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91L near tropical depression status

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 2:08 PM GMT on August 02, 2010

A tropical wave near 12N 41W, midway between Africa and the Lesser Antilles Islands, is very close to being a tropical depression. NHC labeled this system Invest 91L yesterday, and is giving it a 90% chance of developing into a tropical depression by 8am Wednesday. Wind shear is a low 5 - 10 knots, sea surface temperatures are at record highs, and the dust and dry air of the Saharan Air Layer (SAL) are far enough to the north of 91L to potentially allow further development. The main negative for development appears to be the storm's small size, which makes it vulnerable to modest increases in wind shear or dry air entrainment. A Windsat pass from 5am EDT this morning did not show a closed circulation. Satellite imagery shows that the intensity and areal extent of 91L's heavy thunderstorms is very limited, but that a closed surface circulation may be close to forming. Low-level spiral bands and upper-level outflow are not apparent yet.

Figure 1. Morning satellite image of Invest 91L.

Forecast for 91L
There is modest model support for 91L developing into a tropical depression. Three out of six of our reliable models for forecasting tropical cyclone genesis predict 91L will develop into a tropical depression by Tuesday or Wednesday. A west-northwest motion at 10 -15 mph is predicted, which should carry 91L a few hundred miles northeast of the northernmost Lesser Antilles Islands. However, it is possible that 91L would track over the northernmost Lesser Antilles Islands, as predicted by the Canadian model. Squalls from the outer rainbands of 91L may affect islands such as Antigua and Barbuda as early as Wednesday afternoon. As 91L makes its closest approach to the Lesser Antilles on Wednesday, the storm will begin to encounter strong upper-level westerly winds associated with the counter-clockwise flow of air around an upper-level low pressure system centered between Bermuda and Puerto Rico. The latest SHIPS model forecast predicts that these winds will cause wind shear to rise to the moderate level, 10 - 20 knots, by Tuesday night, and to the high level, 20 - 30 knots, by Wednesday. There is also a great deal of dry air associated with the upper level low that may cause problems for 91L. The high wind shear and dry air should weaken and possibly destroy 91L late this week.

A trough of low pressure is expected to move off the U.S. East Coast on Friday, and this trough may be strong enough to recurve 91L far enough to the northwest that the storm will threaten Bermuda. The HWRF and ECMWF models predict 91L could pass very near to Bermuda on Saturday. It is uncertain at this time if the trough will be strong enough to recurve 91L all the way out to sea early next week, as predicted by the GFS model, or leave 91L behind to potentially move westward again into the U.S. East Coast, as predicted by the Canadian model. The amount of wind shear that might be present early next week is also highly uncertain.

Cyprus records its hottest temperature in history yesterday
The island of Cyprus recorded its hottest temperature in its history on August 1, 2010 when the mercury hit 46.6°C (115.9°F) at Lefconica. The old record for Cyprus was 44.4°C (111.9°F) at Lefkosia in August 1956. An older record of 46.6°C from July 1888 was reported from Nicosia, but is of questionable reliability.

The year 2010 is now tied with 2007 as the year with the most national extreme heat records--fifteen. There has been one country that has recorded its coldest temperature on record in 2010; see my post last week for a list of the 2010 records. My source for extreme weather records is the excellent book Extreme Weather by Chris Burt. His new updates (not yet published) remove a number of old disputed records. Keep in mind that the matter of determining extreme records is very difficult, and it is often a judgment call as to whether an old record is reliable or not. For example, one of 2007's fifteen extreme hottest temperature records is for the U.S.--the 129°F recorded at Death Valley that year. Most weather record books list 1913 as the year the hottest temperature in the U.S. occurred, when Greenland Ranch in Death Valley hit 134°F. However, as explained in a recent Weatherwise article, that record is questionable, since it occurred during a sandstorm when hot sand may have wedged against the thermometer, artificially inflating the temperature. Mr. Burt's list of 225 countries with extreme heat records includes islands that are not independent countries, such as Puerto Rico and Greenland. Seventy four extreme hottest temperature records have been set in the past ten years (33% of all countries.) For comparison, 14 countries set extreme coldest temperature records over the past ten years (6% of all countries). I thank Mr. Burt and weather record researchers Maximiliano Herrera and Howard Rainford for their assistance identifying this year's new extreme temperature records.

Next update
I'll have an update later today if 91L develops into a TD.

Jeff Masters


The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.