Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Tropical Development Chances Increasing in Gulf

The area of disturbed weather that we have been discussing for the last couple of days in the southern Gulf of Mexico is showing signs of getting its act together this morning. The latest Tropical Weather Outlook from the National Hurricane Center is now giving the system a 60% chance of development over the next 48 hours.

A look at the latest infrared satellite imagery from this morning shows an increase in t-storm activity around the disturbance in the Bay of Campeche. 

You also get the notion of some spin (indicative of low pressure development) when you look at the visible satellite loop.

The Hurricane Hunters are scheduled to investigate the area in the southern Gulf this afternoon, so it should be interesting to see what, if anything, they find. Remember, on these missions in the early stages of development, the Hurricane Hunters are primarily looking for evidence of a closed low-level center of circulation -- something enough to classify a disturbance as a tropical depression or tropical storm.

The big question is where does this thing go from here? The computer models are essentially split into two camps: westward into Mexico or northward toward the northern Gulf Coast. The steering forecast is quite tricky in the coming days. Something to note is that the farther north something forms, the more likely it is to be drawn northward. A system developing farther south in the Bay of Campeche would be more likely to meander or move westward into Mexico. Here's a look at the latest computer model runs from Wednesday morning.

If you haven't already noticed, we've got the computer model runs for Katia and what is now Tropical Storm Maria posting to our website. I will likely replace the Katia models with those for the disturbance in the Gulf this afternoon.

So why do we have 2 different camps with the models? A lot of it has to do with the influences of an upper-level trough forecast to be over the center of the U.S. by the weekend. Some models believe this trough will be enough to draw the Gulf disturbance north, while others think the trough misses it and allows high pressure to build back over the Gulf by early next week and push this system westward. It's one of those things that is just too close to call at this point.

Be sure to check back with us on 9News at 5 and 9News at 6 for updates on the Hurricane Hunter mission this afternoon (assuming it doesn't get canceled). You can also get the latest updates from our WAFB Storm Team Facebook page or by following us on Twitter (@WAFBweather).

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