Tropical Storm Alberto forms off the South Carolina coast

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 9:41 PM GMT on May 19, 2012

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The first named storm of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season is here. Tropical Storm Alberto formed this afternoon off the coast of South Carolina--a little going-away present for outgoing NHC director Bill Read, who retires on June 1! Alberto has the potential to hit North Carolina as early as Monday, but since the storm is so small, it would only affect a small area of the coast with high winds and heavy rain. Upper level winds out of the southwest are creating a moderate 15 - 20 knots of wind shear over Alberto, and the storm is over the warm waters of Gulf Stream, which are 81°F (27°C), just above the 26°C threshold usually needed to sustain a tropical storm. The system is tangled up with an upper level trough of low pressure, which is pumping cold, dry air into the storm, slowing development. The dry air impinging on Alberto from the southwest can be seen in water vapor satellite loops. Heavy rain showers from Alberto are located about 50 miles offshore of the coast of South Carolina, as seen on Wilmington radar. At times today, 93L has had a cloud-free center resembling an eye on radar, but this was not a true eye.


Figure 1. True color satellite photo of Alberto taken at 1:50 pm EDT Saturday May 19, 2012. Image credit: NASA.

Forecast for Alberto
Rain showers from Alberto are likely to move onshore between Charleston and Wilmington Saturday night and Sunday, bringing 1 - 3 inches of rain to portions of the coast. The storm is too small to cause major flooding problems, particularly since the coast is under moderate to severe drought. Alberto's rains will not be plentiful enough to cause significant drought relief, except perhaps over a small region near the coast, where (and if) the storm makes landfall. Wind shear is expected to remain in the moderate range, 15 - 20 knots, through Monday, which is low enough to allow some slow development. Since the storm is very small, it is highly vulnerable to even a modest increase in wind shear or dry air, which could rapidly disrupt it. Steering currents are weak, and Alberto will wander off the coast of South Carolina through Sunday, before getting caught up by a trough of low pressure on Monday which should lift it out to the northeast. The moderate wind shear and dry air are likely to keep Alberto below hurricane strength. NHC is giving Alberto a 5 - 10% chance of reaching hurricane strength before dissipating on Thursday as it scoots northeast out to sea.


Figure 2. Late afternoon radar image of Alberto from the Wilmington radar.

Alberto in historical context
Alberto is earliest-forming tropical storm in the Atlantic Basin since Ana in 2003, which formed on April 21. Alberto is one of only three Atlantic tropical storms to form in May in the past 31 years. The others were Tropical Storm Arthur of 2008, and Tropical Storm Arlene of 1981. There was also a subtropical storm, Andrea, that formed in May of 2007. Formation of an early season tropical storm from an old frontal boundary, like occurred with Alberto, is not a harbinger of an active hurricane season--it's more of a random occurrence. Early season storms that form in the Caribbean, though, often signal that a busy hurricane season may occur.

I'll have an update Sunday morning.

Jeff Masters

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179. TDogg
Chilling here right now in Chucktown. I'm just glad I don't have to run my AC! I know the Washout will be busy tomorrow if Alberto keeps drifting SW.
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Quoting hurricanehunter27:
Its my prediction and I think its peaked. So I guess I have.

Okay then. It's your opinion. But I still think it could strengthen a little bit more. 65mph, maybe 70mph.
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:


Ranges from run-to-run, but mostly strengthening it in the short-term.


Thanks! I actually just found it on google for anyone who's interested. Very interesting model, too bad it only goes out 15 hours.

Strengthens this system pretty good overnight.
Link
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Hurricane into NC


Link?

Only goes out to 15 hours.

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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

Who said it's peaked yet? DMAX can do wonders to a storm like Alberto.
yep this may go all the way once it finds its sweet spot
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 176 Comments: 55517
Quoting CybrTeddy:


I don't have the HRRR, what's it saying Alberto will do?


Ranges from run-to-run, but mostly strengthening it in the short-term.
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Quoting CybrTeddy:


I don't have the HRRR, what's it saying Alberto will do?

Hurricane into NC
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

Who said it's peaked yet? DMAX can do wonders to a storm like Alberto.
Its my prediction and I think its peaked. So I guess I have.
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Quoting hurricanehunter27:
Like I said 60 top.

Who said it's peaked yet? DMAX can do wonders to a storm like Alberto.
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
Is that an arc cloud on Alberto's northern side?
I see what might be developing thunderstorms on the NE side. Can't really see if there are arc clouds.
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22:45 UTC Viz Low Sun Angle image

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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Lol.


I vote 65 mph!
Member Since: July 1, 2008 Posts: 13 Comments: 7432
Quoting Stormchaser2007:
The only model that has been able to keep tabs with this system appears to be the HRRR. It's extreme resolution (1-km) seems to be really helping with this small storm.

Can't wait until it goes operational.



I don't have the HRRR, what's it saying Alberto will do?
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

*AHEM*

...SHIP INDICATES ALBERTO IS STRONGER...
6:50 PM EDT Sat May 19
Location: 32.2°N 77.9°W
Max sustained: 60 mph
Moving: SW at 3 mph
Min pressure: 995 mb

Lol.
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

*AHEM*

...SHIP INDICATES ALBERTO IS STRONGER...
6:50 PM EDT Sat May 19
Location: 32.2°N 77.9°W
Max sustained: 60 mph
Moving: SW at 3 mph
Min pressure: 995 mb
Like I said 60 top.
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Quoting hurricanehunter27:
I am going to stick with 60MPH tops. 50 is the most likely I think.

*AHEM*

...SHIP INDICATES ALBERTO IS STRONGER...
6:50 PM EDT Sat May 19
Location: 32.2°N 77.9°W
Max sustained: 60 mph
Moving: SW at 3 mph
Min pressure: 995 mb
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The NHC says 60mph, 50kts.

they believe that ship i guess
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T.C.F.A.
01L/TS/A/CX
MARK
32.51N78.55W
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 176 Comments: 55517
Is that an arc cloud on Alberto's northern side?
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
In my opinion Alberto will probably hit a peak of 70 mph.
I am going to stick with 60MPH tops. 50 is the most likely I think.
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Courtesy: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

'Towers in the Tempest' is a narrated animation that explains recent scientific insights into how hurricanes intensify. This intensification can be caused by a phenomenon called a 'hot tower'. For the first time, research meteorologists have run complex simulations using a very fine temporal resolution of 3 minutes. Combining this simulation data with satellite observations enables detailed study of 'hot towers'. The science of 'hot towers' is described using: observed hurricane data from a satellite, descriptive illustrations, and volumetric visualizations of simulation data. The first section of the animation shows actual data from Hurricane Bonnie observed by NASA's Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) spacecraft.

Three dimensional precipitation radar data reveal a strong 'hot tower' in Hurricane Bonnie's internal structure. The second section uses illustrations to show the dynamics of a hurricane and the formation of 'hot towers'. 'Hot towers' are formed as air spirals inward towards the eye and is forced rapidly upwards, accelerating the movement of energy into high altitude clouds. The third section shows these processes using volumetric cloud, wind, and vorticity data from a supercomputer simulation of Hurricane Bonnie.

Vertical wind speed data highlights a 'hot tower'. Arrows representing the wind field move rapidly up into the 'hot tower, boosting the energy and intensifying the hurricane. Combining satellite observations with super-computer simulations provides a powerful tool for studying Earth's complex systems.

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In my opinion Alberto will probably hit a peak of 70 mph.
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Quoting Levi32:


I doubt it. There are too many things inhibiting further strengthening in my opinion. It's also worth noting that Alberto likely is not strengthening at the moment, despite the illusion that the update statement may cause to that effect. What the ship really discovered is that Alberto has been this strong since this morning.


I agree, we've seen stranger things happen though but the area is not conductive for "Hurricane" formation.. Great analysis btw!
Member Since: July 1, 2008 Posts: 13 Comments: 7432
Quoting nash28:


Tell that to TWC. They just changed their graphic..."Alberto stronger than previously estimated"

60mph winds
995mb


It is stronger than previously estimated, but not stronger than it was 6 or 12 hours ago.
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Wilmington
NEXRAD Radar

Storm Relative Mean Radial Velocity 2.40° Elevation
Range 124 NMI

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Tropical Storm Alberto Forms Off Carolina Coast
Hurricane Season in the Atlantic Ocean got off to an early start as Tropical Storm Alberto formed off the coast of South Carolina. The storm is expected to slowly make its way up the eastern seaboard the next couple of days. wow
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:
Lights out.



Alberto appears to be firing off some new convection over the last few frames there.
Member Since: June 29, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 5315
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

It's just DMIN...
what does it mean?
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Lights out.

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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

It's just DMIN...

That's what I think too... And like Levi said, I think this ship report probably indicates the initial intensity was too low, not that Alberto is strengthening right now... I think we'll see Alberto bounce back later tonight, but the intensity may be lowered a little before then
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 84 Comments: 7995
Thats where all Alberto's nastiness is located in those Northern Feeder bands. They can do the nasty on Vessels if the right opportunity presents itself.
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**TROPICAL STORM ALBERTO**
(Click to magnify, image can further be magnified after clicking on link)
Member Since: June 29, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 5315
The only model that has been able to keep tabs with this system appears to be the HRRR. It's extreme resolution (1-km) seems to be really helping with this small storm.

Can't wait until it goes operational.

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Quoting Levi32:


I doubt it. There are too many things inhibiting further strengthening in my opinion. It's also worth noting that Alberto likely is not strengthening at the moment, despite the illusion that the update statement may cause to that effect. What the ship really discovered is that Alberto has been this strong since this morning.


Tell that to TWC. They just changed their graphic..."Alberto stronger than previously estimated"

60mph winds
995mb
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Quoting MAweatherboy1:

Well I said 55mph peak earlier so I'm already wrong (although I slightly question the validity of the ship's report), but I think we'll probably see little change in intensity as it drifts around out there... I don't think it will make landfall but it can't be ruled out... Either way it's not a major threat, at least right now
Thanks much MA. This goes to show how quickly storms can spin up in the atlantic and also how fast these storms can strengthen.
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I highly doubt that Alberto will obtain hurricane status, there's a lot of dry air being funneled into the center of circulation right now which and DMIN can account for the ragged appearance, the NHC seems to agree with me too as they're saying 60mph now is all it's going to get.
LITTLE CHANGE IN STRENGTH IS EXPECTED OVER THE
NEXT COUPLE OF DAYS AND NO CHANGES TO THE OFFICIAL FORECAST ARE
REQUIRED AT THIS TIME.
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Plan of the Day


000
NOUS42 KNHC 301530
WEATHER RECONNAISSANCE FLIGHTS
CARCAH, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER, MIAMI, FL.
1130 AM EDT FRI 30 MARCH 2012
SUBJECT: WINTER STORM PLAN OF THE DAY (WSPOD)
VALID 31/1100Z MARCH TO 01/1100Z APRIL 2012
WSPOD NUMBER.....11-122

I. ATLANTIC REQUIREMENTS
1. NEGATIVE RECONNAISSANCE REQUIREMENTS.
2. OUTLOOK FOR SUCCEEDING DAY.....NEGATIVE.
3. REMARK: UNLESS CONDITIONS DETATE OTHERWISE,
THIS IS THE LAST WSPOD OF THE SEASON.
JWP
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Quoting MAweatherboy1:
I have to be honest, I think Alberto is weakening right now, not strengthening... I realize looks can be deceiving but really he doesn't look too good:


It's just DMIN...
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Ships reporting 65 knots winds in Alberto, so that's why it's 60 mph storm now. Impressive.
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There is no longer a low in the GOH!
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Quoting allancalderini:
Do you think it can make it to hurricane status


I doubt it. There are too many things inhibiting further strengthening in my opinion. It's also worth noting that Alberto likely is not strengthening at the moment, despite the illusion that the update statement may cause to that effect. What the ship really discovered is that Alberto has been this strong since this morning.
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Sorry for being so off topic but these thunderstorms are insane... You don't see this too often:

* AT 548 PM CDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED A
LINE OF SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS CAPABLE OF PRODUCING GUSTNADOES...GOLF BALL
SIZE HAIL...AND DESTRUCTIVE WINDS IN EXCESS OF 70 MPH. ALTHOUGH TYPICALLY
WEAKER AND SHORTER LIVED THAN A TORNADO...GUSTNADOES CAN STILL CAUSE
INJURY OR MINOR DAMAGE. GUSTNADOES TYPICALLY APPEAR AS A SWIRL OF DUST
OR DEBRIS JUST AHEAD OF THE PARENT STORMS
. THESE STORMS WERE LOCATED ALONG
A LINE EXTENDING FROM LUSHTON TO SUPERIOR...AND MOVING EAST AT 30 MPH.
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 84 Comments: 7995
I hope they send in Recon tommorow would be nice to have some overal information that ship could be a thunderstorm gust that lasted over a minute
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Photo from presslord as they are near the Coast West of the Storm center, this is looking East.

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umm..where is the Hurricane plane?
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
...SHIP INDICATES ALBERTO IS STRONGER...
6:50 PM EDT Sat May 19
Location: 32.2N 77.9W
Max sustained: 60 mph
Moving: SW at 3 mph
Min pressure: 995 mb


I think this will be Hurricane Alberto by tomorrow... I did not expect this at all not even the storm to start with
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
Quoting Levi32:


It's not stronger than 60mph yet. However, if it is already that strong then yes it could get stronger.
Do you think it can make it to hurricane status
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I have to be honest, I think Alberto is weakening right now, not strengthening... I realize looks can be deceiving but really he doesn't look too good:

Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 84 Comments: 7995
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
These little storms are really unpredictable. I wouldn't blame anybody that completely blew a forecast for the storms.


Agreed. The models are not gonna have an easy time with this one. And although I don't see rapid deepening with Alberto, change to the steering layer could mean changes to eventual path.
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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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