Category 3 Hurricane Earl pounding northern Lesser Antilles and Puerto Rico

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:40 PM GMT on August 30, 2010

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An intensifying Hurricane Earl is pounding Puerto Rico and northern Lesser Antilles Islands with heavy rain and high winds this morning. The eye of Earl passed just north of Anguilla at 9am EDT, and Juliana airport on neighboring St. Martin Island recorded sustained winds of 47 mph, gusting to 68 mph at 8am EDT before going silent. An Air Force Hurricane Hunter aircraft currently in Earl just found a central pressure of 960 mb at 9:42 am EDT. This is a significant drop of 25 mb in 25 hours. Top flight level winds at 10,000 feet seen by the Air Force aircraft were 128 mph. Using the usual rule of thumb that the surface winds are 90% of the 10,000 foot flight level winds gives one surface winds of 115 mph, which is right at the border of Cat 2/ Cat 3 strength. Top winds seen at the surface by the Air Force's SFMR instrument were lower, 104 mph. Recent satellite imagery shows that Earl is not perfectly symmetrical--there is still fewer heavy thunderstorms on the hurricane's north side, suggesting that upper-level northerly winds are bringing 5 - 10 knots of wind shear to the storm.


Figure 1. Radar image of Earl taken at 7am EDT 8/30/10 from the St. Maarten radar. Image credit: Meteorological Service of the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba.

Outlook for the Caribbean islands today
Latest radar animations out of Puerto Rico and St. Marten show that the eye of Earl is on track to pass just to the northeast of the islands of Anguilla, St. Maarten, and The Settlement in the British Virgin Islands today. The periphery of Earl's southern eyewall will probably bring Category 1 hurricane conditions to some of these islands today. NHC is giving its highest odds for hurricane-force winds to Saint Maarten--a 99% chance. These odds are 4% for St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, and 2% for San Juan, Puerto Rico. The main threat to Puerto Rico will be heavy rains--up to eight inches in isolated areas. Earl's rains, in addition to causing flooding and dangerous landslides, will also help alleviate drought conditions that have affected many of the islands this year.

Intensity forecast for Earl
Wind shear as diagnosed by the latest SHIPS model forecast is nearly non-existent over Earl--just 3 knots--put is probably higher than that, based on the fact that the northern portion of Earl cloud pattern is ragged. Further evidence of this is the fact that Earl's eyewall had a gap in its west side, according to the latest report from the Hurricane Hunters. Ocean temperatures are a near-record 30°C, and very warm waters extend to great depth, resulting in a total ocean heat content highly favorable for rapid intensification. These nearly ideal conditions for intensification should bring Earl to Category 4 strength by Tuesday morning, and Category 5 is not out of the question. Earl should be able to maintain major hurricane status through Thursday, when it will make its closest approach to North Carolina. Sea surface temperatures are very warm, 29°C, along the U.S. East Coast, and wind shear is expected to remain low through Thursday. By Friday, when Earl will be making its closest approach to New England, wind shear will rise to a high 20 - 30 knots and ocean temperatures will plunge to 20°C, resulting in considerable weakening. Earl will still probably be a Category 2 hurricane on Friday, when it could potentially make landfall in Massachusetts or Nova Scotia, Canada.


Figure 2. Swath of surface winds from Earl predicted by the 2am EDT Monday August 30, 2010 run of NOAA's GFDL model. Hurricane force winds (yellow colors, 64 kt and above) are predicted to stay off the coast and tropical storm force winds (light green colors, 34 knots and above) are predicted to stay off the U.S. coast, but affect the coast of Canada. Image credit: Morris Bender, NOAA/GFDL.

Track forecast for Earl
Once Earl passes the Lesser Antilles, steering currents favor a northwesterly course towards North Carolina. History suggests that a storm in Earl's current location has a 25% chance of making landfall on the U.S. East Coast, and Earl's chances of making a U.S. landfall are probably close to that. None of the computer models show Earl hitting the U.S., but the storm will likely come uncomfortably close to North Carolina's Outer Banks and to Massachusetts. The latest set of model runs (2am EDT, or 6Z) project Earl will miss North Carolina by 200 - 300 miles on Thursday, and Massachusetts by a similar distance on Friday. Keep in mind that the average error in a 4 - 5 day NHC forecast is 200 - 300 miles, so the East Coast cannot breathe easily yet. The Outer Banks of North Carolina and Cape Cod, Massachusetts are both at the edge of the cone of uncertainty. NHC is giving Cape Hatteras a 9% chance of receiving hurricane force winds. These odds are 14% for Nantucket, 4% for Boston, and 2% for New York City. The main determinant of whether Earl hits the U.S. or not is a strong trough of low pressure predicted to move off the U.S. East Coast Friday. This trough, if it develops as predicted, should be strong enough to recurve Earl out to sea late in the week, with the storm just missing landfall in the U.S., but possibly making landfall in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Regardless of Earl's exact track, the U.S. East Coast can expect a long period of high waves beginning on Thursday. Significant beach erosion and dangerous rip current will be the rule, due to waves that will reach 10 - 15 feet in offshore waters (Figure 3.)


Figure 3. Wave forecast for 8am Friday, September 3, 2010, as produced by the 8pm EDT August 29 run of NOAA's Wavewatch III model. The model is predicting waves of 4 - 5 meters (13 - 16 feet) in the offshore waters from North Carolina to New Jersey.

Hurricane History for the northern Lesser Antilles
The last Cape Verdes-type hurricane to affect the Barbuda and the surrounding northern Lesser Antilles Islands was Hurricane Debby of 2000, which passed over the islands on August 28 as a Category 1 hurricane. Damage was less than $1 million, and no fatalities were reported. The last hurricane of any kind to pass through the northern Lesser Antilles Islands was Category 4 Hurricane Omar, on October 16, 2008. Omar took an unusual track, moving towards the northeast, and the storm's eyewall missed all of the islands. Omar did $80 million in damage to the Caribbean, mainly on the islands of Antigua, Barbuda, Dominica, the SSS Islands (Saba, St. Eustatius, and St. Maarten), and the U.S. Virgin Islands. No direct deaths were attributed to Omar, and the name Omar was not retired from the 6-year rotating list of hurricane names.

Links to track Earl
Wundermap of the northern Lesser Antilles Islands
Long range radar out of San Juan, Puerto Rico
Visible rapid scan satellite loop

97L
The tropical wave (Invest 97L) now 1000 miles east of the Lesser Antilles Islands has a well-defined surface circulation and enough heavy thunderstorms to be classified as a tropical depression, if it can maintain that state for another six or so hours. Satellite loops show the surface circulation clearly, but also that heavy thunderstorm activity has been slow to build. The storm is experiencing low wind shear of less than 5 knots, and is over warm 29°C waters. The main impediment to development continues to be dry air associated with the Saharan Air Layer (SAL) surrounding the storm. The latest SHIPS model forecast calls for shear to stay in the low range, 5 - 10 knots, through Tuesday, and this should allow 97L to organize into a tropical depression today or Tuesday. NHC is giving 97L a 90% chance of developing into a tropical depression by Wednesday.

97L is moving quickly to the west, at about 20 mph. This means it is catching up to Earl, which has slowed down to 14 mph. By Tuesday night, Earl is expected to be a large and powerful major hurricane with a well-developed upper-level outflow channel heading clockwise out from Earl's center at high altitudes. These strong upper-level winds will bring high levels of wind shear, 20 - 30 knots, to 97L, and probably arrest the storm's development. The most likely scenario depicted in the computer models is for 97L to be drawn into the low pressure wake of Earl and pass to the northeast of the Lesser Antilles. Earl would then eventually destroy 97L through high wind shear, and by robbing the storm of its moisture. An alternative scenario is that 97L will stay far enough away from Earl that it will be able to pass through the northern Lesser Antilles islands as a tropical storm on Wednesday and Thursday, then bend northwestwards to potentially threaten the Bahamas and U.S. East Coast. There is a very high degree of uncertainty on what may happen to 97L. History suggests that a storm in 97L's current location has a 25% chance of making landfall on the U.S. East Coast.


Figure 4. Morning satellite image of 97L.

Danielle
Hurricane Danielle is on its way to oblivion over the cold North Atlantic waters, and is only of concern to shipping interests.

Elsewhere in the Tropics
Over in the Western Pacific, tropical cyclone activity is ramping up, with two named storms expected to affect land this week. As is typical in a La Niña year, these storms have developed close to mainland Asia, and don't have a lot of time over water to intensify into strong typhoons. The storm of most concern is Typhoon Kompasu, which is expected to hit Okinawa today and recurve northward into Korea on Thursday. It now appears the Kompasu will not have major impacts on China's largest city, Shanghai. In the South China Sea, the fearsome sounding Tropical Storm Lionrock is forecast to hit the Chinese coast near Hong Kong on Tuesday, but is not predicted to develop into a typhoon.

The GFS model is predicting formation of a tropical depression off the coast of Africa about seven days from now.

Jeff Masters

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1031. xcool
[
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15603
1030. ncstorm
Quoting connie1976:
Storm,

I left you a message on your blog....
This was it....

I'm confused....I read your blog....but I'm still panicking....That stupid thing is most likely NOT going to come to South Florida, correct? >>very scared<< I went through Charlie in orlando and that was a little thing....I couldn't imagine this one....I hid in a closet with my son...the house was shaking....it was soooooooooo scary....


...sorry for buggin you, but I know that you know what you are talking about...lol... ;)


you have had at least 10 people tell you it wasnt coming to SFL and you were even directed to his blog that He wrote and you still dont get it? Go to the NHC page and look at the 3 day and 5 day map..is South Florida anywhere near the cone..
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 13457
blog dead?
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Getting close to Category 4 status.

Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23012
could earl go nw but then recurve to the west because of the high building in?
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1026. hydrus
Quoting StormW:


That may be a good idea...I'm still not looking for a direct hit there, yet...but even TS force winds, or even gales can throw loose items about, and even break weak tree limbs.
The Dvorak shot is showing the completion of that doughnut like eye-wall typical of category 5 storms.
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Western part of the northern coast of PR

Photobucket


Jobos Surf cam
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1023. 7544
testing hes moving west again this is not wobble this time hmmmm
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Quoting ILwthrfan:
Let us not for get in all reality is turning. Since early this moring it was moving 4 degrees west for every 1 degree north. We watched that convert to 3 to 1 and now we have a 2 degrees west for every one degree north. He's feel'n it already.


Thank you for this valuable piece of logic. Seems others seem to be forgetting this.
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blog jammed from 1:01 to 1:05
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9625
so nice, I said it twice!
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while some emphasis is being placed on the next storm 97L/Fiona , the area of disturbed weather south of the cape verdes islands is the next system to watch and the one that will threatened the islands. the reason is that after the passage of of earl the ridge will rebuild and will keep future 98L on a west track. although the models have not given this area any support,i expect that to change the next few days
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Quoting katrinakat5:
im glad someone is seeing how far off the models are with earl SOUTH FLA DO NOT LET YOUR GUARD DOWN..earl is still doing wobbles to the wsw...no way earl makes the nw turn today ..this enhances the threst to south fla. and the bahamas...


i always say this: dont entirely dismiss stormtop aka katrinakat5 for ive seen him hit things sometimes head on.

greetings over there, riding this out @pr
Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 1975
Quoting bwi:
The lat/long lines are currently off on some of the SSD floaters. For example, the vis floater linked in through NHC has 65w line running through western PR (not accurate). I emailed the webmaster, but others here might have more direct contacts with people who can fix this.


I have seen that happen quite a few times.
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Quoting Asrock:


I am no expert by any means and only guessing here but I say that would be a point of view issue. The Staellite is not directly overhead but looking from an angle giving the illusion of a false location. I may be wrong and if so sorry.


Sounds like a good theory to me. I certainly trust the location on the radar. What puzzles me is that we have cameras in space that can read a newspaper but, all we get is fuzzy images from NOAA of a freaking storm hundreds of miles across. What's up with that!
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Quoting Cotillion:
BVI now just getting into the eyewall, particularly Anegada.


In the Puerto Rico long range radar the eye pass north of Anegada. No landfall.
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1011. BVI
Quoting Cotillion:
BVI now just getting into the eyewall, particularly Anegada.


seeing a slight change in wind direction in Tortola
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Are you kidding me.

Had on TWC, we have a major hurricane bearning down on the Islands and on the USVI and PR and TWC is showing a "Storm Stories" movie....nothing coverning this major hurricane.

I expected some coverage about this storm..

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Quoting katrinakat5:
im glad someone is seeing how far off the models are with earl SOUTH FLA DO NOT LET YOUR GUARD DOWN..earl is still doing wobbles to the wsw...no way earl makes the nw turn today ..this enhances the threst to south fla. and the bahamas...


i always say this: dont entirely dismiss stormtop aka katrinakat5 for ive seen him hit things sometimes head on.

greetings over there, riding this out @pr
Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 1975
1008. xcool
[
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15603
1007. jonelu
Quoting Tropicaldan:
There has been no respite, Earl is giving St Martin a pounding

The winds are still out of the south and have been worse than those from the west and north which we previously endured all night early morning

Rain has also now become a major factor , torrential and unrelenting for two or three hours now....flood risk areas must be overflowing, though I dont know that for sure

The noise inside the appartment is becoming distressing, the endless deafening roar of the wind, the hammering of rain on the zinc roof and the sound of wood and zinc creaking and groaning under strain...

We need this to finish soon !!

Its not a Luis for sure, but it IS an Earl !

Dan


I know how it feels...been through Frances, Jeane and then Wilma....its nerve wracking! But yer almost there....couple more hours and things should start to calm down abit. Hang in there! Atleast you have internet...that can help keep you distracted.
Our thought are with you..
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1006. JLPR2
I'm not sure what to think anymore, looks west to me, in the short term.

Link
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Future Fiona taking a dangerous path, if US doesn't get Earl directly, Fiona is probably gonna finish the job.
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9625
1004. xcool
[
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15603
1003. 7544
hes going west again not wobble now
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Quoting RadarRich:


I am amazed how Earl is outside that cone.


You do realize how that cone is derived, correct?

http://hurrnet.com/tutorial/forecasts/track/cone.html
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BAM MODELS


Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 177 Comments: 20430
Thanks clwstmchasr!
I love reading about hurricanes and what they are doing, but I ABSOLUTELY don't want one near me....I think that I will be very nearvous until it is north of us...
Member Since: September 1, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 672
BVI now just getting into the eyewall, particularly Anegada.
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996. bwi
The lat/long lines are currently off on some of the SSD floaters. For example, the vis floater linked in through NHC has 65w line running through western PR (not accurate). I emailed the webmaster, but others here might have more direct contacts with people who can fix this.

update: fixed now I see
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2pm TWO says that 97L would go straight to a TS

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Tuesday and Wednesday you should see some breakers from this webcam on the north shore of Providenciales (where I live)

http://www.theregentgrandresort.com/regentwebcam.html
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Let us not for get in all reality is turning. Since early this moring it was moving 4 degrees west for every 1 degree north. We watched that convert to 3 to 1 and now we have a 2 degrees west for every one degree north. He's feel'n it already.
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97L well on her way.
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9625
Quoting Thundercloud01221991:
000
WTNT52 KNHC 301753
TCEAT2
HURRICANE EARL TROPICAL CYCLONE POSITION ESTIMATE
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL072010
200 PM AST MON AUG 30 2010

AT 2 PM AST THE CENTER OF HURRICANE EARL WAS ESTIMATED FROM SAN
JUAN DOPPLER RADAR NEAR LATITUDE 19.0 NORTH...LONGITUDE 64.2 WEST
OR ABOUT 65 MILES...105 KM NORTHEAST OF ST. THOMAS AND 130 MILES...
210 KM EAST-NORTHEAST OF SAN JUAN PUERTO RICO.

$$
FORECASTER BROWN/BERG



thats straight west from 1 oclock...
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Um its now a major hurricane in the Herbert Box but it is still not headed towards Florida.
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Quoting moonlightcowboy:



Have to agree.

And, the CONUS trough that will eventually move Earl northwards is being shown on the HPC 48 sfc map indeed more amplified, but severely tilted swest to neast. I'm thinking that Earl, on its present speed and motion, will not be far enough north to feel the northern most part of the exiting trough. That would mean a shift in the eventual track more westwards and increasing the potential for seaboard impact. And, I think once Earl gets a path to any weakness, his fwd speed is gonna look like he's been shot out of sling shot.

width=width=

It's always better to err on the side of caution, and the Bahamas and the east coast should stay acutely aware of further developments. Earl's a bad boy, landfall would be horrific.

I'm hoping not - hoping that my novice observations are exactly wrong.
Storm do you agree with this?
Member Since: February 27, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 482
Quoting JRRP:
me voy para la uni
es mi primer dia en la clase de Climatologia II
cuidense mi gente alla en Puerto Rico
regreso en la noche


parece oeste
Member Since: September 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 470
Quoting RecordSeason:
935:

have you noticed that the location of land masses in the satellite view relative to storm location is not the same as that in the Radar view?

According to the radar, the island is practically inside the eye-wall, but according to the satellite, no such island even exists, and the other islands are much farther to the SW.

Can anyone explain this discrepancy? It's as if the satellite presentation is actually...off...by like half a degree in both longitude and latitude...


I am no expert by any means and only guessing here but I say that would be a point of view issue. The Staellite is not directly overhead but looking from an angle giving the illusion of a false location. I may be wrong and if so sorry.
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Quoting Thundercloud01221991:
000
WTNT52 KNHC 301753
TCEAT2
HURRICANE EARL TROPICAL CYCLONE POSITION ESTIMATE
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL072010
200 PM AST MON AUG 30 2010

AT 2 PM AST THE CENTER OF HURRICANE EARL WAS ESTIMATED FROM SAN
JUAN DOPPLER RADAR NEAR LATITUDE 19.0 NORTH...LONGITUDE 64.2 WEST
OR ABOUT 65 MILES...105 KM NORTHEAST OF ST. THOMAS AND 130 MILES...
210 KM EAST-NORTHEAST OF SAN JUAN PUERTO RICO.

$$
FORECASTER BROWN/BERG



I am using this position fix to set a new marker on grlevel3. Using that position fix and my original marker, Earl was moving at ~291 degrees.
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Quoting GBguy88:
Regardless of which model said what, I'd be getting ready if I lived in the Outer Banks, or anywhere along the mid-Atlantic coast for that matter. Even if the storm passes fairly well to the east, there is still the potential for some strong gusts and a measurable amount of water rise.




I think anyone living along the EC should be monitoring Earl. Even the NHC said and their latest discussion that Earl would pass 200-300 miles from NC. Then they turn around and say the models may be off by 200-300 miles.Lol, so this tells me NC may get more than just a brushing. Besides I'm not taking any chances of Earl making his guest appearance. When Earl First developed in to a TD, the NHC kept saying Earl would be turning out to sea before it got close to the U.S. Now how do you suppose Earl could be getting close to the U.S.? something tells me were going to be in for a treat.jmo
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About JeffMasters

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.