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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Quoting tennisgirl08:


Ok Get Real, you need to start "getting real" :)

There are people looking at this blog who might not have been following this storm closely like us. They might become unnecessarily concerned over your statements. That's all I am saying.



Let's all play nice please?
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Quoting stormchaser19:


Everything can happen,but many models are in consensus



If LBAR verifies the blog would implode.
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THIS IS A GOOD THING MORE ACCESS TO INFO THANKS NOAA/NHC

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978. Gorty
How close was Wilma of 2005 to the coast when she RI?
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It is interesting to note that Ernesto will probably make landfall farther north than Karl and Hermine did....as posted in Dr. Master's blog.
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Quoting alexhurricane1991:
How long does ernesto have till landfall?

720-1080 minutes.
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wahhh new toy
Member Since: June 17, 2011 Posts: 11 Comments: 6540
Quoting Coastalgramps:


Im confused



it was some in off topic
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
T.C.W.
05L/H/E/C1
MARK
R.I.FLAG ON
18.66W/86.03W

Rut-Roh
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I hope Cozumel is ready as they will get the brunt of this hurricane. It has been moving west-northwest all day, and is continuing to do so despite the fact that the NHC shows a turn back towards the west immediately. What this also means is that Ernesto will pass over some of the flattest land found on the Yucatan, which may not tear the storm up too bad. Combine that with the fact that the curvature of the coast in the Bay of Campeche and good TCHP values, and I believe that Ernesto will reach its peak as a Category 2 hurricane on the other side.

I could be wrong of course.

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Quoting weatherh98:
found em

looks to move north slightly

..big IF..but if it continues on the same track..and speed it wont be over land all that long, like clipping the yucatan at an agle the into the BOC..at that point its into High 80's water
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 5 Comments: 50486
Quoting nigel20:
Thanks Dr. Masters...good afternoon everyone!


Good afternoon Nigel, how's the weather out there?
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East coast better watch out next week for the WAVE TRAIN
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.
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Quoting Seflhurricane:
Punta Allen looks very good , but if any jogs to the North will put Cozumel, playa del carmen and cancun Resort areas in jepardy, i feel the NHC should extend the huuricane warning to cancun

They did at the special 2pm update
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How long does ernesto have till landfall?
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T.C.W.
05L/H/E/C1
MARK
R.I.FLAG ON
18.66W/86.03W
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Quoting Ameister12:
Come home to find Ernesto is (finally) a hurricane and the NHC site has animated GIF floaters. How freaking awesome!!!

It is, he was expected to become a cane and did and now I can post satellite GIFs.
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
Lots of twisting and turning going on here with 92L:


Looks like a pretty elongated circulation, from SW to NE.
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BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE JACKSONVILLE FL
315 PM EDT TUE AUG 7 2012

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN JACKSONVILLE HAS ISSUED A

* SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING FOR...
ATKINSON COUNTY IN SOUTHEAST GEORGIA
NORTHWESTERN CLINCH COUNTY IN SOUTHEAST GEORGIA

* UNTIL 400 PM EDT

* AT 315 PM EDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE METEOROLOGISTS WERE
TRACKING A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING DAMAGING WINDS
IN EXCESS OF 60 MPH. THIS STORM WAS LOCATED 10 MILES SOUTH OF
PEARSON...AND MOVING NORTHEAST AT 10 MPH.

* OTHER LOCATIONS IN THE WARNING INCLUDE BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO
WILLACOOCHEE AND PEARSON.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

FOR YOUR PROTECTION MOVE TO AN INTERIOR ROOM ON THE LOWEST FLOOR OF
YOUR HOME OR BUSINESS. THIS STORM HAS THE POTENTIAL TO CAUSE SERIOUS
INJURY AND SIGNIFICANT DAMAGE TO PROPERTY.

REPORT SEVERE WEATHER OR DAMAGE TO THE NEAREST LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY
OR YOUR COUNTY EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT.
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 5 Comments: 50486
Bams model looks like Ernie heard about California gold.
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found em

looks to move north slightly

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Quoting Coastalgramps:


What is this nonsense?



then why re post it



and its off topic
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19:25 Viz

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954. Gorty
Quoting atmosweather:


Tropical Storm Fay 2008.


Ahh yes Fay, I totally forgot about that.
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Thanks Dr. Masters...good afternoon everyone!

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Quoting emguy:
It's getting ever so interesting with Ernesto. Still gaining lattitude, which is delaying a prograssion in longitude. Also goes without saying...he's intensifying.

Its probably getting to that point where a subtle error in hightlines on the models could result in a big track difference and a forecast model bust.

I would not be surprised if that dropsonde dropped north of Hispanola this afternoon was intended to get an environmental sample for the models...in an effort to better relect that upper level low out there and it's impacts on the strength of the Bemuda High.

My opinion...If Ernesto misses a connection with the trough and the northerly weakness...it's gonna be a very near miss.


Everything can happen,but many models are in consensus

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Quoting Gorty:


Wasnt it Ernesto of a past season that did not weaken very much over FL?


Tropical Storm Fay 2008.
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ALL NOAA Tropical Cyclone Imagery - Storm Floaters
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 434 Comments: 133399


PUNTA ALLEN should get worst of Ernesto - NE quadrant

Hurricane force winds could reach as far north as Cozumel.
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Quoting DocNDswamp:


Ditto on the gif option, and I'm probably one of the most grateful for it - I haven't been able to load an animated loop from 'em since Ernesto began, can't run flash loops and java been stalling even after I increased / maxed memory capacity on this old Mac...
Plus 1000+++++ lol...


Dey finally caught up with the Blogging Doc.

Ol Tenacious "E" has kept many on their toes one could say,so far.

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 434 Comments: 133399
Quoting weatherh98:


where are they?

On the NOAA Floater page under the new category: Animated GIF. It has all the satellites just in loop form.
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Quoting MAweatherboy1:
The 2PM NHC track showed Ernesto starting to swing back more west almost immediately... That's not happening. It's on the same heading its been on all day. I see landfall happening at the northern edge of the forecast track, and then it will move more due west once it gets over the Yucatan. The models are of no use right now, we have to go by what's actually happening since landfall is so close.


The REED run agrees with your theory ;)

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O Lordy,

LOL
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 434 Comments: 133399
Quoting Patrap:
U betcha,

And Im glad thats fer sure.


Ditto on the gif option, and I'm probably one of the most grateful for it - I haven't been able to load an animated loop from 'em since Ernesto began, can't run flash loops and java been stalling even after I increased / maxed memory capacity on this old Mac...
Plus 1000+++++ lol...
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Anybody that wants to see center it's on Belize radar. Looks to be at 18.7n 86.ow. Moving just north of due west.
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Quoting Tazmanian:
wind shear seems low for 92L




dust is no where too be seen its well N of 92L


If it can pass the dry air to its north we might see a tropical storm out of this.
Member Since: October 15, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 4488
940. Gorty
Quoting Maineweatherguy20023:


A tropical system will weaken over land no matter how flat. They need warm WATER to sustain themselves.


Wasnt it Ernesto of a past season that did not weaken very much over FL?
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Quoting WxGeekVA:


I see an eyewall forming...
it needs to turn,now,or will be significantly north of its points.
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Quoting Levi32:
Well my website's animated GIF page just became obsolete lol.


Don't sweat it, man. You were the innovator here, and we'll always remember that you were the first to GIF the satellite loops.
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Looking at the -3 +3 the plains ridge has retreated westward a bit. Seems it would need to rebuild eastwards to turn it west in the BOC.

Member Since: August 19, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 5652
The 2PM NHC track showed Ernesto starting to swing back more west almost immediately... That's not happening. It's on the same heading its been on all day. I see landfall happening at the northern edge of the forecast track, and then it will move more due west once it gets over the Yucatan. The models are of no use right now, we have to go by what's actually happening since landfall is so close.
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JSL Still Image

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 434 Comments: 133399
Quoting wxchaser97:
Yeah, just found out about the floaters


where are they?
Member Since: June 17, 2011 Posts: 11 Comments: 6540
Quoting kmanislander:
The pink area in the center inside the white appears to be the start of warming cloud tops as the eye clears out. If so we are looking at another round of deepening with very intense convection around the eye.



It needs to clear out fast if it's going to because shore is pretty close.
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Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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