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Tropical Storm Matthew Forms in the Lesser Antilles Islands

By: Jeff Masters , 3:23 PM GMT on September 28, 2016

Tropical Storm Warnings are flying in the Lesser Antilles Islands thanks to newly-formed Tropical Storm Matthew. An Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft found on Wednesday morning that Invest 97L had finally developed a closed circulation, and had surface winds near 60 mph in a powerful cluster of thunderstorms that was located about 50 miles east of Martinique at 9:22 am EDT. These strong winds will move over the islands of Martinique and Dominica early this afternoon, given Matthew’s westerly motion at 20 mph. At 11 am EDT, Dominica reported sustained winds of 33 mph, gusting to 53 mph, and Martinique reported sustained winds of 28 mph, gusting to 40 mph. Radar imagery out of Martinique and Barbados on Wednesday morning showed plenty of rotation to the storm’s echoes, and an increase in their intensity and areal coverage. Satellite loops showed that Matthew was developing a well-defined surface circulation, and had an increasing amount of heavy thunderstorm activity that was growing more organized. Aiding development was moderate wind shear of 10 - 20 knots and warm ocean waters of 29.5°C (85°F). The 8 am EDT Tuesday SHIPS model output analyzed 50 - 55% relative humidity at mid-levels of the atmosphere over Matthew, which is lower than optimal for tropical cyclone formation, and water vapor satellite loops showed Matthew was butting into a region of dry air that lay just west of the Lesser Antilles Islands. Lack of spin from being too close to the equator was less of a problem for Matthew than before, as the system had worked its way northwards to a latitude of 13°N. This is far enough from the equator for the storm to be able to leverage the Earth’s spin and acquire more spin of its own.


Figure 1. Barbados radar at 10:20 am EDT September 28, 2016 showed a large region of heavy rains from Matthew beginning to move into the Lesser Antilles Islands. The Hurricane Hunters found surface winds of 60 mph under the cell just east of Martinique. An "X" marks the center of Matthew. Image credit: Barbados Met Service.


Figure 2. MODIS satellite image of Matthew taken at 10:30 am EDT September 28, 2016. Image credit: NASA.

Two-day forecast for Matthew
Matthew will average a westerly motion at about 15 mph through Thursday morning. The core of the storm will pass through the Lesser Antilles Islands on Wednesday afternoon, with the storm’s strongest winds and heaviest rains of 4 - 8” affecting the islands just north of the center, including St. Lucia, Martinique, Dominica, and Guadaloupe. The storm will continue westwards on Thursday, and make its closest approach to the ABC islands of the Netherlands Antilles—Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao—on Thursday night and Friday morning. These islands will be on the weak (left) side of the storm, and will likely escape receiving tropical storm winds, though rains of 1 - 2” can be expected. As Matthew passes through the southeastern Caribbean, it will be in an environment somewhat unfavorable for development. Tropical cyclones passing near the coast of South America often suck in dry continental air from the land areas to the south, and the latest SHIPS model forecast predicts that Matthew will have to contend with moderate wind shear and dry air through Friday. The last hurricane to pass through the southeastern Caribbean, Hurricane Tomas of 2010, degraded from a Category 1 hurricane to a tropical depression due to high wind shear and dry air as it moved across the region. Expect only slow intensification of Matthew on Thursday and Friday.





Figure 3. Forecasts from the 00Z Wednesday European (ECMWF) model ensemble (top) and GFS model ensemble (bottom) had a number of their 70 members predicting a hurricane for late in the week in the Caribbean (light blue dots.) The operational versions of the models, run at higher resolution (red lines), also showed the storm becoming a hurricane by four days into the future. The two models have grown closer together in their solutions compared to Tuesday, but the European model still shows a considerably slower and more westerly track for Matthew than the GFS model.

Longer-range forecast for Matthew
Matthew is being steered by a ridge of high pressure that extends only as far west as the ABC islands. Matthew will slow down to a forward speed of 5 - 10 mph by Friday as it reaches the edge of this ridge, and the storm will maintain that slow forward speed though the weekend. A large upper-level low pressure system has separated from the jet stream and will settle over east-central U.S. late this week, and the steering currents associated with this low are expected to be strong enough to pull Matthew sharply to the north by the weekend, according to the Wednesday morning runs of the models. This sharp turn is expected to occur on Friday night or on Saturday, and the exact timing of the turn has huge implications for who experiences the peak wrath of the storm. An earlier turn is being predicted by the GFS model, with a landfall by the storm in eastern Cuba on Monday morning. Matthew is then predicted to move through the central Bahamas on Tuesday. The European model forecasts a later turn, with a landfall in Jamaica on Monday night, and then in eastern Cuba on Tuesday night. The 00Z Wednesday run of the UKMET model brings Matthew northward across Haiti on Monday and into the southeastern Bahamas by Tuesday. As one can see from the latest set of ensemble model runs (Figure 3), the long-range uncertainties in Matthew’s long-range track are high. Now that Matthew has finally established a coherent center of circulation, expect the forecast uncertainty to improve in this evening’s model runs. Matthew is expected to have favorable conditions for intensification this weekend as it heads north, with low wind shear, very warm ocean waters, and a very moist atmosphere. The models are quite bullish on this storm being a hurricane when it makes its landfall early next week in the islands, and residents of Jamaica, Haiti, and eastern Cuba should anticipate the possibility of a hurricane affecting them early next week.

We will be back this afternoon with an update on Matthew.

Jeff Masters


The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

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777. LemieT
11:22 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
Quoting 744. barbamz:


Thanks Lemie! Greetings to Barbados from mid Germany!


Greetings. ;-)
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
776. 606
11:05 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
Hello Everyone the wind is increasing here in St. Lucia and the rain is relentless. I think this system is developing over us. Keep the people of St. Lucia in your prayers. It is getting SCARY, Reminds me of Hurricane ALLEN
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
775. HurrMichaelOrl
10:59 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
TS Matthew is the real deal and definitely by far the healthiest looking wave coming through the Lesser Antilles in years (that I recall seeing at least). I am staying in SE PA and it looks like Matthew might be at least as likely to eventually affect us here versus the FL East Coast (?). Too early to tell but I doubt this ends up causing major problems in FL, maybe tropical storm strength outer fringes on the SE Coast of FL.
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774. Grothar
10:53 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
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773. SLU
10:45 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
Winds now. 45mph gusts to at least 60mph and moderate rain.
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772. TXCWC
10:44 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
A track NE from here with the Ridge and Troughs placements makes no sense. I think the GFS is east coast bigoted.
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771. CybrTeddy
10:42 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
Quoting 761. Gator13126:



18z GFS has a 988mb storm off VA Beach - not exactly the end of the world?


You're not looking at the full resolution run. GFS has it at 945mb off the coast of NC/VA by 180 hours.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
770. Sfloridacat5
10:40 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
Quoting 759. Brock31:



That would be really bad for the OBX


At least the strongest part of the storm (the east side) would stay offshore. Main issue would be beach erosion from large surf.
But most likely the track will change. It would be sooooo much worse if the system made landfall and moved inland.
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769. Ricki13th
10:38 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
Correct models tend to overdue troughs and underestimate ridges. The main force pulling it due North which is a cutoff low close move out or be weaker than whats being depicted. But a stronger storm will be able to erode the western periphery of a high and respond more to the weakness. Still plenty more model runs to digest
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768. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
10:38 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
Quoting 761. Gator13126:



18z GFS has a 988mb storm off VA Beach - not exactly the end of the world?
I know you know storm intensity is a great unknown and that it is normally an as it happens forecast
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767. ackee
10:37 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
Quoting 738. KEEPEROFTHEGATE:

that's the one I await then the cat will be out of the bag sorta speak
because those runs will have the full Recon data can't wait to see what happens on those runs
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766. isothunder67
10:37 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
Quoting 761. Gator13126:



18z GFS has a 988mb storm off VA Beach - not exactly the end of the world?


I do not think you were looking at the surface pressure and 10m wind speed on the GFS. More like ~940 mb.

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765. WunderAlertBot (Admin)
10:37 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
JeffMasters has created a new entry.
764. Hurricanes101
10:37 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
Quoting 763. NativeSun:

Why do you say that, this storm is still as likely to enter the western Gulf as it is to hit the East Coast. Florida is in the center of the models, If you live their, or anywhere else from Pensacola, to the Carolinas, you need to be prepared for this storm.


I think you mean Eastern Gulf and I am not sure why it would be likely at this point based on the forecast tracks
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763. NativeSun
10:35 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
Quoting 750. Seflhurricane:

For those in Southern Florida we need to keep a very close eye on the situation, even though a landfall is unlikely but I do see Matthew coming very close to the SE florida coast regardless I have a feeling if this track holds true Tropical Storm Watches may be needed with the shear size of the system and the wind Field
Why do you say that, this storm is still as likely to enter the western Gulf as it is to hit the East Coast. Florida is in the center of the models, If you live their, or anywhere else from Pensacola, to the Carolinas, you need to be prepared for this storm.
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762. BaltimoreBrian
10:35 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
Matthew mostly moves
many miles meandering
malevolently
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761. Gator13126
10:34 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
Quoting 724. KEEPEROFTHEGATE:



nothing going to stop it this may be the monster we all fear

wake me up when September ends
so that I may see the nightmare October brings


18z GFS has a 988mb storm off VA Beach - not exactly the end of the world?
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760. 7544
10:34 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
blog keeps frezzing up and lagging cant scroll to the coments anyone else have this promblem tia
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759. Brock31
10:34 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
Quoting 748. Sfloridacat5:

Stays just offshore the OBX on the 18Z run.



That would be really bad for the OBX
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758. Chilaxing
10:34 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
Good afternoon; I'm new and just wanted to get the opinions of some of the expert guys in this blog; well here it goes.

I' flying to Montego Bay on Saturday Oct. 1st, to me it looks like Jamaica might be a direct hit. Just looking for some guidance on what I should do; maybe cancel?

Thank you;

Chiliaxin
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757. IDTH
10:33 PM GMT on September 28, 2016

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756. wilsongti45
10:31 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
So many variables. The timing of the trough, its orientation and the upper level high in the southeast...just to name a few.

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755. rmbjoe1954
10:31 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
Quoting 752. Grothar:

This might change




I will wait to see the models' solutions after Sunday unless the timeline is pushed up.
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754. SLU
10:30 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
Quoting 745. LemieT:

Hey SLU, how is it for your guys now? Must be pretty intense now on the east side of the center.


Yes the winds are the highest so far. Getting gusts to 40kts and counting.
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753. reedzone
10:30 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
Last minute NE turn towards Canada... Still, a westward shift on the model.
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752. Grothar
10:30 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
This might change

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751. wpb
10:29 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
Quoting 747. SavannahStorm:

In the GFS, the 500mb steering layer after 120 hours becomes the most tangled mess I have ever seen. Just absolute garbage. No use in watching the models beyond 96 hours or so.five star quote
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750. Seflhurricane
10:28 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
For those in Southern Florida we need to keep a very close eye on the situation, even though a landfall is unlikely but I do see Matthew coming very close to the SE florida coast regardless I have a feeling if this track holds true Tropical Storm Watches may be needed with the shear size of the system and the wind Field
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749. hurricanewatcher61
10:28 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
The scary thing is that we have several days still of these models going back and forth. Will it closer to the east coast? or will it not? leaving all of us who live on the coast on edge. Going to be interesting.
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748. Sfloridacat5
10:27 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
Stays just offshore the OBX on the 18Z run.
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747. SavannahStorm
10:27 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
In the GFS, the 500mb steering layer after 120 hours becomes the most tangled mess I have ever seen. Just absolute garbage. No use in watching the models beyond 96 hours or so.
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746. SunnyDaysFla
10:26 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
I do not like the spread of the Euro ensemble members. It could go anywhere at this point, we really have no idea. I hope Nerds "ants" are sensing it off the East coast, but sure won't count on it. West coast of Florida is not out of the game.
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745. LemieT
10:26 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
Hey SLU, how is it for your guys now? Must be pretty intense now on the east side of the center.
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744. barbamz
10:26 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
Quoting 740. LemieT:

Sorry bar, I'm in Barbados.

Thanks Lemie! Greetings to Barbados from mid Germany!
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743. ProPoly
10:25 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
Quoting 735. TXCWC:

Where's the exit? The trend seems to be less East Coast trough. Out to sea definitely not guaranteed.


That setup has no exit.
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742. wpb
10:24 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
18z gfs run much faster and tad west at 168
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741. reedzone
10:23 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
Quoting 733. rmbjoe1954:



Hi Alan-

So everyone from Fl- Maine need to be alert.


Hi Joe, this latest run, which has some data from recon takes Matthew straight to NC.
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740. LemieT
10:23 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
Quoting 723. barbamz:


Thanks, good luck! But instead of "here" just write the name of your island, please. Would help a lot of readers, including me. Our memories are weak :-(


Sorry bar, I'm in Barbados.
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739. Sfloridacat5
10:22 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
Looks like OBX on the 18z.
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738. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
10:21 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
Quoting 736. ackee:

I think the oz Euro and GFs track could shift further west that most important run to watch tonight
that's the one I await then the cat will be out of the bag sorta speak
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737. Sfloridacat5
10:20 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
Quoting 728. cabice:

WOAH Big shift WEST


An afternoon swim shift to the west for Florida.
Waiting to see how close it comes to OBX.
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736. ackee
10:19 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
I think the oz Euro and GFs track could shift further west that most important run to watch tonight
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735. TXCWC
10:19 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
Where's the exit? The trend seems to be less East Coast trough. Out to sea definitely not guaranteed.
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734. Sfloridacat5
10:18 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
Yeah, just a tiny (very tiny) shift to the west in the 18Z GFS.
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733. rmbjoe1954
10:18 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
Quoting 727. reedzone:

18Z With recon data back westward, headed towards the East Coast.


Hi Alan-

So everyone from Fl- Maine need to be alert.
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732. masiello3
10:18 PM GMT on September 28, 2016

and its trapped.
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731. masiello3
10:16 PM GMT on September 28, 2016

Has the high building back from the East much faster this run and the High to the North strengthening and moving south faster. don't want anything over the Gulf stream threatening the coast, especially nothing organized.
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730. ackee
10:16 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
12z GFS vs 18z Gfs the 18Z GFS shifted slightly west 102 hours I think oz run of the GFS should have all the info from recon that will be interesting to watch
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729. SecretStormNerd
10:16 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
Quoting 719. SunnyDaysFla:



Where are you?

I am located in the Lake Worth area.
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728. cabice
10:16 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
WOAH Big shift WEST
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727. reedzone
10:15 PM GMT on September 28, 2016
18Z With recon data back westward, headed towards the East Coast.
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Cat 6 lead authors: WU cofounder Dr. Jeff Masters (right), who flew w/NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990, & WU meteorologist Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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