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 , 3:08 PM GMT on November 14, 2005
Tropical Depression 27 formed last night from a tropical wave moving through the Lesser Antilles Islands, but is struggling to survive in the face of 20-25 knots of wind shear from strong upper-level westerly winds over the Caribbean. The storm's low-level circulation center is exposed, and the strong westerly winds are keeping what little deep convection the storm has, confined to its east side. This intensity and area coverage of the thunderstorms on the depression's east side has slowly increased this morning, but unless the shear relaxes and allows some deep convection to persist near the center, TD 27 will not be able to intensify much. Wind shear is expected to remain high today, and I give the shear a 10% chance of completely tearing the depression apart within the next 24 hours.
However, we've seen two systems in the past month, Wilma and Alpha, survive and even intensify in the face of high wind shear. TD 27 has already shown the ability to exist in a highly sheared environment, and I expect it will hold together long enough to take advantage of the lower wind shear expected to develop over the Carribean by Wednesday. The eventual intensity of TD 27 will be highly dependent on its track. If the storm stays in the northern portion of the Caribbean, where wind shear is strong, TD 27 will probably never strengthen to more than a tropical storm. However, if TD 27 can track further south through the southern Caribbean, wind shear is expected to be much lighter. Ocean temperatures are warm enough to allow a hurricane to form, and the GFDL model predicts TD 27 will intensify into a major Category 3 hurricane by the end of the week.
The computer models did not initialize TD 27 very well in their runs that we have available this morning, so our confidence in the long-term track of TD 27 is low. All the models agree on the basic idea that TD 27 will track westward over the Caribbean for the next five days, under the steering of a strong ridge of high pressure. By the end of the week, the models begin to diverge, with the GFS, NOGAPS, and GFDL models strengthening the ridge further, driving TD 27 into Nicaragua or Honduras. The UKMET and Canadian models disagree, and forecast that a trough of low pressure will turn TD 27 northwards in the vicinity of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. TD 27 would then get caught in strong westerly winds, cross Cuba, then scoot through the Bahama Islands to the northeast. No model is indicating that TD 27 will threaten the U.S. mainland, and the storm would have to walk a very narrow tightrope to make it all the way to Florida. With such strong westerly winds blowing across Cuba and the Florida Straights, TD 27 will very quickly recurve away from the U.S. once it gets as far north as Jamaica's latitude.
The Hurricane Hunters are scheduled to make their first flight into TD 27 Tuesday afternoon.
I'll be back with an update late this afternoon when the 7am EST (12Z) model runs are available.
Comments will take a few seconds to appear.