Tropical Depression Six is not yet a tropical storm, as evidenced by the maximum winds of 25-30 knots (30-35 mph) seen on this morning's 4:33am EDT QuikSCAT pass (Figure 1). TD 6 has managed to consolidate the two circulation centers it was struggling with yesterday into one large circulation center. The storm's maximum winds are occurring in bands well removed from this broad center, and it will probably take another day before the winds tighten up around the center and the TD 6 can intensify into a tropical storm. Interfering with this process will be about 10-15 knots of shear and some dry air to the north.
The computer models all forecast that TD 6 will pass north of the Lesser Antilles Islands, although it is too far in the future to be confident of this forecast. A complicating factor is the development of a new disturbance about 800 miles to the east-southeast. This new disturbance, officially designated "Invest 91L" this morning by NHC, is close enough to alter both the strength and track of TD 6. Anytime two storms get within 13 arc-degrees of each other (900 miles), the two storms tend to rotate around a common center (the Fujiwhara effect). The computer models do make some allowances for this effect, but are not very good at handling it. For this reason, one should be suspicious of the track forecasts for TD 6 and 91L as long as they are so close. The intensities of both storms can also change as a result of the interaction, with both storms intensifying at a slower rate than they otherwise would, or one storm growing at the expense of the other. If the two storms approach within about 7 arc-degrees of each other (480 miles), this is considered the "zone of death" where one cyclone will surely destroy the other. The surviving storm will not be a "superstorm" that has the combined size and strength of the two storms, however.
The long-range GFS model forecast continues to show TD 6 becoming a powerful hurricane that threatens Bermuda, but recurves out to sea well east of the U.S. East Coast. Again, it is too early to be confident of this forecast, given the interactions that may occur with 91L and the inherent uncertainties in long-range hurricane track forecasts. The wind shear later this week is forecast to drop significantly, so if TD 6 manages to survive the next 36 hours, it is likely to become a hurricane.
Figure 1. QuikSCAT satellite winds from 4:33am EDT Tuesday September 5 2006. Wind speed and direction are coded according to the standard station model, and are color coded (in knots) according to the color scale at the upper right (10 knots = 11.5 mph). Black winds barbs occur where there is rain, and one cannot trust the wind speeds measured in those areas. Tropical storm force winds (35 knots) are colored red and need to have 3 long bars and one short bar attached to the end of the "barb"; there is one barb like this on the east side of TD 6, but it is pointing a different direction than the other barbs around it, and is surrounded by rain-contaminated (black) barbs. One should be suspicious of the accuracy of this lone tropical storm force wind barb.
Figure 2. Preliminary model tracks for Invest 91L, a well-organized tropical wave a few hundred miles west of the Cape Verde Islands.
Cape Verdes Islands tropical wave
A strong new tropical wave emerged from the coast of Africa Saturday and is a few hundred miles west-southwest of the Cape Verde Islands. The wave has a closed circulation, and visible satellite imagery from this morning shows an increase in thunderstorm activity on the west side. The wave is over warm water and is under a modest 10 knots of wind shear, and could be Tropical Depression Seven by Wednesday. Due to its more southerly starting position, this system is more likely to be a threat to land than TD 6.
North Carolina is still suffering flooding problems from Ernesto. Where Ernesto came ashore at Cape Fear, North Carolina, the North Cape Fear River is at 16.6 feet, and flood stage is only 10 feet. This is the second highest flood on this river; only Hurricane Floyd of 1999 caused a higher flood. With a strong cold front expected to move through tonight and stall offshore, North Carolina will receive another 1-2" of rain that will make flooded areas slow to recover. Once this cold front does stall over the warm Gulf Stream waters, we need to watch the area off the Carolina coast for possible tropical storm development.
Ioke continues its slide into oblivion, and is now a mere tropical storm. Ioke is caught in a large trough of low pressure that is weakening it and recurving it out to sea. Ioke is not a threat to any land.
I'll have an update Wednesday morning, unless there's something interesting to report on this afternoon.
Tropical depression Ernesto leaves downed trees ,broken branches and sunken vessels in its' wake...
Water Street, looking west. Abandoned sailboat.