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 , 3:04 PM GMT on August 18, 2011
A westward-moving tropical wave in the Central Caribbean a few hundred miles south-southwest of Jamaica, Invest 93L, has continued to increase in organization, and is close to tropical depression status. 93L is a small system, but has built up a respectable area of heavy thunderstorms around its center. A few low-level spiral bands are apparent on satellite imagery, but there is almost no upper-level outflow apparent, and a surface circulation is not obvious. 93L has moistened its environment somewhat over the past day, but dry air is still in evidence around the storm, particularly to the southeast, as seen on water vapor satellite images. Wind shear continues to be low, 5 - 10 knots. There is a hurricane hunter mission scheduled for this afternoon at 2pm EDT to see if a tropical depression is forming.
Figure 1. Morning satellite image of 93L.
Heavy rains from 93L will begin spreading over Northern Honduras and Northeast Nicaragua tonight. The forward motion of 93L will slow to 5 - 10 mph by Friday, so the storm could be a major rain event for Northern Honduras, with rain amounts of 4 - 8 inches likely by the time the storm reaches Belize on Saturday. Heavy rains will spread to Belize and Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula by Friday night or Saturday morning. The latest SHIPS model forecast shows wind shear remaining in the low range and the atmosphere steadily moistening over the next two days, which should allow 93L to reach tropical storm strength. All of the models agree that the ridge of high pressure steering 93L to the west will remain strong, forcing the storm into a landfall Friday in Northeast Honduras, or Saturday near the Belize/Mexico border. It is possible that 93L will have time to intensify into a Category 1 hurricane before then, though landfall as a tropical storm would be more likely, given the dry air that 93L needs to overcome, and the possibility that the storm will pass too close to the northern coast of Honduras. Regardless, heavy rain will be a major threat from 93L. NHC gave 93L an 80% chance of developing into a tropical depression by Saturday morning in their 8am outlook. If 93L does cross the Yucatan Peninsula and enters the Gulf of Mexico, a strong ridge of high pressure should keep the storm moving due west to make a second landfall along the Mexican coast, well south of Texas.
Figure 2. Morning satellite image of the tropical wave 97L midway between the Lesser Antilles and the coast of Africa.
Invest 97L midway between the Lesser Antilles and the coast of Africa
A tropical wave near 14°N 40°W, midway between the Lesser Antilles Islands and the coast of Africa, is moving westward near 15 - 20 mph. This wave, designated 97L by NHC this morning, has little heavy thunderstorm activity associated with it due to dry air, but an impressive amount of large-scale spin is obvious in visible satellite loops. 97L is expected to arrive in the Lesser Antilles Islands by Saturday. Over the past day, all four of our reliable models for predicting tropical storm genesis have predicted that this wave could develop into a tropical depression sometime Saturday through Monday, so 97L needs to be watched carefully. NHC gave 97L a 10% chance of developing into a tropical depression by Saturday morning in their 8am outlook, and it is unlikely that this storm will pose much of a threat to the Lesser Antilles. It will take several days for the storm to overcome the large amount of dry air surrounding it, even though wind shear is a low 5 - 10 knots. By Saturday, the wave will find a moister atmosphere and warmer sea surface temperatures near the northern Lesser Antilles, and more rapid development may occur. However, there is expected to be high wind shear associated with an upper level low pressure system to the north of Puerto Rico at that time, and this wind shear may interfere with development. 97L is expected to take a west-northwest track through the Northeast Caribbean bringing the storm near Puerto Rico by Sunday or Monday. Long-range model runs, which are highly unreliable, foresee that 97L could be a threat to Hispaniola, Eastern Cuba, the Bahamas, and Florida by the middle to end of next week.
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