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 StormW:


That looks like a "OUCH" am I correct?
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Quoting mfaria101:


Very sorry to hear of your loss edf, Lost my dad two years ago, its takes time to recover.


Thank you.. it will. it was quite the celebration for my father.. over 700 people came to the funeral. there was a line from the church to the burial site over 2 miles long.. My daddy did everything big1 He was a singer that sang like Frank Sinatra and at the end of the ceremony we gave my father a standing ovation. it was such a cool send off!
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Just heard on one of the tv stations that earl is still moving to wnw and if it does not start moving nw bu 11:00 pm tonight that south florida could be under the gun. there is a big meeting for all counties at 11:00 pm to evalute the situation. and coming from the governors office there is a meeting tonight in regarding earl and the situation


***VOICE YOUR OPINIONS**************



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Quoting earthlydragonfly:


LOL I responded to it and my response was eaten.. LOL.
Thank you for your thoughts we are doing well and always appreciate any prayers the D'fly can get. My dad was a great man, father and inventor.


well then you will get extra prayers ;)
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Storm i am a bit lost as to how there is no model support for 98L while with eaching passing frame the system seems to be getting better organised
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Quoting btwntx08:
nhc is being too convsertive on 98L the percentange should be higher


I am expecting them to do the same thing they did they did with Fiona ...from an invest to TS. All of them are looking at Earl now.
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Quoting reedzone:
I would give 98L a little more then just 10% lol.. it looks more like 20-30%, nice structure, and some convection deepening.


It looks better organized than Fiona.
Member Since: July 23, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 133
Dry air to hw of Earl almost looking like a weak uul feeding a lot of dry air into western side of Earl, ull seems to be drifting sw.This my be fly in the forecast ointment. Noticed ull in North Alabama moving sw doesn't appear to be to much of a trough to it's west.
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do i need to start boarding up and getting supplies ready? its looking like florida is adding to the mix now. big storm!
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Earl is still Port of track and NOT turning




Fiona is PORT of track also



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Quoting earthlydragonfly:


Thanks... Good to see you too!!.. My Dad passed away and was on and off during this tough time in my life. mostly reading the post... Im in good spirits though..


Very sorry to hear of your loss edf, Lost my dad two years ago, its takes time to recover.
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Quoting StormW:


I think she could brush the extreme northern Leewards, prior to turning...probably closer to Earls track for the next 24-36.


Based in your knowledge you think she can become a Hurricane by the time she get closer to us?
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Quoting ho77yw00d:
d'fly my post was ate but I re posted #550... didnt know if you saw or not


LOL I responded to it and my response was eaten.. LOL.
Thank you for your thoughts we are doing well and always appreciate any prayers the D'fly can get. My dad was a great man, father and inventor.
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Quoting earthlydragonfly:

We had great closure!! Thanks


I am sure he will now help bring some awsome lighting for you to capture! I know I said it in my post # 550 but I will pray for you and your family!
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Quoting WarEagle8:
Just FYI, anyone who is in the cone from the Turks and Caicos north, used to be in the cone hours ago or last night, or may be in the cone later today/tomorrow, go on an prepare....follow patraps suggestions and other blogger suggestions. Stay calm, breathe, listen to some calming music like spa music, burn a fragrant candle, chill AFTER you prepare/replinish supplies and make other necessary preparations.
Yah, we did that yesterday.... lol ... Currently breezing and overcast from the east here in Nassau...
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611. xcool
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15620
Quoting alfabob:


Great Image! Awesome Power there in that loop.
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609. xcool
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15620
12z ECMWF is once again farther SW through 48.
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Quoting FLWeatherFreak91:
I don't know why people keep saying they don't believe the storm is turning yet, or won't turn.

It has turned significantly to the N since this time yesterday, and has averaged NW movement. Earl is on track. The only changes to the track we'll see now will be very minute.


It happens everytime there's a storm threatening landfall somewhere...there are those that have to second guess the data and the models...the there are those that have to jump in here and say wildly inaccurate things to be as disruptive as they can (and I think you all know who I'm talking about).

In the case of Earl, he is somewhat off the forecast points from yesterday, but not enough to cause windspread panic; if you live on the coasts of North or South Carolina, the Delmarva and the rest of Virginia, the coasts of New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island or Massachusetts you should be prepared to deal with whatever Earl brings you (I didn't forget Delaware ot Maryland but you guys know who you are and where you are)
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Quoting StormW:


I think she could brush the extreme northern Leewards, prior to turning...probably closer to Earls track for the next 24-36.


Thanks
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Quoting btwntx08:
nhc is being too convsertive on 98L the percentange should be higher


they have there hands full with Earl and Fiona is i think why.
Gaston will have his turn though later. LOL
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Quoting medicroc:

Sorry to hear. My dad passed about a year ago, I thank God I had him so long.

We had great closure!! Thanks
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Quoting TallyMike:
Why do so many of the folks here say Earl is where (insert favorite storm name here) was in( insert year here) and therefore I need to panic? Although many of the models are based on historical paths, to assume it will do what another storm did just because it is in the same location ignores all the current weather patterns exerting influence on the storm......

cuz it fits with them wanting the storm to hit them
Member Since: June 29, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1136
Quoting StormW:


Quoting Floodman:


Sorry to hear about your loss, dfly; we're glad to have you back!


Same here my friend. Lost my dad back in 2000


Dads are tough losses for men... our mentors and leaders.. at least my father sure was.. thanks for the sentiments Senior Chief Caster
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interesting how the trough that is supposed to turn Earl is not looking all that strong today.

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I would give 98L a little more then just 10% lol.. it looks more like 20-30%, nice structure, and some convection deepening.
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Quoting StormW:


Quoting Floodman:


Sorry to hear about your loss, dfly; we're glad to have you back!


Same here my friend. Lost my dad back in 2000


hello Dr,Storm what about Fiona track related to us here in PR?
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Earl is looking a bit more ragged. According to the water vapor loop, much of the convection is now to the south and west of the eye. I suspect drier air. Any other thoughts as to why?
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Why do so many of the folks here say Earl is where (insert favorite storm name here) was in( insert year here) and therefore I need to panic? Although many of the models are based on historical paths, to assume it will do what another storm did just because it is in the same location ignores all the current weather patterns exerting influence on the storm......
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Quoting TropicalNonsense:
none of the models currently initialize the oreintation of
the mid atlantic high correctly. This will hamper the forecast
even more i am guessing.



that photo almost looks like SC is saying, Hey earl we forgot to close the front door.
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yes conditions for a CAT 5 storm to develop have to be almost perfection.

However Earl is already well fueled and after EWRC is complete Earl will ramp up its intensity once again as pressure drops in the eye.

Be interesting to see what happens.

The westerly track continues and now we begin to see the first Models showing a hit on the East Coast or a very near miss.

Every hour that Earl meanders West increases the probability of a US landfall.If Earl remains SOUTH of the projected turn then the intensity increases at landfall.Time to watch cross your fingers and hope for that turn to the NORTH to happen VERY soon.
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Thanks for the concern and well wishes.

Looks like I will be able to keep some windows open and turn off the fan.

;)

CRS
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Quoting CaneWarning:
I'm starting to scratch my head with this storm. I hope Earl turns or the troll is right and Florida is at risk in the next day or two.
As I happen to live in FL, I have to take issue with that last bit. Can't really see it happening though.
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watch and wait game is on for east coast.

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Quoting IKE:
Eye starting to pop back out on Earl. He looks right about on the tropical points...Link


Yep, Earls been right on the 11 a.m. track so far, but still south of the model consensus.
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Quoting earthlydragonfly:


Thanks... Good to see you too!!.. My Dad passed away and was on and off during this tough time in my life. mostly reading the post... Im in good spirits though..

Sorry to hear. My dad passed about a year ago, I thank God I had him so long.
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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.