Tropical Storm Alex forms east of Belize

June 26, 2010

The overnight WC-130 reconnaissance flight found enough evidence of tropical storm force winds to justify upgrading Tropical Depression One to Tropical Storm Alex for the 5 AM advisory.  The 11 AM advisory placed Alex at 17.3 North 86.1 West, which is about 140 miles east of Belize City. Maximum sustained winds are 40 miles per hour and the afternoon reconnaissance flight is on its way and may arrive in time to provide information for the 2 PM intermediate advisory.

On a Friendfeed post last night, I mused that the overnight flight may show that the decision to keep the storm at tropical depression status for the 11 PM advisory to be in error (because  blend of the 8 PM satellite intensity estimates justified an upgrade0).  Looking over the data, it appears the call by the National Hurricane Center was correct.

Recent infrared imagery shows some very intense convection, suggesting that the recon mission will find a stronger storm than currently estimated.

Close in pictures don’t quite do justice in showing the size of Alex, so let us zoom out a bit.

Note how the entire extent of Hurricane Darby in the Pacific fits into the core of Alex.  (Images from NOAA Satellite Services Division’s floater and Western Atlantic pages.)

Looking over the imagery carefully, I wonder if the center has consolidated a bit west-southwest of the 11 AM estimated position; more towards 17.0 N 87.0 W.  Recon mission will answer that question definitively.

Proximity to land ought to limit intensification further beyond whatever has  occurred this morning. Of course, the storm will weaken when it crosses the Yucatan Peninsula, on what appears to be a fairly long path (i.e. not clipping it but going through its full extent).  Favorable atmospheric conditions are expected to be prevalent when it enters the Bay of Campeche in the southwest Gulf of Mexico.  The question will be how much time over water it will have to recover and re-intensify.  The National Hurricane Center forecast brings it ashore by Thursday morning with maximum intensity of a borderline hurricane.

A course farther north, such as the one forecast by the GFDL offers further opportunity for intensification (as the model aptly demonstrates, bringing the storm to major hurricane status before south Texas landfall).  Fortunately, as has been the case for the past day or two, its forecast has been a bit of an outlier.   At this juncture, my thinking is that the official forecast continues to shift to the south.  As mentioned, NHC forecast is for Alex to become a hurricane.  In his commentary on Alex this morning, Dr. Masters gave a 60% chance of Alex becoming a hurricane. I’ll go a bit lower, 40%. However, even if my thinking of a more southerly course is correct, reduced steering currents would give it time to make hurricane strength before landfall.

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