Category 4 Earl headed for a close brush with North Carolina

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:16 PM GMT on August 31, 2010

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Powerful Category 4 Hurricane Earl is pulling away from Puerto Rico and the northern Lesser Antilles Islands, and is eyeing its next potential landfall--North Carolina's Outer Banks. Earl brought heavy rain and high winds to Puerto Rico and much of the northern Lesser Antilles yesterday, though it appears that the islands were spared major damage. One exception may be Anegada in the British Virgin Islands, population 200. The eye of Earl passed just north of Anegada at noon yesterday, and Earl's south eyewall probably brought sustained winds of 100 mph to the island. Second hardest hit was probably Anguilla. Amateur weather observer Steve Donahue at anguilla-weather.com estimated gusts of 100 mph on Anguilla; his anemometer broke at 88 mph. Winds in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands remained above tropical storm force (39 mph) for five hours yesterday afternoon, peaking at 52 mph, gusting to 62 mph, at 4:49 pm. Heavy rains hit Puerto Rico, where radar-estimated rainfall amounts of up to 5 - 7" occurred. Earl brought waves of sixteen feet to San Juan, and waves at buoy 41043 offshore of Puerto Rico reached 31 feet early this morning.


Figure 1. Morning satellite image of Earl, taken at 10:30am EDT 8/31/10. Image credit: NASA/GSFC.


Figure 2. Radar estimated rainfall for Earl from the San Juan, Puerto Rico radar. Isolated regions of 5 - 7 " of rain occurred in three locations on Puerto Rico. The rays fanning out to east from the radar location marked with a "+" are due to mountains blocking the view of the radar.

Intensity forecast for Earl
Wind shear as diagnosed by the latest SHIPS model forecast shows a moderate 10 - 20 knots of wind shear over Earl, due to upper level winds out of the southwest from a trough of low pressure to Earl's west. This moderate shear is predicted to continue through Friday, but should not appreciably affect Earl, since the hurricane is so large and strong. Ocean temperatures are a near-record 29.5 - 30°C, and very warm waters extend to great depth, resulting in a total ocean heat content favorable for intensification. Earl is undergoing an eyewall replacement cycle, which may diminish its winds by 10 -20 mph for a day or so. However, the storm will probably regain strength after completing this cycle, and it is likely Earl will be a major Category 3 or 4 hurricane at its closest approach to North Carolina Thursday night and Friday morning. By Friday night, 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 night, when it could potentially make landfall in Massachusetts. Earl is more likely to be a Category 1 hurricane on Saturday morning, when it could potentially make landfall in Maine or Nova Scotia, Canada.


Figure 3. Swath of surface winds from Earl predicted by the 2am EDT Tuesday, August 31, 2010 runs of NOAA's GFDL model (left) and HWRF model (right). Hurricane force winds (yellow colors, above 64 knots) are predicted to stay off the coast. Tropical storm force winds (light green colors, above 34 knots) are predicted to affect coastal North Carolina, Massachusetts, and Eastern Maine. Winds between 58 mph - 73 mph (dark green colors) are predicted to small portions of the coast. Image credit: Morris Bender, NOAA/GFDL.

Track forecast for Earl
The latest set of computer models runs from 2am EDT (6Z) this morning push Earl's projected track a little closer to the U.S. East Coast, and we now have two of our six reliable models predicting a U.S. landfall. The latest NOGAPS run shows Earl hitting the Outer Banks of North Carolina late Thursday night, then striking Southeast Massachusetts late Friday night, and Eastern Maine on Saturday morning. The HWRF model predicts a strike on Eastern Maine Saturday morning, but keeps Earl offshore from North Carolina and Massachusetts. None of the other computer models show Earl hitting the U.S., but several models bring Earl within 100 - 200 miles of North Carolina's Outer Banks and Southeast Massachusetts. It is likely that Earl will being a 12-hour period of heavy rain and tropical storm force winds of 39+ mph to North Carolina's Outer Banks, beginning on Thursday evening. NHC is giving Cape Hatteras a 12% chance of receiving hurricane force winds. By Friday evening, western Long Island, Rhode Island, and Southeast Massachusetts can expect a 6 - 8 hour period of heavy rain and tropical storm force winds of 39+ mph. NHC is giving Nantucket a 11% chance of receiving hurricane force winds. These odds are 4% for Boston, 6% for Providence, 5% for Eastport, Maine, and 11% for Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. 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. Keep in mind that the average error in position for a 3-day NHC forecast is 185 miles, which is about how far offshore Earl is predicted to be from Cape Hatteras three days from now. The average error in a 4-day forecast is 255 miles, which is about the distance Earl is expected to be from the coast of New England four days from now.

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 currents will be the rule, due to waves that will reach 10 - 15 feet in offshore waters. Waves from Hurricane Danielle killed two swimmers in the U.S. over the weekend and forced hundreds of water rescues along the U.S. East Coast. Earl's waves will be worse, and will likely cause millions of dollars in beach erosion damage.

Fiona
Tropical Storm Fiona is speeding west-northwest towards Hurricane Earl, but is unlikely to bring tropical storm force winds to the Lesser Antilles. Satellite loops show that heavy thunderstorm activity has increased in some of the outer bands this morning, but remains limited near the center. Wind shear is currently moderate, 10 - 15 knots, and the main impediment to development continues to be dry air associated with the Saharan Air Layer (SAL) surrounding the storm.

Forecast for Fiona
Fiona is moving quickly to the west-northwest, at about 24 mph. This means it is catching up to Earl, which is moving at 15 mph. By tonight, Fiona will be beneath Earl's upper-level outflow channel. Strong upper-level winds from Earl's upper-level outflow and a ridge of high pressure to the northwest of Fiona will bring high levels of wind shear, 20 - 30 knots, to Fiona tonight through Friday, and probably arrest the storm's development. The scenario now called for by all the models is for Fiona to be drawn into the low pressure wake of Earl and turn to the northwest. Fiona will pass to the northeast of the Lesser Antilles, and will probably not bring tropical storm force winds to the islands. Fiona should then continue to the northwest and then turn north, passing very close to Bermuda on Saturday morning. It is possible Earl could destroy Fiona through high wind shear before Saturday.


Figure 4. Morning satellite image of Fiona. High level cirrus clouds flowing out from the center of Earl as part of its upper level outflow can be seen starting to impinge upon the western side of Fiona's circulation.

Danielle is dead
Tropical Storm Danielle has succumbed to the cold North Atlantic waters, and is no longer a tropical storm.

98L
A new tropical wave (Invest 98L) moved off the coast of Africa yesterday, and is centered a few hundred miles south of the Cape Verdes Islands. Strong easterly winds from the African Monsoon are creating a moderate 10 - 20 knots of shear, and the disturbance is currently disorganized. A large area of dry air lies to the north and west of 98L, and this will interfere with development. The latest SHIPS model forecast predicts shear will remain moderate, 10 - 20 knots, for the next five days, and some slow development of 98L is possible as it moves westward at 15 mph. NHC is giving a 10% chance of this system developing into a tropical depression by Thursday, and none of the computer models develop it.


Figure 5. Morning satellite image of 98L.

A rare triple threat in the Western Pacific
Over in the Western Pacific, we have an unusual triple feature--three named storms all within 700 miles of each other. A 3-way interaction between these storms is occurring, making for a very tough forecast situation. The storm of most concern is Typhoon Kompasu, which hit Okinawa today as a Category 2 typhoon. Kompasu is expected to recurve northeastward and hit North Korea on Thursday as a Category 2 typhoon. It is unusual for a powerful typhoon to thread the tight Yellow Sea and hit North Korea, and I don't know how prepared they are for strong typhoons. Kompasu is expected to hit the most populous region of North Korea, but the country is pretty mountainous, and a significant storm surge disaster is probably unlikely. In the South China Sea, Tropical Storm Lionrock and Tropical Storm Namtheun are moving through the straights between Taiwan and China towards each other. Neither are predicted to develop into typhoons, but heavy rains are occurring in Guangdong and Fujian Provinces, further exacerbating the flood conditions China has suffered this summer.


Figure 6. An unusual triple feature over the Western Pacific--three simultaneous named storms all within 700 miles of each other. Image credit: NOAA/SSD.

"Hurricane Haven" airing again this afternoon
Tune into another airing of my live Internet radio show, "Hurricane Haven", at 4pm EDT today. Listeners will be able to call in and ask questions. The call in number is 415-983-2634, or you can post a question to broadcast@wunderground.com. Be sure to include "Hurricane Haven question" in the subject line.

Today's show will be about 45 minutes, and you can tune in at http://www.wunderground.com/wxradio/wubroadcast.h tml. The show will be recorded and stored as a podcast.

I may have a short update this afternoon, once the latest models runs are available.
Jeff Masters

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Quoting CosmicEvents:
Do you really think that you know as much or dare I say more than the NHC. You are joking, right?

Do you really think that no one on the planet can know more than or even as much as the NHC?
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Quoting Zeec94:


Expected to stay WNW for the next 12-16 hours then try, TRY, to turn NW. So we will see a WNW move for a bit longer now. Each hour goes by, means closer and closer to the coast.
All the news stations said yesterday that if it doesn't start taking that NW\N turn by tomorrow morning then FL "is under the gun"...well it is the afternoon now! Now what?! I don't think people really know.
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Quoting NovaScotia33:
Geez people, the way some of you react to every little shift to the west in track and panic almost makes me believe that you WANT to get hit I know very little, but what I have learned on here is that these storms shift in track almost every 5 minutes.


Makes me nervous when the weather channel says that they feel the track will be heading west, believe me I don't want that!
Member Since: August 24, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 53
Quoting AstroHurricane001:


942 mb, or a strong cat. 3, at the latitude of Massechussetts! Have we had a storm that strong before, at that far north a latitude?
Several.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 22583
877. IKE
Labor Day on the latest ECMWF...
Quoting divdog:
reference post 820 euro at 72 hrs looks like little ole fiona getting blasted to the east of earl


I see it at 72 hours.

Here's 144 hours....

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875. srada
Quoting xcool:
maybe a shift to west
soon







maybe a shift to west
soon


You definetly called it last night..so you maybe looking at 2-0..
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Quoting CosmicEvents:
I never said that you didn't know what you're doing. Quite the opposite. I thought I gave you high praise. That's what I meant to do. If I went to a conference 99% of what they said would fly over my head. With you, I imagine you understand what's being discussed, and are even in a position to participate and add your own thoughts to the discussion. But let's not over-do it. Do you really think that you know as much or dare I say more than the NHC. You are joking, right?


StormW forecasts over the last 2 years have actually if im not mistaken have been more accurate than the NHC. Mostly in part because he is free to say what he believes without political BS getting in the way.
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Quoting powerlineman2:
Change your underwear then!
hehehehehe
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Quoting StormW:


I'm a bold person.
I'm glad you are bold--not afraid to state your opinions, observations, and the reasonings for said statements. started lurking during alex-have learned so much in such a short time. i'm in central il so i'm never in the "cone", however my boyfriends whole family is in the galveston/houston/so. LA area. started watching the tropics real close 5 years ago when we met. just found WU last year--love the site and DR. Masters--keep up the good work!
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Quoting StormW:


Now, that's a task! That definitely takes some talent...I know I couldn't do it. Key board would be on the floor!


HAHA - I can do many things holding a baby!!
Storm what do you think about what the man on the weather channel said about indications that the 5pm update will have the cone shifted West? That makes me a bit nervous...and if they know something why don't they just tell us NOW??? Are they simply trying to get ratings for the 5pm update???
Member Since: August 24, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 53
Quoting Orcasystems:


Actually if you look at her nick...and assume she is from NS, the landfall tracks for NS are shifting east


Thank you Orca - guess I should have clarified that.. I figured my name would have given it away lol
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Quoting Legion:
Only 2 significant hurricanes that hit Florida since 1950 have not passed through one of the Hebert boxes, Betsy in '65 and Andrew in '92, and Andrew just barely missed the box. So what the boxes really tell us is that a major hurricane strike on Florida from a storm not passing through one of the boxes is a rarity.


Even though Hurricane Opal wasnt a cat 5 that hit the Florida Panhandle.. It caused a lot of damaged and set backs.. And Hurricane Ivan did a punch too in the panhandle.. Dont forget Hurricane Charley even tho that was a compact Storm that hit punta gorda, FL..
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Quoting IKE:


I don't see anything left of it(Fiona), at 96 hours on that run.
reference post 820 euro at 72 hrs looks like little ole fiona getting blasted to the east of earl
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Did the NHC send out its G4 to do upper air missions for this storm?
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Quoting IKE:
96 hr. 12Z ECMWF...



942 mb, or a strong cat. 3, at the latitude of Massechussetts! Have we had a storm that strong before, at that far north a latitude?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Geez people, the way some of you react to every little shift to the west in track and panic almost makes me believe that you WANT to get hit I know very little, but what I have learned on here is that these storms shift in track almost every 5 minutes.
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first time ive seen a model like that in NC

Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6703


I have a fundamental problem with this image. First off, it doesn't even show the BAM models as being initialized in the same place. Secondly, xc, can you provide me a link to the site where you are getting that from...I'm not sure why you're linking it from image shack.

Ok, with the BAM models on this image, all except the deep start with the 12hr fc point. So they could all be initialized in the same place.
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Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:


haha you are fine :) keep that little one safe!


Thats why I am paying such close attention, babies and pets! Gotta keep everyone safe.
Member Since: August 24, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 53
Quoting Floodman:


Storms can always spin up in the GOM or the Carib, but typically this time of year they are mostly CV and mid MDR systems; the GOM and Carib seasons are the early season (June -July) and late season(Oct.- Nov.)


yeah, I guess I was more so wondering if the Atlantic storms could start to make it to the Caribbean and GOM...Thanks...
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854. IKE
Quoting philliesrock:
This thing is so stubborn turning north. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if it made landfall south of Cape Hatteras.


Looks to be going east of the tropical points, for now...Link
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851. IKE
Quoting divdog:
is that little ole fiona to the east of earl tagging along for the ride?


I don't see anything left of it(Fiona), at 96 hours on that run.
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This thing is so stubborn turning north. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if it made landfall south of Cape Hatteras.
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Quoting DebunkerOfIdiots:


VAbeachhurricanes = Fan of Fox News
aka Can't discern the truth from a lie.


And that's straight from Keith Olbermeister.
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Quoting StormW:


Guess I never told you that I found out they've read numerous forecasts of mine, and according to them...I definitely know what I'm doing...a lot of stuff you can find out when you go to a National Hurricane Conference.
I never said that you didn't know what you're doing. Quite the opposite. I thought I gave you high praise. That's what I meant to do. If I went to a conference 99% of what they said would fly over my head. With you, I imagine you understand what's being discussed, and are even in a position to participate and add your own thoughts to the discussion. But let's not over-do it. Do you really think that you know as much or dare I say more than the NHC. You are joking, right?
Member Since: August 3, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 5684
844. IKE
In 120 hrs. on the 12Z ECMWF...Earl is gone and the ATL is benign looking....

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Quoting StormW:


I'm a bold person.

I raise my glass to your boldness! :) Thanks for all you are doing!
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Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:


no the shift in the models xcool just showed


West and I was quoting the forecaster on the weather channel. I am sure if you put it on you will hear it yourself. I actually re-winded it (DVR) to make sure I was hearing it clearly.
Member Since: August 24, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 53
Quoting Floodman:


Storms can always spin up in the GOM or the Carib, but typically this time of year they are mostly CV and mid MDR systems; the GOM and Carib seasons are the early season (June -July) and late season(Oct.- Nov.)
Hey Flood....O.k. I am going to say that the dry air intrusion is only temporary. Earl will help to create its own moist environment. And if it takes a more west than northwest course, it will strengthen to a strong cat-4. Watch out Cape Hatteras.jmo
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 22583
Quoting IKE:
96 hr. 12Z ECMWF...

is that little ole fiona to the east of earl tagging along for the ride?
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Quoting DebunkerOfIdiots:


VAbeachhurricanes = Fan of Fox News
aka Can't discern the truth from a lie.


how long did it take to debunk yourself?
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Quoting obxnagshead:

Sorry, Yes West. Holding baby and typing. :)


haha you are fine :) keep that little one safe!
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6703
835. IKE
96 hr. 12Z ECMWF...

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Quoting DebunkerOfIdiots:


VAbeachhurricanes = Fan of Fox News
aka Can't discern the truth from a lie.


thats why...
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6703
Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


Yep, I missed it, last one.


At this speed..I am going to have to start adding more :(
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26516

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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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