Talking the Tropics With Mike: Organizing & strengthening Ian starting turn more northwest

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REMEMBER WHEN A TROPICAL STORM OR HURRICANE IS APPROACHING: Taping windows is *NOT* helpful & will not keep glass from breaking.

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 damage that might occur.

** FIRST ALERT! ** - Anyone living in - or traveling to - the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, Yucatan Peninsula &/or the U.S. Gulf Coast should stay up to date on the latest forecast as Ian moves over the Caribbean... then over the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. A reminder to NOT focus too much on the exact landfall point or intensity forecast. **


* The exact timing & intensity of any & all Ian impacts for NE Fl./SE Ga. will be dependent on the exact location of Ian in reference to Jacksonville & will, of course, be subject to change.

* A high rip current risk will continue through the week & become a ‘very high’ risk by mid through late week.

* Few if any direct impacts from Ian through at least Tue.... with the first rainfall - still not necessarily directly a result of Ian (enhanced by onshore flow) - arriving Wed.

* Potential rainfall: 3-6″... 8″+ for some areas. Tropical moisture surging north combined with confluent onshore winds ahead of Ian should begin to bring some showers, isolated t’storms from south to north through the day Wed. This will start to saturate the already wet ground across the area potentially leading to flooding issues Thu./Fri. - in particular - as heavy Ian rain bands move across the area & potentially “train” across some areas. The saturated soil may also lead to trees being more easily uprooted by winds that otherwise may not be much of a problem. The local has area has dried out some over the past 7-10 days but the very wet Aug./early Sept. has still left soils essentially saturated... + we’re coming off a week of higher than avg. tides partially due to the new moon cycle & astronomically higher than avg. tides, so there’s a good deal of water “in the system”. The winds out of the east will also help force more water into inlets, the intracoastal, streams & rivers.

* Seas & surf will increase through the week. Double digit breakers at local beaches will be possible by late week.

* Gusty winds arrive by Thu./Fri. *At the moment* tropical storm force (39+ mph) sustained winds will be possible with hurricane force (74+ mph) wind gusts possible

* Isolated waterspouts & tornadoes may occur Wed.-Fri.

* Power outages should be expected.

* The next few days will be your chance to get organized, check storm kits, prepare your yard & home for a storm, check & test (understand!) generators & top off gas tanks. This course of action would be especially advisable along the west coast of Fl. & the Panhandle.

Atlantic Basin:

Tropical wave - ‘98-L’ that moved off of Africa last week is moving over the Southern Caribbean & Central Caribbean & was upgraded to tropical depression #9 Friday then to tropical storm “Ian” Fri. evening. This is a classic wave in that it formed from a complex of intense storms over Africa... encountered hostile conditions (shear & dry air) for days before finding more favorable conditions. Some land interaction with the north coast of Colombia & Venezuela plus some shear out of the northeast kept Ian weak but low pressure managed to form at the surface Thu. followed by a burst of persistent t’storms by Thu. night. The storm’s center’s appear to be aligning as Ian organizes which will allow for a more coherent system that can more easily take advantage of favorable environment within which to intensify. As the storm gains some latitude, most ingredients are in place for the development of a significant tropical cyclone over the Northwest Caribbean... with pretty rapid intensification a distinct possibility.

The global forecast models are slowly coming into better agreement with the GFS & Europeans models essentially trending toward one another. It’s very much worth mentioning that the GFS *has been* leading the charge so far on accuracy, especially as it relates to location & the longer westward movement the past several days. So while there’s agreement on development of a major hurricane & model solutions have narrowed, there’s still significant spread on speed of forward movement & exact location with the GFS slower, more north & the European a little faster & more east. The GFS remains steadfast on a Panhandle hit but more east while the Euro is pointing to the Fl. west coast. Confidence is increasing that the west coast of Florida & possibly parts of the Panhandle will be hit by a strong, possibly major (Cat. 3+) hurricane during the upcoming mid to late week.

Both the GFS & European models are initializing well which is a positive... the GFS has been better on the more west & south track the last 3 days & currently, but there may be a “jump” of sorts to the north or northwest as Ian continues to organize. The GFS cannot & should not be ignored despite it’s extreme west (Louisiana which is going to be too far west) solution during the middle of last week as the GFS was the model of choice on Fiona last week. Once to Fl., the European is still more south but has been trending north. One of the more distinct - & important for areas more to the east including Jacksonville - differences now is the Euro cuts Ian rather sharply east across Fl. followed by a fairly sharp turn north (would be more significant & longer lasting Jax impacts with this outcome). More time over the Northeast Gulf - a more northward motion upon approach to Fl. - could result in some weakening before landfall due to increasing shear & some drier continental air possibly becoming involved with Ian’s circulation. In any case... a significant hit appears likely on the Fl. west coast &/or Panhandle with significants impacts for much of Florida at one time or another. The UKMET model has not been very good this season so far but for what it’s worth, the model is now closer to the European solution on the Fl. landfall - on the west coast of Fl. - but weaker & - more than likely - much too weak.

So the ingredients are in place for the development of a major hurricane over the Caribbean &/or SE Gulf with very warm water including high oceanic heat content (warm far below the surface of the ocean)... sufficient mid & upper level moisture... mostly low shear that will eventually be in concert with the storm’s movement (so less detrimental). Shear does increase by mid to late next week but may be offset some by upper level ventilation (nearby trough) & the fact that Ian should be well organized by then. In the end... the storm’s intensity will come down to how quickly Ian can organize... any land interaction... & how long the tropical cyclone stays over the Gulf vs. moving into Fl. We will have to watch for the possibility of pretty fast intensification near Cuba &/or over the Southeast Gulf where the environment looks especially favorable. It looks like the fairly steady/swift movement - of a then well developed tropical cyclone - north across Cuba will be brief & little more than a speed bump. Drier mid & upper level air will increase next week closer to Fl. & over the Northeast Gulf along with at least some increase in shear - this combination will hopefully drop Ian’s intensity from its peak over the Gulf, especially if the eye gets farther north vs. an earlier, more east hit on the Fl. west coast.

According to the NHC: “data collected from special radiosonde releases beginning later today (Sat.) and a scheduled NOAA G-IV flight will help resolve the steering flow around Ian and deep-layer trough that is forecast to be over the eastern U.S. early next week.” This kind of mid & upper level data was being gathered again Sunday morning for use in the initialization of forecast models & will hopefully continue to be incorporated in the initialization for the models which should ultimately decrease the model spread & increase the forecast accuracy.

Steering currents to consider:

(1) the GFS “won” the forecast battle on Fiona hands down over the European model while the UKMET was consistently out to lunch. Simply based on the “you’re only as good as your last forecast”, it’s very hard to ignore the GFS. Not to mention the model’s stability from one run to the next has greatly improved over the last few days. The same can be said for the European when it comes to its recent run to run consistency farther to the east... though it has trended west & north pretty steadily since Fri.

(2) there should be - & apparently has been some “extra” ridging underneath - to the south of - intense hurricane Fiona. This alone has likely helped the more westward track for the last few days. But it’s unclear how much ridging will manage to build behind only recently departing Fiona as an upper level trough sweeps across the Eastern U.S. through the early part of the week. The positioning of this trough + its exit to the east will help dictate the timing & angle of the turn north out of the Caribbean.

(3) a tropical storm/typhoon has formed over the W. Pacific & will move due west to Asia. Perhaps of more importance is a tropical cyclone a few days ago that turned rather sharply to the northeast & moved near & east of Japan & has since become a post-tropical low. A new tropical cyclone taking shape east of Japan will follow a similar path turning sharply northeast to the east of Japan. A teleconnection implies the more west movement of Ian will be somewhat short lived followed by the sharper turn north/northeast. (W. Pacific track map at the bottom). The trough off the east coast of China essentially mirrors the trough near/off the east coast of the U.S. with strong low pressure to the east (Fiona over the Atlantic) followed by another trough to the east.

Movement summary:

Ian will at least stay far to the south of recently hard hit Puerto Rico & Dominican Republic. The time table - *for right now* is the NW Caribbean into Mon... well west of Jamaica... a quick crossing of Cuba Tue... then the SE Gulf of Mexico mid week followed by a hit on Florida’s west coast or the Panhandle anywhere from late Wed. to late Thu. depending on the whether or not Ian is moving more north (later landfall) or more east (earlier landfall)- timing is subject to change, of course! The path & strength of Ian remains in flux. There will be changes, stay up to date!

Spaghetti plots includes ensembles of the models:

If Ian’s forecast track continues to trend west, the rainfall forecast should decrease - at least some:

Grand Cayman radar imagery:

Deep oceanic heat content is impressive across the Caribbean - lots of warm water well below the surface of the ocean:

Strong shear over the far Eastern Caribbean weakens a great deal more to the north & west:

Radar imagery from S. Fl. Water Management District:

Check out the very warm deep oceanic heat content over the Caribbean, far SW Atlantic & parts of the Gulf:

The last NHC advisories on Fiona, Hermine & Gaston have been issued.


And a tropical wave is moving from the Eastern to Central Atlantic. Any development with this wave will be slow as it turns more north.... another wave is coming off the coast of Africa at a lower latitude & might have some long term potential.

Water vapor loop shows plenty of mid & upper level moisture (white & green areas) across a good part of the Atlantic Basin:

September origins:

Averages below based on climatology for the Atlantic Basin through September. This season so far is well below avg.:

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, we’ve had several large dust plumes spread west to the Caribbean & Gulf with the peak of Saharan dust typically in June & July.

2022 names..... “Julia” 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]). In fact, this year’s list of names is rather infamous with “Charley”, “Frances”, “Jeanne” & “Ivan” retired from the ‘04 list (all hit Fl.) & “Matthew” was retired in 2016. The WMO decided - beginning last year - 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:

Sea surface temp. anomalies:

SE U.S. surface map:

Surface analysis centered on the tropical Atlantic:

Surface analysis of the Gulf:


GFS wave forecast at 48 & 72 hours (2 & 3 days):

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

Updated Atlantic seasonal forecast from early Aug. - NOAA & CSU:

The East Pacific:

West Pacific:

Global tropical activity:

Typhoon “Noru” rolled across the Northern Philippines & is now headed to Vietnam about late Tue./Wed.:


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