Talking the Tropics With Mike: Hurricane Lee in its gradual turn north far to the east of Florida

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REMEMBER WHEN A TROPICAL STORM OR HURRICANE IS APPROACHING: Taping windows is *not* recommended & will not keep glass from breaking. Instead close curtains & blinds.

Realize the forecast cone (”cone of uncertainty”) is the average forecast error over a given time - out to 5 days - & *does not* indicate the width of the storm &/or where damage that might occur.

*** LOCAL (Jacksonville/NE Fl./SE Ga.) IMPACTS FROM THE TROPICS: Rough seas & surf through this week with an escalating rip current risk. Breakers at the beaches 5-7′, locally briefly higher through Fri. Lee will not make a direct hit on NE Fl. or SE Ga.

The Atlantic Basin Overview:

** “Lee” was upgraded to a tropical storm last Tue. afternoon & to a hurricane Wed. afternoon & intensified to a Cat. 4 Thu. afternoon & to a Cat. 5 late Thu. evening! before weakening the last several days... will be “on the field” through the upcoming weekend but will transition to post-tropical Fri./Fri. night.

** The strong tropical wave - ‘96-L’ was upgraded to tropical depression #14 Thu. morning & “Margot” Thu. afternoon then to a hurricane Mon. afternoon - stays far out to sea over the E. & Central Atlantic.

** A strong tropical wave over the Eastern Atlantic has a good chance to develop while moving over the Central Atlantic....

(1) The strong tropical wave - ‘95-L’ - that moved off the coast of Africa this past weekend and was upgraded to tropical depression #13 Tue. morning then to tropical storm “Lee” Tue. afternoon & then to a hurricane Wed. afternoon. The hurricane rapidly intensified Thu. becoming a Cat. 4 last Thu. afternoon then a Cat. 5 later Thu. night creating great hoopla & unwarranted scary headlines. Lee steadily weakened thereafter until strengthening again late Sun. into Monday & has now become mostly steady state.

Tropical storm WARNING for Bermuda... eventual significant impacts for parts of New England & Eastern/SE Atlantic Canada...

As expected, Lee has stayed well north of the Caribbean. A veer more northwest than north is ongoing taking Lee east of the Bahamas while slowing its forward speed. The hurricane goes far - 800-1,000 miles - to the east of Fl. through Thu. night as Lee completes its northward turn through a weakness - alleyway - over the Western Atlantic that remains well established. Lee is the third major (Franklin & Idalia so far) hurricane of the Atlantic season ... the third hurricane of the Atlantic season develops - on average - Sept. 7 (4 so far this year) while the 2nd “major” hurricane average date is Sept. 19.

Lee will slowly wind down through Thu. BUT will be increasing in size. Lee will move over some of the cooled wake from Franklin & even Idalia by Thu. which should cause some additional weakening along with potential upwelling underneath a slow moving large hurricane. Nearby dry air has also been eating away on some of the western part of the circulation. While shear will increase through the week, Lee will be increasingly moving with the shear vector which is generally less inhibiting for tropical cyclones in addition to increasing upper level diffluence due to interaction with a nearby trough late this week helping to counteract some of the other negatives (cooler water, increasing shear, nearby dry air). Lee should gradually drop to a Cat. 2 Wed. then Cat. 1 by Thu. followed by extra-tropical transition by at least Fri. night upon approach to the Gulf of Maine.

Lee will increase its forward speed again by late week as it fully rounds the west side of the Bermuda high & starts to feel the “pulling” effects of an approaching upper level trough. This is where the forecast track becomes more problematic & - ultimately - the threat for a landfall..

The forecast models remain in good agreement in the short term showing Lee not reaching Jacksonville’s latitude until mid afternoon to late Thu. while nearly 1,000 miles to the east. An easterly swell, rough seas & surf will impact our local beaches for much of this week with a high rip current risk. There’s the potential for 5-7+ foot breakers along the NE Fl. & SE Ga. coast Wed. through Fri.

The core of Lee will stay west of Bermuda but there will still be strong winds, a few rain bands & very rough seas & surf for the island Wed. through Thu. given the large “wing span” of Lee.

There continues to be a very real threat for direct impacts from Lee for New England by late this week into the weekend a well as Nova Scotia & Newfoundland. This part of the forecast track has been the most uncertain but models are in better agreement now that we’re in the shorter range. The European model has generally been more west than the GFS but both are coming into line with a track very near the east coast of Maine than into Nova Scotia. Heavy rain, strong winds + very rough seas & surf will batter parts of Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine & nearby parts of Eastern New England as well as Nova Scotia & Newfoundland. By this time Lee will not be as intense but still likely a Cat. 1 hurricane while becoming post-tropical. *But Lee will also be a much wider storm* with tropical storm force winds extending for hundreds of miles from the center of the storm & gales more than 500 miles from the center. Though on the west side of the cyclone, Boston will likely see some rain & strong winds later Fri. into Saturday. It would appear New York City will have some wind but will be spared the worst of Lee. Much of the northeast is under a flood WATCH well in advance of Lee largely related to a slow-moving front that is not directly related to Lee.

As Lee rounds the western edge of the Bermuda high over the N. Atlantic, an upper level trough will move through the Central & Eastern U.S. Lee will make the turn more north & even north/northwest & accelerate later this week while moving very near New England & into Eastern Canada as the upper level trough moves eastward toward the NW Atlantic drawing Lee a little more northwest for a time as the cyclone interacts with the trough.

Folks from New England to Eastern Canada need to stay up to date on the latest forecasts!

(2) The very strong tropical wave - ‘96-L’ - was upgraded to t.d. # 14 Thu. morning over the far Eastern Atlantic & to tropical storm “Margot” late Thu. then to the 5th hurricane of the Atlantic season late Mon. This tropical cyclone will stay far to the east over the Eastern & Central Atlantic.

(3) A pair of strong tropical waves have emerged off the coast of Africa & will combine forces - ‘97-L’ - with the potential to develop this week while moving westward on roughly the same path as Lee & farther south than Margot. Earlier development/strengthening should translate into an earlier turn to the north (which is what we’ll root for!).

(4) We’ll also need to watch for possible development over or near the SW Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico in the long range - approximately 7-12 days.


Tropical wave ‘97-L’:

Check out the upper oceanic heat content (UOHC) [tropical cyclone heat potential/TCHP] across the SW Atlantic, Gulf & Caribbean. The warmth is very deep. But keep in mind warm ocean temps. alone doesn’t necessarily equate to a “big” hurricane season (need other ingredients & factors to be favorable too) but it’s obvious there is a lot of very warm water at great depths over the Caribbean & Gulf of Mexico stretching eastward all the way into the Central Atlantic:

Water vapor loop (dark blue/yellow is dry mid & upper level air):

July tropical cyclone origins:

Averages below based on climatology for the Atlantic Basin for August:

Wind shear:

Saharan dust spreads west each year from Africa by the prevailing winds (from east to west over the Atlantic). Dry air - yellow/orange/red/pink. Widespread dust is indicative of dry air that can impede the development of tropical cyclones. However, sometimes “wanna’ be” waves will just wait until they get to the other side of - or away from - the plume then try to develop if other conditions are favorable. In my personal opinion, way too much is made about the presence of Saharan dust & how it relates to tropical cyclones. In any case, the peak of Saharan dust typically is in June & July.

2023 names..... “Nigel” is the next 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 in ’19 & Laura, Eta & Iota in ‘20, Ida in ‘21 & Fiona & Ian in ‘22]). In fact, this year’s list of names is rather infamous with “Katrina”, “Rita” & “Wilma” retired from the ‘05 list & “Harvey”, “Irma”,“Maria” & “Nate” from the ‘17 list. The WMO decided - beginning in 2021 - that the Greek alphabet will be no longer used & instead there will be a supplemental list of names if the first list is exhausted (has only happened three times - 2005, 2020 & 2021). The naming of tropical cyclones began on a consistent basis in 1953. More on the history of naming tropical cyclones * here *.

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 over the Gulf, Caribbean & deep tropical Atlantic. The brighter colors are expanding dramatically as we near the peak of the hurricane season.:

Sea surface temp. anomalies:

SE U.S. surface map:

Surface analysis centered on the tropical Atlantic:

Surface analysis of the Gulf:


Atlantic Basin wave period forecast for 24, 48, 72 & 96 hours respectively:

East/Central Pacific:

West Pacific:

Global tropical activity:

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