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Posted at 11:15 PM ET, 09/ 1/2010

Impressive Earl intensifying, turning up coast

By Jason Samenow

* Tropical Storm Warning for VA/MD/DE coast | PM forecast update *

earl-nasa.jpg
Infrared image of Hurricane Earl at 10:30 p.m. ET. Courtesy NASA.

Earl has reached its greatest strength as it starts to turn up the East Coast, but probably offshore. At 11 p.m., the category 4 hurricane, positioned 520 miles SSE of Cape Hatteras, had maximum sustained winds of 140 mph. This is a very impressive hurricane as evident in its very symmetrical appearance on satellite imagery and well-defined eye.

The storm is now moving more towards the north than the northwest -- which is important -- because this turn reduces, but does not eliminate, the risk that the storm will come ashore on the North Carolina Outer Banks.

Veteran meteorologist Dave Tolleris, at wxrisk.com writes:

As of 6:00 PM and 7:00 PM this evening the the satellite data clearly shows that hurricane EARL has turned due North. This is much sooner than midday forecasted models and track has been calling for. . . . As a result the odds are significantly increased that EARL will pass EAST of Cape Hatteras...

On the other hand, the National Hurricane Center, suggests what Tolleris observed was merely a northward wobble not a major turn:

HOWEVER THE MEAN MOTION APPEARS TO BE ABOUT 330/16 [which is just west of north]. NO SIGNIFICANT CHANGES HAVE BEEN MADE TO THE FORECAST TRACK

Irrespective of the exact track, because of the storm's massive size and intensity (hurricane force winds extend 90 miles from the center), hurricane force winds may still impact the Outer Banks with tropical storm force winds a threat (but not a certainty) for the VA/MD/DE beaches.

With the storm seeming to peak in intensity now, the question becomes how much of its strength will it retain when it nears the coast? Wunderground's chief meteorologist Jeff Masters believes Earl will remain at least a Category 3 storm until after it moves beyond North Carolina's latitude:

The latest SHIPS model forecast shows wind shear [turning of the wind with height which tears apart storms] will remain moderate, about 15 knots, through Friday afternoon. This should allow Earl to maintain major hurricane status as it passes North Carolina early Friday morning. By Friday night, as Earl gets caught in the jet stream and accelerates to the northeast, wind shear will rise to 20 - 30 knots and ocean temperatures will plunge to 20°C, resulting in considerable weakening. Earl will still probably be a Category 1 or 2 hurricane early Saturday morning, when it will make its closest approach to New England

In an earlier post, Masters discussed how sea surface temperatures off the coast of the mid-Atlantic are unusually warm - which may help Earl sustain its intensity farther north than usual.

We'll post more information on Earl tomorrow, including new analysis by our Greg Postel, our hurricane expert, and an up-close look at possible impacts for local beaches.

By Jason Samenow  | September 1, 2010; 11:15 PM ET
Categories:  Tropical Weather  
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Next: Forecast: Hot thru Friday, much cooler weekend

Comments

Did anyone look at the latest satellite images before posting this based on what a "veteran meteorologist" said at 6pm? If you want reliable information, go to the NWS. The eye wobbled north - as typically occurs - but the motion remains to the NW, as indicated by the NWS. Less than 24 hours ago the amateur experts were also proclaiming that dry air entraining would disrupt the core and it likely wouldn't recover - now it is at 140 with gusts to 165. To pretend a significantly deepening storm doesn't present the threat of greater risks seems irresponsible to me.

Posted by: manatt | September 1, 2010 11:37 PM | Report abuse

@manatt

Dave Tolleris is a respected meteorologist who has a successful private forecasting business. He has been forecasting for decades and is one of the most knowledgeable meteorologists I know though he has been known to make some controversial forecasts from time to time.

I posted his comment to offer a perspective and countered it with another. The bottom line is that the mean storm motion is no longer northwest but west of north -- which is significant and not controversial.

Posted by: Jason-CapitalWeatherGang | September 1, 2010 11:49 PM | Report abuse

Has anyone really been following this at all? This storm has moved in a northwest direction all day, except for a few wobbles here or there. It shows no sign of turning north, or north east, and the strong high pressure has blocked the leading edge of the midwest low from pushing it east.

In fact, the hurricane is squeezing the high pressure on one end such that it is actually deflecting the front edge of the midwestern low, and it is completely wiping out the effects of the system off the Florida panhandle. There is no upper level winds to push this right, so the only way it does so is if the midwest storm pushes it soon. But that is just not happening.

There is a possibility that this hurricane even goes west of the models (I hate them) and hits south and west of Hatteras. If it does, that will affect our area. You all have been really bad about even recognizing this risk.

Posted by: SJMPARMAN | September 2, 2010 12:37 AM | Report abuse

I agree it's obvious (from satellite imagery) the storm is not heading due north. But it's also abundantly clear that the storm is starting to turn more to the north (the data show this here: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/refresh/graphics_at2+shtml/031256.shtml?swath?large#contents). Once it starts interacting with the front/trough coming in, the turn will sharpen (and this is what NHC and the forecast models predict).

I agree that there is some uncertainty as to when this happens - which has big implications for coastal areas. On the other hand, the models -- which have good skill in track prediction -- have been incredibly consistent keeping major impacts away from the interior (i.e. in the metro region). Having said that, everyone should remain vigilant -- even if we aren't sounding alarm bells at this point (for DC).

Posted by: Jason-CapitalWeatherGang | September 2, 2010 1:00 AM | Report abuse

I am not an alarmist but I have been watching this storm most of the week while on vacation. It defies models which every day apologize that the estimates can be up to 250 miles off track. This storm is almost annular, it is a cat 5 almost, and nothing seems to be pushing it north. At what point will the capital weather guys take it seriously? Models are good for certain things, but the phrase "uncertainty in forecasting a hurricane" means models are not always right.

So you give me the NHS guidance, which has been wrong for what, three solid days, as proof I should have faith in them? Check the never ending cone of expanding uncertainty from day 5 to now. This thing was never even supposed to be where it is according to them. Hopefully, you know how to do this, if not, let me know.

Posted by: SJMPARMAN | September 2, 2010 1:20 AM | Report abuse

@manatt

One more thing. Re: dry air. NHC forecasters predicted the storm might not intensify or weaken and specifically noted the dry air in its surroundings. It was not simply "amateur experts" (not sure who you're referring to). I subscribe to a listserv in which the world's leading hurricane researchers discuss the tropics and they were baffled by the intensification given the dry air surrounding Earl (was a very active discussion thread). Skill in predicting hurricane intensity -- as we've discussed frequently on this blog -- is not great and much work needs to be done to improve it. Track forecasting skill is much better but by no means perfect.

Posted by: Jason-CapitalWeatherGang | September 2, 2010 3:02 AM | Report abuse

Guys, you are talking like this is simple weather - whether it will rain on Friday or not. Storms are a living organism: they change in ways that people cannot completely predict. We have made enormous -- ENORMOUS -- strides in predicting what a storm will look like when it comes ashore, if it will come ashore, and where. I'm from the Gulf coast, and I've been riding these out all my life - I have seen the improved tracking and accuracy of these forecasts up close and personal. There are still spectacular misses! But these are misses on the order of not being able to predict that the quiet, nice neighbor turns out to be a serial killer, not whether your bowling throw will be a strike or a gutter ball: this isn't a simple physics question.

But having five days worth of warning that you need to be thinking about a possible strike? Priceless. Use the cone of uncertainty and don't worry quite so much about absolute perfection in tracking. Storms have tendencies and likelihoods, but some storms don't respond like the weather guys expect to shear, dry air, whatever. Some get all the right conditions and still can't get their act together.

Last pass by the people RISKING THEIR LIVES to get you information, this storm had a pressure around 932. Act accordingly, and quit being pi##y.

Posted by: BadMommy1 | September 2, 2010 5:28 AM | Report abuse

Re manatt: Dry air entrainment by "amateur experts". That was me and I was wrong. Earl just shrugged off the dry air and strengthened for 24 hours instead.

Posted by: eric654 | September 2, 2010 7:20 AM | Report abuse

@eric654

At least you were not alone. Earl fooled many forecasters.

Posted by: Jason-CapitalWeatherGang | September 2, 2010 7:44 AM | Report abuse

Every time I see a gap in the convection I figure that it will break up the eye, but Earl doesn't seem to let that happen.

For the record, here is Hugo before hitting SC: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hugo_sept_21_1989.jpg A completely different track of course. Seems like a similar strength, although wikipedia says Hugo was 944mbar in his second peak, but above BadMommy1 says 932 for Earl late last night or early this morning.

Posted by: eric654 | September 2, 2010 7:54 AM | Report abuse

OK, I'm sufficiently scared. Go north!

Posted by: SusanMarie2 | September 2, 2010 7:58 AM | Report abuse

Thank goodness for the Capital Weather Gang! We moved from Northern Virginia to coastal NC a few months ago and I haven't been able to find any really intelligent talk about Eart that a layman like myself can easily understand. So I checked you guys out and you did not disappoint! I will be checking in with you the rest of the day as Earl creeps closer to us ...

Thanks! So far in SE North Carolina the skies are turning gray and the wind is starting to pick up. But it feels cooler and much less humid than the rest of the week. It actually is rather pleasant! We will go down to look at the waves at the beach later on today. If I get any good photos of the ocean, I will e-mail the CWG....

Posted by: skbm1 | September 2, 2010 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Dry air did hamper the storm while it was being sheared from a low pressure to its west. I think once that low was not an issue the feed of dry air was slowed or halted as the storm is traveling along in a moisture envelope. Even the greatest hurricane forecasters out there have a lot of trouble with intensification cycles.

Posted by: Ian-CapitalWeatherGang | September 2, 2010 9:29 AM | Report abuse

hey manatt and SJMPARMAN:

If you think you can do better at predicting the unpredictable, why are you posting on a blog and not working for the National Weather Service? I would think they could use people like you.

National Weather Gang...You rock. Thanks for the updates.

Posted by: jmurray019 | September 2, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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