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 , 2:19 AM GMT on August 27, 2006
The Hurricane Hunters left Ernesto at 7:30pm EDT this evening, and found that the center had jumped about 50 miles east-northeast of the previous center. This sort of center reformation is common in strengthening tropical storms subject to significant wind shear, and we should not be surprised if another center shift occurs before the shear finally starts to decrease Sunday afternoon.
The new center position is bad news for Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which will now be subject to torrential flooding rains. Considerable loss of life may occur in Haiti, where deforestation will allow flood waters to rampage unchecked down the barren hillsides of the nation's rugged terrain. The new center position is also bad news for Cuba, whose entire length will now get a pounding from Ernesto.
Current IR satellite image of Ernesto.
The new center position is good news for the U.S., since Ernesto's closer approach to Cuba and Hispanolia will keep the storm weaker than it otherwise would have been. In the past few hours, the cloud pattern on infrared satellite imagery has gotten more fragmented, which may be due to storm starting to struggle due to interaction with the island of Hispanolia. It could also be a temporary adjustment due to reorganization of the storm around the new center, or an increase in wind shear, which is still a substantial 15-20 knots.
The new set of model runs show more agreement that Ernesto will make it to the Gulf Coast by Friday as a hurricane, possibly a major hurricane. All four major global models are forecasting a landfall between Louisiana and Florida by the end of the week, so the threat to Texas appears lower now. It is still possible that Ernesto could stall shortly before landfall and assume an unpredictable path, however. The GFS model's solution of bringing Ernesto over Key West and inland farther north near Tampa appears unrealistic, due to the failure of the model to put the surface center in the same place as the center at mid levels of the atmosphere.
The next Hurricane Hunter mission into Ernesto is at 2am EDT Sunday morning. I'll have an update in the morning. I apologize for my late update tonight; a thunderstorm took out my Internet service all afternoon and evening.
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