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Paula weakens, heads towards Cuba

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 7:42 PM GMT on October 13, 2010

Data from an Air Force Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicates that Hurricane Paula has weakened substantially, and may now be a Category 1 hurricane. The aircraft has made three penetrations of the eye as of 3:30pm EDT, and found top surface winds of 80 mph with their SFMR instrument. Top winds seen at flight level of 10,000 feet were 92 mph, which translates to 83 mph surface winds, using the 10% reduction rule of thumb. Based on these data, it is reasonable to assume Paula is now a Category 1 hurricane with 85 - 90 mph winds, since the aircraft may not have sampled where the peak winds were occurring. Paula is in the Yucatan Channel, the narrow gap between Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and the western tip of Cuba, and has now turned and is headed northeast towards Cuba. A rain band with heavy rains lies over the western tip of Cuba, and Cabo San Antonio on the western tip of Cuba picked up 2.80" of rain so far today from Paula. However, the winds have remained below 15 mph.


Figure 1. Radar image from the Pinar del Rio radar in Cuba at 3:15pm EDT on October 13, 2010, showing the eye of Paula near the western tip of Cuba. A strong spiral band was affecting western Cuba at this time. Image credit: Cuban Institute of Meteorology.

High wind shear due to strong upper-level winds out of the south are starting to tear up the southern portion of Paula, and satellite imagery shows the storm now has a lopsided appearance due to the shear. Low level spiral banding is no longer as impressive, and lines of low-level arc-shaped clouds are racing away from the southern portion of Paula, indicating that the hurricane has ingested dry air that has created strong thunderstorm downdrafts. Ingestion of this dry air is partially responsible for Paula's recent weakening. Water vapor satellite loops confirm the presence of a large amount of dry air on the south, west, and north sides of Paula.

Forecast for Paula
A small storm like Paula may weaken very quickly under the current 30 knots of wind shear and the dry air surrounding it. However, the latest 3pm EDT eye report from the Hurricane Hunters indicated that Paula's eyewall still remained solid, so Paula may be able to hang on for a few more hours before the shear drives dry air into the inner core and destroys the eyewall. Once that occurs, Paula should weaken more rapidly. I'd be surprised if Paula was still a hurricane on Thursday morning, even if it does not hit Cuba. Hurricane force winds extend out just fifteen miles from Paula's center, so only a very small region of coast will receive Paula's strongest winds if landfall occurs. The 11am EDT wind probability product from NHC gives Cabo San Antonio on the western tip of Cuba the highest odds of receiving hurricane force winds of any land area--a 35% chance. Key West is given a 4% chance, and Havana, Cuba, an 8% chance. These probabilities are slightly higher than they were in the 5am advisory, reflecting Paula's ability to hang tough in the face of 30 knots of wind shear. It currently appears that heavy rain will be the major threat from Paula. If Paula stalls over or near western Cuba for several days, the hurricane could easily dump more than ten inches over mountainous regions of the island.

The latest SHIPS model forecast calls for wind shear to rise to a very high 35 - 40 knots on Thursday afternoon, and remain above 25 knots for the rest of the week. This high shear, combined with the expected landfall of the center over mountainous Cuba, should be enough to destroy Paula by Sunday.

The latest set of model runs from 8am EDT (12Z) are very similar to the previous sets of runs. There are two basic solutions. One solution, championed by the GFDL and GFS ensemble mean, takes Paula just south of the Florida Keys on Friday morning, then into the Bahamas Friday afternoon. The other solution, offered by the rest of the models, is for Paula to move very slowly over western Cuba the next few days, then circle southeastwards into the Caribbean, as a strong high pressure system over the Gulf of Mexico intensifies and pushes Paula to the south. This is the more likely scenario, given the current trends in how the models are depicting evolution of the jet stream pattern over the U.S. in the coming days. However, residents of South Florida, the Keys, and the Bahamas should be anticipate the possibility of Paula coming their way as a weak tropical storm on Friday.

Elsewhere in the tropics
The NOGAPS model is predicting the formation of Tropical Storm Richard 5 - 6 days from now, in the southern Caribbean off the coast of Nicaragua, near where Paula formed. The GFS has just a strong tropical disturbance forming there.

In the Western Pacific, Tropical Storm Megi has formed, and is predicted to be a major typhoon that will threaten the northern Philippine Island of Luzon early next week.

Next update
I'll have an update Thursday morning.

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.

Reader Comments

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806. barotropic
1:17 PM GMT on October 14, 2010
Its like watching a beheading in the tower of london.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
805. alvarig1263
1:17 PM GMT on October 14, 2010
Quoting cat5hurricane:

One answer for you: Mozilla Firefox. I'd never go back to IE


I'm using Apple's Safari and it works great.
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802. IKE
1:15 PM GMT on October 14, 2010
Paula may need some clothes real soon....

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801. ChillinInTheKeys
1:15 PM GMT on October 14, 2010
Just sayin', as close as this is and still heading our way, I would think that they would err on the side of caution. more liveaboard boaters out on the hook than at docks down here.
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799. robert88
1:15 PM GMT on October 14, 2010
""
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798. StonedCrab
1:15 PM GMT on October 14, 2010
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796. seflagamma
1:12 PM GMT on October 14, 2010
Good morning everyone,

question: Why is the offical track still across cuba...and the actual storm is north of cuba? 80% of all the storm clouds are already north of cuba including the center of the storm? does anyone know why?

This storm will have to go ESE quickly to get back on track...
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
795. Orcasystems
1:11 PM GMT on October 14, 2010
Quoting ChillinInTheKeys:


I guess that the NHC is REALLY confident as we still have no TS warning.


watching the HH reports... the winds to the North just 20 miles of the COC are negligible.. the shear has just stripped it.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
792. TropicalAnalystwx13
1:10 PM GMT on October 14, 2010
What a difference a hurricane makes...I use Internet Explorer, not changing it, so the blog is messed up to where you cant post images, links, bold, itcalic, etc.

Link - http://wwwghcc.msfc.nasa.gov/GOES/GOES12152010287aEQuPb.jpg
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791. Neapolitan
1:09 PM GMT on October 14, 2010
Quoting PensacolaDoug (#753):
JB this morn.

THURSDAY 7 AM
THE WORST SEASON EVER FOR SELECTIVE VERIFICATION

[multiple paragraphs of mostly-senseless ranting deleted]

There goes JB again, this time conflating the baseless and disproven assertions about the APS in Dr. Lewis' resignation letter with the NHC's meteorologists' struggle to get things right.

And what an ego! He asks, "Why not go to my idea that incorporates pressure [as a means of categorizing storms]? Perhaps 'cause they did not think of it." Yeah, that's it, Joe! Don't think for a moment that they haven't incorporated your dumb idea because it's, you know, dumb; they're not going to use it because doing so would make them feel inferior to you!

Seriously?

For a meteorologist--in fact, for any scientist--there are a few ways to handle a busted prediction:

1) Deny that you ever made such a prediction in the first place;

2) Rant and rave that, despite all observable evidence to the contrary, your prediction was correct, and the data are wrong;

3) Swear loudly and longly that it's all a conspiracy theory, that the vast majority of experts are evil and/or incompetent, and that you'll be proven right in the end;

4) Admit that you were wrong, chalk it up to experience, learn from your mistake, and move on.

JB spends a whole lot of time and energy on options #1, #2, and #3. I think it would really help his credibility, though, if he'd try option #4...at least once in a while.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
790. ChillinInTheKeys
1:09 PM GMT on October 14, 2010
Quoting kwgirl:
Good morning everyone! A wet day in the Keys, with some T&L. Looking at the satelitte, it sure is hard to believe Paula is going to hug the Cuban coast. It looks like it has a bead on the Keys. Come ON Front. Push that baby south!LOL


I guess that the NHC is REALLY confident as we still have no TS warning.
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787. weatherguy03
1:06 PM GMT on October 14, 2010
Quoting SweetHomeBamaGOM:
is all of the sheared moisture bringing energy to s.fla? does it have punch to it enough to form tornadoes, microbursts, etc?


If we get enough heating this afternoon we could see a few strong storms over South Florida as the moisture from Paula interacts with the approaching front. Upper Level profile not conducive for tornadoes.
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784. stillwaiting
1:02 PM GMT on October 14, 2010
Quoting IKE:
H. Minimum Sea Level Pressure: 1003mb (29.62 inHg)...weakening system.
....im seriiusly surprised she lasted this long,td by tonight imo......1/3 of what was the coc exposed on vis sat....
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
783. weatherguy03
1:01 PM GMT on October 14, 2010
Tropical Update Oct. 14th. 2010
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781. GeoffreyWPB
12:59 PM GMT on October 14, 2010
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779. weatherlover94
12:58 PM GMT on October 14, 2010
Quoting alvarig1263:
Paula's not going to hit Cuba just yet, she's still plowing towards the NE, no signs of a turn yet.


if it keeps moving like this its going to florida
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778. kwgirl
12:58 PM GMT on October 14, 2010
Good morning everyone! A wet day in the Keys, with some T&L. Looking at the satelitte, it sure is hard to believe Paula is going to hug the Cuban coast. It looks like it has a bead on the Keys. Come ON Front. Push that baby south!LOL
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776. KBgetoutthegrill
12:56 PM GMT on October 14, 2010
http://radar.weather.gov/radar_lite.php?rid=byx&product=NCR&loop=yes
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775. robert88
12:55 PM GMT on October 14, 2010
""
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774. SweetHomeBamaGOM
12:55 PM GMT on October 14, 2010
Quoting cat5hurricane:

From NHC 7am advisory:

HURRICANE FORCE WINDS EXTEND
OUTWARD UP TO 10 MILES...20 KM...FROM THE CENTER...AND TROPICAL
STORM FORCE WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP TO 50 MILES...85 KM.



ty for the update.

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773. Orcasystems
12:55 PM GMT on October 14, 2010


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771. KBgetoutthegrill
12:54 PM GMT on October 14, 2010


Yup, my umbrella is ready.
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769. WarEagle8
12:53 PM GMT on October 14, 2010
Quoting SweetHomeBamaGOM:
how far do t.s. winds extend outward in the coc? how far do the minor cat 1 winds extend out of the core? anyone know?
scroll through for the information from the hurricane hunter and the lastest advisory. I think H'cane winds out 10 miles and TS out 50...small storm.
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768. robert88
12:53 PM GMT on October 14, 2010
She could be looking a lot worse. She is a fighter.
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765. alvarig1263
12:52 PM GMT on October 14, 2010
Quoting SweetHomeBamaGOM:
how far do t.s. winds extend outward in the coc? how far do the minor cat 1 winds extend out of the core? anyone know?


Hurricane Winds: 10 Miles
TS Winds: 50 Miles
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763. alvarig1263
12:50 PM GMT on October 14, 2010
Paula's not going to hit Cuba just yet, she's still plowing towards the NE, no signs of a turn yet.
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762. robert88
12:50 PM GMT on October 14, 2010
""
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761. SweetHomeBamaGOM
12:49 PM GMT on October 14, 2010
how far do t.s. winds extend outward in the coc? how far do the minor cat 1 winds extend out of the core? anyone know?
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
760. alvarig1263
12:47 PM GMT on October 14, 2010


She just blew up a little convection with the latest satellite imagery.
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758. alvarig1263
12:46 PM GMT on October 14, 2010


Alot of good looking storms popping up in the visible satellite.
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Cat 6 lead authors: WU cofounder Dr. Jeff Masters (right), who flew w/NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990, & WU meteorologist Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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