Ernesto closing in on the Yucatan

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:19 PM GMT on August 07, 2012

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Tropical Storm Ernesto is closing in on the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula as a strong tropical storm with 65 mph winds. Latest data from the Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft in the storm found the pressure had dropped to its lowest value yet--988 mb at 9:12 am EDT. Top surface winds as seen by their SFMR instrument were in the 60 - 65 mph range, and the plane found 72 mph winds at their flight level of 5,000 feet, on the northeast side of the eye. Ernesto does not have an eyewall, but the Hurricane Hunters noted an eyewall may be the process of forming, from the north to the south-southeast side of the center. Visible and infrared satellite loops show that Ernesto's heavy thunderstorms have expanded in areal extent and intensity to form a Central Dense Overcast (CDO), a feature of intensifying tropical storms. Ernesto is encountering light wind shear of 5 - 10 knots. The dry air that mixed into Ernesto's core and disrupted it on Monday is no longer apparent on water vapor satellite loops.

Winds at the Yucatan Basin buoy, about 140 miles north of the 10 am EDT position of Ernesto, were sustained at 34 mph, gusting to 40 mph, at 10 am EDT. Winds along the north coast of Honduras have been light the past day, and a personal weather station on Roatan Island off the north coast of Honduras picked up 1.51" of rain from Ernesto as of 10 am EDT. Sporadic heavy rains from Ernesto's outer spiral bands have affected Belize City, Belize most of the morning; these bands can be seen on Belize radar.


Figure 1. True-color MODIS image from NASA's Terra satellite of Tropical Sotrm Ernesto, taken at 11:35 am EDT August 6, 2012. At the time, Ernesto had top winds of 65 mph. Image credit: NASA.

Forecast for Ernesto
Ernesto does not have an eyewall, and this will severely limit the storm's chances of rapid intensification until the storm can build one. However, Ernesto is under light wind shear and over warm ocean waters of 29°C with very high heat content, so some modest intensification to a Category 1 hurricane is possible before landfall occurs near midnight tonight near the Belize/Mexico border. Heavy rains will be the main threat from Ernesto. The storm will take about a day to cross the Yucatan, and its winds will probably diminish by 15 - 25 mph. Once Ernesto re-emerges over water into the Bay of Campeche in the southern Gulf of Mexico, wind shear will be light and ocean waters warm with high heat content. I expect Ernesto will increase its winds by 15 - 25 mph while over the Bay of Campeche, and the storm could be near Category 1 hurricane strength when it makes a second landfall near Veracruz, Mexico.

Crossing the Yucatan: a history
Hurricanes and tropical storms regularly cross Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and enter the Bay of Campeche, the Gulf of Mexico's southernmost region. Since the crossing usually takes less than a day and the peninsula is surrounded by warm ocean water that can help feed the storm during the crossing, the great majority of storms survive the trek. Once in the Bay of Campeche, most storms regenerate, even though there is not much room for the storm to go before a second landfall in Mexico occurs. This is because the curved shape of the mountain-lined coast helps boost counter-clockwise spin of the air, and the waters in the bay are among the warmest in the North Atlantic. Typically, a storm that crosses the Yucatan with a mostly westward track and enters the Bay of Campeche will intensify by 15 - 25 mph before making a second landfall in Mexico. Let's consider two historical analogue case for what might happen to Ernesto.


Figure 2. Track of Hurricane Karl of 2010.


Figure 3. Tracks of all major hurricanes since 1851 near Mexico's Bay of Campeche. Karl was the most southerly major hurricane on record in the Gulf of Mexico. Image credit: NOAA Coastal Services Center.

Hurricane Karl of 2010
Hurricane Karl of 2010 hit the Yucatan near the Belize/Mexican border as a tropical storm with 65 mph winds. Karl took 18 hours to cross the Yucatan, and weakened to a 45 mph tropical storm during the crossing. Remarkably, though, conventional and microwave satellite imagery indicated that the storm’s organization and vertical structure improved during the crossing, with the appearance of an eye-like feature and an increase in low-level spiral bands. This probably occurred as a result of frictional convergence--when air flowing over the smooth ocean surface moves over land, the increased friction causes the air to slow down and flow at a sharper angle towards a center of low pressure. Once the storm reached the Bay of Campeche, Karl took advantage of low wind shear, ocean temperatures of 29 - 30°C, and a moist atmosphere, to put on an impressive show of rapid intensification. Karl took only 12 hours to regain its strength, and within 36 hours of exiting the Yucatan, had intensified to a Category 3 hurricane with 125 mph winds. This sort of intensification so far south in the Bay of Campeche was unprecedented, and Karl was the strongest major hurricane ever observed so far south in the Gulf of Mexico. Karl dumped 10 -15 inches of rain over most of the northwestern half of the state of Veracruz, triggering floods that killed 22 and did $400 million in damage.


Figure 4. Track of Tropical Storm Hermine of 1980.

Tropical Storm Hermine of 1980
A more likely historical analogue storm for Ernesto may be Tropical Storm Hermine of 1980. Hermine hit the Yucatan near the border between Belize and Mexico with 70 mph winds. The 24-hour crossing of the Yucatan weakened Hermine's winds to 50 mph. After emerging into the Bay of Campeche, Hermine turned to the west-southwest and made landfall southeast of Veracruz 30 hours later, with top winds of 70 mph.

Other storms of the past 30 years with a similar landfall location to Ernesto's
Hurricane Dean of 2007 hit the Yucatan near the Belize/Mexican border as a large Category 5 hurricane with 175 mph winds. Dean took 10 hours to cross the Yucatan, and weakened to a 75 mph Category 1 hurricane during the crossing. Upon reaching the Bay of Campeche, Dean strengthened by 25 mph to a Category 2 hurricane with 100 mph winds, before its second landfall occurred.

Hurricane Keith (2000)
Hurricane Dolly (1996)
Hurricane Diana (1990)

92L
A tropical wave in the far Eastern Atlantic (Invest 92L) is disorganized, with limited heavy thunderstorm activity and a modest amount of spin at mid-levels of the atmosphere. Of the six main models used operationally by NHC, only one--the HWRF--develops 92L. The storm is at least 6 days from the Lesser Antilles Islands, if it maintains a westward motion.


Figure 5. NOAA-19 AVHRR image of the big low pressure system in the Arctic, taken at 9 am EDT August 7, 2012. At the time, the GFS analysis gave a central pressure of 970 mb for the low. Image credit: NOAA and Environment Canada. Thanks go to wunderblogger Grothar for pointing out this image to me.

Big storm in the Arctic
A remarkably intense low pressure system formed in the Arctic north of Alaska Monday, bottoming out with a central pressure of 963 mb at 2 pm EDT. A pressure this low is rare any time of the year in the Arctic, and is exceptionally so in summer. The storm is stacked vertically with the upper-level low, and will spin in place and slowly weaken over the next few days, but remain unusually strong. Strong winds behind the low's cold front caused a 1.3' storm surge Monday in Prudhoe Bay, on Alaska's north shore. As noted in Neven Acropolis' sea ice blog, the strong winds around this low have the potential to cause a large loss of Arctic sea ice, due to churning, increased wave action, pushing of ice into warmer waters, and the mixing up of warmer waters from beneath the ice. According to the latest analysis from the National Snow and Ice Data Center, Arctic sea ice extent was at a record low extent as of August 1. This week's big storm will likely keep Arctic sea ice at record low levels for the next week or two.

Angela Fritz will have an update on Ernesto late this afternoon or early this evening.

Jeff Masters

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1232. Slamguitar
10:22 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
Some decent accuracy came from the 3 day track and intensity forecast from Sunday morning.

Member Since: July 2, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 1176
1231. BahaHurican
10:22 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
.
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 20686
1230. BahaHurican
10:17 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
Evening all. I'm sorry I missed the "excitement", but ended up at the doctor's today because of shoulder pain. It's still hurting like crazy, but I figure I can read even if I can't type much... lol

Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 20686
1229. Patrap
9:44 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125476
1228. hydrus
9:38 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
Another 6 to 12 hours over water, this may have been a major hurricane..I do not want to think what would of happened if it was a couple days and headed north.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19501
1227. hydrus
9:36 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19501
1226. islander101010
9:26 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
Quoting sunlinepr:
Outflow from Ernesto with a TW giving us some thunderstorms....



tickeling.the.tw..watching.it.closely.once.ernest o.moves.on.shore
Member Since: September 11, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 4016
1225. TropicalAnalystwx13
9:18 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
Recon has departed.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 108 Comments: 30241
1224. Patrap
9:13 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
Dr. Jeff Masters' WunderBlog
Ernesto reaches hurricane strength as it approaches the Yucatan
Posted by: Angela Fritz, 3:55 PM CDT on August 07, 2012
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125476
1223. Skyepony (Mod)
9:11 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
Cloudsat of the Arctic storm..

Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 156 Comments: 36058
1222. Patrap
9:11 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
Quoting WunderAlertBot:
JeffMasters has created a new entry.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125476
1221. sunlinepr
9:11 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
Outflow from Ernesto with a TW giving us some thunderstorms....



Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9648
1220. TropicalAnalystwx13
9:08 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
The monster wave that will become either Gordon or Helene (depends on 92L)...

Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 108 Comments: 30241
1219. aislinnpaps
9:07 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
TWC first aired in 1982, the year my first child was born and I moved to Germany. Up until then you listened to the five o'clock news for the five minute weather report...
Member Since: August 22, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 3112
1218. HurricaneHunterJoe
9:06 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
When is the 90 degree left turn that is forecasted,supposed to take place?
Member Since: September 18, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 4570
1217. portoraweathernut
9:05 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
looks like ernesto should make landfall tonight, hope everyone along yucatan r ready, stay safe!!
Member Since: August 24, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 6
1216. sar2401
9:03 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
Quoting angiest:


You don't know how good you have it. Back when I was in Jr High and HS, I had to wait for the once hourly Tropical Update on TWC as my sole source of tropical weather news. And before that, I had nothing but listening to advisories on NOAA Weather Radio.

Now get off of my lawn!


Ha! Try 1962. Try listening to morse code on a Hallicrafters SX-91 receiver tied to a 102 foot long wire antenna strung from trees all over the backyard. I'd listen to updates from ships at sea and then listen to Weather Bureau (no NHC back then) updates once an hour based on...the same ships at sea reports I'd already listened to. :) It was a like a blind man trying to find the doorknob in the dark. Really, we have things so good now that it's the information overload that allows all to have a different opinion on the path and intensity of a hurricane. Back then, we weren't even sure it was a hurricane before about 12 hours prior to landfall.
Member Since: October 2, 2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 9656
1215. sunlinepr
9:02 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9648
1214. portoraweathernut
9:02 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
Quoting all4hurricanes:
the NHC is taking they're time with the 5pm advisory I'm just gonna guess its 85mph
still 80mph and still moving wnw
Member Since: August 24, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 6
1213. sunlinepr
9:00 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
Curiosity's Landscape Portrait in Context

This picture of the Martian landing site of NASA's Curiosity rover puts a color view obtained by the rover in the context of a computer simulation derived from images acquired from orbiting spacecraft. The view looks north, showing a distant ridge that is the north wall and rim of Gale Crater.


Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9648
1212. aislinnpaps
9:00 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
Quoting angiest:


You don't know how good you have it. Back when I was in Jr High and HS, I had to wait for the once hourly Tropical Update on TWC as my sole source of tropical weather news. And before that, I had nothing but listening to advisories on NOAA Weather Radio.

Now get off of my lawn!


I'm feeling old! Don't remember TWC back when... But then, I remember the coming of the color TV, and everyone couldn't wait until they had one.
Member Since: August 22, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 3112
1211. jascott1967
8:57 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
Quoting HurricaneHunterJoe:
Are there people in here thinking that Ernesto will miss the Yucatan??


Yes. If it doesn't all bets are off.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 600
1210. tennisgirl08
8:57 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
Quoting all4hurricanes:
the NHC is taking they're time with the 5pm advisory I'm just gonna guess its 85mph

Maybe 90...but they may be conservative because of lack of HH data right now.
Member Since: July 17, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1242
1209. 954FtLCane
8:57 PM GMT on August 07, 2012


geeee I wonder if this is wnw or even due west? Radar imagery totally takes NW movement out of the current picture.
Member Since: September 30, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 108
1208. Thing342
8:56 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
Quoting all4hurricanes:
the NHC is taking they're time with the 5pm advisory I'm just gonna guess its 85mph
Discussion is already posted. It's still 80mph.
Member Since: August 1, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 436
1207. islagal
8:56 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
yes, this year the quintana roo government has finally put out posters for what to do for hurricane season and what the warning system means in both spanish and english. We were mandated to post them in our restaurants...however, most are closed today and tomorrow because of the rain.
Member Since: September 3, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 37
1206. canehater1
8:55 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
92-L is out there , but the next one that will
come off Africa already has a spin going for it...
Sending prayers for those in Ernies Path...
Member Since: September 8, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 984
1205. gordydunnot
8:55 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
Notebooks that had metal rings so you could put as many blank sheets of paper as you wanted too. I maybe of topic though.
Member Since: August 18, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 3109
1204. angiest
8:55 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
Quoting hurricanehanna:

yeah, but Angiest, like my Dad said, those weather girls sure make the bad news seem good! He lived for the tropical update at :10 before the hour! lol


I actually don't recall many women delivering the tropical update back then. I saw Jim Cantore a lot though, and Mark Mancuso, and several others I can't remember.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
1203. WunderAlertBot (Admin)
8:55 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
JeffMasters has created a new entry.
1202. all4hurricanes
8:55 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
the NHC is taking they're time with the 5pm advisory I'm just gonna guess its 85mph
Member Since: March 29, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2338
1201. tornadolarkin
8:54 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
This storm is so much like 2010's Alex, it's not even funny. Every time I see a new sat image, I see more similarities.
Member Since: May 1, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 352
1200. 954FtLCane
8:54 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
img src="BASED ON THE AIRCRAFT AND VISIBLE SATELLITE FIXES...THE WEST-NORTHWESTWARD MOTION...300/13...CONTINUES. DYNAMICAL TRACK MODELS CONTINUE TO INDICATE A TURN TOWARD THE WEST WITH ERNESTO MOVING TO THE SOUTH OF A NARROW MID-LEVEL RIDGE OVER THE GULF OF MEXICO. HOWEVER...SINCE THE CENTER HAS MOVED A LITTLE FARTHER NORTH THAN EXPECTED...THE OFFICIAL FORECAST TRACK IS SHIFTED A BIT NORTH OF THE PREVIOUS ONE. THIS IS VERY CLOSE TO THE MODEL CONSENSUS AND THE NEW ECMWF TRACK.">
Member Since: September 30, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 108
1199. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
8:54 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
National Hurricane Center Miami
Tropical Cyclone Advisory #3
TROPICAL CYCLONE GILMA (EP072012)
2:00 PM PDT August 7 2012
==================================

SUBJECT: "Gilma" Continues To Strengthen..

At 18:00 PM UTC, Tropical Storm Gilma (1001 hPa) located at 15.1N 113.9W or 520 NM south southwest of Baja California Peninsula, Mexico has sustained winds of 40 knots with gusts of 50 knots. The cyclone is reported as moving west northwest at 10 knots.

Dvorak Intensity: T2.5

Gale Force Winds
===============
30 NM from the center

Forecast and Intensity
========================

24 HRS: 16.4N 117.1W - 55 knots (Tropical Cyclone)
48 HRS: 17.2N 119.8W - 60 knots (Tropical Cyclone)
72 HRS: 17.5N 121.0W - 55 knots (Tropical Cyclone)
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 48 Comments: 43641
1198. TropicalAnalystwx13
8:54 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
Quoting WxGeekVA:


I think it is very possible, yes. Doesn't mean it'll happen though.

It's not getting upgraded. Didn't sustain convection long enough.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 108 Comments: 30241
1197. Patrap
8:53 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125476
1196. WxGeekVA
8:53 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
Quoting GTcooliebai:
Do you think they will upgrade it in the post-season analysis?


I think it is very possible, yes. Doesn't mean it'll happen though.
Member Since: September 3, 2011 Posts: 13 Comments: 3466
1195. PdCMexico
8:52 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
We know the drill down here. The comments section of this blog is probably one of the most popular websites in this area, come hurricane season. :)
Member Since: August 23, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 14
1193. HurricaneHunterJoe
8:52 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
Quoting scott39:
Ernestos 6 hour average movement is NW 0r 304 degrees.


As it has been for the last 32 hours.
Member Since: September 18, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 4570
1192. angiest
8:51 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
Quoting jeffs713:

Was that before or after you had to walk 10 miles uphill (both ways) to get to school?


Let me tell you about the time I killed a bear with a loose leaf binder...
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
1191. Tazmanian
8:51 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
recon better hurry up
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5089 Comments: 114041
1190. jeffs713
8:50 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
Quoting angiest:


You don't know how good you have it. Back when I was in Jr High and HS, I had to wait for the once hourly Tropical Update on TWC as my sole source of tropical weather news. And before that, I had nothing but listening to advisories on NOAA Weather Radio.

Now get off of my lawn!

Was that before or after you had to walk 10 miles uphill (both ways) to get to school?
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5792
1189. hurricanehanna
8:50 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
Quoting angiest:


You don't know how good you have it. Back when I was in Jr High and HS, I had to wait for the once hourly Tropical Update on TWC as my sole source of tropical weather news. And before that, I had nothing but listening to advisories on NOAA Weather Radio.

Now get off of my lawn!

yeah, but Angiest, like my Dad said, those weather girls sure make the bad news seem good! He lived for the tropical update at :10 before the hour! lol
Member Since: September 5, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 3480
1188. tennisgirl08
8:50 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
Quoting OldLeatherneck:
Cozumel can handle a storm like Ernesto

While I haven't been following the track and itensity of Ernesto as closely as many of you folks have, I noticed that there's been some chatter about how close this storm might get to Cozumel. I've been to Cozumel many times and been there once when a TS approached (and missed).

If Ernesto gets close to Cozumel, it would be approaching from the Southeast. This is the most sparsely populated area on the island, with very few structures up on the bluffs. These structures have withstood many severe storms. The majority of the resorts and commercial areas are on the Northwest side of the island across from Cancun.

Secondly, I was very impressed with how the local officials began preparations in advance of a tropical system. I've also had friends who were there when Wilma struck Cozumel. The government's response was immediate, effective and efficient.

For my friends who live there, I hope Ernesto does not visit you tonight.


Nice to hear. They are certainly seasoned in dealing with landfalling tropical cyclones, that's for sure.
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1187. weatherh98
8:50 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
be back around 6
Member Since: June 17, 2011 Posts: 11 Comments: 6439
1186. GTcooliebai
8:49 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
Quoting WxGeekVA:


Yup, I remember that. 92L near the Azores.



Do you think they will upgrade it in the post-season analysis?
Member Since: August 31, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 5628
1185. angiest
8:47 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
Quoting weatherh98:


we hide the blog from our friends... if we didnt we prolly wouldnt have friends


You don't know how good you have it. Back when I was in Jr High and HS, I had to wait for the once hourly Tropical Update on TWC as my sole source of tropical weather news. And before that, I had nothing but listening to advisories on NOAA Weather Radio.

Now get off of my lawn!
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
1184. GetReal
8:47 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
Member Since: July 4, 2005 Posts: 204 Comments: 8802
1183. WxGeekVA
8:47 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
Quoting weatherh98:


not necessarily. but in general they do

some tropical storms with winds of 65-70 mph have eyes. depends on the system... we even had an eye on a previous invest that was never even a tropical storm


Yup, I remember that. 92L near the Azores.



Member Since: September 3, 2011 Posts: 13 Comments: 3466
1182. LostTomorrows
8:47 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
Quoting HurricaneHunterJoe:
Are there people in here thinking that Ernesto will miss the Yucatan??


At this point, that's pretty much impossible, unless a really magical sharp trough pulls him straight up and to the east. But there is still quite a possibility he could keep going northwestward enough that he'll only be over land for a very short time. Which could be extremely dangerous.
Member Since: August 26, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 558

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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.