Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:38 PM GMT on August 12, 2011
It's a busy day in the tropical Atlantic, with the National Hurricane Center tracking four areas of interest (Invests.) None of these systems is a danger to any land areas over the next three days. The disturbance of most concern is the one farthest from land, a tropical wave that emerged from the coast of Africa two days ago. This wave, (Invest 93L), is located about 500 miles southwest of the Cape Verde Islands, and is moving westward at 15 - 20 mph. Recent visible satellite loops show that 93L has lost some of its heavy thunderstorms since yesterday, and the system is poorly organized, though there is a good deal of spin to the system. There is dry air to its north that is interfering with development. The SHIPS model and University of Wisconsin CIMSS wind shear analysis are showing high wind shear in excess 20 knots affecting 93L, which has undoubtedly contributed to the storm's loss of organization. Sea surface temperatures are 27.5°C, which is one degree above the 26.5°C threshold usually needed to support a tropical storm.
Figure 1. Morning satellite photo of the four Invests in the Atlantic today.
Forecast for 93L
High wind shear above 20 knots is predicted along 93L's path through Saturday afternoon, followed by a drop to the moderate range, 10 - 20 knots, for the succeeding four days. This should allow the storm to organize over the weekend. The latest 00Z and 06Z model runs of the four best models for predicting tropical storm formation (GFS, ECMWF, NOGAPS, and UKMET), have only one model, the GFS, that is indicating significant development of 93L. This model brings 93L near the northern Lesser Antilles Islands by Wednesday. NHC gave 93L a 40% chance of developing into a tropical depression by Sunday morning in their 8am outlook. Given 93L's recent struggles, I'd put these odds at 30%.
An African wave midway between the northern Lesser Antilles Islands and the coast of Africa, near 18°N 45°W, is moving west-northwest at 20 mph. This system, (Invest 92L), is being given a 40% chance of development by NHC. Recent visible satellite loops show a modest amount of heavy thunderstorm activity, but no signs of a surface circulation. A Windsat pass from 8:04 am EDT this morning also showed no surface circulation, and noted top winds of around 35 mph. Water vapor satellite loops show that a large area of dry air surrounds 92L, and this dry air is causing problems for the storm. The SHIPS model and University of Wisconsin CIMSS wind shear analysis are showing moderate wind shear of 10 - 20 knots affecting 92L. Sea surface temperatures are 27 - 27.5°C, which is a degree above the 26.5°C threshold usually needed to support a tropical storm.
Forecast for 92L
Moderate wind shear of 10 - 20 knots is predicted along 92L's path over the coming five days, which should allow the storm to organize if it can handle the dry air surrounding it. The latest 00Z and 06Z model runs of the four best models for predicting tropical storm formation (GFS, ECMWF, NOGAPS, and UKMET) show weak development or no development of 92L, and NHC gave 92L a 40% chance of developing into a tropical depression by Sunday morning in their 8am outlook. A steady west-northwest motion for 92L is predicted by all of the models, which should make the storm miss the Lesser Antilles by a comfortable margin. However, Bermuda may be at risk from 92L next week.
A broad low pressure system about 700 miles northeast of the northern Lesser Antilles Islands has developed a small amount of heavy thunderstorm activity, and may be a threat to become a tropical depression early next week. This system, (Invest 94L), is currently headed west-southwest at 10 mph, but is expected to turn northwest later today. Recent visible satellite loops show some spin to the cloud pattern at middle levels of the atmosphere, but no signs of a surface circulation. This system is also battling dry air, which is keeping the its heavy thunderstorms relatively meager. The SHIPS model is showing moderate wind shear of 10 - 20 knots affecting 94L. Sea surface temperatures are 28°C.
Forecast for 94L
Moderate wind shear of 10 - 20 knots is predicted along 94L's path over the coming five days, which should allow slow development, if it can handle the dry air surrounding it. None of our reliable models for predicting tropical storm formation (GFS, ECMWF, NOGAPS, and UKMET) show no development of 94L, and NHC gave 94L just a 20% chance of developing into a tropical depression by Sunday morning in their 8am outlook. Bermuda is the only land area that needs to be concerned with 94L.
The final invest out there is an area of disturbed weather along on old frontal boundary several hundred miles off the coast of North Carolina. This sytem, Invest 95L, is headed northeastwards out to sea, and is not a threat to any land areas.
Figure 2. Arctic sea ice extent on August 11, 2011, was the 2nd lowest on record for the date. The Northeast Passage and Northwest Passage (southern route) were both ice-free. Image credit: UIUC Cryosphere Today.
Arctic sea ice poised to undergo record decline in mid-August
A strong high pressure system with a central pressure of 1035 mb has developed over the Arctic north of Alaska, and will bring clear skies and warm southerly winds to northeast Siberia and the Arctic during the coming week, accelerating Arctic sea ice loss. Widespread areas of northeastern Siberia are expected to see air temperatures 4 - 12°C (7 - 22°F) above average during the coming week, and the clockwise flow of air around the high pressure system centered north of Alaska will pump this warm air into the Arctic. Arctic sea ice extent, currently slightly higher than the record low values set in 2007, should fall to to its lowest extent for the date by the third week of August as the clear skies and warm southerly winds melt ice and push it away from the coast of Siberia. This weather pattern, known as the Arctic Dipole, was also responsible for the record sea ice loss in 2007, but was stronger that year. The weather conditions that led to the 2007 record were quite extreme--one 2008 study led by Jennifer Kay of the National Center for Atmospheric Research showed that 2007's combination of high pressure and sunny skies in the Arctic occur, on average, only once every 10 - 20 years. The 2011 summer weather pattern in the Arctic has not been nearly as extreme as in 2007, but the total sea ice volume has declined significantly since 2007, leading to much loss of old, thick, multi-year ice, making it easier to set a new low extent record with less extreme weather conditions. The GFS model is predicting that the Arctic Dipole will weaken by 8 - 15 days from now, with cloudier weather and weaker high pressure over the Arctic. This should slow down the rate of Arctic sea ice loss to very near the record low values observed in 2007. It remains to be seen if 2011 Arctic sea ice extent will surpass the all-time low set in September 2007; it will be close, and will depend on the weather conditions of late August and early September, which are not predictable at this time. It is already possible to sail completely around the North Pole in ice-free waters through the Northeast Passage and Northwest Passage, according to sea ice maps maintained by the UIUC Cryosphere Today website. This marks the fourth consecutive year--and the fourth time in recorded history--both of these Arctic shipping routes have melted free. Mariners have been attempting to sail these passages since 1497. This year, the Northeast Passage along the north coast of Russia melted free several weeks earlier than its previous record early opening.
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