Earl maintaining Category 4 strength; hurricane watches for North Carolina

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 9:44 PM GMT on August 31, 2010

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Hurricane watches are now posted for coastal North Carolina, as Hurricane Earl continues towards the west-northwest at 13 mph with little change in strength. Currently, the outer reaches of the storm are affecting the Turks and Caicos Islands, and NOAA's Wavewatch III model is predicting 15 - 20 foot waves are affecting these islands. Early this morning, waves at buoy 41043 offshore of Puerto Rico reached 31 feet. Winds at Providenciales in the Turks were only 20 - 25 mph this afternoon, though Cockburn Town and Balfour Town in the extreme eastern Turks may be seeing winds near tropical storm force--40 mph.


Figure 1. Afternoon satellite image of Earl.

Intensity forecast for Earl
Recent visible satellite loops show that the southwest side of Earl is getting eaten into by wind shear and dry air. The storm is no longer as symmetrical as 24 hours ago, and the spiral band on Earl's west side has been destroyed by dry air. Wind shear as diagnosed by the latest SHIPS model forecast shows a moderate 10 - 20 knots of wind shear, 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. Water vapor satellite loops show some moderately dry air to Earl's southwest, and very dry air to the northwest. Once Earl works its way farther to the northwest, it is possible that the persistent moderate wind shear will be able to drive this dry air deep enough into Earl's west side to significantly disrupt it. However, none of the models is predicting this, and Earl is probably large and strong enough to fend off this sort of assault. I give a 30% chance that a major dry air intrusion will significantly disrupt Earl between now and Thursday, weakening it to a Category 2 hurricane. 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. There is no evidence that Earl has weakened, though, based on the latest pressure of 940 mb from the Hurricane Hunters. 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.

Track forecast for Earl
The latest set of computer models runs from 8am EDT (12Z) are pretty unified in taking Earl 100 - 200 miles off the coast of North Carolina, then 150 - 300 miles off the coast of Southeast Massachusetts, then into Nova Scotia. The high degree of model unity gives confidence that this is the correct solution, but it is good to keep in mind that the average error in a 48-hour NHC forecast is about 125 miles. It is likely that Earl will bring a 15-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 15% chance of receiving hurricane force winds. By Friday evening, 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 13% chance of receiving hurricane force winds. These odds are 5% for Boston, 6% for Providence, 8% for Eastport, Maine, and 14% 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.

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.

Next update
Dr. Rob Carver is planning an update late tonight, and I'll have a full update in the morning.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting MelbourneTom:
NHC SAT links look to be down again. Even this blog looks to be slower than expected. Something effecting the web in general may be going on.


Ouch, Blackout!
Member Since: June 11, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 684
Maybe the NHC gave the mass of clouds a name(Fiona) so they could get closer to their predicted total, which they know they are coming up short on!
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Better sense of the setup over the CONUS...



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When do the early cycle 0z's come out?
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Some broad cyclonic curvature beginning to come into play with 98L.


Earl looks awesome in that loop.
Member Since: July 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 5695
Quoting xcool:
Fiona looks she's a part of Earl.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Some broad cyclonic curvature beginning to come into play with 98L.



I was looking at the 12z GFS shear forecast earlier, and conditions are optimal for development for at least the next three to four days. Shear could abruptly increase thereafter, but my current thinking is, maybe it's possible this system develops quick enough to build its own anticyclone, thereby preventing significant weakening in the face of otherwise hostile upper level conditions?
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
At this hour, Fiona seems doomed:



she will come back stronger
Member Since: September 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 481
Wow! I am surprised how quickly Fiona joined with Earl...on another note, hope all the patrons of Howard's Pub in Ocracoke have cleared out (or are drinking heavily)!
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Quoting pilotguy1:
Is there some adult beverages involved with some of the posts here?

Sometimes, this blog is...unusual? lol
Member Since: July 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 5695
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Possibly. Although it is isn't just going to get ingested by Earl, it will be a relatively slow process as Earl starts shearing Fiona.


More buzzsaw, less Pac-Man?
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Is anyone else having trouble pulling up the satellite imagery on NHC site?
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Some broad cyclonic curvature beginning to come into play with 98L.

Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Are you a bit curious how Earl did, check out these pictures out of the island of Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands. Link
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Quoting katty5:
Earl will keep shifting west..


Did you get this from your magic 8-ball, or do you actually have any related proof or evidence for your theory/opinion?
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651. xcool
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Quoting CoopsWife:
You too, SJ. Keeping a close eye on Earl - looks as if that trough/front is moving awfully slowly - sure hope it heads east fast enough to push Earl off the coast. Sitting here at 36.6 and 76 we are usually safe, but it's the ones that skim the coast that leave a big mess behind...

oops - 36.8


Got a second model forecasting a landfall. Looks like NOGAPS wasn't the only one forecasting it.
Member Since: June 26, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 126
I would not underestimate Fiona!
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Summary - Earl will get close enough to cause issues, still hard to tell how much. Fiona was given a name while coming down the birth canal but looks to be a preemie and docs don't expect to live past Friday or even earlier. The models don't like 98L or anything other than Earl for that matter.
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Quoting pilotguy1:
Is there some adult beverages involved with some of the posts here?


Is Clamato considered an adult beverage?
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Quoting Flyairbird:
Thanks

I do know that all phone towers were down.


For any that have not visited the website, StormCarib.com is a good resource.When we were impacted by Ivan in 2004 here in Cayman,many people were able to stay in touch via Storm Carib's message board( seeing we had limited phone/internet access)
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Quoting MrstormX:


Its hard to tell, need a solid fix on the eye... might be north of the forecast points but im thinking not very East.


Yeah, certainly not east.
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Personally I don't think Fiona ever existed anyway. It looked like a tropical cyclone about 1-2 days before it was classified, and has looked, to my untrained eye, like an open wave ever since.
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640. MahFL
Starting to get a buzz saw look again.
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Poor Fiona, she never stood a chance. :(
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Well Earl and Fiona have met it seems Gaston will be ther newborn son....
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Quoting weatherwart:
Bye bye Fiona?

Possibly. Although it is isn't just going to get ingested by Earl, it will be a relatively slow process as Earl starts shearing Fiona.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Quoting WeatherMSK:
I think I still disagree with ya Mrstorm about being right on the forecast points. Looks slightly north to me.


Its hard to tell, need a solid fix on the eye... might be north of the forecast points but im thinking not very East.
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Quoting CaneWarning:


Things are great. It hasn't been as humid the past couple of days so it isn't too nasty outside!


I'm up in Hernando. It was actually nice this morning. About time...
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In other news 98L looks like it is trying be something out of itself.
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Quoting FLdewey:

Andrew? Do you own a TV?


That's clearly Andrew in the image you altered, here is the original.

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Quoting Flyairbird:
We may be seeing the Fiona Fizzle soon


yeah i am expecting that but i wonder if the convection will spread here i still dont have running water here because of all the rain if you look on sj radar u can see bands of showers moving into the usvi right now not yet a st thomas though. they said the bands would fizzle by tonight and tomorrow but if fiona's death creates bursts of moisture it would mean more flooding
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Quoting CaneWarning:


Things are great. It hasn't been as humid the past couple of days so it isn't too nasty outside!
Been raining everyday here, but all in all, decent weather.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Quoting itrackstorms:


Any your forecast reasoning for this is....


the ULL that's pulling him closer to the coast and the fact that the main trof is still miles and miles away from affecting Earl in any meaningful pattern. I see him still click clocking west-northwest towards the NC/Virginia coast before even contemplating a turn towards the N or NE
Member Since: August 20, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 373
Quoting jason2010xxxx:
Earl will keep shifting west SHE IS MOVING WNW AGAIN
Looks still on track to me.
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You too, SJ. Keeping a close eye on Earl - looks as if that trough/front is moving awfully slowly - sure hope it heads east fast enough to push Earl off the coast. Sitting here at 36.6 and 76 we are usually safe, but it's the ones that skim the coast that leave a big mess behind...

oops - 36.8
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Bye bye Fiona?

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AOI

AOI

AOI

AOI

AOI

AOI


TS BUSTED FORECAST ALIBI
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I think I still disagree with ya Mrstorm about being right on the forecast points. Looks slightly north to me.
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
At this hour, Fiona seems doomed:



Fiona: *bump* Oh excuse me Earl. I didn't mean to run into you.

Earl: You are FOOD! OM-NOM-NOM-NOM

Fiona: EEEeeeeee....*poof*
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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.