Jeff Masters on New Tropical Activity

Little change to TD 7; 93L may develop off the coast of Africa
Posted by: Dr. Jeff Masters, 1:57 PM GMT on August 10, 2012 +21

Tropical Depression Seven continues westward across the central tropical Atlantic with little change in appearance. Looking remarkably like the tropical depression that became Tropical Storm Ernesto last week, TD 7 has a limited region of heavy thunderstorms, as seen on satellite loops. A large amount of dry air to the west and north is visible on water vapor satellite loops, and this dry air is interfering with TD 7’s heavy thunderstorms. Wind shear is a light 5 – 10 knots, which is favorable for intensification. Ocean temperatures are 26.5°C, which is a bit on the cool side, but these temperatures are 0.5° warmer than on Thursday. Winds at the Middle Atlantic buoy 41041 peaked at 29 mph, gusting to 38 mph, at 1:50 am EDT this Friday morning, when the center of TD 7 passed about 40 miles to the south. TD 7 will pass about 60 miles south of buoy 41040 near midnight tonight. The first hurricane hunter mission into TD 7 is scheduled for Saturday morning.

Figure 1. Morning satellite image of TD 7.

Forecast for TD 7
TD 7 formed about 400 miles east-northeast of where Ernesto became a tropical depression, as seen on our wundermap. Atmospheric and oceanic conditions are currently quite similar to what Ernesto experienced, and I expect TD 7 will struggle with dry air like Ernesto did. The SHIPS model predicts that shear will remain light through tonight, then rise to the moderate range on Saturday, when the storm will encounter upper-level southwesterly winds associated with a trough of low pressure. However, ocean temperatures will warm to 28°C, which may partially counteract the increase in shear, as far as maintaining a favorable environment for development. Dry air and shear may be significant enough to destroy TD 7 on Sunday, as predicted by the GFS and ECMWF models. These models tried to kill off Ernesto in a similar situation last week, so I am inclined to believe TD 7 will survive for the coming five days, but struggle. The official NHC forecast of a 45 mph tropical storm moving through the Lesser Antilles Islands Saturday night and Sunday is a reasonable one.

Figure 2. Morning satellite image of Invest 93L.

A strong tropical wave in the far Eastern Atlantic that emerged off the coast of Africa Thursday night was designated Invest 93L by NHC. In their 8 am Tropical Weather Outlook, NHC gave 93L a 50% chance of becoming a tropical depression by Sunday morning. Satellite loops show a pronounced spin to the atmosphere at mid levels, but little in the way of heavy thunderstorm activity. The latest Saharan Air Layer Analysis from the University of Wisconsin shows that while the atmosphere immediately surrounding the disturbance is moist, there is a large area of dry air from the Sahara to the west and north. This dry air will be a significant impediment to development during the coming week. The ECMWF model shows some weak development of 93L over the coming week, and predicts a general west-northwesterly track. The storm may be something Bermuda needs to be concerned about in eight or so days.