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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Quoting bird72:


Earl was put passing 300 miles from the islands 1 week ago from NHC it's self...
+1
Personally I wouldn't even bother to mention it any more, I mentioned it last night and basically got jumped on like tics on a bull and scoffed at.Nothing like people trying to convince themselves, cause I don't think they have the ones that really notice convinced.Personally I'm getting totally fed up with this blog, no wonder W456 stop posting!
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Radar suggests a stall.
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Quoting IKE:
The main threat to Puerto Rico will be heavy rains--up to eight inches in isolated areas. ....from Dr.Masters himself.


Ok, well I guess everyone in PR can breathe easy now. Dr. Masters and Ike have declared you safe from everything but rain and some light winds.
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NHC (OFCL) has actually been pretty accurate in the 3-day range. In nautical miles


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Quoting IKE:
Good luck to everyone in the islands with the beast known as Earl.
we are getting pounded, we just had wind gust in one of the squalls around 43mph about 10 mins ago, it's 1103 atlantic time, i think we will loose power shortly, everyone, please stay safe!
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Friends, you won't see that NW movement until tomorrow AM. I just hope this current increase in forward speed is temporary. As posted earlier, Earl is rapidly approaching the point where he's making his own atmosphere.
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Quoting rarepearldesign:


EEEEEEEEEKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK! Right over my house.
Hopefully not..
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Well i hope the foretasted track takes place but looking at the eastern US visible satellite loop, that high looks much larger and looks to be building eastward don't know how the system is suppose to punch through that.I wish the storm would turn this afternoon Danielle weakness is closing fast,
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Quoting firecane:
Really bad news that 10 east coast states are now in the Cone of who the heck knows what is gonna happen.........not to mention, we must now address Earl as Major

Boston now has one chance in three of seeing tropical-storm force winds; New York is up to one chance in five. Still the highest chance it strikes Nova Scotia, or hammers the outer Cape and Islands. But when storms this powerful get that close to major metropolitan areas, it makes me a tad nervous.
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Quoting bluenosedave:


I believe it could hit us, so there's two of us. But it's still a very long way away.


Agreed, but don't you think people should be respecting the models...they are consistently moving west towards us.

The way I see it is, if the models keep moving west, and it ends up curving more than expected, we are still likely to get hit now.
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I believe that Earl is under going rapid intensification and will become a cat-5.
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Quoting Cotillion:
Tropical storm watches are for 72 hours out right?



Yeah, 72 hours out as shown by Earl advisory #10 for Saint Martin.

I wonder if the NHC will end up putting up any TS Watches for the US East Coast later tonight/tomorrow considering Earl will be fairly close to the NC coast in just over 72 hours.

To be on the safe side, at least.
Member Since: August 23, 2008 Posts: 7 Comments: 5300
Quoting TerraNova:


Most of the models have done terribly with Earl.


You might want to look at all of the Vortex fixes they have taken over the last few days. .... look at the facts and data.. so far.. bang on track plus or minus 50 miles.




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When you click on the "Hurricane Earl" link in the text it takes you to Danielle.
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IT IS TOO SOON TO DETERMINE WHAT PORTION OF THE U.S.
EAST COAST MIGHT SEE DIRECT IMPACTS FROM EARL.
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Quoting Clearwater1:
Like I had mentioned earlier, they seem to be vague at points in their forecast. Such as ""EARL WILL GRADUALLY TURN TOWARD THE NORTHWEST IN THE "NEXT DAY OR SO"".
The next "day or so". Do they mean the turn will be completed in a "day or so" or start the turn. A day or so could me 200 to 300 mile difference in location. I thought they had a handle on it, but with the latest big shift, I don't know now.


They even shifted the track east 2 advisories in a row, even though earl continued W or WNW.
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from Advisory:

THIS GENERAL
MOTION IS EXPECTED TODAY AND TONIGHT...FOLLOWED BY A TURN
TOWARD THE NORTHWEST ON TUESDAY.


....

I trust the NHC but it is MY responsibility to be ready if they perchance are in error

CRS
Member Since: July 12, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6065
Quoting IKE:


Ike- we in Nova SCotia finally got a mention in the media from the Canadian Hurricane Center. This is extermely rare 5 days before potential landfall here. Looking at your graph, I can see why. I think we may get a direct hit.
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Quoting rarepearldesign:
People in NS still won't believe it's going to hit us. They could be in for a shock.


I believe it could hit us, so there's two of us. But it's still a very long way away.
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Quoting angiest:


Curse you blog! I think they only do the two hour intermediate advisories for US landfall risk. The proximity to PR warrants that. If anyone knows that they do the more frequest updates for landfall anywhere, please correct me.



They did it for Alex briefly.
Member Since: August 23, 2008 Posts: 7 Comments: 5300
Really bad news that 10 east coast states are now in the Cone of who the heck knows what is gonna happen.........not to mention, we must now address Earl as Major
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Quoting IKE:


EEEEEEEEEKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK! Right over my house.
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And Danielle is still a hurricane, with at least 1 more advisory coming.
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Tropical storm watches are for 72 hours out right?

Member Since: August 23, 2008 Posts: 7 Comments: 5300
Quoting tropicfreak:
Track shifted west again, and yet at the next advisory, a curve to the northwest. The NHC has done a poor job on forecasting earl.
Like I had mentioned earlier, they seem to be vague at points in their forecast. Such as ""EARL WILL GRADUALLY TURN TOWARD THE NORTHWEST IN THE "NEXT DAY OR SO"".
The next "day or so". Do they mean the turn will be completed in a "day or so" or start the turn. A day or so could me 200 to 300 mile difference in location. I thought they had a handle on it, but with the latest big shift, I don't know now.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1548
Quoting nyhurricaneboy:
Advisories every two hours now.



Curse you blog! I think they only do the two hour intermediate advisories for US landfall risk. The proximity to PR warrants that. If anyone knows that they do the more frequest updates for landfall anywhere, please correct me.

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Again. Please Wishcasters. For the sake of people on the east coast, stop saying that you'll know he'll stay off the east coast, or that because Dr. Masters says it'll only be Rain Bands that affect PR that there isn't anything to worry about. I'd much rather Err on the side of caution, than to truly give this cavalier attitude I see from people that don't seem to think that there are any threats to land, ever. It kind of makes me sick, because if anyone here follows that cavalier attitude and gets seriously hurt or killed then..well that's just not something I'd want on my conscious as a follower of Weather, much less someone that purports to know what's going on.
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Thanks Dr. M for the update & new blog. Earl is proving to be quite a trouble maker!

G'Morning everyone!
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So now we've got ourselves a major hurricane, with a track that's steadily shifted westward. Can someone more sophisticated than I explain whether that's because the trough that's supposed to develop by Friday is coming in weaker on the models, or is it simply delayed?

Either way, probably a bad week to visit oceanfront property near Halifax.
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Thank You Dr......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.,.....Too close for comfort. I mentioned it this morning but mooring and docking arrangements for safe harbour are difficult to get at the last minute. Let your friends and family North of the Carolinas with boating interests to start making plans or reservations now just in case before a rush later in the week.
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07L/MH/E/C3
MARK
18.71N/63.61W

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They keep on saying that the curve NW will happen in the next advisory but after each advisory, still W or WNW.
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Good morning and thank you for the clean new blog and the update.

Well so much for the storm keeping north of the islands as was the forcast a few days ago.

Hope all of you in harms way are safe.

Will be checking in and out as I can today.

Stay safe those in the storm and for those in the path, get prepared.


Hello everyone!
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Quoting errantlythought:


While not a dramatic change, we'd better keep a close eye on that forward speed.


Glad someone else picked up on the increae in forward speed.
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Now forecasting 145mph top winds.
Member Since: August 23, 2008 Posts: 7 Comments: 5300
11 AM forecast show that the cone has shifted west a tad

Great I am that much more likely to be hit, what are the odds of Stamford CT seeing tropical storm force and hurricane force winds
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Quoting tropicfreak:
Track shifted west again, and yet at the next advisory, a curve to the northwest. The NHC has done a poor job on forecasting earl.


Most of the models have done terribly with Earl.
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Quoting tropicfreak:
Track shifted west again, and yet at the next advisory, a curve to the northwest. The NHC has done a poor job on forecasting earl.


AGREE!
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Quoting IKE:
8:00 AM AST Mon Aug 30
Location: 18.4°N 62.9°W
Max sustained: 110 mph
Moving: WNW at 14 mph
Min pressure: 965 mb
..................

Now at....

11:00 AM AST Mon Aug 30
Location: 18.7°N 63.6°W
Max sustained: 120 mph
Moving: WNW at 15 mph
Min pressure: 960 mb


He moved .3N and .7W in 3 hours.

A WNW movement!!!!!


While not a dramatic change, we'd better keep a close eye on that forward speed.
Member Since: August 27, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 191
000
WTNT42 KNHC 301450
TCDAT2
HURRICANE EARL DISCUSSION NUMBER 21
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL072010
1100 AM AST MON AUG 30 2010

THE EYE OF EARL HAS BECOME BETTER DEFINED IN VISIBLE SATELLITE
IMAGERY THIS MORNING AND IS WELL-DEFINED IN RADAR IMAGERY FROM BOTH
SAN JUAN AND ST. MAARTEN. AN AIR FORCE HURRICANE HUNTER AIRCRAFT
MEASURED 700 MB FLIGHT-LEVEL WINDS OF 111 KT IN THE NORTHEAST
EYEWALL AROUND 1200 UTC. THE AIRCRAFT HAS NOT SAMPLED THE
NORTHEASTERN QUADRANT AGAIN...BUT FOUND 90 KT SFMR WINDS IN THE
NORTHWEST EYEWALL AND A MINIMUM PRESSURE OF 960 MB. THIS SUPPORTS
INCREASING THE INITIAL INTENSITY TO 105 KT...CATEGORY THREE ON THE
SAFFIR-SIMPSON HURRICANE WIND SCALE. THE LOW SHEAR AND WARM WATER
ENVIRONMENT AHEAD OF EARL APPEARS CONDUCIVE FOR ADDITIONAL
STRENGTHENING DURING THE NEXT FEW DAYS. THIS SUPPORTS KEEPING EARL
AT MAJOR HURRICANE STRENGTH DURING THAT TIME...ALTHOUGH EYEWALL
CYCLES COULD INDUCE SOME FLUCTUATIONS IN INTENSITY. THE OFFICIAL
FORECAST IS AT THE UPPER END OF THE INTENSITY GUIDANCE. LATE IN THE
FORECAST PERIOD INCREASING SHEAR AND COOLER SSTS SHOULD INDUCE
WEAKENING.

THE INITIAL MOTION REMAINS 285/13. EARL IS EXPECTED TO TURN TOWARD
THE NORTHWEST WITHIN THE NEXT DAY OR SO AS IT MOVES AROUND THE
WESTERN PERIPHERY OF THE SUBTROPICAL RIDGE DURING THE NEXT COUPLE OF
DAYS. AFTER THAT TIME...EARL IS FORECAST TO TURN NORTHWARD...THEN
NORTHEASTWARD AHEAD OF A MID-LATITUDE TROUGH THAT MOVES ACROSS THE
GREAT LAKES AND INTO THE NORTHEAST UNITED STATES IN 4-5 DAYS. THE
TRACK GUIDANCE HAS SHIFTED WESTWARD AGAIN AND THE OFFICIAL FORECAST
HAS BEEN ADJUSTED IN THAT DIRECTION. THE UPDATED TRACK FORECAST IS
NEAR THE MIDDLE OF THE TIGHTLY CLUSTERED GUIDANCE.

THIS IS A GOOD TIME TO REMIND EVERYONE THAT NHC AVERAGE TRACK
FORECAST ERRORS ARE 200 TO 300 MILES AT DAYS 4 AND 5. GIVEN THIS
UNCERTAINTY...IT IS TOO SOON TO DETERMINE WHAT PORTION OF THE U.S.
EAST COAST MIGHT SEE DIRECT IMPACTS FROM EARL.


FORECAST POSITIONS AND MAX WINDS

INITIAL 30/1500Z 18.7N 63.6W 105 KT
12HR VT 31/0000Z 19.5N 65.1W 115 KT
24HR VT 31/1200Z 21.0N 67.0W 125 KT
36HR VT 01/0000Z 22.8N 68.7W 125 KT
48HR VT 01/1200Z 25.2N 70.6W 120 KT
72HR VT 02/1200Z 31.0N 73.5W 110 KT
96HR VT 03/1200Z 37.5N 71.5W 100 KT
120HR VT 04/1200Z 45.5N 63.0W 75 KT...INLAND

$$
FORECASTER BROWN/BERG
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35. IKE
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Quoting IKE:
The main threat to Puerto Rico will be heavy rains--up to eight inches in isolated areas. ....from Dr.Masters himself.


Earl was put passing 300 miles from the islands 1 week ago from NHC it's self...
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Quoting clwstmchasr:



Good morning. Like to hear your assessment of Earl's potential impact on the East Coast of the U.S.


Morning... new blog re-post.

Here's some info...

Steering:

In the picture below you'll see a Red Circle:


12Z

This region is currently an area of weak steering (COL). This will cause Earl to have some unpredictable behaviors... sometimes as erratic movements happens, it could bring it closer to the TROF above or closer to the Islands if it goes/tries to go around the DLM High over E CONUS.

Given the past 3 to 6 hr trends on steering I'm noticing that the E flank of the DLM High is getting eroded a bit by the deepening TROF N of Earl. Due to this I do believe earl will soon be feeling more the effects of this weakness as it strengthens further in the 30C+ degree waters and resume a quicker pace than what it currently has in 24hrs or so and start heading more NW as the DLM High on the E CONUS becomes oriented in a SW TO NE fashion.

Now if the DLM High does not take this SW to NE orientation and is able to push the TROF N of Earl further to the E then it would then force Earl to take a more Westerly track before forcing Earl to travel closer to the E CONUS coastline, but will currently doubt it will be making actual landfall for the time being given the current conditions, but things could change as a better steering pattern attempts to get established.
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Track shifted west again, and yet at the next advisory, a curve to the northwest. The NHC has done a poor job on forecasting earl.
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They're going with an advisory every 2 hours as well.
Member Since: August 23, 2008 Posts: 7 Comments: 5300

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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.