Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Dr. Jeff Masters' Blog entry regarding 97L (9:58E time)

A tropical disturbance (Invest 97L) over the Western Caribbean is moving to the northwest at 10 mph and is generating heavy rains over the Cayman Islands and Western Cuba. Grand Cayman Island had picked up 2.32" (59 mm) of rain as of 9:30 am EDT on Wednesday. Satellite loops show that 97L has a modest area of heavy thunderstorms that have increased substantially in areal coverage and in intensity since Tuesday, but there is little rotation apparent. Cayman Islands radar also does not show any rotation to the echoes, but there are several prominent low-level bands of heavy rain. The storm has low wind shear of 5 - 10 knots to work with, as well as an upper-air anticyclone aloft that is providing good ventilation above it. Dry air is over the Yucatan Peninsula and Gulf of Mexico, as seen on water vapor satellite loops, and this dry air is slowing development. Ocean temperatures are a very warm 29°C (84°F). An Air Force hurricane hunter flight is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

Figure 1. Wind forecast for 2 pm EDT Saturday October 5, 2013, from runs of the GFS model done six hours apart. The more recent run, initialized at 06Z (2 am EDT) on Wednesday, October 2 (left panel) predicts that 97L will have top winds below 35 knots (40 mph, light orange colors). This run showed the center of 97L making landfall in the Florida Panhandle about 120 miles east of Alabama late Saturday afternoon.The run initialized six hours earlier, at 00Z (right panel), showed a stronger storm, with top winds of 40 - 45 knots (46 - 52 mph.) This run showed the center of 97L making landfall near the Alabama/Florida border Saturday night. The images were generated using our wundermap with the model layer turned on.

Forecast for 97L: development into at least a tropical depression likely
Wind shear is expected to remain low on Wednesday, then steadily increase to the moderate range on Thursday, then to the high range on Friday, according to the latest SHIPS model forecast. On Wednesday night, 97L will cross the northeastern tip of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, bringing 3 - 6" of rain to the peninsula and to Western Cuba. Passage over the Yucatan will act to disrupt the storm. The atmosphere will grow drier as 97L moves northwards over the Gulf of Mexico on Thursday and Friday, and the drier air combined with increasing wind shear will retard development, making rapid intensification unlikely. A trough of low pressure and an associated cold front will be moving through Louisiana on Saturday, and the associated upper-level westerly winds will be able to turn 97L more to the northeast as it approaches the coast on Friday. The GFS model develops 97L into a tropical storm, and predicts landfall will occur along the Florida Panhandle. The European model, which does not develop 97L into a tropical storm, is farther west, taking the storm over Eastern Louisiana. In their 8 am EDT Wednesday Tropical Weather Outlook, NHC gave 97L 2-day odds of development of 40%, and 5-day odds of 50%. I give a 30% chance 97L will be Tropical Storm Karen with top winds of 40 - 60 mph at landfall between Louisiana and the Florida Panhandle on Saturday, a 5% chance it will be stronger, and a 65% chance it will be a tropical depression or mere tropical disturbance. Heavy rains of 3 - 6" can be expected falling the coast from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle on Saturday, even if 97L does not develop into a tropical depression

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