Isaac reorganizing as it blows through the Lesser Antilles

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 8:34 PM GMT on August 22, 2012

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Tropical Storm Isaac continues to maintain top winds of just 45 mph as its center prepares to move through the Lesser Antilles islands late this afternoon and early this evening. The entire Lesser Antilles chain of islands is receiving heavy rains from Isaac, with Martinique picking up 1.46" of rain as of 2 pm EDT, and St. Lucia receiving 1.49". However, Isaac is not yet generating much in the way of tropical storm-force winds, and none of the islands had received winds in excess of 30 mph as of 4 pm EDT. During their storm penetration to obtain their 2 pm EDT center fix, an Air Force Reserve aircraft measured top surface winds of just 40 mph, and a central pressure of 1004 mb. Top winds at their 5000 foot flight altitude were 49 mph. Isaac is undergoing significant changes to its structure. The plane found the center had become a broad, elongated oval that extended 40 miles from NW to SE. The old center, fixed at 2 pm near 16.1°N, and closer to the dry air to Isaac's north, is being challenged for dominance by a new center that is attempting to form near a burst of heavy thunderstorms at 15.5°N. The Hurricane Hunters' latest fix at 3:50 pm EDT put the center near 15.9°N, a southwards shift of about 17 miles. The resulting battle between centers is giving Isaac a rather odd spiral rectangular shape, as seen on visible satellite loops. The Hurricane Hunters did not observe an eyewall trying to form, and recent microwave satellite images also show no signs of an eyewall forming. A large area of dry air to the north of the storm, as seen on water vapor satellite loops, continues to interfere with development, and Isaac will not be able to begin strengthening until it resolves the battle between it two competing centers, and casts out the dry air infiltrating it. This is going to take at least a day, since Isaac is a very large storm, and it takes more time to spin up a big chunk of the atmosphere. Radar imagery from Barbados and Martinique show plenty of heavy rain showers, mostly on the south side of Isaac where it is moister. There has been a modest increase in spiral banding since this morning.


Figure 1. Afternoon satellite image of Isaac, showing its odd spiral rectangle shape.

Latest model runs for Isaac
The latest set of 12Z (8 am EDT) model runs are very similar to the previous set of runs, which I discussed in detail in this morning's post. The models show a westward track to a point on the south coast of Hispaniola. Isaac's center shift to the south may require some modest adjustments to the south and west for the models. This would result in the storm spending a few hours less time over Hispaniola, and more time over or just south of Cuba. This would slightly decrease the risk to the Dominican Republic, the east coast of Florida, and the Bahamas, but increase the risk to the west coast of Florida. The ECMWF--our best performing model over the past two years--continues to be an outlier among the models. It predicts that Isaac will track just south of Cuba, cross the western tip of Cuba on Monday, then head north towards an eventual landfall in Louisiana. However, this model is keeping Isaac weaker than the other models, and thus predicts the storm will have a weaker response to the trough of low pressure over the Southeast U.S. If the official NHC intensity forecast is right and Isaac becomes a hurricane on Thursday, the more southerly track of the ECMWF is not going to verify, and Isaac will spend considerable time over Cuba on Saturday and Sunday. Where Isaac pops off the coast of Cuba will be critical in determining its future path and intensity, and at this point, we don't know it its more likely that Isaac will go up the east coast of Florida, the west coast, or straight up the peninsula over land. At this point, I'd put the odds at:

40% chance of a track through the Gulf of Mexico, west of Florida
25% chance of a landfall in South Florida, and a track mostly over the Florida Peninsula
35% chance of a track along the east coast of Florida

Which model should you trust?
Wunderground provides a web page with computer model forecasts for many of the best-performing models used to predict hurricane tracks. So which is the best? The best forecasts are made by combining the forecasts from three or more models into a "consensus" forecast. Over the past decade, NHC has greatly improved their forecasts by relying on consensus forecast models made using various combinations of the GFS, GFDL, NOGAPS, UKMET, HWRF, and ECMWF models. If you average together the track forecasts from these models, the NHC official forecast will rarely depart much from it, and the NHC forecast has been hard to beat over the past few years. The single best-performing model over the past two years has been the ECMWF (European Center model). The GFS model has been a close second. You can view 7-day ECMWF and 16-day GFS forecasts on our wundermap with the model layer turned on. Ten-day ECMWF forecasts are available from the ECMWF web site. The European Center does not permit public display of tropical storm positions from their hurricane tracking module of their model, so we are unable to put ECMWF forecasts on our computer model forecast page that plots positions from the other major models. As seen in Figure 2, the HWRF and GFDL were well behind the ECMWF and GFS in forecast accuracy in 2011, but were still respectable. The BAMM model did very well at 4 and 5-day forecasts. The UKMET, NOGAPS, and CMC models did quite poorly compared to the ECMWF, GFS, GFDL, and HWRF. For those interested in learning more about the models, NOAA has a great training video (updated for 2011.)


Figure 2. Skill of computer model forecasts of Atlantic named storms 2011, compared to a "no skill" model called "CLIPER5" that uses just climatology and persistence to make a hurricane track forecast (persistence=a storm will tend to keep going in the direction it's current going.) OFCL=Official NHC forecast; GFS=Global Forecast System model; GFDL=Geophysical Fluid Dynamic Laboratory model; HWRF=Hurricane Weather Research Forecasting model; NOGAPS=Navy Operational Global Prediction System model; UKMET=United Kingdom Met Office model; ECMWF=European Center for Medium Range Weather Forecasting model; TVCA=one of the consensus models that lends together several of the above models; CMC=Canadian Meteorological Center (GEM) model; BAMM=Beta Advection Model (Medium depth.) Image credit: National Hurricane Center 2011 verification report.

I'll have a new post in the morning.

Jeff Masters

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4501. bappit
12:36 AM GMT on August 25, 2012
.
Member Since: May 18, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 6107
4500. ftlaudweathermaster
6:05 PM GMT on August 24, 2012
There is a break in the ridge of high pressure in the Atlantic,this is what the latest GFS picked up on.SE Florida is a real concern now.Later today and tonight I expect a shift to the east from the NHC.
Member Since: August 10, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 8
4499. HuracanTaino
11:11 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
Quoting mitthbevnuruodo:


But they're all over the place still really. Prob is, even with better computer models and having the old data to compare, hardly anytime will the conditions be exactly the same as for a previous storm, so still so much chance with the forecast still. Even if it's just the difference in how strong a ridge is, or ridge to storm strength etc, can make it track diff than a previous storm. I'm still waiting to see if he takes that turn. Someone from Jamaica was on here this morning very concerned as no one was preparing there and no official word it seems, despite being on the track of some models.
Most CV storms that affected Puerto Rico eventually hit Florida..
Member Since: May 31, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 982
4498. Stormchaser121
9:56 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
Isaac will be a western gulf storm. End of line.
Member Since: September 2, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 1148
4497. hydrus
4:29 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
GFS 90 hours..
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21880
4496. hydrus
4:13 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
Isaac is tightening and should form an eye by late tonight or early tomorrow..JMO
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 21880
4495. canehater1
3:39 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
According to Point Forecast NHC doesnt think Issac
will ever get symmetrical wind fields

Link
Member Since: September 8, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 1084
4494. panamasteve
3:37 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
Quoting FOREX:


Where in the Panhandle is your house? I live in Panama City Beach exactly one mile from the gulf. Given my Wife and I live paycheck to paycheck right now, a direct hit here would really hurt us.
Hmmm--I'm off 79, just North of 98--exactly one mile from the Gulf....
Member Since: June 2, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 157
4493. seer2012
3:36 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
Quoting galvestonhurricane:


Where have I heard that before? Oh yeah, Ernesto...
It still has to get by the forecasted shear in front of it.....Just saw the latest report..so much for shear in the future
Member Since: July 30, 2012 Posts: 4 Comments: 614
4492. 12george1
3:35 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
When will this storm actually start strengthening?
Member Since: August 27, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 257
4491. presslord
3:30 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
Quoting SSideBrac:

Is that your "forecast" or a throw-away scare mongering line?


maybe it's just a benign comment on a blog
Member Since: August 13, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10492
4490. SrChiefFan1
3:29 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
Quoting VR46L:
Maybe it wont be Florida DOOM .. Just sayin



yea, us Redneck Riveria folks in the Panhandle aren't part of Florida....just saying...
Member Since: September 18, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 74
4489. lottotexas
3:28 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
Quoting clwstmchasr:


The Northeastern tip of Florida is already out of the cone. I wonder what Levi's take is. He's been saying East of FL all along.
No it's not. look again at NHC page
Member Since: December 3, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 54
4488. emcf30
3:28 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
Animation of all NWS forecast track advisories

Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1953
4487. guygee
3:26 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
Quoting KoritheMan:


I do have one question: I see some people saying that the center relocation will actually denote a greater poleward component of motion at longer ranges. Why is that? To my mind it would be the opposite. For the record I'm nowhere near Mobile or points further west, but I'm not buying a Charley-like recurve into the western peninsula. Seems climatologically unlikely.
I would surmise the reasoning is that a southern dive means slower westward motion while the trough progesses, catching Isaac farther to the east.
Validity?: unknown.
Member Since: September 16, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 3174
4486. gordydunnot
3:26 PM GMT on August 23, 2012

Does anyone think this is going very far in gulf? Really
Member Since: August 18, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 3113
4485. moonlightcowboy
3:26 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
Quoting SSideBrac:

Is that your "forecast" or a throw-away scare mongering line?


Evidently, you've not been following any of my previous posts.
Member Since: July 9, 2006 Posts: 184 Comments: 29610
4484. LightningCharmer
3:25 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
Quoting Neapolitan:
That joke again? That was old and worn out four years ago. What other zany antics do you have in store for us, Uncle Milty? A hand buzzer? A lapel flower that squirts water? ;-)
Old jokes are always new to some. Breathing a little easier with the latest track update? It was a little closer to SW Florida before the update, just a little closer but closer nonetheless.
Member Since: September 1, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1344
4483. Chiggy
3:23 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
Quoting wunderkidcayman:
11am update Cone shifted W and S

I dissagree with the current location however I will wait for HH RECON to fly in but I think they will find it further S

AGREE
Member Since: June 26, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 297
4482. coffeecrusader
3:23 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
Isaac reminds me of Ernesto. Track kept getting pushed further west because he never strengthened enough to feel weakness in the ridge. I don't think Isaac will ever become a hurricane prior to reaching the gulf. Despite almost ideal conditions these storms just can't develop in the Carib. This has been going on for a few years now. Very strange.
Member Since: August 21, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 254
4481. Chiggy
3:23 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
Quoting serialteg:


its happened a few times in recent years actually
omar, lenny
west-to -east plots

EXTREMELY awesome for surfing.




In that pics I posted for ALL Aug storms in the vicinity of Issac, only 4 out of about 30 hit Fl and none of them were more than Cat-1 that hit FL. That is ALL I am saying.. no use in putting up rare example of storms going from west to east :)
Member Since: June 26, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 297
4480. wunderkidcayman
3:22 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
11am update Cone shifted W and S

I dissagree with the current location however I will wait for HH RECON to fly in but I think they will find it further S
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12697
4479. WthrWonk
3:22 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
Ok, "jeffs713" and "SherwoodSpirit"... respectfully, I am not interested in having a spelling bee on this site nor being drawn into petty arguments that are irrelevant. However, I do look forward to observing the weather together with all of you and giving one another room to practice our forecasting skills (or lack thereof). I will admit that mine are as an ameteur, but I have been studying weather patterns since I was a kid. Let's see where this thing goes and be as objective as possible! The input on this site is interesting. I just wish I could find more friends that are equally as interested in the weather. Now, the "forecast" that I made was with much thought and I might be way off but we'll just have to see what happens. I reiterate that my opinion is between Gulfport and Panama City with Pensacola having the highest risk.
Member Since: August 23, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 4
4478. LightningCharmer
3:20 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
Quoting yoboi:


it has not made the turn yet still heading west...
Have a feeling, when the intensity increases and he becomes more vertical, we'll see a turn. As we all know, the steering influences are not the same at all levels of the atmosphere. What concerns me, is the "experts" are much better at predicting track than at predicting changes in intensity which in this case will ironically affect the track.
Member Since: September 1, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1344
4477. jeffs713
3:19 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
Quoting TomballTXPride:


Who said anything about a major hurricane? Last time I checked Isaac was a 40mph TS.

I wasn't talking about Isaac at all. I was talking about using climatology as a primary method of estimating landfall or storm track. To be more specific, I was talking about Hurricanes Paloma, Omar, and Lenny.
Member Since: August 3, 2008 Posts: 16 Comments: 5890
4476. Tribucanes
3:19 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
Quoting HrDelta:


Hey, I said that yesterday. With a great dollop of anger too.

So, here's a question. Why did Issac weaken overnight?

Don't think he weakened a great deal. Just brought himself together which took a lot of energy. His two blobs of circulation were hundreds of miles apart yesterday. By pulling them together some of the energy and convection were certainly lost.
Member Since: April 18, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 2437
4475. hurricanejunky
3:18 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
Quoting serialteg:


heard that before


Yeah I know but this convective burst is HUGE. Still dealing with dry air even with that...I wonder how long it'll take to get past that...
Member Since: August 28, 2006 Posts: 6 Comments: 2899
4474. Elena85Vet
3:18 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
Quoting oracle28:


XTRP model has this thing headed to Texas, but it's clearly an outlier and will eventually swing back in line with the other models, as time goes by.


:facepalm:
Member Since: August 18, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 628
4473. stoormfury
3:18 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
What a very active month of august. Joyce just formed in the catl,and it is very likely, we may soon see Kirk with the new disturbance which recently came off the african coast.
Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 2721
4472. Chiggy
3:17 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
Quoting jeffs713:


Climatology also suggests it is nigh impossible for a major hurricane to go from west to east in the Caribbean. Yet it happened a few years ago.

Sure..I didn't say "zero chance" BUT the picture was indicative of the odds on FL landfall..! It's a good statistics since it is all storms formed in the past 150 years in Aug in the vicinity of Issac.
You need to pull up a similar statistics for storms in the vicinity of Wilma (presume that what you are referring to) going from West to East...
Member Since: June 26, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 297
4471. serialteg
3:17 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
Quoting jeffs713:


Climatology also suggests it is nigh impossible for a major hurricane to go from west to east in the Caribbean. Yet it happened a few years ago.


its happened a few times in recent years actually
omar, lenny
west-to -east plots

EXTREMELY awesome for surfing.



Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 1988
4470. MSGIRL1972
3:17 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
Quoting clwstmchasr:


The Northeastern tip of Florida is already out of the cone. I wonder what Levi's take is. He's been saying East of FL all along.

So should we start watching closer over here in Ms? My first time to ever post, just love reading everyone elses post. This site really is very good cause it helps people to prepare.
Member Since: August 14, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
4469. SSideBrac
3:16 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
Quoting moonlightcowboy:
Just for the heck of it, based on previous thoughts, current obs, I'm gonna say Isaac will likely totally miss Hispaniola. And, Jamaica will start putting up RED flags.

Is that your "forecast" or a throw-away scare mongering line?
Member Since: September 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 318
4468. mitthbevnuruodo
3:16 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
Quoting Chiggy:

150 year HIstory suggests that FL landfall is rare for storms in Issac's position


But they're all over the place still really. Prob is, even with better computer models and having the old data to compare, hardly anytime will the conditions be exactly the same as for a previous storm, so still so much chance with the forecast still. Even if it's just the difference in how strong a ridge is, or ridge to storm strength etc, can make it track diff than a previous storm. I'm still waiting to see if he takes that turn. Someone from Jamaica was on here this morning very concerned as no one was preparing there and no official word it seems, despite being on the track of some models.
Member Since: October 12, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 864
4467. FOREX
3:16 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
Quoting Neapolitan:
That joke again? That was old and worn out four years ago. What other zany antics do you have in store for us, Uncle Milty? A hand buzzer? A lapel flower that squirts water? ;-)


lmao
Member Since: August 17, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2335
4466. GeorgiaStormz
3:15 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
Quoting oracle28:


XTRP model has this thing headed to Texas, but it's clearly an outlier and will eventually swing back in line with the other models, as time goes by.


XTRP is not a model, it an extrapolation, just extrapolating where this would go if it continued at the current vector
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 9738
4465. FOREX
3:15 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
Quoting 69Viking:
Well now the FL Panhandle (My House) is official dead center of the cone, joy, joy! Sure hope this thing doesn't become a monster in the GOM when it gets there.


Where in the Panhandle is your house? I live in Panama City Beach exactly one mile from the gulf. Given my Wife and I live paycheck to paycheck right now, a direct hit here would really hurt us.
Member Since: August 17, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2335
4464. bappit
3:14 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
Quoting AussieStorm:


Why does that loop say 2011??

Wrong loop.

Here.
Member Since: May 18, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 6107
4463. Neapolitan
3:14 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
Quoting oracle28:


XTRP model has this thing headed to Texas, but it's clearly an outlier and will eventually swing back in line with the other models, as time goes by.
That joke again? That was old and worn out four years ago. What other zany antics do you have in store for us, Uncle Milty? A hand buzzer? A lapel flower that squirts water? ;-)
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13629
4462. mynameispaul
3:14 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
Quoting ChaseyChasinStorms:
By the way.......Good morning RitaEvac and all bloggers...... :)


good morning chasey. glad isaac isn't coming to la/tx. the weather here is fairly comfortable now
Member Since: September 20, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 369
4461. HrDelta
3:14 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
Quoting Tribucanes:
Accuguess which Chucktown coined earlier was hilarious. They've come a long way since Katrina and Rita in that they tend to now not give a forecast that is utterly different and contradicting to what the NHC says. Can be argued their forecasting got some folks killed in Katrina and Rita.


Hey, I said that yesterday. With a great dollop of anger too.

So, here's a question. Why did Issac weaken overnight?

Member Since: October 4, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 451
4460. CajunCrawfishhunter
3:14 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
Us here in Louisiana are monitoring.... esp me I got softball tournaments coming up...
Member Since: August 17, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 74
4459. WunderAlertBot (Admin)
3:13 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
JeffMasters has created a new entry.
4458. AussieStorm
3:13 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
Quoting bappit:

Sounds good, makes a good narrative, but for a dry line effect like you suggest there would have to be dry air at the surface. In fact, there is a lot of low level moisture to the west as shown on the TPW. The NHC is talking about dry air aloft. Convection can form with that, but it cannot last.



Why does that loop say 2011??
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15962
4456. galvestonhurricane
3:13 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
Quoting hurricanejunky:
Isaac really starting to look like he's FINALLY getting his act together on satellite:




Where have I heard that before? Oh yeah, Ernesto...
Member Since: June 18, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 541
4455. Category5HitsFl
3:13 PM GMT on August 23, 2012

I am expecting this Westerly trend to continue, since this storm does not seem like it can get its act together. The fact that it sped up in the last advisory and the lack of any strengthening, actually it weakened a bit, is an indicator that this Western trend will continue.

I think the Euro model picked up on this Western trend, and now it seems to be panning out as we go further into the forecast period. I am thinking this it will go on a more NW course as it enters the gulf with the Trough present in the region. I am then expecting it move into the coast somewhere around LA/MS/AL just given the trend so far.

I don't see this as an East Coast event, and just don't see the Bermuda High weakening as much as they it will or the trough being that deep or strong. I think we ought to see a track that is somewhere between Katrina and Ivan, but now its all a wait and see game.
Member Since: November 7, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 29
4454. serialteg
3:13 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
Quoting VR46L:
Maybe it wont be Florida DOOM .. Just sayin



no, but even worse, katrina-esque...

Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 1988
4453. weathermanwannabe
3:13 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
It was bound to happen after I moved from South Florida (Andrew survivor) to the Tallahassee area 12 years ago.......Doom for me here next week if the current track pans out...... :)
Member Since: August 8, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 9342
4452. sunlinepr
3:12 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9874
4451. mikatnight
3:12 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
Wind Fields for Isaac
Last Updated On 8/23/2012 3:00:00 PM GMT

Member Since: October 18, 2005 Posts: 4 Comments: 3052

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.