Category 4 Earl headed for a close brush with North Carolina

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:16 PM GMT on August 31, 2010

Powerful Category 4 Hurricane Earl is pulling away from Puerto Rico and the northern Lesser Antilles Islands, and is eyeing its next potential landfall--North Carolina's Outer Banks. Earl brought heavy rain and high winds to Puerto Rico and much of the northern Lesser Antilles yesterday, though it appears that the islands were spared major damage. One exception may be Anegada in the British Virgin Islands, population 200. The eye of Earl passed just north of Anegada at noon yesterday, and Earl's south eyewall probably brought sustained winds of 100 mph to the island. Second hardest hit was probably Anguilla. Amateur weather observer Steve Donahue at estimated gusts of 100 mph on Anguilla; his anemometer broke at 88 mph. Winds in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands remained above tropical storm force (39 mph) for five hours yesterday afternoon, peaking at 52 mph, gusting to 62 mph, at 4:49 pm. Heavy rains hit Puerto Rico, where radar-estimated rainfall amounts of up to 5 - 7" occurred. Earl brought waves of sixteen feet to San Juan, and waves at buoy 41043 offshore of Puerto Rico reached 31 feet early this morning.

Figure 1. Morning satellite image of Earl, taken at 10:30am EDT 8/31/10. Image credit: NASA/GSFC.

Figure 2. Radar estimated rainfall for Earl from the San Juan, Puerto Rico radar. Isolated regions of 5 - 7 " of rain occurred in three locations on Puerto Rico. The rays fanning out to east from the radar location marked with a "+" are due to mountains blocking the view of the radar.

Intensity forecast for Earl
Wind shear as diagnosed by the latest SHIPS model forecast shows a moderate 10 - 20 knots of wind shear over Earl, due to upper level winds out of the southwest from a trough of low pressure to Earl's west. This moderate shear is predicted to continue through Friday, but should not appreciably affect Earl, since the hurricane is so large and strong. Ocean temperatures are a near-record 29.5 - 30°C, and very warm waters extend to great depth, resulting in a total ocean heat content favorable for intensification. Earl is undergoing an eyewall replacement cycle, which may diminish its winds by 10 -20 mph for a day or so. However, the storm will probably regain strength after completing this cycle, and it is likely Earl will be a major Category 3 or 4 hurricane at its closest approach to North Carolina Thursday night and Friday morning. By Friday night, when Earl will be making its closest approach to New England, wind shear will rise to a high 20 - 30 knots and ocean temperatures will plunge to 20°C, resulting in considerable weakening. Earl will still probably be a Category 2 hurricane on Friday night, when it could potentially make landfall in Massachusetts. Earl is more likely to be a Category 1 hurricane on Saturday morning, when it could potentially make landfall in Maine or Nova Scotia, Canada.

Figure 3. Swath of surface winds from Earl predicted by the 2am EDT Tuesday, August 31, 2010 runs of NOAA's GFDL model (left) and HWRF model (right). Hurricane force winds (yellow colors, above 64 knots) are predicted to stay off the coast. Tropical storm force winds (light green colors, above 34 knots) are predicted to affect coastal North Carolina, Massachusetts, and Eastern Maine. Winds between 58 mph - 73 mph (dark green colors) are predicted to small portions of the coast. Image credit: Morris Bender, NOAA/GFDL.

Track forecast for Earl
The latest set of computer models runs from 2am EDT (6Z) this morning push Earl's projected track a little closer to the U.S. East Coast, and we now have two of our six reliable models predicting a U.S. landfall. The latest NOGAPS run shows Earl hitting the Outer Banks of North Carolina late Thursday night, then striking Southeast Massachusetts late Friday night, and Eastern Maine on Saturday morning. The HWRF model predicts a strike on Eastern Maine Saturday morning, but keeps Earl offshore from North Carolina and Massachusetts. None of the other computer models show Earl hitting the U.S., but several models bring Earl within 100 - 200 miles of North Carolina's Outer Banks and Southeast Massachusetts. It is likely that Earl will being a 12-hour period of heavy rain and tropical storm force winds of 39+ mph to North Carolina's Outer Banks, beginning on Thursday evening. NHC is giving Cape Hatteras a 12% chance of receiving hurricane force winds. By Friday evening, western Long Island, Rhode Island, and Southeast Massachusetts can expect a 6 - 8 hour period of heavy rain and tropical storm force winds of 39+ mph. NHC is giving Nantucket a 11% chance of receiving hurricane force winds. These odds are 4% for Boston, 6% for Providence, 5% for Eastport, Maine, and 11% for Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. The main determinant of whether Earl hits the U.S. or not is a strong trough of low pressure predicted to move off the U.S. East Coast Friday. This trough, if it develops as predicted, should be strong enough to recurve Earl out to sea. Keep in mind that the average error in position for a 3-day NHC forecast is 185 miles, which is about how far offshore Earl is predicted to be from Cape Hatteras three days from now. The average error in a 4-day forecast is 255 miles, which is about the distance Earl is expected to be from the coast of New England four days from now.

Regardless of Earl's exact track, the U.S. East Coast can expect a long period of high waves beginning on Thursday. Significant beach erosion and dangerous rip currents will be the rule, due to waves that will reach 10 - 15 feet in offshore waters. Waves from Hurricane Danielle killed two swimmers in the U.S. over the weekend and forced hundreds of water rescues along the U.S. East Coast. Earl's waves will be worse, and will likely cause millions of dollars in beach erosion damage.

Tropical Storm Fiona is speeding west-northwest towards Hurricane Earl, but is unlikely to bring tropical storm force winds to the Lesser Antilles. Satellite loops show that heavy thunderstorm activity has increased in some of the outer bands this morning, but remains limited near the center. Wind shear is currently moderate, 10 - 15 knots, and the main impediment to development continues to be dry air associated with the Saharan Air Layer (SAL) surrounding the storm.

Forecast for Fiona
Fiona is moving quickly to the west-northwest, at about 24 mph. This means it is catching up to Earl, which is moving at 15 mph. By tonight, Fiona will be beneath Earl's upper-level outflow channel. Strong upper-level winds from Earl's upper-level outflow and a ridge of high pressure to the northwest of Fiona will bring high levels of wind shear, 20 - 30 knots, to Fiona tonight through Friday, and probably arrest the storm's development. The scenario now called for by all the models is for Fiona to be drawn into the low pressure wake of Earl and turn to the northwest. Fiona will pass to the northeast of the Lesser Antilles, and will probably not bring tropical storm force winds to the islands. Fiona should then continue to the northwest and then turn north, passing very close to Bermuda on Saturday morning. It is possible Earl could destroy Fiona through high wind shear before Saturday.

Figure 4. Morning satellite image of Fiona. High level cirrus clouds flowing out from the center of Earl as part of its upper level outflow can be seen starting to impinge upon the western side of Fiona's circulation.

Danielle is dead
Tropical Storm Danielle has succumbed to the cold North Atlantic waters, and is no longer a tropical storm.

A new tropical wave (Invest 98L) moved off the coast of Africa yesterday, and is centered a few hundred miles south of the Cape Verdes Islands. Strong easterly winds from the African Monsoon are creating a moderate 10 - 20 knots of shear, and the disturbance is currently disorganized. A large area of dry air lies to the north and west of 98L, and this will interfere with development. The latest SHIPS model forecast predicts shear will remain moderate, 10 - 20 knots, for the next five days, and some slow development of 98L is possible as it moves westward at 15 mph. NHC is giving a 10% chance of this system developing into a tropical depression by Thursday, and none of the computer models develop it.

Figure 5. Morning satellite image of 98L.

A rare triple threat in the Western Pacific
Over in the Western Pacific, we have an unusual triple feature--three named storms all within 700 miles of each other. A 3-way interaction between these storms is occurring, making for a very tough forecast situation. The storm of most concern is Typhoon Kompasu, which hit Okinawa today as a Category 2 typhoon. Kompasu is expected to recurve northeastward and hit North Korea on Thursday as a Category 2 typhoon. It is unusual for a powerful typhoon to thread the tight Yellow Sea and hit North Korea, and I don't know how prepared they are for strong typhoons. Kompasu is expected to hit the most populous region of North Korea, but the country is pretty mountainous, and a significant storm surge disaster is probably unlikely. In the South China Sea, Tropical Storm Lionrock and Tropical Storm Namtheun are moving through the straights between Taiwan and China towards each other. Neither are predicted to develop into typhoons, but heavy rains are occurring in Guangdong and Fujian Provinces, further exacerbating the flood conditions China has suffered this summer.

Figure 6. An unusual triple feature over the Western Pacific--three simultaneous named storms all within 700 miles of each other. Image credit: NOAA/SSD.

"Hurricane Haven" airing again this afternoon
Tune into another airing of my live Internet radio show, "Hurricane Haven", at 4pm EDT today. Listeners will be able to call in and ask questions. The call in number is 415-983-2634, or you can post a question to Be sure to include "Hurricane Haven question" in the subject line.

Today's show will be about 45 minutes, and you can tune in at tml. The show will be recorded and stored as a podcast.

I may have a short update this afternoon, once the latest models runs are available.
Jeff Masters

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Earl looks like a disorganized CAT 3
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Quoting latrendsetter:
Just heard on one of the tv stations that earl is still moving to wnw and if it does not start moving nw bu 11:00 pm tonight that south florida could be under the gun. there is a big meeting for all counties at 11:00 pm to evalute the situation. and coming from the governors office there is a meeting tonight in regarding earl and the situation

***VOICE YOUR OPINIONS**************

They said the same thing yesterday for 11:00 am this morning! Typical "hurry up and wait bs"
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Due to the high amount of traffic that Dr. Masters' blog receives, a special community standard has been established for the blog. The following list comprises the "Rules of the Road" for Dr. Masters' blog.
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Never ever bash StormW
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Quoting philliesrock:
This thing is so stubborn turning north. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if it made landfall south of Cape Hatteras.

Morehead City, NC
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977. TGTTX
Quoting Krycek1984:
Do we really have to have daily discussions about StormW on this blog? It gets old. Let him do his thing and stop putting him at the center of some big drama.


My Dad can beat up your Dad.
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Earl has been in the western 20% or even out of the cone for each NHC advisory so far. This will continue IMO.

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...In all seriousness, there's a major hurricane out there debating whether or not to head towards the lower 48...
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Quoting StormChaser81:

I'm not worried about, I'm never coming back to site again.

But of course, before you leave you have to take a large dump on the floor? Dude don't let the door hit you on the way out
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So its okay for the NHC or anyone else with a degree to get there forecast wrong b/c they have a degree.. LMAO its like they get a free get out of jail card.. my o my.. They are human too.. Levi and StormW give great info even if they dont have a degree.. After so many years listening to the NHC and so called experts from the weather channel and ect.. I believe I learn a lot from StormW and Levi.. But thats my opinion.. U may agree or disagree but hey it is what it is..
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SJ that link you were looking for, I think you will find it on your site. The site owner requests that you don't hotlink or redistribute his images, thats why it was on photobucket.
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Quoting drj10526:

just making sure you can understand it with out someone else explaining how you should feel.

this just in to the CNN news desk...we have one confirmed viewer
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Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:

haha... oh jeez now thisll be fun to watch

I have been on this blog for a couple years and mostly only post during season but I am female and StormW has never done any of those things that poster said to me... just my 2 cents.
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965. jscs
Quoting StormChaser81:

I'm not worried about, I'm never coming back to site again.

And we're all safer for it.
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Quoting PRweathercenter:

I'm back, power is slowing being restored in parts of Puerto Rico. There are many trees down on the eastern part of the island. There was also a Tornado on the central mountain town of Jayuya.
Several towns in the central mountains reported extremely high minds around 230 am local time. There was an unofficial wind gust of 81 mph in the town of Cidra PR. That's possibly due to the high elevation.

We reported a gust of 66 mph at 305 am
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Quoting TropicalNonsense:

speaking of getting old post's like this that try to censor
and control everyone's opinion on the blog are equally
annoying KRYCEK1984.

How is it annoying? This whole blog has to go through a conversation about StormW, his credentials, and his personal life every day, it seems. It distracts from the issue at hand, which is tropical weather. If you want to wax poetic on the credibility of a certain blogger at least do it on the "night shift" when the blog isn't so active. It's just plain ignorance that we have to have this conversation every day...I wish more people would attempt to "police" the blog by pointing out the drama and stupidity so that less people get caught up in it!!!!
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Quoting HurricaneLovr75:

I believe Storm more than the NHC myself. He has no reason to hide anything that he sees in a forcast.
Member Since: June 29, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1222
I'm back, power is slowing being restored in parts of Puerto Rico. There are many trees down on the eastern part of the island. There was also a Tornado on the central mountain town of Jayuya.
Several towns in the central mountains reported extremely high minds around 230 am local time. There was an unofficial wind gust of 81 mph in the town of Cidra PR. That's possibly due to the high elevation.
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Quoting immaturehurjunkie:
Totally off topic but...I have question for all you weather experts, I'm going to be flying from Atlanta to Central America across the Gulf of Mexico. Do I have anything to worry about? Any weather issues in the area? I'm leaving tomorrow and coming back on the 6th.

Thanks guys :)

nothin to worry about
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Quoting rareaire:
Flood it now appears we have a few Superadequacys on here!!!'s about to become very ugly...there's going to be ripples from this crap for a week or so...
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Quoting StormW:

Guess I never told you that I found out they've read numerous forecasts of mine, and according to them...I definitely know what I'm doing...a lot of stuff you can find out when you go to a National Hurricane Conference.

I believe Storm more than the NHC myself. He has no reason to hide anything that he sees in a forcast.
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Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26528
as i said earlier earl has gone . 6 farther west from 11am today till 2 pm
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Welcome to the show
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I love me some Storm W!!!

Not only is he a heck of a weather forcaster with an dang accurate track record, but he is a Senior Chief Gunner's Mate too.

People would do good to pay attention to him. The organization who goes out into the teeth of the storms to rescue people who didn't listen the 1st time trust his word.

The man has earned the respect.

Semper Paratus

BM2 Dave
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Interesting that admin would delete the comment, but not the times it was quoted...hmmm

Anywho, enough of that. I don't think we are going to see much if any shifting of the cone at 5...Earl just seems to be sticking the forecast points too well right now.
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Quoting Krycek1984:
Do we really have to have daily discussions about StormW on this blog? It gets old. Let him do his thing and stop putting him at the center of some big drama.

speaking of getting old post's like this that try to censor
and control everyone's opinion on the blog are equally
annoying KRYCEK1984.

Member Since: July 3, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 524
Although the ECMWF is a good model. I would be surprised if we don't have something to follow on the 10th of September. The wave train is rolling right along and according to Storm W. there are several anticyclones forecased to be in the Atlantic that will aid in the development of hurricanes (and reduce shear). That along with record SST's I don't know how something can't be out there to track. Also, if there is, it will probably be tracking further west, possibly into the Caribbean and maybe even the GOM. I live in Florida and that would make things exciting.
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Flood it now appears we have a few Superadequacys on here!!!
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Quoting osuwxguynew:
Did the NHC send out its G4 to do upper air missions for this storm?

Yes...N49RF is 1847UTC they were approximately 373 miles ENE of San Juan, PR. If you have Google Maps, you can track them via Link Just click on the link titled "Live Recon Data in Google Earth." When the popup window opens, just click open, and Google Earth will open with the data now visible. Just click on one of the icons to open a window with data for that position/time. See Link for a tutorial.

Hope this helps.


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Quoting HadesGodWyvern:
Japan Meteorological Agency
Tropical Cyclone Advisory #11
3:00 AM JST September 1 2010

At 18:00 PM UTC, Tropical Depression, Former Namtheun (1000 hPa) located at 25.0N 119.0E has 10 minute sustained winds of 30 knots with gusts of 45 knots. The cyclone is reported as moving west southwest slowly


Hmm, the storm was absorbed. Let's see what happens to the intensity, track and size of Lionrock when it absorbs Namtheun. It could have implications if Earl absorbs Fiona.
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Quoting DestinJeff:
Chad Myers is so frustrating, along with Sanchez....


Agreed...he was entirely too excited about outlining the coast with his little finger doodliebopper...
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Quoting aspectre:
HurricaneEarl's heading had turned westward to 5.7degrees north of WestNorthWest
from its previous heading of 7.6degrees west of NorthWest
H.Earl's average speed moving between its last 2 reported positions was 14.7mph(~23.6km/h

30Aug . 06pmGMT - - 19.0n64.0w - - 125mph - - 955mb - - NHC.Adv.#21A
H.Earl becomes Cat.4
30Aug . 09pmGMT - - 19.3n64.7w - - 135mph - - 948mb - - #22
31Aug . 12amGMT - - 19.4n65.1w - - 135mph - - 939mb - - #22A
31Aug . 03amGMT - - 19.9n65.8w - - 135mph - - 938mb - - #23
31Aug . 06amGMT - - 19.9n66.2w - - 135mph - - 933mb - - #23A
31Aug . 09amGMT - - 20.5n66.7w - - 135mph - - 931mb - - #24
31Aug . 12pmGMT - - 20.7n67.2w - - 135mph - - 931mb - - #24A
31Aug . 03pmGMT - - 21.2n67.9w - - 135mph - - 939mb - - #25
31Aug . 06pmGMT - - 21.5n68.5w - - 135mph - - 940mb - - #25A

Copy&paste 19.0n64.0w, 19.3n64.7w, 19.4n65.1w, 19.9n65.8w, 19.9n66.2w-20.5n66.7w, 20.5n66.7w-20.7n67.2w, 20.7n67.2w-21.2n67.9w, 21.2n67.9w-21.5n68.5w, pbi, 21.5n68.5w-25.05n76.14w into the GreatCircleMapper for a look at the last 12hours.

Yesterday H.Earl's center had made close passage north of or had hit Anguilla,
and passed within 29miles of Anegada,BritishVirginIslands.
Using straightline projection upon the speed&heading averaged
over the 3hours spanning the last two reported positions:
~36hours from now to Eleuthera,Bahamas

Unbelievable how it refuses to make the turn north.
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Quoting obxnagshead:

Makes me nervous when the weather channel says that they feel the track will be heading west, believe me I don't want that!

That's why you are on Wundeground and getting the real source of information, rather than sensationalist journalism designed to improve ratings and cause unnecessary panic!
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