Talking the Tropics With Mike: Lee back to major status, little change on track forecast

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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: Building seas & surf through the upcoming week with an escalating rip current risk. Breakers at the beaches 5-8′, locally briefly higher Wed.-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!... & will be “on the field” through the upcoming weekend into early next week.

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

** A pair of strong tropical waves are moving west off the coast of Africa from Africa....

(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 Thu. afternoon then a Cat. 5 later Thu. night. before steadily weakening thereafter until strengthening again late Sun. into Monday.

Lee will move steadily west/northwest through while slowing down. I would not be surprised to see an annular hurricane at times this week. Hurricane hunter aircraft will be investigating Lee & sampling the atmosphere around Lee daily through this week.

As expected, Lee has stayed well north of the Caribbean. A veer more northwest is ongoing taking Lee east of the Bahamas while slowing its forward speed. The the hurricane goes far to the east of Fl. this week as Lee completes its northward turn through a weakness - alleyway - over the Western Atlantic that’s become 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 should be a major or near major hurricane for much of this week while increasing in size. Lee will move over some of the cooled wake from Franklin by the middle of the week which could cause at least some weakening in addition to potential upwelling underneath a slower moving Lee through midweek. 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).

It looks like Lee will increase its forward speed again by mid to late next 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 & possibly - ultimately - a threat for a landfall..

If Lee is truly a threat for any of the U.S. lower 48, it’s well north of Jacksonville on or near the upper U.S. east coast (New England) &/or some of the eastern provinces of Canada... & it’s possible it could still stay east of the entire eastern seaboard. The forecast models remain in good agreement overall showing Lee not reaching Jacksonville’s latitude until Thu. through early Fri. while 1,500+ miles to the east (the GFS has generally been about 12-24 hours faster than the European). An easterly swell, rough seas & surf will impact our local beaches for much of next 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.

There continues to be at threat for 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 is the most uncertain but should come into clearer view soon. The European model has generally been more west than the GFS & has been leaning toward a track that would be of great concern for New England by late week. The European remains a little more west & at times shows a landfall at the Gulf of Maine. The GFS is a little more east. Either way, strong winds & at least some heavy rain + very rough seas & surf would batter parts of Massachusetts & Maine with in addition to Nova Scotia & Newfoundland. By this time Lee will not be as intense but still likely at least a Cat. 1, possibly Cat. 2 hurricane but will also be a much wider storm with tropical storm force winds extending for hundreds of miles from the center of the storm.

The Bermuda High remains anchored rather far north & east which is favorable for an early turn north of the strong hurricane. As Lee rounds the western edge of the Bermuda high while an upper level trough is moving through the Central & Eastern U.S., Lee will make a turn more north & possibly even northwest later this week which would then bring into “play” New England & Eastern Canada as an upper level trough moves eastward toward the NW Atlantic possibly drawing Lee even a little more northwest for a time as the tropical cyclone interacts with the trough.

Folks from the Mid Atlantic to 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. This tropical cyclone is likely to stay far to the east over the Eastern & Central Atlantic but should eventually become a hurricane once in a more favorable environment this week & may ultimately be another ‘major’ hurricane.

(3) A pair of strong tropical waves have emerged off the coast of Africa & has the potential to develop in the longer range (the next 4-8 days) while moving westward on roughly the same path as Lee & farther south than Margot. Models have been inconsistent with when & if this wave might try to develop. But earlier development would probably mean an earlier turn to the north (which is what we’ll root for!). But we’ll have to watch for at least one of these waves to get more west with time... & we’ll need to watch for possible development over or near the SW Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico in the long range.

The image below is from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee & shows the top 10 analog tracks for where Lee developed (only one of the analogs has hit Florida)....

“Margot” - East Atlantic:

The map below is the 500 mb (~30,000 feet) forecast for next Tue. (09/12) from the European model. The Bermuda High is weaker & shifted a little northeast while a trough of low pressure dives into the Eastern U.S. This combination should help Lee turn northward to the east of Florida but an eventual turn more north or northwest is still possible in the long range once north of Florida’s latitude.

Tropical wave ‘97-L’:

Tropical wave ‘98-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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