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Danny still weak

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 7:32 PM GMT on August 28, 2009

Tropical Storm Danny continues to look unhealthy, with an exposed low-level center and the main heavy thunderstorms well to the east. The center is oval instead of circular, which may portend that this center will dissipate and a new center will form under the heaviest thunderstorm activity. Danny has more of the appearance of a subtropical storm than a tropical storm on satellite imagery, and this structure will slow down any potential intensification. The amount of heavy thunderstorm activity has increased in the past few hours, though no thunderstorms have formed near the center. The latest Hurricane Hunter mission found one small spot of 45 mph surface winds between 1 - 3 pm EDT today, so Danny may barely qualify as a tropical storm. Danny's center may have begun moving to the north over the past hour, giving confidence that the storm's strongest winds and rain will stay offshore of North Carolina tonight and Saturday morning.

Figure 1. Afternoon satellite image at 3:03 pm EDT of Danny, showing the exposed swirl of clouds where Danny's center is, well displaced from the heaviest thunderstorm activity to the east. The center is oval-shaped and not circular, the sign of a weak circulation.

The forecast for Danny
With wind shear at 15 knots this afternoon, and forecast to increase to 20 knots tonight and 30 knots Saturday morning, it is unlikely Danny will be able to strengthen to more than a 50 mph tropical storm. Dry air from the upper-level low that has been keeping Danny disorganized continues to be a problem for the storm, as well. Most of the intensity forecast models continue to insist Danny will strengthen, but they have been doing a very poor job forecasting the intensity of Danny. With Danny's heavy thunderstorms all on the east side of the storm, it is unlikely that North Carolina or New England will feel tropical storm force winds from Danny when it scoots past on Saturday. Large swells from Danny creating high surf along the beaches of New England will be the primary hazard from the storm.

Massachusetts hurricane history
Two tropical storms have affected Massachusetts in the past decade, though neither of these storms brought sustained winds of tropical storm force (39 mph) to the state. Tropical Storm Beryl of 2006 just missed Cape Cod as a weak tropical storm with 45 mph winds. Beryl brought wind gusts to tropical storm force to Nantucket Island, and a 1 foot storm surge. Tropical Storm Hermine hit southeast Massachusetts on August 31, 2004, as a minimum-strength tropical storm with 40 mph winds. No land stations in Massachusetts reported tropical storm force winds during Beryl. The last time Massachusetts measured tropical storm force winds was in 1997 during that year's version of Tropical Storm Danny. Chatham recorded sustained winds of 44 mph, and Nantucket had 43 mph winds. The last time Massachusetts had hurricane force winds was in 1991 during Hurricane Bob, which hit Rhode Island as a Category 2 hurricane. Provincetown, Massachusetts measured sustained winds of 98 mph, gusting to 115 mph, and Buzzard's Bay received a 15 foot storm surge.

Invest 94L
The well-organized tropical wave (94L) mid-way between Africa and the Lesser Antilles Islands continues to be a threat to develop into a tropical depression in the next day or two. Water vapor satellite loops show that 94L has moistened the region surrounding it considerably today, and the storm is not ingesting as much dry air as this morning. However, visible satellite loops show only a small amount of heavy thunderstorm activity near the circulation center, which is broad and elongated from east to west. Shear is low, about 10 knots, and is expected to remain low, 5 - 10 knots, over the next five days. The waters are warm enough to support development, 27°C, and are expected to remain in the 27 - 28°C range over the next five days. It appears that 94L needs another 1 - 3 days to develop a well-formed circulation and become a tropical depression, given the favorable environment. NHC is giving 94L a medium (30 - 50% chance) of developing into a tropical depression by Sunday. Most of the models predict 94L will Be affected by two troughs of low pressure over the next week, which will pull the storm far enough north so that it will miss the Lesser Antilles Islands. It is then probable that 94L will be forced to the west again as the high pressure ridge steering the storm builds back in. The possible long-term threat to the U.S. East Coast is impossible to evaluate at this time.

I'm in New York City this weekend for my cousin's wedding, so will not be blogging again until Monday morning. In my absence, wundergound's severe storms expert, Dr. Rob Carver, will be posting in my blog Saturday and Sunday.

Jeff Masters


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