Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:01 PM GMT on September 04, 2012
Tropical Storm Leslie continues to suffer from moderately high wind shear of 15 - 20 knots, due to strong upper-level winds out of the northwest. The shear is keeping heavy thunderstorms confined to the southeast quadrant of the storm. Satellite loops show that Leslie has almost no heavy thunderstorm activity near its center, and the storm is crawling north at walking pace, 3 mph. Leslie's slow forward speed means that the storm is staying over the cold water stirred up by the storm's winds, inhibiting intensification. According to the latest SHIPS model forecast, the shear is expected to stay moderately high through Tuesday night, then drop to the low category, 5 - 10 knots, by Thursday afternoon. At that time, Leslie will be over warm ocean waters of 29 - 30°C, and the reduction in shear and warm waters should aid intensification. However, Leslie's motion will continue to be slow, keeping the storm over its cool water wake, and keeping any intensification slow. Once Leslie begins moving more quickly on Saturday, this effect will diminish, and Leslie could be at Category 2 strength on Sunday morning, as indicated in the official NHC forecast. Steering currents for Leslie are expected to be weak through Friday, as Leslie is stuck between two upper level lows. The latest guidance from our top computer models continues to show Leslie making a very close pass by Bermuda on Saturday. Leslie is a huge storm, and tropical storm-force winds are expected to extend outward from its center 250 miles by Friday. Bermuda is likely to see a 48-hour period of tropical storm-force winds beginning Friday night that lasts until Sunday night. The official NHC forecast shows Leslie nearly making a direct hit on Bermuda, but the uncertainty in 4-day NHC forecasts is around 200 miles. Thus, the latest 11 am EDT NHC wind probability forecast calls for just a 12% chance of hurricane force winds on Bermuda on Saturday. Nevertheless, Leslie is capable of bringing an extended period of hurricane-force winds lasting six or more hours to Bermuda Saturday night through Sunday morning, should a direct hit materialize.
Figure 1. Morning satellite image of Tropical Storm Leslie. The low-level circulation center has very little in the way of heavy thunderstorms surrounding it, thanks to strong northwest winds creating 15 - 20 knots of wind shear.
Leslie will stay stuck in a weak steering current environment until a strong trough of low pressure approaches the U.S. East Coast on Saturday. This trough should be strong enough to pull Leslie quickly to the north on Saturday and Sunday, and Leslie may be close enough to the coast that the storm will make landfall in Nova Scotia or Newfoundland, Canada on Monday, September 10. None of the reliable models have shown that a direct hit on New England will occur, but we can't rule that possibility out yet. The storm may also miss land entirely, and brush by the coasts of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. Large swells from Leslie reached Cape Hatteras, North Carolina last night, and will begin pounding the entire Eastern Seaboard today through Sunday. These waves will be capable of causing significant beach erosion and dangerous rip currents. The Hurricane Hunters are scheduled to make their first flight into Leslie on Wednesday afternoon.
Figure 2. Morning satellite image of Tropical Storm Michael.
Tropical Storm Michael forms in the Central Atlantic
Tropical Storm Michael has formed in the Central Atlantic on Monday, but is not destined for fame. Satellite loops show that this is a very small tropical cyclone, and the storm is well away from any land areas. Michael is under moderately high shear of 15 - 20 knots, and this shear is forecast to remain at 15 - 20 knots through Wednesday. Since Michael is such a small storm, just a modest increase in shear could destroy it. But if Michael survives until Thursday, when shear is expected to fall to the low range, it has the opportunity to strengthen.
Michaels's formation on September 4 puts 2012 in third place for earliest formation date of the season's thirteenth storm. The record is held jointly by 2005, which had Hurricane Maria form on September 2, and 2011, which had Tropical Storm Lee form on September 2 (there was an unnamed tropical storm that year before Lee.) None of the models show that Michael will threaten any land areas. Michael is a classic example of the type of storm that likely would have been missed before the advent of satellites, since the storm is small, far from land, and may be short-lived.
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