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 washingtonian115:
I'm qouting this from a artical.."their is little know about hurricanes,and tropical weather.Further sudies need to be intended,and not much is known about these storms"


Oh, we have vast information about tropical cyclones; the problem is that we have a great deal more to learn
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
1581. FLdewey
Quoting NorthEastWishcaster:
Finally a NW move. I guess all those so-called FPL trucks waiting in Fl. should go out for a beer, I told you all that was a lie.

The FPL truck bologna started Sunday... what a hose.
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1579. marmark
Quoting btwntx08:
nice avatar taz
I agree!
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Quoting Flyairbird:
73.15 W here



I think it will touch 70 and then head East
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Earl Moving N.
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Quoting Legion:


It would be some nice action, I'd put my money down on him never crossing 75W
73.15 W here
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1573. marmark
Where's the Tall Cool One (Ike)?
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Finally a NW move. I guess all those so-called FPL trucks waiting in Fl. should go out for a beer, I told you all that was a lie.
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nice avatar taz
Member Since: July 13, 2008 Posts: 6 Comments: 10796
Quoting staffofthegods:
It would totally suck if the OBX got nailed with Earl. To my knowledge they've never been hit by a high-end Cat 3 b4 ever, the damage would be incredible.
I don't believe that they have...but I'm almost certain that they've never been hit by any hurricane moving NE, which I suppose is still a possibility depending on the exact timing. Let's hope it doesn't happen.
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Quoting Halyn:


I just tried this url .. are you sure there isn't a typo in it??

http://www.sott.net/articles/show/214379-Gulf-Loop-Current-Stalls-from-BP-Oil-Disaster-Global-Conse %2 0quences-if-Current-Fails-to-Reorganize


Link
Member Since: August 4, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 54
Quoting AstroHurricane001:
Noticed something interesting while collecting images for my own blog: If you trace the tightly packed upper-level steering winds pushing to the east over Earl, they lead back to where Ike made landfall.


Yes, SouthEast Texas had our annual Burrito Festival last weekend. It should have made it into the upper levels of the atmosphere by now.
;>)
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1566. Legion
Quoting Flyairbird:
The bet on the degrees off on the forecast track would be more lucrative and volatile


It would be some nice action for sure, I'd put my money down on him never crossing 75W
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Last hope for the westcasters,
Earl wants some of that tasty bahamian fried chicken, decides to ignore all logic and turn left.
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Cool map
http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/gifs/hurr-uslandfalling-1950-2009.jpg




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Quoting Floodman:


AS well they should be...when dealing with issues fo tropical weather, one is always best erring on the side of caution...someone mentioned Charley in here a few minutes ago...people were certain that Tampa was finally going to get hit again and wait...ooops...sorry, make that Punta Gorda

There is very little that is absolute in tropical forecasting
I'm qouting this from a artical.."their is little know about hurricanes,and tropical weather.Further sudies need to be intended,and not much is known about these storms"
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They'll probably up 98L to 20-30% at 8pm, probably just 20%, I see Earl has turned NW now, hope it just goes out to sea, folks on the East coast must be feeling a little shaky.
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for that poll:
C.30%
Member Since: July 13, 2008 Posts: 6 Comments: 10796
you betcha. there's alot we can blame BP (et.al.) for, but I think the end of the world might be pushing it...
Member Since: August 4, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 54


98L will Most Likely be 20%-30% at 8PM
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1557. HarryMc
Quoting cartking24:
Okay, latest loops does look like Earl is slightly ne of forecast track. Also, I am very confused living in Va. Beach. Everyone has been saying the track has been shifting left for two days now. I have watched the NHC forecast and StormW and everyone else and the cone and track line does not appear any closer to us. With the latest model runs I feel even safer.

Curious as to what effects Va. Beach would feel on the west side 125 miles from a Cat 3 storm? Any thoughts from anyone?


West side is one cat down at the eye; 125 miles out, something like a stiff breeze under trop storm
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Quoting oceanblues32:
ok all this hype about the big west adjustment....lol


How could there be a big 'west adjustment' when the most current model runs are from 2:00pm EST or 3.5 hours ago? The NHC, TWC and all others use current model runs in their forecast. If the new model runs aren't out yet, then the forecast track can't change. The next NHC update should include the new model data.
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minimum trop force winds maybe up to 50 in gusts; if your afraid of heavy afternoon thunderstorms, then run for the hills.
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1554. marmark
Quoting Floodman:


AS well they should be...when dealing with issues fo tropical weather, one is always best erring on the side of caution...someone mentioned Charley in here a few minutes ago...people were certain that Tampa was finally going to get hit again and wait...ooops...sorry, make that Punta Gorda

There is very little that is absolute in tropical forecasting
Flood-I agree. it is irresponsible for fellow bloggers to poo-poo those who are worried in SC and NC.
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Quoting cartking24:
Okay, latest loops does look like Earl is slightly ne of forecast track. Also, I am very confused living in Va. Beach. Everyone has been saying the track has been shifting left for two days now. I have watched the NHC forecast and StormW and everyone else and the cone and track line does not appear any closer to us. With the latest model runs I feel even safer.

Curious as to what effects Va. Beach would feel on the west side 125 miles from a Cat 3 storm? Any thoughts from anyone?


A Hurricane watch has been posted from the VA/NC line south to Jacksonville NC
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I wasnt planning on leaving, I heard they are planing on evacing the outer banks. I live on Harkers Island and we are prone to flooding from surge, Not sure if well be a manditory or not. Still waiting for that NW-NE curve. Hope it comes soon or Im outta here.
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1551. FLdewey
Floridaitis is still present eh? I thought we had everyone immunized before Earl formed.
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I am probably wrong but i think Earl is trying to form another eye, anyone have a bead on that.
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Quoting K8eCane:
National Hurricane Center from Surf City to Duck on the Outer Banks.


More Information:Complete Hurricane Coverage
When is ... Hurricane season?
How do I ... Prepare for a hurricane headed for Southeastern North Carolina?
What are ... Some famous local hurricanes?
Is there ... A way TV stations can broadcast the %u201Cold way%u201D during a hurricane for battery-powered TVs?
Follow the storms' progress at the National Hurricane Center's website
A watch means hurricane conditions, sustained winds of 73 mph or higher, are possible within 36 hours.

Officials also have issued a tropical storm watch from Surf City south to the mouth of the Cape Fear River.

The watches were issued as Hurricane Earl continues to churn toward the U.S. mainland.

The Category 4 storm, which is expected to weaken as it approaches the Carolinas, was roughly 1,000 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras as of 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

Emergency officials recommend residents use the time before the stormy conditions arrive to review their preparedness needs and evacuation plans.

I guess when they say "cape fear NC" they mean the mouth of the cape fear river which is about 30 miles to my south, and surf city is about 20 miles to my north
There are barrier islands all the way down to the SC line...I lived on Oak Island for a bit just south of Wilmington, THEY DO NOT MESS AROUND
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Earl is becoming more symetrical [Edit]: The above post
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1547. funeeeg
Earl is starting to look more symmetrical on visible sat imagery. Seems that the shear west of earl is slackening. I reckon the HH will find slightly higher winds next time they go in. Just a hunch.
Member Since: October 20, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 218
1545. myway
Quoting washingtonian115:
As far as I'm concered no one is hyping this sysytem at all.


You should have been here a couple of hours ago.
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1544. Dunkman
I like 30% for 98L at 8pm.

CDO on Earl is starting to look much better. Strangely, it seems like the east side is the weaker at the moment.


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Quoting washingtonian115:
As far as I'm concered no one is hyping this sysytem at all.


He was referring to the Weather Channel hyping a "shift" in the forecast track.
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1542. K8eCane
National Hurricane Center from Surf City to Duck on the Outer Banks.


More Information:Complete Hurricane Coverage
When is ... Hurricane season?
How do I ... Prepare for a hurricane headed for Southeastern North Carolina?
What are ... Some famous local hurricanes?
Is there ... A way TV stations can broadcast the “old way” during a hurricane for battery-powered TVs?
Follow the storms' progress at the National Hurricane Center's website
A watch means hurricane conditions, sustained winds of 73 mph or higher, are possible within 36 hours.

Officials also have issued a tropical storm watch from Surf City south to the mouth of the Cape Fear River.

The watches were issued as Hurricane Earl continues to churn toward the U.S. mainland.

The Category 4 storm, which is expected to weaken as it approaches the Carolinas, was roughly 1,000 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras as of 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

Emergency officials recommend residents use the time before the stormy conditions arrive to review their preparedness needs and evacuation plans.

I guess when they say "cape fear NC" they mean the mouth of the cape fear river which is about 30 miles to my south, and surf city is about 20 miles to my north
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Quoting washingtonian115:
Apology excepted.Yep local mets are already talking about Earl.


AS well they should be...when dealing with issues fo tropical weather, one is always best erring on the side of caution...someone mentioned Charley in here a few minutes ago...people were certain that Tampa was finally going to get hit again and wait...ooops...sorry, make that Punta Gorda

There is very little that is absolute in tropical forecasting
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
Quoting weatherman12345:
quick poll before the 8:00pm advisory
98l
A. 10%
B. 20%
C. 30%
D. 40%



E 60%
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1528:give him a break we know it wont happen but thats just his option
Member Since: July 13, 2008 Posts: 6 Comments: 10796
1538. Halyn
Quoting shadoclown45:

Read this article on the loop current it could cause major catostrophic crop failure. http://www.sott.net/articles/show/214379-Gulf-Loop-Current-Stalls-from-BP-Oil-Disaster-Global-Conse%2 0quences-if-Current-Fails-to-Reorganize


I just tried this url .. are you sure there isn't a typo in it??

http://www.sott.net/articles/show/214379-Gulf-Loop-Current-Stalls-from-BP-Oil-Disaster-Global-Conse %2 0quences-if-Current-Fails-to-Reorganize
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Thanks
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Okay, latest loops does look like Earl is slightly ne of forecast track. Also, I am very confused living in Va. Beach. Everyone has been saying the track has been shifting left for two days now. I have watched the NHC forecast and StormW and everyone else and the cone and track line does not appear any closer to us. With the latest model runs I feel even safer.

Curious as to what effects Va. Beach would feel on the west side 125 miles from a Cat 3 storm? Any thoughts from anyone?

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1535. GoWVU
Well the 5:00 weather in Charleston says we should be good, other than some rip currents soooo stay out of the water. I was here for Hugo and have NOOOO desire to go through another one. Wish NC the best hope it becomes a fish storm but that does not look good
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Quoting oceanblues32:
ok all this hype about the big west adjustment....lol
As far as I'm concered no one is hyping this sysytem at all.
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It would totally suck if the OBX got nailed with Earl. To my knowledge they've never been hit by a high-end Cat 3 b4 ever, the damage would be incredible.
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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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