Hurricane Paula Strengthens; Future Uncertain
Yesterday evening, Hurricane Hunters went into a strong disturbance in the Western Caribbean and discovered that Tropical Storm Paula. From that point on through this evening, Paula has intensified at a record pace and become a rather small, but impressive Category 2 hurricane. Just recently, the latest 5PM EST advisory was issued by the NHC and Hurricane Paula continues with 100 mph winds and a steady minimum pressure at the center around 981mb. Hurricane Paula is located about 100 miles from Cozumel, Mexico.
Figure 1: Latest Satellite Imagery of Hurricane Paula
Forecast Remains Uncertain
Over the next 24 to 48 hours, the forecast seems pretty certain as the storm will continue to proceed in a general northerly direction as a deep trof continues to dive across the Northern Gulf of Mexico. During this time, Hurricane Paula could experience some further intensification and could become a Category 3 sometime tomorrow.
Figure 2: Updated Computer Models for Hurricane Paula
Beyond that time frame, the forecast becomes very uncertain as reflected in the latest discussion from the NHC and with the wide forecast cone beyond 48 hours. There are three various scenarios that could occur with the storm when it reaches the Yucatan Channel area.
Scenario 1: Hurricane Paula continues to progress northward and strengthens further into a strong Category 2 or Category 3 hurricane. With a stronger and deeper storm, it comes under the influence more of the deep trof in the Gulf of Mexico. This brings the storm further north into the SW Gulf of Mexico and across South Florida as a strong tropical storm or Category 1 hurricane Friday. This scenario is suggested by all the GFS ensembles as well as NOGAPS and BAMD models.
Scenario 2: Hurricane Paula continues moving northward and strengthens little or maintains current strength. As the trof comes across the Gulf, it forces the storm eastward across the Florida Straits or Cuba while weakening the storm. It then gets shot across to the east and across the Bahamas then out to sea. This is currently the NHC thinking and the current thinking of the GFS, GFDL, and UKMET models.
Scenario 3: Hurricane Paula starts slowing its northward progression and weakens some as wind shear increases. The deep trof currently cutting across the Gulf breezes through Florida leaving Paula behind. This causes Paula to practically stall and meander across the Western Caribbean. This is currently depicted in the HWRF and CMC models.
Hurricane Paula continues as a rather small, but impressive and imposing Category 2 hurricane this evening and should move into the Yucatan Channel in the next 24 to 36 hours. After this time, things become quite uncertain and too early to make any decisive forecast, but given the strengthening that occurred this afternoon and continued opportunity to strengthen, I'm preferring the first scenario and a more northward track, possibly posing a threat to South Florida on Friday. But I'm not too certain and am not confident enough to make that my forecast.
-CCHS Weatherman (Daniel)