First Alert Weather

Talking the Tropics With Mike: Hurricane Ian hitting Caymans & W. Cuba then into Gulf of Mexico

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REMEMBER WHEN A TROPICAL STORM OR HURRICANE IS APPROACHING: Taping windows is *NOT* helpful & will not keep glass from breaking.

Realize the forecast cone (”cone of uncertainty”) is the average forecast error over a given time - out to 5 days - & *does not* indicate the width of the storm &/or damage that might occur.

** FIRST ALERT! ** - Anyone living in - or traveling to - the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, Yucatan Peninsula &/or the U.S. Gulf Coast should stay up to date on the latest forecast as Ian moves over the Caribbean... then over the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. A reminder to NOT focus too much on the exact landfall point or intensity forecast. **

One should be careful about determining the threat to life & property based on the category of the storm & whether or not Ian is weakening. Dangerous impacts are imminent for a good part of Fl. It’s possible that the storm surge will be a category or so higher than what one might expect.


* The exact timing & intensity of any & all Ian impacts for NE Fl./SE Ga. will be dependent on the exact location of Ian in reference to Jacksonville & will, of course, be subject to change.

* A high rip current risk will continue through the week & become a ‘very high’ risk Wed. through at least Fri.

* Few if any direct impacts from Ian through at least Tue.... with the first rainfall - still not necessarily directly a result of Ian (enhanced by onshore flow) - arriving Wed. spreading from south to north.

* Potential rainfall: 3-6″... 8″+ for some areas. Tropical moisture surging north combined with onshore winds (out of the east) ahead of Ian should begin to bring some showers, isolated t’storms from south to north through the day Wed. This will start to saturate the already wet ground across the area leading to flooding issues Thu./Fri. - in particular - as heavy Ian rain bands move across the area & potentially “train” across some areas. The saturated soil may also lead to trees being more easily uprooted by winds that otherwise may not be much of a problem. The local area has dried out some over the past 7-10 days but the very wet Aug./early Sept. has still left soils essentially saturated... + we’re coming off a week of higher than avg. tides partially due to the new moon cycle & astronomically higher than avg. tides, so there’s a good deal of water “in the system” that will be added to in the coming days. The winds out of the east will also help force more water into inlets, the intracoastal, streams & rivers. Flooding along the St. Johns River is likely as well. We’ll have to keep a close eye on downtown Jacksonville as - given the current forecast & approach of Ian - strong southerly flow Thu. night through Fri. night may “pile up” water & overflow into parts of downtown. This situation is *not* exactly the same as Irma in 2017 as Irma was more inland upon approach to NE Fl. (vs. Ian being more west).... but there are similarities.

* Seas & surf will increase through the week. Double digit breakers at local beaches will be possible by late week.

* Gusty winds arrive by Thu./Fri. *At the moment* tropical storm force (39+ mph) sustained winds will be possible with hurricane force (74+ mph) wind gusts possible. Strongest winds will occur west of Highway 301 as well as at the beaches & along waterways. Keep in mind that bridges are usually closed when sustained winds reach 40 mph but local officials may make “the call” at anytime depending on local conditions & forecasts.

* Isolated waterspouts & tornadoes can be expected Wed.-Fri.

* Power outages should be expected.

* The next few days will be your chance to get organized, check storm kits, prepare your yard & home for a storm, check & test (understand!) generators & top off gas tanks. This course of action would be especially advisable along the west coast of Fl. & the Panhandle.

Atlantic Basin:

Tropical wave - ‘98-L’ that moved off of Africa last week is moving over the Southern Caribbean & Central Caribbean & was upgraded to tropical depression #9 Friday .... to tropical storm “Ian” Fri. evening... then to a hurricane early Mon. This is a classic wave in that it formed from a complex of intense storms over Africa... encountered hostile conditions (shear & dry air) for days before finding more favorable conditions. The storm’s center has been aligning as Ian organizes & t’storms burst/pulse allowing Ian to reach hurricane intensity early Mon. As the storm gains some latitude & turns more north, ingredients are in place for the development of a significant tropical cyclone over the Northwest Caribbean & SE Gulf... with pretty rapid intensification a distinct possibility.

The global forecast models are coming into better agreement with the GFS & Europeans models essentially trending toward one another, & it’s a “meeting in the middle” that is the most likely ultimate outcome. In some model runs, the Euro is now even a little west of the GFS(!). Strange how many “forecasters & even meteorologists simply jumped on the Euro train - inexplicable actually. It’s very much worth mentioning that the GFS *has been* leading the charge so far on accuracy, especially as it relates to location & the longer westward movement the past several days & the forecast more northward path through the Eastern Gulf. So while there’s agreement on development of a major hurricane & model solutions have narrowed, there’s still spread on speed of forward movement & exact location with the GFS slower, generally more north & the European a little faster & more east but still trending west. The GFS remains steadfast on a Panhandle/Big Bend hit while the Euro is pointing to the Fl. west coast though is more parallel very near the coast vs. past days. Confidence is increasing that the west coast of Florida & eastern parts of the Panhandle will be hit by a strong, possibly major (Cat. 3+) hurricane during the upcoming mid to late week. Friction from nearby land & increasing shear & dry air will bring Ian down from its peak intensity by late in the week while paralleling or moving right along the Fl. west coast once north of Tampa.

One should be careful about determining the threat to life & property based on the category of the storm & whether or not Ian is weakening. Dangerous impacts are imminent for a good part of Fl. It’s possible that the storm surge will be a category or so higher than what one might expect for parts of the Fl. west coast.

Both the GFS & European models are initializing well which is a positive... the GFS has been better on the more west & south track the last 3 days & currently. The GFS cannot & should not be ignored despite it’s extreme west (Louisiana which is going to be too far west) solution during the middle of last week as the GFS was the model of choice on Fiona last week. Once to Fl., the European is still more south but has been trending north, even west. More time over the Northeast Gulf - a more northward motion upon approach to Fl. - could & should result in some weakening before landfall due to increasing shear & some drier continental air possibly becoming involved with Ian’s circulation. In any case... a significant hit appears likely on the Fl. west coast &/or Eastern Panhandle with significants impacts for much of Florida at one time or another. Storm surge into Tampa Bay is expected to be very significant based on the current forecast. The UKMET model has not been very good this season so far but for what it’s worth, the model is now a little south of the European solution on the Fl. landfall & timing - on the west/SW coast of Fl. - but weaker & - more than likely - much too weak... then takes Ian to the east coast of Fl. before turning northward near or just east of Jacksonville.

So the ingredients are in place for the development of a major hurricane over the Caribbean &/or SE Gulf with very warm water including high oceanic heat content (warm far below the surface of the ocean)... sufficient mid & upper level moisture... mostly low shear that will eventually be in concert with the storm’s movement (so less detrimental). Shear does increase by mid to late next week but may be offset some by upper level ventilation (nearby trough) & the fact that Ian should be well organized by then. In the end... the storm’s intensity will come down to how quickly Ian develops an inner core... any land interaction... & how long the tropical cyclone stays over the Gulf vs. moving into Fl. We will have to watch for the possibility of pretty fast intensification near Cuba &/or over the Southeast Gulf where the environment looks especially favorable. It looks like the fairly steady/swift movement - of a well developed tropical cyclone - north across the west edge of Cuba will be brief & little more than a speed bump. The drier mid & upper level air will increase late this week closer to Fl. & over the Northeast Gulf along with the increase in shear - this combination will hopefully - & should - drop Ian’s intensity from its peak over the Gulf, especially if the eye gets farther north vs. an earlier, more east hit on the Fl. west coast. But do not let one’s guard down!

Steering currents to consider:

(1) the GFS “won” the forecast battle on Fiona hands down over the European model while the UKMET was consistently out to lunch. Simply based on the “you’re only as good as your last forecast”, it’s very hard to ignore the GFS. Not to mention the model’s stability from one run to the next has greatly improved over the last few days. The same can be said for the European when it comes to its recent run to run consistency farther to the east... though it has trended west & north pretty steadily since Fri.

(2) there should be - & apparently has been some “extra” ridging underneath - to the south of - once intense hurricane Fiona which is now long gone after having moved into Eastern Canada & the far NW Atlantic. This alone has likely helped the more westward track for the last few days. But it’s unclear how much ridging will manage to build behind only recently departing Fiona as an upper level trough sweeps across the Eastern U.S. through the early part of the week. The positioning of this trough + its exit to the east will help dictate the timing & angle of the turn north out of the Caribbean & Gulf. As the upper trough over the Eastern U.S. departs & lifts out to the northeast, steering currents near Ian will weaken causing the hurricane to slow.... & even possibly meander some near or over the Southeast U.S. This part - Fri. into the weekend - of the forecast remains in flux.

(3) a tropical storm/typhoon has formed over the W. Pacific & will move due west to Asia. Perhaps of more importance is a tropical cyclone a few days ago that turned rather sharply to the northeast & moved near & east of Japan & has since become a post-tropical low. A new tropical cyclone taking shape east of Japan will follow a similar path turning sharply northeast to the east of Japan. A teleconnection implies the more west movement of Ian will be somewhat short lived followed by the sharper turn north/northeast. (W. Pacific track map at the bottom). The trough off the east coast of China essentially mirrors the trough near/off the east coast of the U.S. with strong low pressure to the east (Fiona over the Atlantic) followed by another trough to the east.

Movement summary:

Ian will at least stay far to the south of recently hard hit Puerto Rico & Dominican Republic. The time table - *for right now* is the NW Caribbean into Mon... well west of Jamaica... a quick crossing of the Cayman Islands & Western Cuba Mon. night-Tue... then the SE Gulf of Mexico mid week followed by a hit on Florida’s west coast or the Eastern Panhandle anywhere from late Wed. to late Thu./early Fri. depending on whether or not Ian is moving more north (later landfall) vs. more east (earlier landfall)- timing is subject to change, of course! The path & strength of Ian remains at least somewhat questionable. There will be changes, stay up to date!

Spaghetti plots includes ensembles of the models:

If Ian’s forecast track continues to trend west, the rainfall forecast should decrease - at least some:

Grand Cayman radar imagery:

Integrated Microwave Imager, CIMSS:

Deep oceanic heat content is impressive across the Caribbean - lots of warm water well below the surface of the ocean:

Strong shear over the far Eastern Caribbean weakens a great deal more to the north & west:

Radar imagery from S. Fl. Water Management District:

The last NHC advisories on Fiona, Hermine & Gaston have been issued.


A tropical wave is moving from the Eastern to Central Atlantic. Some development is possible as the wave turns more north.... another wave is coming off the coast of Africa at a lower latitude & might have some long term potential.

Water vapor loop shows plenty of mid & upper level moisture (white & green areas) across a good part of the Atlantic Basin:

September origins:

Averages below based on climatology for the Atlantic Basin through September. This season so far is well below avg.:

Wind shear:

Saharan dust spreads west each year from Africa by the prevailing winds (from east to west over the Atlantic). Dry air - yellow/orange/red/pink. Widespread dust is indicative of dry air that can impede the development of tropical cyclones. However, sometimes “wanna’ be” waves will just wait until they get to the other side of - or away from - the plume then try to develop if other conditions are favorable. In my personal opinion, way too much is made about the presence of Saharan dust & how it relates to tropical cyclones. In any case, we’ve had several large dust plumes spread west to the Caribbean & Gulf with the peak of Saharan dust typically in June & July.

2022 names..... “Julia” is the next name on the Atlantic list (names are picked at random by the World Meteorological Organization... repeat every 6 years). Historic storms are retired [Florence & Michael in ’18... Dorian in ’19 & Laura, Eta & Iota in ‘20 & Ida in ‘21]). In fact, this year’s list of names is rather infamous with “Charley”, “Frances”, “Jeanne” & “Ivan” retired from the ‘04 list (all hit Fl.) & “Matthew” was retired in 2016. The WMO decided - beginning last year - that the Greek alphabet will be no longer used & instead there will be a supplemental list of names if the first list is exhausted (has only happened three times - 2005, 2020 & 2021). The naming of tropical cyclones began on a consistent basis in 1953. More on the history of naming tropical cyclones * here *.

East Atlantic:

Mid & upper level wind shear (enemy of tropical cyclones) analysis (CIMMS). The red lines indicate strong shear:

Water vapor imagery (dark blue indicates dry air):

Deep oceanic heat content over the Gulf, Caribbean & deep tropical Atlantic:

Sea surface temp. anomalies:

SE U.S. surface map:

Surface analysis centered on the tropical Atlantic:

Surface analysis of the Gulf:


GFS wave forecast at 48 & 72 hours (2 & 3 days):

Atlantic Basin wave period forecast for 24, 48 & 72 hours respectively:

Updated Atlantic seasonal forecast from early Aug. - NOAA & CSU:

The East Pacific:

West Pacific:

Global tropical activity:

Typhoon “Noru” rolled across the Northern Philippines & is now headed to Vietnam Tue./Wed.:


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