Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 12:53 PM GMT on July 21, 2010
A tropical wave (Invest 97L) near the north coast of Hispaniola has been disrupted by interaction with the island, plus the effects of moderate wind shear of 10 - 20 knots. The storm is no longer a threat to develop into a tropical depression today, and the Hurricane Hunter flight that was scheduled for today has been postponed until Thursday. The disturbance has brought heavy rains of 8+ inches to Culebra, Vieques, the Virgin Islands, and some of the northern Lesser Antilles Islands. Wunderblogger Weather456 reported that the power was knocked out on the island of St. Kitts for about 24 hours, due to the intense lightning associated with 97L. All of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are under flash flood watches today.
Satellite images of 97L show a relatively meager number of heavy thunderstorms that are not well-organized. The curved bands to the north and east of the center have disappeared, and there is no evidence of low-level spiral banding or of a surface circulation. Surface observations over the northern Dominican Republic show only light winds, with no westerly winds indicating that a surface circulation is forming. Long-range radar loops from San Juan show a much reduced amount of thunderstorm activity.
Figure 1. Total radar-estimate rainfall for 97L.
Track Forecast for 97L
The storm is in a fairly straightforward steering current environment, and 97L should progress steadily to the west-northwest through Saturday. The rains from 97L's thunderstorms will bring the threat of isolated flooding to the Dominican Republic today, and to Haiti on today and Thursday. Heavy rains from 97L will affect eastern Cuba, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and the eastern Bahamas Thursday, and South and Central Florida can expect heavy rains to arrive Thursday night or Friday morning. The latest suite of model runs from 2am EDT this morning (6Z) foresee 97L making landfall on the Florida coast somewhere between Miami and Cape Canaveral on Friday, then continuing into the Gulf of Mexico on Saturday. Only the Canadian model foresees a threat to Texas, and the other models predict a second landfall between eastern Louisiana and the Florida Panhandle.
Intensity Forecast for 97L
The primary detriment to development of 97L today will be its close proximity to the landmass of Hispaniola. Once the storm pulls away from the island tonight, 97L has a better chance of development. Also hindering development over the next two days will be the presence of dry, stable air in its path over the Bahamas, thanks to the upper-level low to the north of the Dominican Republic. The SHIPS model predicts shear will stay in the moderate range, 10 - 20 knots, over the next three days, which should allow for some steady development of 97L on Thursday and Friday before it reaches Florida. NHC is giving 97L a 60% chance of developing into a tropical depression by Friday, which is a reasonable forecast. I think there is a 70% chance 97L will eventually become Tropical Storm Bonnie, sometime in the next five days. Sudden rapid development before 97L reaches Florida is unlikely, due to the storm's current state of disorganization and the dry air over the Bahamas. It's very unlikely that 97L has time to organize into a hurricane before hitting Florida. I put the odds of 97L making it to hurricane strength before reaching Florida at 5%, and I give a 20% chance it will be a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. The probability of 97L being a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico will depend heavily upon how long the storm spends over water in the Gulf, which is very uncertain. The environment in the Gulf of Mexico should be favorable for intensification, if passage over Florida does not disrupt the storm too much.
I'll have a new post Thursday morning, or earlier if there's a major change to 97L.
Famed climate scientist Steven Schneider dies
Steven Schneider, one of the most influential and talented climate scientists of our time, died on Monday. Ricky Rood has a tribute to Dr. Schneider in today's blog. Ricky comments, "He is known for feistiness. His last book was Science as a Contact Sport: Inside the Battle to Save Earth's Climate. He was a man who was, bluntly, harassed and threatened by those who did not like his message. He never shrank from the battle."
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