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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The high over the midwest and Texas....is not far enough S to push ernesto out of the GOM.
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Ernesto looks to be moving pretty close to NW to me.
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Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:


other say 90.8 mph, 81.6 mph surface wind.. are those contaminated too?

Not all of them...
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very likely we will see Hurricane Ernesto at 2pm
Member Since: July 14, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 3029
Quoting Gorty:


In the middle. But he did gain some latitude I think.

He def did and is 13 degrees north of a WNW heading.
Member Since: September 18, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 5248
Quoting GetReal:



A RI Ernie is still more likely to the NW track into the south central GOM, before eventually running in the Texas Death Dome, and turning west towards another Mexico visit. While earlier I believed Ernie had a chance turning more northerly, that possibility is practically none now, as he will miss that weakness in the NE GOM.

Though it would bring it further north into Mexico... and give the US people heart attacks ;)
and might give my yard a couple days worth of water...
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Quoting IceCoast:


Does have some similarities with the small core and area free of convection between the core and outer bands. I've been wondering if it's been holding Ernesto back a little bit. Good observation on your part.

Alex


Thanks man. Lets hope Ernesto doesn't strike the Yucatan as hard as Alex struck northern Mexico.
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I just took my crow out of the oven. It does look like a slight NW jog.


Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27208
Quoting HurricaneDean07:

Rain contaminated.


other say 90.8 mph, 81.6 mph surface wind.. are those contaminated too?
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Ernesto passing about 90 miles E of next forecast point!
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Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:
NHC taking their sweet time, dont they know we are having heart attacks over here.

...just imagine what they're going through!
There are a few things going on in the tropics.
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:
Non tasked mission in the Turks and Caicos.

Might be headed for Ernesto.


I just saw that Stormchaser2007. Interesting.
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Quoting Chicklit:


In this morning's advisory, NHC said WNW then more west just before landfall. Will be interesting to see if track changes at 2 p.m.

Link Floater Loop
Click on Lat/Lon/ and forecast points and the greeny bits are moving further north than forecast point trajectory.

I like your technical term there... "greeny bits".
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Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:
NHC taking their sweet time, dont they know we are having heart attacks over here.




i save them
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115454
Tenacious "E"

17:15 UTC Rainbow Image

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Quoting Stormchaser2007:
Non tasked mission in the Turks and Caicos.

Might be headed for Ernesto.

or repositioning
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Ernesto has jogged considerably to the NW. Look at the bands of convection in front of the COC, and it will can give you a better idea on which way he is headed. I think the weakness in the high has been under estimated, and I think the timing of the High that is forecasted to push Ernesto back W as been over estimated. Not to mention the trough that is moving S.
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A RI Ernie is still more likely to the NW track into the south central GOM, before eventually running in the Texas Death Dome, and turning west towards another Mexico visit. While earlier I believed Ernie had a chance turning more northerly, that possibility is practically none now, as he will miss that weakness in the NE GOM.
Member Since: July 4, 2005 Posts: 204 Comments: 8898
NHC taking their sweet time, dont they know we are having heart attacks over here.
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6704
Quoting OracleDeAtlantis:
It wouldn't take much intensification for Ernesto to feel that weakness between those two highs. I'm actually surprised that he hasn't felt it by now.



Why move west, when you can go north to Alaska, where according to Dr. Masters, hurricane kin are presently welcome this time of the year. Freaky how the weather has gone off the deep in in the arctic. It makes you wonder what's next ... hurricanes at the North Pole?




If it could pull of RI into a Category 3 with Sub-960 or 50 MB pressures right before landfall, it might be enough to pull it up into the gulf... Not good.
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Quoting midgulfmom:


If that holds,it would be around 75 miles south of Cozumel.
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511. Gorty
Quoting HurricaneHunterJoe:


WNW=292.5
NW=315
NNW=337.5
N=360 OR 0


In the middle. But he did gain some latitude I think.
Member Since: November 8, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 1058
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115454
Non tasked mission in the Turks and Caicos.

Might be headed for Ernesto.
Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15950
Wonder if they're gonna post Ernesto's 24A advisory first, or the TWO.
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It wouldn't take much intensification for Ernesto to feel that weakness between those two highs. I'm actually surprised that he hasn't felt it by now.



Why move west, when you can go north to Alaska, where according to Dr. Masters, hurricane kin are presently welcome this time of the year. Freaky how the weather has gone off the deep end in the arctic.

It makes you wonder what's next ... hurricanes at the North Pole?



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So, Ernesto has finally become a Hurricane, it seems. When does everyone think that the thing that came of Africa a day or two ago will develop?
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Quoting tornadolarkin:
His core reminds me of hurricane Alex when he began to rapidly intensify. It became very compact and have nice spiral bands around his COC


Does have some similarities with the small core and area free of convection between the core and outer bands. I've been wondering if it's been holding Ernesto back a little bit. Good observation on your part.

Alex
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Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:
Time: 16:58:00Z
Coordinates: 18.5667N 85.2667W
Acft. Static Air Press: 843.2 mb (~ 24.90 inHg)
Acft. Geopotential Hgt: 1,393 meters (~ 4,570 feet)
Extrap. Sfc. Press: -
D-value: -
Flt. Lvl. Wind (30s): From 136° at 72 knots (From the SE at ~ 82.8 mph)
Air Temp: 16.5°C* (~ 61.7°F*)
Dew Pt: -*
Peak (10s) Flt. Lvl. Wind: 77 knots (~ 88.5 mph)
SFMR Peak (10s) Sfc. Wind: 80 knots (~ 92.0 mph)
SFMR Rain Rate: 25 mm/hr (~ 0.98 in/hr)

I just found out about this... I know is old

Rain contaminated.
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Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:


I am just basing it off the last 5 center fixes by recon, I think the NHC does a 6 hour average movement.


In this morning's advisory, NHC said WNW then more west just before landfall. Will be interesting to see if track changes at 2 p.m.

Link Floater Loop
Click on Lat/Lon/ and forecast points and the greeny bits are moving further north than forecast point trajectory.
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Quoting wxchaser97:

Going by recon he looks to be going more NW(heading 304*) rather than WNW.


WNW=292.5
NW=315
NNW=337.5
N=360 OR 0

NO?

I had Ernesto at 305 heading .
Member Since: September 18, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 5248
Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:
It it continues to move as it is doing now,here is the extrapolated track.


Where does that have him possibly crossing?
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I haven't been on this forum since sometime last summer. Can anyone tell me if Levi32 still posts or where I might find his work?

Many thanks.
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So 4 days ago no one foresaw a High in the GOM. Just amazes me sometimes the lack....Definitly dodged a bullet. Ernesto in the Central GOM would have been disasterous.
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92L looking impressive might be up 30% at cst.
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Time: 16:58:00Z
Coordinates: 18.5667N 85.2667W
Acft. Static Air Press: 843.2 mb (~ 24.90 inHg)
Acft. Geopotential Hgt: 1,393 meters (~ 4,570 feet)
Extrap. Sfc. Press: -
D-value: -
Flt. Lvl. Wind (30s): From 136° at 72 knots (From the SE at ~ 82.8 mph)
Air Temp: 16.5°C* (~ 61.7°F*)
Dew Pt: -*
Peak (10s) Flt. Lvl. Wind: 77 knots (~ 88.5 mph)
SFMR Peak (10s) Sfc. Wind: 80 knots (~ 92.0 mph)
SFMR Rain Rate: 25 mm/hr (~ 0.98 in/hr)

I just found out about this... I know is old
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The Core is tightening up.




Member Since: August 31, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 5628
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Quoting HurricaneDean07:

Do you think they'll have on more recon flight, before Yucatan landfall?


I don't see why not, they can get there before landfall which is supposed to be around 9pm est. Maybe later if current track holds.
Member Since: September 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6704
Very compact center, but still having trouble with a banding COC.

I could see a 90 mph max IF recon can get into it before landfall.

Member Since: June 9, 2007 Posts: 4 Comments: 15950
E going for the NE BOC or SC/SW GOM....
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
Recon is ascending and on their way out.

Do you think they'll have one more recon flight, before Yucatan landfall?
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guss will see what they do at pm
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115454
Recon is ascending and on their way out.
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Quoting Patrap:

Lime in da FunkTop too.



,what else would you have with a corona??,cat 2, 100mph just south of cancun imo
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If you look at ernesto, he is moving NW not WNW. watch his center
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We have Hurricane Ernesto and he's is strengthening!
Member Since: September 18, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 5248
E taking the stairs so....N/W N/W N/W....in a general NW motion....
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Member Since: July 4, 2005 Posts: 204 Comments: 8898
His core reminds me of hurricane Alex when he began to rapidly intensify. It became very compact and have nice spiral bands around his COC
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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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