Isaac reorganizing as it blows through the Lesser Antilles

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 8:34 PM GMT on August 22, 2012

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Tropical Storm Isaac continues to maintain top winds of just 45 mph as its center prepares to move through the Lesser Antilles islands late this afternoon and early this evening. The entire Lesser Antilles chain of islands is receiving heavy rains from Isaac, with Martinique picking up 1.46" of rain as of 2 pm EDT, and St. Lucia receiving 1.49". However, Isaac is not yet generating much in the way of tropical storm-force winds, and none of the islands had received winds in excess of 30 mph as of 4 pm EDT. During their storm penetration to obtain their 2 pm EDT center fix, an Air Force Reserve aircraft measured top surface winds of just 40 mph, and a central pressure of 1004 mb. Top winds at their 5000 foot flight altitude were 49 mph. Isaac is undergoing significant changes to its structure. The plane found the center had become a broad, elongated oval that extended 40 miles from NW to SE. The old center, fixed at 2 pm near 16.1°N, and closer to the dry air to Isaac's north, is being challenged for dominance by a new center that is attempting to form near a burst of heavy thunderstorms at 15.5°N. The Hurricane Hunters' latest fix at 3:50 pm EDT put the center near 15.9°N, a southwards shift of about 17 miles. The resulting battle between centers is giving Isaac a rather odd spiral rectangular shape, as seen on visible satellite loops. The Hurricane Hunters did not observe an eyewall trying to form, and recent microwave satellite images also show no signs of an eyewall forming. A large area of dry air to the north of the storm, as seen on water vapor satellite loops, continues to interfere with development, and Isaac will not be able to begin strengthening until it resolves the battle between it two competing centers, and casts out the dry air infiltrating it. This is going to take at least a day, since Isaac is a very large storm, and it takes more time to spin up a big chunk of the atmosphere. Radar imagery from Barbados and Martinique show plenty of heavy rain showers, mostly on the south side of Isaac where it is moister. There has been a modest increase in spiral banding since this morning.


Figure 1. Afternoon satellite image of Isaac, showing its odd spiral rectangle shape.

Latest model runs for Isaac
The latest set of 12Z (8 am EDT) model runs are very similar to the previous set of runs, which I discussed in detail in this morning's post. The models show a westward track to a point on the south coast of Hispaniola. Isaac's center shift to the south may require some modest adjustments to the south and west for the models. This would result in the storm spending a few hours less time over Hispaniola, and more time over or just south of Cuba. This would slightly decrease the risk to the Dominican Republic, the east coast of Florida, and the Bahamas, but increase the risk to the west coast of Florida. The ECMWF--our best performing model over the past two years--continues to be an outlier among the models. It predicts that Isaac will track just south of Cuba, cross the western tip of Cuba on Monday, then head north towards an eventual landfall in Louisiana. However, this model is keeping Isaac weaker than the other models, and thus predicts the storm will have a weaker response to the trough of low pressure over the Southeast U.S. If the official NHC intensity forecast is right and Isaac becomes a hurricane on Thursday, the more southerly track of the ECMWF is not going to verify, and Isaac will spend considerable time over Cuba on Saturday and Sunday. Where Isaac pops off the coast of Cuba will be critical in determining its future path and intensity, and at this point, we don't know it its more likely that Isaac will go up the east coast of Florida, the west coast, or straight up the peninsula over land. At this point, I'd put the odds at:

40% chance of a track through the Gulf of Mexico, west of Florida
25% chance of a landfall in South Florida, and a track mostly over the Florida Peninsula
35% chance of a track along the east coast of Florida

Which model should you trust?
Wunderground provides a web page with computer model forecasts for many of the best-performing models used to predict hurricane tracks. So which is the best? The best forecasts are made by combining the forecasts from three or more models into a "consensus" forecast. Over the past decade, NHC has greatly improved their forecasts by relying on consensus forecast models made using various combinations of the GFS, GFDL, NOGAPS, UKMET, HWRF, and ECMWF models. If you average together the track forecasts from these models, the NHC official forecast will rarely depart much from it, and the NHC forecast has been hard to beat over the past few years. The single best-performing model over the past two years has been the ECMWF (European Center model). The GFS model has been a close second. You can view 7-day ECMWF and 16-day GFS forecasts on our wundermap with the model layer turned on. Ten-day ECMWF forecasts are available from the ECMWF web site. The European Center does not permit public display of tropical storm positions from their hurricane tracking module of their model, so we are unable to put ECMWF forecasts on our computer model forecast page that plots positions from the other major models. As seen in Figure 2, the HWRF and GFDL were well behind the ECMWF and GFS in forecast accuracy in 2011, but were still respectable. The BAMM model did very well at 4 and 5-day forecasts. The UKMET, NOGAPS, and CMC models did quite poorly compared to the ECMWF, GFS, GFDL, and HWRF. For those interested in learning more about the models, NOAA has a great training video (updated for 2011.)


Figure 2. Skill of computer model forecasts of Atlantic named storms 2011, compared to a "no skill" model called "CLIPER5" that uses just climatology and persistence to make a hurricane track forecast (persistence=a storm will tend to keep going in the direction it's current going.) OFCL=Official NHC forecast; GFS=Global Forecast System model; GFDL=Geophysical Fluid Dynamic Laboratory model; HWRF=Hurricane Weather Research Forecasting model; NOGAPS=Navy Operational Global Prediction System model; UKMET=United Kingdom Met Office model; ECMWF=European Center for Medium Range Weather Forecasting model; TVCA=one of the consensus models that lends together several of the above models; CMC=Canadian Meteorological Center (GEM) model; BAMM=Beta Advection Model (Medium depth.) Image credit: National Hurricane Center 2011 verification report.

I'll have a new post in the morning.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting tramp96:

Do you have a link for those graphs?

Move your mouse over the menu's at the top of the page to get the models.
Link
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15977
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
Good Morning. After all the hype that was built around Isaac in the past few days in PR, this is rather disappointing.

NWS Puerto Rico says your guys main event will be tonight when Issac's after wave moves through
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3299. LargoFl
Quoting GTcooliebai:
Good morning everyone, maybe got 3 hrs. of sleep, but also notice Joyce trying to erode the western flank of the Subtropical Ridge, hmm???
yes good morning GT
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42064
3298. LargoFl
......well whatever happens..local mets think Monday and Tues will be our Bad days around Tampa Bay area..
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42064
Quoting LargoFl:
Good morning everyone, maybe got 3 hrs. of sleep, but also notice Joyce trying to erode the western flank of the Subtropical Ridge, hmm???
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
Good Morning. After all the hype that was built around Isaac in the past few days in PR, this is rather disappointing.

What do you expect? The center's 250 miles S of San Juan :P
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 84 Comments: 8035
3294. LargoFl
Quoting LargoFl:
..see the nogaps model looks like it does, scrape the coast of sw florida..we dont take our eyes off this one for sure
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42064
Good Morning. After all the hype that was built around Isaac in the past few days in PR, this is rather disappointing.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3292. LargoFl
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42064
Quoting serialteg:
Another one to ponder:

Why in high heaven doesn't the discussion mention the whyabouts of the de-acceleration? That's a MAJOR event. This thing has RACED all it's life, suddenly slams the brakes, and it's just mentioned nonchalantly as a fact with no discussion over it?

We all - well, should - know that de-acceleration is a sign of an organizing storm. And a dangerous one at that.


Quoting redwagon:

I think we're all expecting it to be a typo.


If you read the NHC forecaster's notes, he said the speed and heading is uncertain. He put that together as sort of an average of all the data, since apparently they couldn't actually find the center...again...


Tropical Storm ISAAC Forecast Discussion

Home Public Adv Fcst Adv Discussion Wind Probs Graphics Archive

000
WTNT44 KNHC 230858
TCDAT4

TROPICAL STORM ISAAC DISCUSSION NUMBER 9
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL092012
500 AM AST THU AUG 23 2012

AN AIR FORCE RECONNAISSANCE AIRCRAFT INVESTIGATING ISAAC THIS
MORNING HAS FOUND A POORLY DEFINED INNER CORE WITH A LARGE AREA OF
LIGHT WINDS AROUND A CENTER...WHICH IS SIMILAR TO WHAT AN EARLIER
NOAA RESEARCH MISSION INDICATED. RADAR DATA FROM GUADELOUPE AND SAN
JUAN ALSO INDICATE A POORLY DEFINED INNER CORE CONVECTIVE PATTERN.
RATHER THAN INITIALIZE THE CENTER OF ISAAC WELL TO THE SOUTH OF THE
PREVIOUS TRACK...I HAVE OPTED TO USE A BLEND OF THE RECON FIXES...
SATELLITE IMAGERY...DATA FROM NEARBY NOAA BUOY 42060...AND A 06Z
CONSENSUS FORECAST POSITION FROM THE GFS...ECMWF...AND UKMET
MODELS. THE INITIAL INTENSITY WAS ALSO DECREASED TO 35 KT BASED ON
DATA FROM THE RECON AIRCRAFT AND NOAA BUOY 42060.

THE INITIAL MOTION ESTIMATE IS AN UNCERTAIN 270/12 KT.


Here's the part I disagree with...

THE 00Z
GFS...ECMWF...AND UKMET MODELS DID AN OUTSTANDING JOB PREDICTING
THE RECENT SOUTHWESTWARD JOG
OR REFORMATION OF THE CENTER OF ISAAC.



LOL?

What's he smoking? The only model predicting a WSW turn last night was the HWRF, which was dissipating it.


Of course, myself and a few other people were saying it was going WSW, but we're not models.


This is typical NHC fudging the numbers to smooth over errors. I don't know why he's bothering though, it just looks stupid and anyone who's been watching the actual models knows better.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3290. LargoFl
Quoting icmoore:
Largo yes we have to just keep watching I know I am. So far I see gust of 70 MPH aready being predicted for the St Pete area and they say that will change so keep watching.

Monday
Scattered showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high near 88. Windy, with a northeast wind 25 to 35 mph increasing to 38 to 48 mph in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 70 mph. Chance of precipitation is 50%.



yes i think we will get something..with this soaking wet ground we have..we dont need 70 mph + winds huh
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42064
3289. GetReal


Even NOGAPS is much further west on the last run....
Over all, IMO, the official track will continue to slide south and west over the next 36-48 hours towards a landfall on the N coast of GOM. As I see it now, Isaac will not make that NW turn until he finished riding the N coast of Jamaica. IMO Isaac will cross over W Cuba into the GOM.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3288. WxLogic
Keep in mind... Kermit (NOAA) is flying at mid levels and the AF C130-J is flying at low levels. For now the LLC and MLC are a bit displaced but much better now than it was yesterday.

This should be able to give you a visualization:

850MB:



500MB:



Both HH are validating CIMSS analysis.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3287. VR46L
HMM the 06z is a bit different ...when he is done with florida he starts pummels Geogria , the Carolinas Virgina ...







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Quoting serialteg:


wow thanks!

look at how far south that is!


All the track forecast maps above are initializing it about 1 degree further north.
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3285. ackee
Quoting MAweatherboy1:
I still feel a weak system like Isaac will be inclined to go farther south than forecast. Look at the current direction vs. what the models do... It's moving WSW while they're all moving it WNW.

IT seem like most of the model had expected Isaac to be much stronger it weaker
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Quoting tomas5tex:


I was not sure if it was good or not. Thanks for helping out...Just trying to learn.


dont fret. i can't see anything stronger than 40mph yet.
Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 1988
3283. icmoore
Largo yes we have to just keep watching I know I am. So far I see gust of 70 MPH aready being predicted for the St Pete area and they say that will change so keep watching.

Monday
Scattered showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high near 88. Windy, with a northeast wind 25 to 35 mph increasing to 38 to 48 mph in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 70 mph. Chance of precipitation is 50%.



Member Since: July 18, 2005 Posts: 9 Comments: 4147
3282. LargoFl
Quoting LargoFl:
.......hmmm now the ecmwf has issac going up thru the yucatan channel into the mid gulf..see how far apart the models are
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42064
I have lived just south of Tampa since 1966 and have never been in a hurricane. The closest scare was Charley and we got nothing from that. Most of these storms either turn towards the east coast or even more times head for the cane magnet that is the Florida panhandle/mobile area. That is exactly what Isaac is going to do. Tampa breaths another sigh of relief.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
A very powerful storm is making landfall on Taiwan today... Prayers are with them as this could be very bad.



And look at the forecast track:

Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 84 Comments: 8035
Quoting serialteg:
Another one to ponder:

Why in high heaven doesn't the discussion mention the whyabouts of the de-acceleration? That's a MAJOR event. This thing has RACED all it's life, suddenly slams the brakes, and it's just mentioned nonchalantly as a fact with no discussion over it?

We all - well, should - know that de-acceleration is a sign of an organizing storm. And a dangerous one at that.


It is beginning to round the ridge heading towards the weakness..Think of this way if you drive your car and there is a curve coming in the road and a sign on the road saying curve ahead most drivers slow down in response to compensate for it. Isaac is doing the same thing he is slowing down in response to it.
AFTER THAT...
THE GLOBAL AND REGIONAL MODELS HAVE COME INTO BETTER AGREEMENT ON
ISAAC MOVING NORTHWESTWARD TOWARD A BREAK IN THE SUBTROPICAL RIDGE
THAT IS FORECAST TO DEVELOP AFTER 72 HOURS ACROSS FLORIDA AND THE
EASTERN GULF OF MEXICO.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3278. LargoFl
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42064
Quoting serialteg:
Another one to ponder:

Why in high heaven doesn't the discussion mention the whyabouts of the de-acceleration? That's a MAJOR event. This thing has RACED all it's life, suddenly slams the brakes, and it's just mentioned nonchalantly as a fact with no discussion over it?

We all - well, should - know that de-acceleration is a sign of an organizing storm. And a dangerous one at that.

I think we're all expecting it to be a typo.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting sporteguy03:

See post 3222 not expected to happen until 12-24 hours from now. Also the decrease in speed could be meaning that Issac is beginning to slow down in response to the upcoming weakness. When cyclones slow down it usually means they are about to round the edge of a high or starting to feel a weakness and will begin a turn towards it.


well i believe if you go back 12-24 hours in the forecasts to the past, you'll find the storm was expected in a more N part... it's taken the south part of the cone, if anything.
Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 1988
I still feel a weak system like Isaac will be inclined to go farther south than forecast. Look at the current direction vs. what the models do... It's moving WSW while they're all moving it WNW.

Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 84 Comments: 8035
Quoting CybrTeddy:


It's a bad reading.

1) Flight level winds don't support it.
2) Rain rates where high, meaning it was contaminated.


I was not sure if it was good or not. Thanks for helping out...Just trying to learn.
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Quoting dfwstormwatch:
the Hurricane hunters are finding gusts to 70 MPH in the rainbands, and 45 to 50 out in the normal


Typical of a TS of this type.

Large TS tend to be strongest in the rain bands at first, and then they have to consolidate.



BTW.

Circulation center is on the boundary of the range of PR radar, and much farther south than it was forecast to be 12 or even 6 hours ago.

It's barely going to show up directly on LONG RANGE radar, if at all.


I've estimated the CoC is at least 2.9 degrees, or 185 nautical miles, south of the radar station.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3272. ackee
I think Isaac WILL miss hispanola track south of cuba
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3271. LargoFl
Quoting TropicsGirl:
Good Morning All-
See that the models are starting to align in better agreement. My concern is that IF Isaac trends a bit more to the west that the open Gulf waters will allow it to strengthen and even if the core is 100 miles off shore the West Coast will still take a pretty good beating. Don't like to be on the dirty side of any storm..... especially for those living close to the water.
yes so far this isnt good for us
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42064
3269. bassis
Quoting GetReal:


To my untrained eye it looks like he is ridding himself of his extra bulk on the NW & SE sides and consolidating the energy towards the center
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Good morning weather junkies, I see we are all keeping an eye on issac. These "I" storms are dastardly. Just something I noticed recently, I read the blog several times a day, but rarely post because I don't have much to add, however, can we stop with the name calling? Every other post calls someone else a troll. Come on, we are intelligent rational people. Keep it classy :).
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Quoting serialteg:


wow thanks!

look at how far south that is!


It's a bad reading.

1) Flight level winds don't support it.
2) Rain rates where high, meaning it was contaminated.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Another one to ponder:

Why in high heaven doesn't the discussion mention the whyabouts of the de-acceleration? That's a MAJOR event. This thing has RACED all it's life, suddenly slams the brakes, and it's just mentioned nonchalantly as a fact with no discussion over it?

We all - well, should - know that de-acceleration is a sign of an organizing storm. And a dangerous one at that.
Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 1988
Quoting LargoFl:
see..IF THAT track holds true..Tampa gets this..and..we will be on the BAD side of this storm..........the all clear is NOT right now for sure
My thoughts exactly Largo!!
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Quoting clwstmchasr:


The current forecast track put it about 70 miles offshore. That would keep Tampa out of the core. However, a 50 mile swing either way has significant impact changes.

With a storm this size 70 miles away would be bad enough but plenty of time to see how the core shakes out and the strength still alot of uncertainities.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Good Morning All-
See that the models are starting to align in better agreement. My concern is that IF Isaac trends a bit more to the west that the open Gulf waters will allow it to strengthen and even if the core is 100 miles off shore the West Coast will still take a pretty good beating. Don't like to be on the dirty side of any storm..... especially for those living close to the water.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3262. LargoFl
Quoting sporteguy03:


You do not even need Isaac to make landfall on the West Coast of Florida to cause problems even if Isaac is 25-30 miles off the Coast Florida will still see the worse of it. Most of Debby's wind and rain came she was just offshore.
yep..we need to keep a good eye on it alright
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42064
Quoting tomas5tex:
I saw this....Not sure if it is a good reading....

Time: 09:28:00Z
Coordinates: 14.9N 64.1667W
Acft. Static Air Press: 844.3 mb (~ 24.93 inHg)
Acft. Geopotential Hgt: 1,518 meters (~ 4,980 feet)
Extrap. Sfc. Press: -
D-value: -
Flt. Lvl. Wind (30s): From 185° at 11 knots (From the S at ~ 12.6 mph)
Air Temp: 14.0°C* (~ 57.2°F*)
Dew Pt: -*
Peak (10s) Flt. Lvl. Wind: 12 knots (~ 13.8 mph)
SFMR Peak (10s) Sfc. Wind: 47 knots (~ 54.0 mph)
SFMR Rain Rate: 21 mm/hr (~ 0.83 in/hr)
(*) Denotes suspect data


wow thanks!

look at how far south that is!
Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 1988
3260. WxLogic
Quoting CybrTeddy:
Isaac is weaker, but one thing is that Isaac has certainly slowed down. It went from 20mph to 12mph, that will help it in the long run if that isn't because of the CoC relocation. If not, intensification will begin today.


I agree... based on what I'm able to see, the next center fix should reveal that the expected WNW (to NW at times) is starting to materialize.
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Quoting serialteg:
they all point out to that WNW trajectory which hasnt happened.


See post 3222 not expected to happen until 12-24 hours from now. Also the decrease in speed could be meaning that Issac is beginning to slow down in response to the upcoming weakness. When cyclones slow down it usually means they are about to round the edge of a high or starting to feel a weakness and will begin a turn towards it.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3258. GetReal


Catching up this morning I see that Eure is now pointing to where i believed this was going to go all along... It will be interesting to see if it stays near thr Fl/Al line.
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3257. LargoFl
Quoting guygee:
Latest GFS pressure fields forecast. Most notable trends the past couple runs are farther left and stronger days 4 and 5, not quite as parallel with the FL west coast leading to landfall in the FL panhandle.

see..IF THAT track holds true..Tampa gets this..and..we will be on the BAD side of this storm..........the all clear is NOT right now for sure
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42064
3255. LargoFl
Quoting Autistic2:
I watch all the time but don’t get concerned until landfall is three days out. Models at seven days and NHC tracks at 5 days are never right. By three days they usually have it pretty well nailed down.

Here in NE FL we don’t need any more rain.

I will be leaving soon to take one of my daughters to go see Winter the dolphin. If you know who that is.
oh yes..you will love winter, she puts on a great show for the kids
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42064
I saw this....Not sure if it is a good reading....

Time: 09:28:00Z
Coordinates: 14.9N 64.1667W
Acft. Static Air Press: 844.3 mb (~ 24.93 inHg)
Acft. Geopotential Hgt: 1,518 meters (~ 4,980 feet)
Extrap. Sfc. Press: -
D-value: -
Flt. Lvl. Wind (30s): From 185° at 11 knots (From the S at ~ 12.6 mph)
Air Temp: 14.0°C* (~ 57.2°F*)
Dew Pt: -*
Peak (10s) Flt. Lvl. Wind: 12 knots (~ 13.8 mph)
SFMR Peak (10s) Sfc. Wind: 47 knots (~ 54.0 mph)
SFMR Rain Rate: 21 mm/hr (~ 0.83 in/hr)
(*) Denotes suspect data
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3253. guygee
Latest GFS pressure fields forecast. Most notable trends the past couple runs are farther left and stronger days 5 and 6, not quite as parallel with the FL west coast leading to landfall in the FL panhandle.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
3252. LargoFl
Quoting shfr173:
Do not think Tampa out of woods yet!!
not yet,keep watching this storm the next day or so
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42064
I watch all the time but don’t get concerned until landfall is three days out. Models at seven days and NHC tracks at 5 days are never right. By three days they usually have it pretty well nailed down.

Here in NE FL we don’t need any more rain.

I will be leaving soon to take one of my daughters to go see Winter the dolphin. If you know who that is.
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