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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1177. hydrus
Quoting ElConando:


At this point I doubt it really matters.
As long as there are no surprises.
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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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1174. tkeith
Quoting aasmith26:


No problem, if the storm doesn't hamper me from putting more up as I can take them i'd be more than happy to post!
Please do. These are very good.
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Quoting CloudGatherer:

Surprised it took this long. The inbound HH just switched on its SFMR, and is registering borderline TS-force winds fully 120 miles to the northwest of the center. Even if Earl passes well offshore, that's enough to carry an awfully long way inland.


I think part of the reason that they're holding off on the inland Tropical Storm Wind Warnings is that dryer, more stable air will remain in away place from the water.

Less precip/bands to bring the stronger winds down to the ground the higher stability air makes it much harder for the higher winds aloft to make it to the surface!
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Gaston now a TD:


000
WTNT44 KNHC 021438
TCDAT4
TROPICAL DEPRESSION GASTON DISCUSSION NUMBER 5
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL092010
1100 AM AST THU SEP 02 2010

METEOSAT-9 VISIBLE AND INFRARED IMAGES SHOW THAT DEEP CONVECTION
ASSOCIATED WITH GASTON HAS DECREASED CONSIDERABLY AND IS LIMITED TO
A FRAGMENTED BAND OVER THE WESTERN AND NORTHERN PORTION OF THE
CIRCULATION. THE PIRATA PREDICTION AND RESEARCH BUOY 13008 LOCATED
ABOUT 80 N MI NORTH-NORTHEAST OF THE CENTER HAS BEEN ONLY AVERAGING
AROUND 17 KT DURING THE PAST 6 HOURS. DVORAK SATELLITE INTENSITY
ESTIMATES HAVE DECREASED TO 30 KT FROM BOTH TAFB AND SAB. BASED ON
THESE DATA...GASTON IS LOWERED TO TROPICAL DEPRESSION STATUS.
ALTHOUGH THE UPPER WIND PATTERN IS FORECAST TO BE CONDUCIVE FOR
STRENGTHENING...THE RATHER DRY AND STABLE THERMODYNAMIC ENVIRONMENT
DOMINATING THE EASTERN TROPICAL ATLANTIC SHOULD ONLY PERMIT SLOW
INTENSIFICATION. A NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION G-V AIRCRAFT IS
CURRENTLY ENROUTE ON A PREDICT RESEARCH MISSION TO SAMPLE THE
SURROUNDING ENVIRONMENT. THE OFFICIAL INTENSITY FORECAST FOLLOWS
THE ICON CONSENSUS MODEL...AND IS CLOSE TO THE SHIPS AND LGEM
MODELS AT DAYS 4 AND 5.

GASTON IS MOVING A LITTLE SLOWER AND TO THE RIGHT OF THE PREVIOUS
ADVISORY...AROUND 290/6...IN RESPONSE TO A MID- TO UPPER-LEVEL HIGH
AMPLITUDE TROUGH SITUATED ALONG 38W AND TO THE NORTH OF THE
TROPICAL CYCLONE. THE LARGE-SCALE MODELS AGREE ON A CONTINUED
SLOW WEST-NORTHWESTWARD MOTION WITHIN THE WEAK EASTERLY STEERING
FLOW INFLUENCED BY THE AFOREMENTIONED TROUGH THROUGH ABOUT 36
HOURS. AFTERWARDS...THE DYNAMICAL MODELS INDICATE THAT THE
SUBTROPICAL RIDGE WILL BUILD EASTWARD OVER THE CENTRAL ATLANTIC
THROUGH THE END OF THE PERIOD WHICH WOULD INFLUENCE GASTON TO MOVE
GENERALLY WESTWARD AT A SLIGHTLY QUICKER PACE. THE NHC OFFICIAL
FORECAST IS A LITTLE TO THE RIGHT OF THE PREVIOUS TRACK AND IS BASED
ON A COMPROMISE OF ALL OF THE DYNAMICAL MODELS.

FORECAST POSITIONS AND MAX WINDS

INITIAL 02/1500Z 14.0N 38.9W 30 KT
12HR VT 03/0000Z 14.1N 39.7W 30 KT
24HR VT 03/1200Z 14.3N 40.7W 35 KT
36HR VT 04/0000Z 14.5N 42.0W 45 KT
48HR VT 04/1200Z 14.7N 43.3W 50 KT
72HR VT 05/1200Z 15.0N 46.5W 60 KT
96HR VT 06/1200Z 15.5N 51.0W 70 KT
120HR VT 07/1200Z 16.0N 56.0W 85 KT

$$
FORECASTER ROBERTS/PASCH
Member Since: August 23, 2008 Posts: 7 Comments: 5300
1170. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
07L/MH/E/C4
MARK
30.95N/74.95W


the many faces of earl
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Quoting texascoastres:
CanesWarning

My ex said that and fortunately we talked him in to leaving at the last minute. He had to rebuild the 1st floor of his 3200 sq ft house in ShoreAcres, Tx. Now his attitude is " if one is coming, we are leaving. Its not worth it. I hope your grandmother and uncle are going to be ok. I do know the feeling! I also have a grandmother and uncle in La of the CoonA-- breed that say the same thing.


They never have left before, so let's hope they get lucky again this time too! Their houses are both built up off the ground, so they might both lose their cars. I'm more worried about the wind with this one. I think they can take up to 15 ft of water before they start to flood really. I haven't seen anything that says they'll get that much water on the sound side.
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11:00 AM AST Thu Sep 2
Location: 24.4°N 65.8°W
Max sustained: 50 mph
Moving: NNW at 17 mph
Min pressure: 1002 mb

...FIONA TURNS TO THE NORTH-NORTHWEST...TROPICAL STORM WARNING
ISSUED FOR BERMUDA...
Member Since: August 23, 2008 Posts: 7 Comments: 5300
HH is doing an inbound run




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Quoting hydrus:
Earl will weaken a bit if this trend continues.


At this point I doubt it really matters.
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1165. IKE
Quoting UnobtrusiveTroll10:
IKE - I appreciate your image posts because they are unique/informative/important, etc. Thanks


You're welcome:)
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Quoting Radioman300900:
Hurricane specialist on the TWC just said to exspect a direct hit if it doesnt turn. Which it hasnt yet as the trough is not moving fast enough or strong enough to do so.
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?
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Quoting ElConando:


Yeah we shall see if it can flush it out.
Luckily it is eroding the western quadrant.
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Buxton is where Brain is broadcasting from.
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Quoting RecordSeason:
Dry air on western side again I think.


The eyewall still looks mostly in tact, but the first feeder band is completely eroded from what I can tell.


There is going to be a very sharp moisture gradient due to the subsidence on the west side of Earl. In fact, I don't think the rain shield will make it much further west than the OBX and most of the east coast is going to remain rain free, with maybe the exception of northern New England. Rip currents, rough seas, and some beach erosion will be what Earl will be known for in the end.
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how come the HWRF is so far off on intensity? is it just a crappy model and i don't know any better?

it has it going by the carolinas with barely any cat 2 winds
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Quoting hydrus:
Very cool pics..Thank you for them.


No problem, if the storm doesn't hamper me from putting more up as I can take them i'd be more than happy to post!
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IKE - I appreciate your image posts because they are unique/informative/important, etc. Thanks
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Quoting h0db:


75.27W to be exact-er.

I thought it was still east of 75W?
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1155. IKE
Western side is taking a hit...

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1154. hydrus
Quoting aasmith26:






Here they are... just taken outside. Just north of Virginia Beach.
Very cool pics..Thank you for them.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Very impressive. That's the upper level cirrus outflow of a tropical cyclone. You can see it quite well on visible satellite imagery.



My mom was like come look at the clouds! They are very cool!
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Brain is now up live broadcasting. Go to my blog for the link.
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Quoting DestinJeff:


OBX I think is slightly west of 75W, but the western side of the eye I think would still nip them if Earl folowed 75W on up.

I think he will make it beyond 75W, and the turn to an easterly component will not come until far too close to OBX for it to be effective in mitigating impacts there.


Using my fancy dandy little line drawer... I make it getting as close as 40 miles off shore to someplace called Buxton?
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Quoting aasmith26:






Here they are... just taken outside. Just north of Virginia Beach.
Very impressive. That's the upper level cirrus outflow of a tropical cyclone. You can see it quite well on visible satellite imagery.

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1149. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
1900hurricane

Earl been having dry air problems at times.
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1148. angiest
Quoting aasmith26:






Here they are... just taken outside. Just north of Virginia Beach.


Those are cool pics.
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CanesWarning

My ex said that and fortunately we talked him in to leaving at the last minute. He had to rebuild the 1st floor of his 3200 sq ft house in ShoreAcres, Tx. Now his attitude is " if one is coming, we are leaving. Its not worth it. I hope your grandmother and uncle are going to be ok. I do know the feeling! I also have a grandmother and uncle in La of the CoonA-- breed that say the same thing. Please no one from La take offense, not intention. Being raised in La we tend to have a independent mind and try to take care of everyone else.
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1146. hydrus
Earl will weaken a bit if this trend continues.
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Quoting 1900hurricane:
Looks like a dry air issue:



Yeah we shall see if it can flush it out.
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1144. angiest
Quoting SkinnyKnockdown:
Wow - just logged in to see what was up, and it looks like Earl has been right on the NHC forecast track. I found it revealing yesterday that when someone posed the question "which coordinate will Earl reach first, 30N or 75W", five responses said "75W" and one said "30N-75W at the same time". Now it looks highly likely that it will see 31N before it gets to 75W. I have been lurking for 2 or 3 years now, and I have never seen the doomcasters so empowered. THE NHC has been 100% correct on its track since PR. Let's hope the guys and gals with the PhDs in meteorology keep up the good work. And this is coming from a Houstonian, who saw the reality of a busted NHC forecast with Ike.


The key is the since PR part. The forecast before that was almost as bad as Ike's forecast before he passed Cuba.
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Quoting blsealevel:


Look at the bend in that ridge to the WNW of the high that earl produced that isnt avery good sign you think? may cause a more WNW motion or am i looking at that wrong?


well it has taken another good jog to the left so it really just comes down to when Earl's forward motion slows down to actually feel the trof....the report on reuters is inaccurate...the current NHC forecast will be updated very soon...at this time Id say . than 10% chance of a Outer Banks landfall but what happens afterwards is questionable because of that recurvature...
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Hurricane specialist on the TWC just said to exspect a direct hit if it doesnt turn. Which it hasnt yet as the trough is not moving fast enough or strong enough to do so.
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1141. breald
The NHC was just on TWC and said they are concerned because they have not seen that northern turn yet and they cannot rule out the storm riding the western edge of the cone which would be devastating to OBX and Southeastern New England.
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Here they are... just taken outside. Just north of Virginia Beach.
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Quoting CloudGatherer:


Yeah. But there's a reason that recent storms dominate those lists. In earlier hurricanes, unless the eye happened to pass directly over a ship that survived to record the data, or directly over a meteorological station onshore, we never got the low pressure readings. And, in general, storms wouldn't pass over those observation points at the precise moment of their peak intensity.

So it's reasonable to rank Early among the worst storms of the last half-century. Going further back just distorts the picture.


Yes. Surface pressures were still difficult to attain exactly until the mid 70s. Even now, it's not perfect.

You take out the data before 1975 or so, and Earl would be around 15th.

If you say half-century - so 1960 - 7 or 8 would go. More if you include Hattie and Esther, which were just on the cusp.

It's just a list based on what we know/can have a good guess at (which is history anyway).
Member Since: August 23, 2008 Posts: 7 Comments: 5300
1137. IKE
1415 visible...

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Quoting CaneWarning:


I have been wondering how long it would take them to put up inland TS warnings.

Surprised it took this long. The inbound HH just switched on its SFMR, and is registering borderline TS-force winds fully 120 miles to the northwest of the center. Even if Earl passes well offshore, that's enough to carry an awfully long way inland.
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ive argued on here in the past reasons to not leave. they dont let ya back in etc. i stayed on marco for wilma. but i have seen what andrew did. it was like a war zone. a night many people never want to relive. earl is a monster one jog left when it is near will be a disaster. by all means if your in earls path evacuate. i would not stick around for this one.
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Looks like a dry air issue:

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Shots I just took out in my backyard.

Southeast VA here, clouds definitely from the Hurricane...

[edit: images did not work, i'll try something else in a sec...]
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1132. ncstorm
Quoting CaneWarning:


I have been wondering how long it would take them to put up inland TS warnings.


they havent..thats the point..these people think they are okay
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Wow - just logged in to see what was up, and it looks like Earl has been right on the NHC forecast track. I found it revealing yesterday that when someone posed the question "which coordinate will Earl reach first, 30N or 75W", five responses said "75W" and one said "30N-75W at the same time". Now it looks highly likely that it will see 31N before it gets to 75W. I have been lurking for 2 or 3 years now, and I have never seen the doomcasters so empowered. THE NHC has been 100% correct on its track since PR. Let's hope the guys and gals with the PhDs in meteorology keep up the good work. And this is coming from a Houstonian, who saw the reality of a busted NHC forecast with Ike.
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1128. h0db
Quoting DestinJeff:
Ok here is the 12Z GFS 300mb stream analysis showing where the NNW motion is coming from....the high to his east, with bias to the left due to the weakness to the west.

still must get the Sw flow out in front of the trough nearer the coast to impart any easterly component in Earl.

OBX is along at about 75.5W (roughly).



75.27W to be exact-er.
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There will be a broadcast tonight on Hurricane Hollow's Barometer Bob internet radio show with call ins and a chat room tonight at 8 pm EST/7 pm CST. Bob answers questions posted on the moderated chat. Just go to Link
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About JeffMasters

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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