Bertha may pose a long-range threat to the U.S.
Tropical Storm Bertha has maintained it's strength overnight, but is having trouble with Sea Surface Temperatures (SSTs) of 25°C--one degree below the threshold of 26°C considered beneficial for tropical storms. This morning's QuikSCAT pass missed Bertha, but last night's pass confirmed winds of at least 40mph. Satellite estimates of Bertha's strength have consistently put the storm's strength at 50 mph over the past day. The storm is under about 10-15 knots of wind shear.
Figure 1. Latest satellite image of Bertha.
The models are now more confident that Bertha will not take a turn to the north east of Bermuda, with two models--the UKMET and NOGAPS--calling for the storm to pass very near the northern Lesser Antilles Islands by Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. These islands should anticipate the possibility of tropical storm conditions as early as Tuesday night, even though the current official track keeps Bertha well north of the islands. Bertha may be large enough to bring tropical storm force winds 100-200 miles from the center by Tuesday. A threat to the East Coast of the U.S. is now possible, with such an event most likely to occur about 7-10 days from now. It is also possible that high wind shear will tear apart Bertha (as predicted by the ECMWF model), or that the storm will recurve to the north just east of North Carolina, missing the U.S. The long range track of Bertha is highly uncertain, and it is too early to speculate how likely each of these scenarios is.
By Sunday morning, Bertha will be over SSTs of 26°C, which will warm to 27°C by Monday and 28°C Tuesday. this should allow Bertha to intensify to near Category 1 hurricane strength. However, by Tuesday, wind shear is expected to increase to 20 knots and remain high for several days, as Bertha encounters a branch of the subtropical jet stream. The higher shear should weaken the storm.
Elsewhere in the tropics
There are no threat areas to discuss in the tropical Atlantic, and none of the models are forecasting tropical storm formation in the next seven days.
I'll post an update by Sunday afternoon.