Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:34 PM GMT on October 22, 2012
Tropical Depression Eighteen is here, and appears poised to become Tropical Storm Sandy by early Tuesday morning. TD 18 is over very warm waters of 29.5°C, is in a moist environment, and has light wind shear of 5 - 10 knots. These conditions are very favorable for intensification, and TD 18's heavy thunderstorms are steadily organizing into curved spiral bands, as seen on visible satellite loops. An Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft will investigate TD 18 this afternoon.
Figure 1. Morning satellite image of Tropical Depression Eighteen.
Forecast for TD 18
Wind shear is forecast to be in the low to moderate range, 5 - 20 knots, through Tuesday night. This should allow for some steady development of TD 18. On Tuesday, a trough of low pressure to the north is expected to pull TD 18 to the north-northeast, which should put the storm in the vicinity of Jamaica on Wednesday and Eastern Cuba on Thursday. The 11 am EDT NHC Wind Probability Forecast gives a 32% chance that TD 18 will be a hurricane by 8 am EDT Wednesday, when the center should be close to Jamaica. Wind shear will rise to a high 25 - 30 knots by Thursday, which should make it difficult for TD 18 to intensify. By Friday, TD 18 should be in the Central or Eastern Bahamas, and wind shear may increase further, making TD 18 more of a hybrid subtropical storm. It is unclear at this point whether or not the trough pulling TD 18 to the north will be strong enough to pull the storm all the way out to sea to the northeast; a very complicated steering environment will develop late this week, and it is possible that a narrow ridge of high pressure could build in over TD 18 and force the storm to the west-northwest, with a potential threat to the Northwestern Bahamas and U.S. East Coast by Saturday, as predicted by the ECMWF model. TD 18 will be capable of bringing heavy rains of 5 - 10 inches, with isolated amounts of up to 15 inches in mountainous areas, to Jamaica and Haiti, Monday night through Thursday. Heavy rains will begin on Tuesday in Eastern Cuba, and spread northwards into the Central and Eastern Bahamas by Wednesday. Heavy rains of 3 - 6 inches can be expected in the Cayman Islands and Dominican Republic, Tuesday through Thursday.
Invest 90L in the middle Atlantic
A small low pressure system (Invest 90L) about 700 miles east-northeast of the northernmost Lesser Antilles Islands is headed northward at about 10 mph. The disturbance has a modest area of heavy thunderstorms, as seen on visible satellite images, and is struggling with cool, dry air from the upper-level low pressure system that it is trying to form underneath. This upper-level low has provided 90L the spin it needs to become a tropical cyclone, though. Wind shear is a moderate 10 - 20 knots, and is forecast to remain in the moderate range until Wednesday morning. This may allow 90L to develop into a tropical cyclone before it encounters high wind shear of 20 - 30 knots on Wednesday. It's unlikely that 90L will affect any land areas. In their 8 am EDT tropical weather outlook, NHC gave 90L a 50% chance of developing into a tropical cyclone by Wednesday morning.
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