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 , 3:20 PM GMT on June 11, 2006
Well, I'm back to blogging on the hurricane season of 2006 earlier than I had hoped. We managed to put together a string of nine straight days without an active tropical cyclone in the Atlantic this hurricane season, but now that streak has come to an end with the formation of Tropical Storm Alberto. I scheduled my summer vacation for the period I though most likely to have ten straight days without tropical activity, but the tropics had other ideas.
Alberto is a fairly typical-looking June tropical storm. The satellite presentation is not very impressive this morning, with most of the deep convection lying to the east of the exposed center. Strong westerly winds associated with the subtropical jet stream are removing the deep convection from the center. This wind shear is creating a very hostile environment for Alberto to survive in, let alone strengthen. With the shear forecast to strengthen, I would not be surprised to see Alberto ripped apart tonight. If this scenario does occur, the low level swirl of clouds associated with Alberto's core will drift into the center of the Gulf of Mexico and gradually decay. The main moisture to the east of the center will separate and get pulled across Florida. If Alberto manages to survive, a strong trough of low pressure moving over the Eastern U.S. will recurve the storm over Central and Northern Florida, where Alberto will rapidly lose tropical characteristics and become a very rainy low pressure system. Alberto currently has tropical storm force winds of 40-45 mph in a very small area to the northeast of the center. The central pressure has actually risen 2 mb to 1004 mb since 7 am EDT this morning, proving that this is not a healthy tropical storm. I give Alberto a less than 5% chance of making hurricane status. It is far more likely (40% chance) that Alberto will get torn apart by high wind shear before making landfall on Florida's west coast. The most likely scenario is that Alberto will hit the west coast of Florida as a weak tropical storm with maximum winds of 40 - 50 mph.
Figure 1. Estimated precipitation for Alberto from the Key West radar.
Residents of the west Florida coast should have little problem with wind damage or storm surge from this storm. The greatest threat from Alberto will come from its rains. Already today, the outer bands of Alberto have dumped over six inches of rain on portions of the Florida Keys (see Figure 1), and over 12 inches on portions of Western Cuba. These rains will likely cause localized flooding problems, but given that most of Florida is under moderate drought, Alberto may end up being more of a blessing than a bane for the state.
Figure 2. Current drought map shows moderate drought over most of Florida. The area Katrina hit is looking very dry as well, but let's hope they break this drought from something other than a hurricane!
If there is a significant change to Alberto today, Shaun will update this blog tonight (or I will, if I find another hotel with good wireless Internet, as I continue my drive home from vacation). Otherwise, expect an update on Monday.
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