Ernesto weakens; Florence forms; fires, historic heat wave in Oklahoma

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:12 PM GMT on August 04, 2012

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Enigmatic Tropical Storm Ernesto continues westward across the Caribbean, but has weakened. Ernesto certainly looks impressive on visible satellite loops, with a symmetric shape, good spiral banding, and an upper-level outflow channel to the north and east. But this morning's flight by the Hurricane Hunters found that Ernesto had weakened, with top winds of just 50 mph, and a central pressure that had risen to 1008 mb. The storm is fighting low to moderate wind shear of 5 - 15 knots, and water vapor satellite loops show a large area of dry air to the west. Upper level winds from the west are driving this dry air into the west side of the storm. Ernesto's rains are staying just north of the ABC Islands, as seen on Aruba radar. The southern shore of the Dominican Republic is experiencing occasional heavy rains from Ernesto's spiral bands.


Figure 1. Morning visible satellite image of Ernesto taken at 8 am EDT, with echoes from a microwave satellite instrument in the 85 GHz band superimposed. Image credit: Navy Research Lab, Monterey.

Forecast for Ernesto
Ernesto continues to be a major challenge to forecast. Despite the seemingly favorable conditions for intensification expected today through Tuesday, with low wind shear, a moister environment, and increasing heat energy in the ocean, many of our top computer models refuse to predict intensification, and in fact, weaken the storm. Of the major dynamical models NHC uses operationally--the ECMWF, GFS, NOGAPS, UKMET, GFDL, and HWRF--only the NOGAPS and GFDL show Ernesto reaching hurricane strength in the Caribbean. The ECMWF dissipates the storm. However, some of the best statistical models, such as the LGEM and SHIPS, do show Ernesto becoming a Category 1 or 2 hurricane in the Caribbean. The official NHC intensity forecast of a Category 1 hurricane between Jamaica and Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula is a reasonable compromise, but the uncertainty in this is high. It would not be a surprise to see Ernesto mysteriously degrade, or undergo rapid intensification into a Category 2 hurricane off the coast of the Yucatan. Such is the state of modern hurricane intensity forecasting. Given that we don't have a very good idea of how strong Ernesto will become, making an accurate track forecast is hard. A stronger Ernesto will be more likely to feel the influence of a trough of low pressure moving to the north of the storm on Tuesday, which would pull the storm to the northwest into the Gulf of Mexico. This would likely result in a landfall in the U.S. A weaker Ernesto is more likely to head almost due west, resulting in a landfall Wednesday in Belize or Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. This is the more likely solution, given the recent behavior of the storm.

Tropical Storm Florence forms
Tropical Storm Florence has arrived in the far Eastern Atlantic, marking the 3rd earliest date for formation of the Atlantic's sixth named storm. Only 2005 and 1936 had earlier arrivals of the season's sixth storm. The new tropical storm developed unusually quickly from a tropical wave that moved off the coast of Africa just two days ago, and the storm's formation was aided by a pulse warm ocean water and associated low pressure called a Convectively Coupled Kelvin Wave (CCKW.) The SHIPS model is diagnosing a moderate 10 - 15 knots of wind shear over Florence, and predicts that the shear will stay in the moderate range over weekend, then increase to the high range as Florence encounters an upper-level trough of low pressure. The latest Saharan Air Layer Analysis shows that a large area of dry air lies to the north and west of Florence, and this dry air will likely cause problems for the storm. Ocean temperature are near 26 - 26.5°C, which is right at the threshold for where a tropical storm can typically exist. The predicted steering current flow for Florence does not favor a long-range threat to any land areas.

Historic heat wave in Oklahoma
A historic heat wave and drought fueled raging fires on Friday in Oklahoma. The fires destroyed at least 65 homes, forced multiple evacuations, and closed major roads. Oklahoma City had its hottest day in history, hitting 113°, tying the city's all-time heat record set on August 11, 1936. The low bottomed out at 84°, the warmest low temperature ever recorded in the city (previous record: a low of 83° on August 13, 1936.) Oklahoma City has now had three consecutive days with a high of 112° or higher, which has never occurred since record keeping began in 1891. With today's high expected to reach 113° again, the streak may extend to four straight days. Yesterday was the third consecutive day with more than a third of Oklahoma experiencing temperatures of 110° or higher, according to readings from the Oklahoma Mesonet. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center (SPC) declared a "Critical" fire weather day over most of Oklahoma yesterday, due to extreme heat and drought, low humidities, and strong winds. Between 4 - 5 pm CDT Friday, Oklahoma City had a temperature of 113°, a humidity of 12%, and winds of 14 mph gusting to 25 mph. Another "Critical" fire weather day has been declared for Saturday. A cold front approaching from the northwest will bring winds even stronger than Friday's winds, and Oklahoma will likely endure another hellish day of extreme heat, dryness, and fires.


Figure 2. The Geary, Oklahoma fire, looking north, on August, 3, 2012. Image credit: Oklahoma City Fire Department. The Geary fire spawned a gustnado.

Only comparable heat wave: August 1936
The only heat wave in Oklahoma history that compares to this week's occurred in the great Dust Bowl summer of 1936, the hottest summer in U.S. history. Oklahoma City experienced three days at 110° that summer, and a record streak of 22 straight days with a temperature of 100° or hotter. Those numbers are comparable to 2012's: three days at 110° or hotter, and a string of 17 consecutive days with temperatures of 100° or hotter. It's worth noting that Oklahoma City has experienced only 11 days since 1890 with a high of 110° or greater. Three of those days were in 2011, three were in 2012, and three were in the great Dust Bowl summer of 1936. Clouds moved in over Tulsa, Oklahoma yesterday, holding down the high temperature to just 107°, ending that city's 3-day streak of 110°+ days. The only longer streak was 5 consecutive days on August 9 - 13, 1936.


Figure 3. Most of Oklahoma has experienced eight consecutive days with highs of 100° or more, and many regions, including Oklahoma City, have had a streak of 17 such days. Image credit: Oklahoma Mesonet.

Jeff Masters

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What time is D Max?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting ilovehurricanes13:
wow



Florence is taking advantage of her time....
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Quoting Levi32:


Well it weakened during the 24-hour period between yesterday morning and this morning.

Also, as I said, not a single global model is initializing an open circulation.


I'm just not buying the models right now. Maybe I am a forecaster that sticks my neck out there but I know you are to lol. If this thing looks bad in the morning and weakening looks to be occurring then I will come around to your idea but looking at current trends (nowcasting) its hard to believe this thing will not take off from here. Scary thing is this is not even the best conditions this storm will see. Also a track such as what you are thinking leaves very little room for error for my state and Texas. Any suttle change in intensity can change the ball game drastically.
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1342. GetReal


Ernesto moving into warmer SST about now.
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This has the signature of a category 1 hurricane, and I think the next advisory will have it at that, and at that point the NHC will start revising their forecast a notch up. Recon will be interesting.

And... all welcome to join the tropics chat for realtime discussion to keep from refreshing the page.
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the stronger this storm gos the more N it gos
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5092 Comments: 115712
Quoting Patrap:


Storm Relative 1km Geostationary Visible Imagery Loop

click image for Loop

click moving Image to ZOOM




are those ragged sports flare ups?
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1337. Levi32
Quoting weatherb0y:
Hey Levi, just curious as to what your take on Ernesto is. Do you believe he will weaken like many of the computer models are suggesting?


Not any further than it already has, but I think status quo with only slight changes in intensity until it reaches 75W. We've already learned appearances can be deceiving with east-central Caribbean systems. We will see what the next recon finds. For now satellite imagery is doing us little good with estimating intensity.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26731
1336. yqt1001
Race to hurricane status!



vs



Of course Ernesto is way closer, but if past recon missions mean anything he might not be as strong as sat estimates show, which will give Florence much needed time to catch up.
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NHC doesn't have Ernesto becoming a hurricane until Monday at 5 am. I'd be shocked if it took that long.
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Quoting NoloContendere:
Some of the wishcasting on here is hilarious!


And so is some of the downcasting : )
Member Since: September 18, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 5296
for right now i give up on the mode runs
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5092 Comments: 115712
cane by 11pm in the bag!,cat 2 by this time tomorrow approaching jamaica imo
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Quoting louisianaboy444:


I very well could be wrong and Levi could be right but I just do not see any reason why this system should weaken that drastically like the models are showing period. I'm not saying that because it could cause a northerly track i'm saying this based on what I am seeing on current trends
Hey Levi, just curious as to what your take on Ernesto is. Do you believe he will weaken like many of the computer models are suggesting?
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Recon will be interesting to say the least.
I'm calling a hurricane -- but then again, my liberal bias has always been evident on the blog LOL.
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NHC's intensity forecast is going to go down the drain if Ernesto continues to organize as quickly as it seems it is now.
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1326. Levi32
Quoting louisianaboy444:


Your forecast calls for weakening of this system and the models you are leaning towards show almost an open trough on the models and it is just not happening. It may not be blowing up but it is getting its act together


Well it weakened during the 24-hour period between yesterday morning and this morning. I don't think it will weaken further, just not strengthen much until 75W.

Also, as I said, not a single global model is initializing an open circulation.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26731
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If anyone on this blog doesn't at least think that "tropical storm" Ernesto looks like its on the threshold of hurricane status needs take another look. Just sayin'...
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:
If this isn't a hurricane in 6 hours, Ill be extremely surprised.

Outflow has managed to expand to the point where it's becoming absurd for a tropical storm.



I very well could be wrong and Levi could be right but I just do not see any reason why this system should weaken that drastically like the models are showing period. I'm not saying that because it could cause a northerly track i'm saying this based on what I am seeing on current trends
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Quoting Patrap:


Storm Relative 1km Geostationary Visible Imagery Loop

click image for Loop

click moving Image to ZOOM





Pat check your wundermail please.
Member Since: June 24, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 1546
Quoting Stormchaser2007:
If this isn't a hurricane in 6 hours, Ill be extremely surprised.

Outflow has managed to expand to the point where it's becoming absurd for a tropical storm.


Recon will be interesting to say the least.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 33616
There has to be one heck of an UL high developing directly overhead for the outflow to be good to excellent in all quadrants.

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In my opinion I think when the recon flies into Ernesto they will find a pretty different storm. On the last trip they noted the peak winds on the departure home - so it was strengthening a good amount during that trip.
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:
If this isn't a hurricane in 6 hours, Ill be extremely surprised.

Outflow has managed to expand to the point where it's becoming absurd for a tropical storm.




Looks more like a hurricane in that shot then a ts doesn't it.
Member Since: June 24, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 1546
Quoting Stormchaser2007:
If this isn't a hurricane in 6 hours, Ill be extremely surprised.

Outflow has managed to expand to the point where it's becoming absurd for a tropical storm.



Absolutely beautiful storm.
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
The last major system to enter into the Eastern Caribbean was Hurricane Tomas in 2010.

However, the last major system like Ernesto to traverse the Eastern and Western Caribbean was Hurricane Gustav and before that, Hurricane Dean.



Gustav was a bad deal, ended up throwing alot of people in Texas off because it was originally supposed to be our IKE. So when Ike came along a couple weeks later people did not believe it would hit us.

"Hurricane Fever" as it was. Alot of people ended up staying in galveston.

Some of them were never found.
Member Since: June 24, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 1546
Overshooting tops right over the LLC.

Something has to be going on in there now.
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Rainband about to hit Puerto Rico.
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The last major system to enter into the Eastern Caribbean was Hurricane Tomas in 2010.

However, the last major system like Ernesto to traverse the Eastern and Western Caribbean was Hurricane Gustav and before that, Hurricane Dean.
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If this isn't a hurricane in 6 hours, Ill be extremely surprised.

Outflow has managed to expand to the point where it's becoming absurd for a tropical storm.

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Pressure continues to plummet at a buoy 5 degrees west of Ernesto. Currently, the pressure is near 1007.7mb. Should easily put Ernesto sub-1000mb.

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1307. ncstorm




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Quoting luvtogolf:
Sure not acting like an El Nino year so far.



Actually it is in some ways and not in others.


IMO though its going to end up being nearly ENSO neutral so it probably won't end up mattering much.
Member Since: June 24, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 1546
Quoting louisianaboy444:
If i had to make an educated guess right now I would say SE Texas makes the most sense to me based on the intensity that I think will ensue. I'm going out on a limb and saying that recon will find a 70 mph cyclone


If I had to pick a US landfall it would be Texas. However, if this storm really cranks up, Louisiana could come into play.
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1302. jpsb
Quoting louisianaboy444:


It looks like anywhere on the Texas coast. If I were in SE TX or my state of Louisiana I would not jump on the Mexico bandwagon just yet I would keep monitoring the model shifts
My experience is that the forecast tracks trend north on these big developing storms. But the NHC is very good at what they do and getting better every years so I am very hesitant to second guess them. Plus levy and other good forecasters here are all saying Mx/South Texas. I am thinking more north but hoping they are right.
Member Since: June 30, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 1586
Average error 5 days out is about 250 nautical miles.

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Quoting Levi32:


I still don't believe a word of this initialization problem. I see nothing out of the ordinary on the global model initializations. Pressures will always be biased high because of grid resolution, and the wind field analyses are fine.


Your forecast calls for weakening of this system and the models you are leaning towards show almost an open trough on the models and it is just not happening. It may not be blowing up but it is getting its act together
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Quoting Thrawst:
VHAT time does RECON go back into Ernestooo?


50 minutes
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Quoting Thrawst:
VHAT time does RECON go back into Ernestooo?


6 PM !!!! That is set in stone as far as I know.
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Quoting floridaboy14:
Is this a new model levi and i think its too far south for the carribean portion of the track but a texas/mexico border landfall is exactly what you are calling for


I believe the FIM is currently an experimental model that will replace the GFS soon.
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Current track history.

So there was a northern component to the past 36 hrs worth of movement.
Member Since: June 24, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 1546

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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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