It's starting to look like we'll have a developing tropical cyclone making it's way through south Florida on Wednesday afternoon and night. Invest 96L in the Western Caribbean is slowly becoming better organized.
A broad center appears to be forming, and pressures are gradually falling. I expect that we will have a Tropical Depression by late this afternoon and Tropical Storm Nicole by tomorrow morning.
The models are extremely consistent in terms of the expected track of this system, with the only major differences being timing. All of the models agree that the potential storm will move generally northeastward, crossing Western Cuba and the Florida Keys. It will then either scrape along the east coast of Florida or go up the spine of the state, re-emerging over the Atlantic along the Treasure Coast from Jupiter to Vero Beach.
The difficulty in terms of the track forecast lies with the timing. The 00z GFS favors a fairly fast track, placing the storm in the Florida Keys by 18z Wednesday and situating it near Vero Beach just six hours later. This seems unrealistically fast to me. On the other extreme, the HWRF has a much slower track, placing the storm in the Keys at 12z Thursday morning, and having it moving over West Palm Beach twelve hours later. While this type of speed seems more realistic, it is later then the other models. The GFDL seems to be a moderate mix of these two, with the storm in the Florida Straights at 18z Wednesday, and situated on the east coast near Fort Lauderdale at 00z. The 00z CMC has a similar, moderate timing forecast, and most importantly the speed with which is moves the storm from the Keys and across the state to the Atlantic seems realistic-12 hours. The Euro is similar as well.
In short, the track is fairly certain, with the storm expected to move over the Florida Keys then across South Florida or scraping along the East Coast. It's looking fairly unlikely that a landfall will take place anywhere north of Naples on the west coast of Florida. The timing is the major question mark, and right now I believe the more moderate solutions of the CMC, Euro, and GFDL to be the most likely. I expect the storm to be near the Keys and in the Florida Straights on Wednesday morning, and then move across the state and off in to the Atlantic by early Thursday morning. This is a very uncertain and rough estimate of the timing though.
Intensity wise, things are fairly uncertain as well. There is general model support for the storm to be a strong TS or weak hurricane at landfall in Florida, yet it is questionable, due to the differences in timing, just how organized the storm can become prior to its approach. The safe bet, and my expectations, are for a strong TS with winds of 60-70 miles per hour at landfall. It would not shock me at all though to see a weak hurricane.
I will have another blog posted by late this morning.