of the time.

Back to you Guys in the Studio"..


Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 423 Comments: 128240
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Are we about to see Hurricane Alex?
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Still not at the center and a pressure of 985.4mb.

000
URNT15 KNHC 290204
AF304 0701A ALEX HDOB 33 20100629
015500 2107N 09106W 9251 00634 9955 +182 +173 143063 064 048 015 00
015530 2106N 09107W 9248 00634 9951 +186 +172 143064 065 047 012 03
015600 2105N 09109W 9249 00628 9944 +194 +171 143064 065 047 012 00
015630 2104N 09110W 9249 00625 9939 +196 +172 147065 066 047 013 00
015700 2103N 09111W 9255 00615 9933 +202 +173 149066 066 047 013 03
015730 2102N 09112W 9250 00615 9929 +199 +175 151066 066 049 014 03
015800 2101N 09113W 9249 00610 9922 +198 +177 152066 068 049 011 00
015830 2101N 09115W 9246 00608 9916 +199 +179 154067 067 049 010 00
015900 2100N 09116W 9252 00598 9908 +211 +181 157066 069 050 008 00
015930 2059N 09118W 9254 00592 9903 +211 +183 161064 066 049 006 00
020000 2059N 09119W 9249 00591 9900 +204 +185 161062 063 048 005 00
020030 2058N 09120W 9247 00590 9894 +208 +187 162062 063 046 005 00
020100 2057N 09121W 9250 00585 9889 +211 +188 165057 058 045 003 00
020130 2056N 09123W 9251 00579 9884 +213 +190 165053 054 043 004 03
020200 2056N 09124W 9248 00577 9877 +215 +192 165048 050 042 005 00
020230 2055N 09126W 9245 00573 9870 +222 +194 164045 046 041 007 00
020300 2055N 09127W 9247 00568 9866 +219 +196 162039 041 038 009 00
020330 2054N 09129W 9252 00557 9860 +220 +200 164032 035 035 007 00
020400 2054N 09130W 9246 00560 9856 +223 +203 158022 026 030 007 00
020430 2053N 09132W 9254 00550 9854 +220 +206 151013 016 026 005 00
$$
;

Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21193
Quoting TropicalNonsense:


trust me the T-numbers will be much higher on the next advisory Miami.

wait an see. Possibly a 4.5 soon.

TPCH doesnt support RI im with canes09 on this
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Quoting extreme236:


Getting better organized.


If that blob becomes a huge ball then we will be on the verge of a Cat 1 classification much as we were when Alex was about to go ashore in Belize.
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so if this thing continues to intensify overnight, would this allow for a forward motion at a quicker pace(not saying if movin' very fast)? Just a concerned Corpus Christian here......

thanks.
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Quoting synthvol:
TCHP:

We just rptd TCU DSNT SW-N CU ALQDS here at BPT. Tropical moisture, trough, whichever. We got some much-needed rain from all this here toady.


ROFLMAO GREAT ACRONYMS
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Quoting wfyweather:


0z is more towards corpus christi


Yah. Huge shift from 12Z.
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2069. xcool
ElConando iknow.
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15670
wtf

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2066. Cranica
985mb and falling, 69kt flight-level. Here we go, boys and girls.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
If it had the structure of a category 2 hurricane the T-numbers will be much higher. Poof!


trust me the T-numbers will be much higher on the next advisory Miami.

wait an see. Possibly a 4.5 soon.
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985!
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Quoting tennisgirl08:


Agreed. The models are spot on. TX/MX border


0z is more towards corpus christi
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Quoting kmanislander:
Alex starting a new phase



Nice convection...
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2061. bassis
Quoting Patrap:
Alex has to separate that whole inner envelope where all his Mojo is currently from the Yucatan Proper and stack that Column and like a recent post mentioned. A cat One by Dawn is a reasonable route dujour atm.

Fondue anyone..?



Cheese i hope?
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1642 JamesSA "Mountain height? The Yucatan is really flat"

You are mistaking the YucatanState for the YucatanPeninsula. The Peninsula includes Belize, northernGuatamala, QuintaroRooState, YucatanState, and CampecheState.
In the southeastern section of Campeche, there is a mountainous region with an elevation that averages nearly as tall as the highest point in Florida. Some of it is taller than the highest point in Louisiana, with peaks taller than the highest point in Mississippi.


When TropicalStormAlex's center ran through that section, it was going over land equivalent to the pass between the Gulf of Tehuantepec in the PacificOcean and the Bay of Campeche in the Gulf of Mexico.
Now how many hurricanes have made it through that pass and have come out on the other side as a TropicalDepression or more?

TSAlex made its passage through that portion of the YucatanPenisula and came out as TDAlex.

If TSAlex hadn't ripped its southern skirts on the mountainous terrain of Belize, Guatemala, and Campeche while its center and northern central sections got grated over the Campeche range, but instead passed through nothernQuintanaRoo and southern(inverted triangle)Yucatan(state), we wouldn't be waiting to see if a hurricane develops.
TSAlex would have come into the GoM as TSAlex, and rapidly strengthened into HurricaneAlex.
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Quoting kmanislander:
Alex starting a new phase

Stage one of the development of a CDO. Let's see if it can expand.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21193
Quoting xcool:
67 knots found at flight level
omgggggg


Chill, it is at flight level xcool.
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Quoting kmanislander:
Alex starting a new phase



Getting better organized.
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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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