Category 4 Earl Approaches the East Coast

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 5:49 AM GMT on September 02, 2010

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Hi, Dr. Rob Carver with your evening blog update. It's a busy night in the tropics with category 4 Hurricane Earl and Tropical Storms Fiona and Gaston in the Atlantic. We'll focus on Earl tonight.

Earl
As of 11PM EDT, Earl is a Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 140 mph and faster gusts. From the advisory, Earl is located at 27.8 N, 73.8 W, 520 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, NC. On average, Earl is currently moving north-northwest at 18 mph. Data from hurricane hunter flights show that Earl's pressure has fallen, the minimum central pressure is now 932 mb. Looking at Figure 1, an estimate of rainfall rates (think radar in space), we see a complete eyewall, with an especiallly vigorous thunderstorm cluster in the northwest quadrant. These


Fig. 1 Estimated rainfall-rate of Earl taken at 9PM EDT 1 September 2010. Image courtesy of the Naval Research Lab

Earl is still a large storm. Hurricane force winds extend 90 miles from the storm center and tropical storm force winds can be found 230 miles away. 12 foot seas extend at least 210 nmi from the center in all directions and may reach out to 450 nmi in the northeast quadrant of the storm. The most recent estimate (930PM EDT) of Earl's integrated kinetic energy is 91 TJ, with a wind impact of 3.1 out of 6 and a storm surge impact of 4.7 out of 6. Like Dr. Masters said earlier today, if the right front quadrant of Earl stays out to sea, the storm surge may not be as significant as this rating indicates.

Track Forecast
NHC has not really altered their track forecast for this update. Thanks to the subtropical high, Earl will continue turning toward the north as it moves around the subtropical high. When the trough in the jet stream comes out on Thursday, Earl will accelerate quickly to the northeast. The timing of the trough's arrival will determine Earl's impact on the East Coast. If the trough comes out quickly, Earl will stay at sea. If the trough is late in arriving, it could move Earl across the East Coast.

That said, the current forecast still holds that Earl's center will stay out to sea, but with Earl's center passing near the Outer Banks late Thursday night, then passing the Delmarva peninsula Friday morning before flying past Cape Cod Friday night and crossing over Canada's Nova Scotia Saturday. There is also a small possibility (less than 10%) that Earl could pass directly over the Outer Banks and/or the Delmarva peninsula. However, with a storm of Earl's size, the center does not have to pass overhead to cause damage. Please keep this in mind when considering your hurricane preparations.

Winds Forecast
Earl's size and track will produce tropical-storm force winds somewhere along the East Coast this weekend, and there is a 28% chance of hurricane-force winds along the Outer Banks. NHC puts out a very useful wind probability forecast. The highlights are that Cape Hatteras, NC has a 28% chance of hurricane-force winds and a 91% chance of tropical-storm (TS) force winds. A wide swath of 30+% probabilities covers the East Coast from Virginia to New England. Cities with a greater than 40% chance of TS winds include Norfolk, Ocean City, Providence, Boston, and Nantucket. Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada has a 62% chance of TS force winds.

Earl is expected to maintain its current intensity until it meets the trough and starts moving northeastwards. The shear from the trough will start weakening it. It will likely go by Cape Cod as a fast-moving category 2 hurricane. When it goes over Nova Scotia, it will likely still be a tropical storm.
Current Watches and Warnings

Hurricane warnings are valid for the coast from Bogue Inlet, NC to the NC/VA border. Hurricane watches in effect from the NC/VA border to Cape Henlopen, DE and from Woods Hole, MA to Sagamore Beach, MA. Tropical storm warnings and watches cover much of the coast in between the NC/VA border and Woods Hole, MA. For the latest information on watches and warnings for Earl, visit our Tropical Alerts page.

Impacts
The primary threats from Earl are going to be storm surge, surf, and wind. Since Earl is forecast to gain speed after meeting the trough, flooding from rain should not be a large problem. From a broad perspective, storm surges are expected to be 3-5 feet above the tidal level, with large breaking waves at the coast. Beach erosion along the Delmarva peninsula and Outer Banks (8-10 foot breaking waves) could be significant. For more localized info, check out NWS's Hurricane Local Statements or our severe weather page.

What to do
People living in areas covered by the watches and warnings should be working through their hurricane preparation plans now. You have less than 24 hours to complete your preparations if you are in the Outer Banks and less than 48 hours in New England. Be sure to listen to local media for statements from emergency management agencies and the local NWS.

Fiona
All watches and warnings for Fiona were discontinued by the 5:00 PM EDT forecast. Fiona is forecast to curve northward without affecting land and dissipate in 4 days.

Gaston
Once Earl moves past Nova Scotia, this is the storm to watch in the tropical Atlantic. While it is far out at sea (more than 6 days to affect land), some computer models suggest Gaston could affect the Bahamas or the Caribbean. Statistical intensity forecast models (LGEM and SHIPS) rapidly intensify Gaston, but the dynamical models (HWRF, GFDL) do not. This storm will be worth watching over the next week or so.

Aerial Reconnaissance
The skies around Earl are going to be very busy Thursday according to the Tropical Cyclone Plan of the Day. There will be 3 flights from the Hurricane Hunters. NCAR and NOAA's Gulfstream's will be flying around Earl. HRD's WP-3D's will be flying research missions every 12 hours. NASA is sending several aircchraft as part of their Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes (GRIP) mission. Their Global Hawk UAV will be flying for at least 24 hours. NASA's DC-8 has a six-hour mission scheduled. Finally, a WB-57 (one of the planes I supported during 2001's CRYSTAL-FACE) will also be flying high above Earl with microwave remote sensing gear. NASA has a nice list of the airborne instruments.


Fig. 2 Photo of Earl's eyewall taken from NASA's DC-8 Image Credit: NASA/Jane Peterson. (Full size image)

Next update
Dr. Jeff Masters will have an update Thursday morning. Dr. Masters, myself, Shaun Tanner, and myself will be participating in a special Hurricane Haven Thursday afternoon to discuss Earl's imminent approach. Dr. Masters will have the finalized details in his blog update.

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Chilly at 6:30, but no frost!
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Quoting traumaboyy:


Mornin Cotillion!!


Good morning.

Quoting sandiquiz:


Morning Cot - beautiful day here!!

Like you, I do hope everyone is prepared on the East coast - Earl, like Maggie, is not for turning, I feel!


You know, I also thought about the Maggie reference yesterday...

No frost for you today, I hope?
Member Since: August 23, 2008 Posts: 7 Comments: 5300
Quoting Cotillion:
Morning.

I hope people in the Outer Banks are prepared for tonight.


Morning Cot - beautiful day here!!

Like you, I do hope everyone is prepared on the East coast - Earl, like Maggie, is not for turning, I feel!
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Quoting traumaboyy:


Ok...whew..still sane...I have been looking for that all night


lmao
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Quoting Cotillion:
Morning.

I hope people in the Outer Banks are prepared for tonight.


Mornin Cotillion!!
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Anyone have link to a 12 hour or longer loop (one that goes in 30 min intervals or finer) of Earl? I'd prefer something like the rainbow, but visible/IR would be nice too. I want to see the gigantic eye and somewhat annular looking shape it had earlier.
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Quoting KoritheMan:


No I think he said that.


Ok...whew..still sane...I have been looking for that all night
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Morning.

I hope people in the Outer Banks are prepared for tonight.
Member Since: August 23, 2008 Posts: 7 Comments: 5300
Quoting ssmate:
Last year was brutally inactive. Or, nice depending on how you look at it. Interesting point KoritheMan.


It was nice that we didn't get many deaths or damage, but it was rather disheartening and discouraging for those like me, who live for weather.
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Quoting traumaboyy:


Am I hallucinating again or did StormW say in his blog that it would probably slow down or stall before the turn??


No I think he said that.
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Quoting KoritheMan:
Just realized that 2010 has officially surpassed 2009's ACE by one point. 2009 had 51, 2010 has had 52. And we still have a lot of the season to go.

Man, what a contrast from last year.
Last year was brutally inactive. Or, nice depending on how you look at it. Interesting point KoritheMan.
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Quoting KoritheMan:


Agreed.


Am I hallucinating again or did StormW say in his blog that it would probably slow down or stall before the turn??
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Quoting TampaFLUSA:
Link IMO when it moves N it will have a harder time moving Eastward, the trough is not digging enough.


Agreed.
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Link IMO when it moves N it will have a harder time moving Eastward, the trough is not digging enough.
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Location: 330 miles (532 km) to the NE (35°) from Nassau, Bahamas.

Level: Geo. Height / Air Temp. / Dew Point / Wind Direction / Wind Speed
943mb (27.85 inHg): Sea Level (Surface) / 25.8°C (78.4°F) / 25.8°C (78.4°F) / 70° (from the ENE) / 118 knots (136 mph)
1000mb: This level does not exist in this area of the storm above the surface level.
925mb: 171m (561 ft) / 24.4°C (75.9°F) / 24.4°C (75.9°F) / 75° (from the ENE) / 144 knots (166 mph)
850mb: 913m (2,995 ft) / 21.2°C (70.2°F) / 21.1°C (70.0°F) / 100° (from the E) / 141 knots (162 mph)
700mb: 2,585m (8,481 ft) / 13.8°C (56.8°F) / 13.8°C (56.8°F) / 145° (from the SE) / 137 knots (158 mph)
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Quoting fatlady99:


darn!.. oh well, a few too many anyway!! No, I mean the DONUTS!!!

I'm signing off while I can still fold up my laptop by myself. thanks for all the really good info tonight. g'nite all.


GNite Maam!!
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Just realized that 2010 has officially surpassed 2009's ACE by one point. 2009 had 51, 2010 has had 52. And we still have a lot of the season to go.

Man, what a contrast from last year.
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Growing in size. Link
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Quoting traumaboyy:


Sorry....Had to put the donuts up......everyone in the blog got high on the sugar and was getting the glaze all over their instrument panels....lol


darn!.. oh well, a few too many anyway!! No, I mean the DONUTS!!!

I'm signing off while I can still fold up my laptop by myself. thanks for all the really good info tonight. g'nite all.
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Quoting jason2010xxxx:
this storm look like to me its starting to go faster maybe 20 mph now.


Yeah...wouldn't slow down a bit if it was going to make a turn morth Northerly?
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Quoting xcool:
bye all,getting up at 9am for work


sleep well.
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Quoting AtmosphericWrath:
Absolutely agree the western flank is fighting dry air as it tries hard to intrude into the core. Also the eye wall to me looks to be collapsing. We'll see, but I really think my call that an EWRC was beginning may be correct. Oh and whoever brought up donuts, thank you made me hungry LOL.


Sorry....Had to put the donuts up......everyone in the blog got high on the sugar and was getting the glaze all over their instrument panels....lol
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Quoting jason2010xxxx:
this storm look like to me its starting to go faster maybe 20 mph now.


It's possible. I can't tell just yet, need a few more frames to see whether it is moving faster, but it should begin to speed up its forward speed soon.
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Quoting TampaFLUSA:


That looks like Earl is heading straight for the SC/NC coast between Myrtle Beach and Cape Hatteras... I hope he turns soon....
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@TropicalWatch

Doesn't matter where we are from, worried about this one. A few degrees off the path, Earl could do some major damage. We're in the States a lot and thinking of our friends there as well the Maritime Provinces. We have only experienced a TS down where we stay in FL. and that was illuminating enough for my tastes.

Anyway, hoping that you are out of harm's way.
Watching this all and greatly appreciate this blog...been reading everything (almost) for years.
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Quoting xcool:
bye all,getting up at 9am for work


Good Morning Xcool!!
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245. xcool
bye all,getting up at 9am for work
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Quoting BadHurricane:

Please do not talk nonsense!


LOL. I take that as some form of sarcasm because it is pretty evident that there is dry air intrusion into the storm, and an erosion of the NW quadrant as shown on satellite.
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Absolutely agree the western flank is fighting dry air as it tries hard to intrude into the core. Also the eye wall to me looks to be collapsing. We'll see, but I really think my call that an EWRC was beginning may be correct. Oh and whoever brought up donuts, thank you made me hungry LOL.
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240. xcool
TampaFLUSA :0
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Quoting xcool:


here w'e go

Ya beat me to it.
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Showing up on radar now. Link
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237. xcool
BadHurricane he not.
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Quoting BadHurricane:

Please do not talk nonsense!


He's not? Dry air is evident in the NW quadrant.
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Quoting VegasRain:
It looks like there is some dry air wrapping into the northwestern side of the storm. The Eye is looking a bit more ragged and asymmetrical and there is a significant warming of the cloudtops in the NW quadrant. It could also be undergoing an EWRC, but it likely won't be able to complete it before increasing shear takes its toll if that is indeed the case. Either way, it looks like Earl has peaked and is now beginning to weaken.


Please do not talk nonsense!
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.
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232. xcool


here w'e go
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Quoting cheetaking:


Nope. Still just one eyewall.


I corrected my post to state that there is turbulence in the eyewall, causing the elliptical shape.
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Quoting AtmosphericWrath:
EWRC nearing?


Nope. Still just one eyewall. You can clearly see that a serious air intrusion is going on, though. Expect the storm to weaken from here, at least until it reaches the Gulf Stream.

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It looks like there is some dry air wrapping into the northwestern side of the storm. The Eye is looking a bit more ragged and asymmetrical and there is a significant warming of the cloudtops in the NW quadrant. It could also be undergoing an EWRC, but it likely won't be able to complete it before increasing shear takes its toll if that is indeed the case. Either way, it looks like Earl has peaked and is now beginning to weaken.

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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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