Talking the Tropics With Mike: Hurricane Delta with an eye on Louisiana

7th Gulf Coast named storm to make landfall this season

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If traveling this weekend to the Gulf Coast & even the Tennessee Valley including the Smoky Mountains, stay informed on the latest, updated forecast......

*** Hurricane WARNING for Central/SW coastal Louisiana/extreme NE Texas coast... Tropical Storm WARNING for SE Louisiana including New Orleans... Storm Surge WARNING coastal Louisiana/Mississippi ***

A Caribbean tropical wave was upgraded to tropical depression #26 Sun. night... to tropical storm “Delta” early Monday then to a hurricane Monday evening while moving west/NW across the Caribbean south & southwest of Jamaica. In less than 48 hours, Delta went from a depression to a Cat. 4 hurricane by late Tue. morning. According to Phil Klotzbach, this is the fastest intensification - 70 mph in 24 hours - of an Atlantic tropical cyclone since Wilma in 2005. Like has happened so often this season, this is the fastest ever to the 25th storm beating by more than a month the previous record of Nov. 15th, - take a guess! - 2005. The tiny eye - 5 nautical miles across Tue. - can suddenly contract & allow for strengthening (such as occurred midday Tue.) but such a compact hurricane is also more susceptible to outside interference that can cause fast weakening as we saw Tue. night. At one point, hurricane recon reported the eye had completely collapsed only to see some reorganization with a renewed eye just before landfall. In any case, landfall was about 6:30am EDT Wed. on the far northeast of the Yucatan Peninsula near Cancun (at Puerto Morelos) where sustained winds were near 85 mph & a minimum central pressure of 972 mb was measured.

The Yucatan Peninsula was little more than speed bump for Delta as the relatively fast-moving tropical cyclone moved over the warm water of the Southern Gulf of Mexico Wed. afternoon & rather quickly reorganized & strengthened. Delta has likely reached its true peak intensity with a classic appearance on satellite data Thu./Thu. night while the hurricane also expands its wing span (wind field) & starts to turn more north.

Models had been wildly inconsistent amongst themselves not to mention compared to one another until starting to smooth out later Sunday followed by remarkable agreement the last couple of days. Special & extra balloon launches across much of the South & SE U.S. have been incorporated in the forecast models the last few days. Delta will now turn more north/northeast then northeast with an increase in forward speed as a new upper level trough digs into the Lower 48 weakening the upper level ridge across the Northern Gulf. More west was the way to go vs. forecast models much of this week but now the steering flow is well established & models have come into excellent agreement & are nicely clustered not to mention the northward turn has occurred. A clear alleyway has become established that will take Delta on a curved path from the Southern through Western Gulf then to the Louisiana coast just east of Cameron & well west of New Orleans Fri. late afternoon/evening followed by a sharper turn northeast from Louisiana to Tennessee. This will be another near miss for Houston & New Orleans. Virtually no impacts for Houston (outside of some rain bands due to an approaching front converging with the outer northwest circulation of Delta)... & relatively minimal - all things considered - impacts for New Orleans - tropical storm force winds, possible gusts near hurricane strength, some heavy rain, isolated tornadoes & some storm surge on the order of approximately 2-4, possibly 5 feet. Lake Charles (again!), Alexandria & Baton Rouge will sustain significant wind & rain. As Delta’s remnants interact with a cold front & upper level trough, heavy rain & flooding will occur as far north & east as parts of Tennessee, Kentucky, the Carolina’s & Georgia.

There are indications (a little stretched out with the eye less symmetrical) that Delta is starting to feel the effects of increasing shear out of the southwest that will become even stronger through Fri. night as Delta picks up forward speed. Ocean temps. will not be as warm as the Caribbean/far Southern Gulf & there will also be the typical increased effects of friction upon approach to landfall. There will probably be some dry air pulled into Delta as it’s making landfall too. Still.... Delta is likely to be a significant, large hurricane marching steadily north/northeast on its final journey to the coast. While Delta should be off its peak when it hits Louisiana & nearby areas, the hurricane is likely to still be at least a Cat. 2 if not 3 with a very dangerous storm surge near & to the east of the eye.

Delta is leaving the warmest water 82-85 degrees F. The cooler shelf water is very evident over the far Northern Gulf:

The proximity to where Cat. 4 hurricane Laura came ashore in late Aug. is uncanny:

Water vapor imagery shows a moistening atmosphere across the Gulf & in the vicinity of Delta....

Microwave imagery courtesy CIMSS: (interesting in that it nicely shows the brief but intense burst in strengthening Tue. followed by the near collapse Tue. night only to try to re-strengthen near landfall):

The upper level (500 mb) forecast for Friday shows the approaching trough that will help steer & accelerate Delta north then northeast around the western edge of this season’s persistent upper level high over & near Fl. (our “protector” while steering many tropical cyclones into the Gulf then Gulf Coast):

Persistent, broad & strong high pressure at northern latitudes helping to induce low pressure at lower latitudes as I’ve pointed out over the last couple weeks - an overall scenario favorable for tropical development.....

October tropical cyclone origin points are clustered over the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico & SW Atlantic:

Atlantic Basin wave forecast for 24, 48 & 72 hours respectively (major wave action at Fl./Ga. beaches through early next week due to persistent brisk onshore flow (high pressure to the north) combined with easterly swells from distant Teddy:

Elsewhere across the Atlantic Basin..... a couple areas of interest:

(1) A large upper low is over the Caribbean has been producing disorganized but numerous showers & t’storms. No surface development is expected but this upper low will eventually turn northward over the Gulf to the south & east of Delta over the weekend absorbed by the same upper trough over the U.S. steering Delta. This feature will add to the heavy rain potential across parts of the Southeast U.S. including Fl. & Ga., especially Sat. night into Sunday.

The Caribbean will probably remain an area to keep an eye on over the next couple of weeks.

(2) A large tropical wave has emerged off the coast of Africa. This wave will move steadily west but will be encountering increasing wind shear which looks to disrupt much development, at least in the longer range.

Saharan dust:

2020 names..... “Wilfred” was the last name on the Atlantic list (names are picked at random by the World Meteorological Organization... repeat every 6 years... historic storms are retired (Florence & Michael in ’18 & Dorian is certain to be retired from the ’19 list). Interesting side note: the last six of the names on the ’20 list had never been used. So it’s on to the Greek alphabet now. “Epsilon” is next... the first time the Greek alphabet has been used since 2005 (total of 27 named storms using 6 Greek letter names in ’05)

East Atlantic:

Mid & upper level wind shear (enemy of tropical cyclones) analysis (CIMMS). The red lines indicate strong shear:

Water vapor imagery (dark blue indicates dry air):

Deep oceanic heat content is impressive across the SW Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico & especially the Caribbean:

Sea surface temp. anomalies:

SE U.S. surface map:

Surface analysis centered on the tropical Atlantic:

Surface analysis of the Gulf:


Global tropical activity:

Marie has dissipated over the open waters of the E. Pacific while weak Norbert is just about stationary to the south/southeast but still far away from any land areas. Typhoon “Chan-hom is weakening over the NW Pacific while turning east/northeast then due east just off the coast of Japan...

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