98L may develop into a tropical depression near Florida; Ma-on a threat to Japan
A tropical disturbance (Invest 98L) has formed off the east coast of Florida, along the tail end of a cold front that pushed off the coast late last week. This disturbance has the potential to develop into a tropical depression that will bring heavy rains to the northern Bahamas and east coast of Florida today through Tuesday. Satellite imagery shows that the disturbance has become more organized this morning, with an expanding area of intense thunderstorms, the beginnings of a surface circulation, and upper-level outflow on the east and north sides of the storm. Some rotation of 98L is also evident on long-range radar out of Melbourne, Florida, but the rain showers are poorly organized and there is little evidence of low-level spiral banding. Wind shear is a moderate 10 - 20 knots, and sea surface temperatures are 27 - 28°C, which is plenty warm enough to support a tropical storm. There is dry, continental air over North Florida, and upper level winds out of the northwest are driving this dry air into the center of 98L, retarding development.
Figure 1. Morning satellite image of Invest 98L.
Forecast for 98L
The models are shy about developing 98L; only the HWRF model shows a tropical depression developing. The SHIPS model predicts that wind shear will be in the low to moderate range, 5 - 15 knots, over the next five days. NHC is giving 98L a 30% chance of developing into a tropical depression by Wednesday. Given the recent satellite and radar presentation of the storm, I'd put those odds higher, at 50%. A hurricane hunter aircraft is scheduled to investigate 98L this afternoon.
Steering currents are weak off the coast of Florida, and 98L can be expected to move slowly at less than 5 mph over the next two days. The HWRF and GFDL models predict 98L will execute a clockwise loop, heading towards the coast of Florida on Monday, then looping northeastwards towards South Carolina later in the week. The track of 98L will depend strongly on how intense the storm gets; a weak system is likely to stay farther to the south, while a stronger system will "feel" upper level winds with a west-to-east component, and tend to move to the northeast, parallel to the coast.
None of the reliable models predict tropical cyclone development over the remainder of the Atlantic through July 23.
U.S. heat wave to last at least another week
An unusually intense, widespread, and long-lasting heat wave over the majority of the U.S. continues to set numerous daily record highs. The latest long-range forecasts from the GFS and ECMWF models predict that the ridge of high pressure responsible for the heat wave will remain entrenched over the center or eastern portion of the country during the coming week, so the heat wave should continue for all but the Pacific Northwest through July 23. The GFS model does show that the ridge will break down some during the period 10 - 16 days from now, but such long range forecasts have low skill, and the heat wave could easily continue through the remainder of July. I'll present a more detailed look at the heat wave later this week.
Figure 2. Microwave satellite image of Typhoon Ma-on at 08:26 UTC July 17, 2011, over the West Pacific Ocean. The typhoon was undergoing an eyewall replacement cycle, with the inner eyewall collapsing and a new, larger eyewall forming from an outer spiral band. Image credit: Navy Research Lab, Monterey.
Typhoon Ma-on headed towards Japan
Powerful Category 3 Typhoon Ma-on is headed northwestward towards Japan, and is expected to brush the east coast of the main island of Honshu on Tuesday. The typhoon has weakened some over the past day, thanks to an eyewall replacement cycle where the inner eyewall collapsed, and a new, larger eyewall formed from an outer spiral band. Once this process completes, Ma-on is expected to intensify into a Category 4 storm. With water temperatures along the path of the typhoon ranging from 29 - 30°C, and wind shear expected to remain in the low to moderate range of 5 - 15 knots, Ma-on has the potential to hit Japan as a major Category 3 storm. The typhoon is unusually large, with winds of tropical storm force (39+ mph) extending out almost 350 miles to the north of the storm. A large portion of the south coast of Japan will receive tropical storm-force winds and large battering waves from Ma-on. Although the typhoon is currently a minimal Category 3 storm, its large size means that Ma-on has a tremendous amount of total kinetic energy, characteristic of a Category 5 storm. This means that Ma-on has the potential to bring a large and highly destructive storm to the coast on the right front side of where the eye makes landfall. If the eye remains just offshore, as some models are predicting, this storm surge will largely miss Japan, though.