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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1226. IKE
8:00 AM EDT Thu Sep 2
Location: 30.1°N 74.8°W
Max sustained: 145 mph
Moving: NNW at 18 mph
Min pressure: 932 mb

....................................

...DANGEROUS HURRICANE EARL HEADING FOR THE OUTER BANKS OF NORTH CAROLINA...HURRICANE WARNINGS ISSUED FOR PORTIONS OF MASSACHUSETTS...
11:00 AM EDT Thu Sep 2
Location: 30.9°N 74.8°W
Max sustained: 140 mph
Moving: N at 18 mph
Min pressure: 932 mb
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HURRICANE CENTER LOCATED NEAR 30.9N 74.8W AT 02/1500Z
POSITION ACCURATE WITHIN 15 NM

PRESENT MOVEMENT TOWARD THE NORTH OR 355 DEGREES AT 16 KT

ESTIMATED MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE 932 MB
EYE DIAMETER 25 NM
MAX SUSTAINED WINDS 120 KT WITH GUSTS TO 145 KT.
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DANGEROUS HURRICANE EARL HEADING FOR THE OUTER BANKS OF NORTH CAROLINA...HURRICANE WARNINGS ISSUED FOR PORTIONS OF MASSACHUSETTS...

11:00 AM EDT Thu Sep 2
Location: 30.9°N 74.8°W
Max sustained: 140 mph
Moving: N at 18 mph
Min pressure: 932 mb
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1223. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Quoting aasmith26:


...umm. really?


https://152.80.49.110/tcweb/dynamic/products/tc10/EPAC/94E.INVEST/ssmi/ir1kmcolor/20100902.1430.goe s-11.ircolor.94E.INVEST.30kts.1003mb.18.2N.107.6W.100pc.jpg

yup 30 knots all it needs is given Tropical Depression 10-E name from the NHC
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Could someone post the picture of Africa with the waves over it please, or provide a link for it? Thanks
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DANGEROUS HURRICANE EARL HEADING FOR THE OUTER BANKS OF NORTH CAROLINA...HURRICANE WARNINGS ISSUED FOR PORTIONS OF MASSACHUSETTS...
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1220. Ryuujin
And it's still quite wobbly, so one jog NW is all that is needed to spell a great deal of danger for the outerbanks. Which may still happen.
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Quoting largeeyes:
Looks to really be moving more north, will be east of the next TFP



You might want to let the NHC know that because the guy that was on TWC a little bit ago sounded a whole lot less confident in the turn.
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Quoting ncstorm:
How do you post pics? I have some pics of Earl clouds but it only gives me the option to link but from an URL..also with the images..


use imageshack.us then copy the link!
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Quoting frecklespugsley:
I don't understand. The storm wasn't supposed to turn yet according to the models. Why are people worried? Isn't it doing exactly what we expected it to do 3 days ago? It's going to get close to the OBX, scrape it, and go out to see, possibly scraping cape cod and heading up to Nova Scotia. What's will all this doomsday speak?

Because even a scrape where we live can cause large amounts of flooding to low lying areas especially Norfolk that already has subsidence problems and in Virginia Beach, strong tropical force winds can cause damage and power outages so we care.
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Quoting largeeyes:
Looks to really be moving more north, will be east of the next TFP


Largeeye. U might want 2 get some lareger contacts
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Quoting RecordSeason:
1188:

Saving grace was the fact the 1016mb surface line finally broke to the east in the early morning hours.

If it had held there and broke west as it was trying to do most of yesterday, we'd still be dealing with NW motion on Earl.


While I agree with you that the west component is "almost" gone. Its a bit early to use terms such as "the saving grace was" We are only a few wobbles away from a landfall on the NC coastline.
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1212. ncstorm
How do you post pics? I have some pics of Earl clouds but it only gives me the option to link but from an URL..also with the images..
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Quoting HadesGodWyvern:


Socorro Island


...umm. really?
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1209. tkeith
Quoting frecklespugsley:
But don't let your fears affect your rationality.
all I can say about fear is that most fools I've known have none...

live and learn friend...experience is a great teacher.
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1208. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)


Socorro Island
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Quoting floridaT:
ok but make sure ya write your ssn on your chest so they know who ya are
Haha. If I live in the OBX I would evacuate. But I don't. I live in MD. Even if Earl tracks west against the forecast the worst it could do would be to move up the Chesapeake Bay. Does anyone really think Earl is going to do anything but go along the most western forecast that we already knew about days ago? Some people are acting like Earl is about to turn due west.
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Quoting texascoastres:
Sometimes that fear is what motivates people to leave.. Fear of the unknown is better off less tested!


Fear and panic shouldn't enter into your thoughts... You should have a plan in place and start executing it now. The only folks who panic are those who haven't prepared.
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Looks to really be moving more north, will be east of the next TFP
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Quoting LADobeLady:


This is the last thing we need on this blog right now. If you want to talk about weather bimbos do it on your own blog.



I don't think Stephanie Abrams would appreciate you calling her a bimbo.

Anyways, have there been any links to beach cams posted yet? I found this site with a streaming cam on it Link
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I'm not surprised Gaston was lowered to a tropical depression due to the lack of well-organized convection. It should be able to re-intensify into a tropical storm soon though.
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Sometimes that fear is what motivates people to leave.. Fear of the unknown is better off less tested!
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1200. Engine2
So the dissipation of the trough that is suppose to steer Earl east means what? Another western shift in the models?
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Quoting frecklespugsley:
But don't let your fears affect your rationality.
ok but make sure ya write your ssn on your chest so they know who ya are
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Quoting RecordSeason:
1164:


Yes, Earl has actually ended up relatively close to where they said he was going to be.


the problem is, the trough that was "supposed" to pick Earl up is NOT where it is "supposed" to be, which means Earl probably isn't going to start turning when he was "supposed" to start turning.


I was just about to say the same thing. The trof isnt picking up Earl as quick as the past forecast suggest...the trof is very very slow almost stationary...

The dry air aloft to the NW of Earl - some suggested that would be a "rain barrier" which is really a red hearing. If anything it would help weaken Earl some but even at the point of a hurricane 3, the impact will be phenomenal.

The storm surge and hurricane /tropical force winds are really extending outwards a few hundred miles.

Estimated power outages are at 5 million.
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Why is Earl not in super rapid scan yet?
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Hurricane Earl is photographed by astronaut Douglas Wheelock aboard the International Space Station on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010. Credit: Astro_Wheels/NASA [Full Story]
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1193. hydrus
Quoting Taylor2004:
I am new to the blog, however have been following your site for couple years now. First let me start by saying, "Good Luck" to those in the path of this historic storm. We here in Martin County, ie South Fla have dodged an epic event. However from reading all the blogs, I can see we are not out of the woods yet. I have been thru Gloria in 85, Bob in 91, Francis 04, Jeanne 04, Wilma 05, TS Fay 09. How far past Nov 1st is 2010 season projected to go?
December..That can change of course.
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Quoting weatherspotter1923:
I don't know what this means to the steering of Earl. I know that midwest trough is just one piece of the puzzle but has been mentioned quite a bit as a major factor. This is from the Buffalo NY forecast discussion this morning:

THE WEAK TROUGH OF LOW PRESSURE WILL TRY TO PUSH INTO THE RIDGE
TODAY WITH LITTLE SUCCESS. HURRICANE EARL WILL CONTINUE TO MOVE UP
THE EASTERN SEABOARD TODAY AROUND THE WESTERN PERIPHERY OF THE
ATLANTIC SUB-TROPICAL RIDGE. DEEP LAYER SUBSIDENCE OVER MUCH OF THE
MID ATLANTIC STATES AND NEW ENGLAND FROM THE PERSISTENT RIDGE...AND
ALSO FROM THE UPPER TROPOSPHERIC OUTFLOW FROM EARL WILL ACT TO REPEL
AND WEAKEN THE APPROACHING TROUGH...EFFECTIVELY DISSIPATING IT LATER
TODAY AND TONIGHT.



I figured that was coming I am in Illinois and the southern part of the front is still not through here yet.
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Quoting floridaT:
because many here have wittnessed what a storm like this can do
But don't let your fears affect your rationality.
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1189. h0db
Quoting philliesrock:

I thought it was still east of 75W?


Sorry for the misunderstanding--75.27W is the longitude of the eastern extremity of the Outer Banks. Earl is slightly east of 75W at present.
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I am new to the blog, however have been following your site for couple years now. First let me start by saying, "Good Luck" to those in the path of this historic storm. We here in Martin County, ie South Fla have dodged an epic event. However from reading all the blogs, I can see we are not out of the woods yet. I have been thru Gloria in 85, Bob in 91, Francis 04, Jeanne 04, Wilma 05, TS Fay 09. How far past Nov 1st is 2010 season projected to go?
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1186. Engine2
Quoting weatherspotter1923:
I don't know what this means to the steering of Earl. I know that midwest trough is just one piece of the puzzle but has been mentioned quite a bit as a major factor. This is from the Buffalo NY forecast discussion this morning:

THE WEAK TROUGH OF LOW PRESSURE WILL TRY TO PUSH INTO THE RIDGE
TODAY WITH LITTLE SUCCESS. HURRICANE EARL WILL CONTINUE TO MOVE UP
THE EASTERN SEABOARD TODAY AROUND THE WESTERN PERIPHERY OF THE
ATLANTIC SUB-TROPICAL RIDGE. DEEP LAYER SUBSIDENCE OVER MUCH OF THE
MID ATLANTIC STATES AND NEW ENGLAND FROM THE PERSISTENT RIDGE...AND
ALSO FROM THE UPPER TROPOSPHERIC OUTFLOW FROM EARL WILL ACT TO REPEL
AND WEAKEN THE APPROACHING TROUGH...EFFECTIVELY DISSIPATING IT LATER
TODAY AND TONIGHT.


????
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I live in Yorktown, Va. and our local mets are just calling for 30mph winds with 45 gusts tonight after midnight. With a cat. 4 H, I would think the winds would be more. But in any case I'm prepared. Looks like the grocery stores are packed, people are buying up all the bread, milk and bottled water. I went on Monday, to beat the crowds.
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Quoting frecklespugsley:
I don't understand. The storm wasn't supposed to turn yet according to the models. Why are people worried? Isn't it doing exactly what we expected it to do 3 days ago? It's going to get close to the OBX, scrape it, and go out to see, possibly scraping cape cod and heading up to Nova Scotia. What's will all this doomsday speak?
because many here have wittnessed what a storm like this can do
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Quoting Patrap:
Vaccarella Family - Hurricane Katrina

12 Miles East of Downtown NOLA.





Amazing video. Thanks for sharing. After watching this video, if you are still not convinced you should leave when you are "advised to" then consider yourself "warned". Those on the coast in the path of Earl - you are in all our thoughts and prayers!
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Quoting HadesGodWyvern:
1900hurricane

Earl been having dry air problems at times.


It will be very interesting to see how Earl deals with that dry air. He absorbed the last one without too much issue, but he's going to skirt alot of coastline before he gets to Maine.

Visible sat still looks pretty intact, but he's looking real thin on the IR...
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..

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Wow Earl is huge...winds still above 140+ and it took a westward nudge now stair stepping some back towards NC. Not good.
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1177. hydrus
Quoting ElConando:


At this point I doubt it really matters.
As long as there are no surprises.
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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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