Was Florida hit by a Tropical Storm or a Non Tropical Gale Force?

October 11, 2011

If you were following SWAT’s updates on Facebook (www.Facebook.com/SWATChasers) Sunday Night, you should be well aware that a large area of disturbed weather struck the East Coast of Florida, packing heavy rain and strong winds in excess of 60-70 mph. During the day on Sunday, a weather feature began to develop over the Bahamas. This feature began to show signs of developing into a closed low pressure system within a larger, more synoptically driven weather system/pattern.  By Sunday Evening, the circulation had tightened on  radar, and velocity data was showing upwards of 70+ mph winds. A semi apparent eyewall like feature also became evident just East of Palm Bay, Florida.

There was much debate in the meteorology community as to whether this area of disturbed weather should have been classified as a Tropical Storm or not. Winds gusted to over hurricane force in several reporting stations along the Eastern Florida Coast, but the National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center remained persistent that the disturbed weather was nothing more than a Non Tropical Gale Force.

Radar data/loops clearly showed a well defined center of circulation/eyewall feature as stated above off the Eastern Florida Coast. Without knowing what you were being shown, at first glance, the radar image below looks like several prior landfalling tropical systems.

So besides the well defined center of circulation off the Florida Coast, why do I believe that this area of disturbed weather should have been classified as a tropical storm? There are several reasons, but for starters, here is what I posted Sunday Evening on the SWAT Facebook page.

“I rarely criticize the National Weather Service/National Hurricane Center, but this area of low pressure center has obviously gained tropical storm characteristics. The area of low pressure system has formed over warm sea surface temperatures, has organized convection over the center of circulation, has surface winds over 35 knots and the strongest winds are near the center. This all combined with Cape Canaveral recently reporting a 69 mph wind gusts is blatantly obvious evidence that we have at least a tropical depression if not a tropical storm off the East Florida Coast. Our viewers in Eastern Florida should be prepared for heavy rain, very strong winds and coastal flooding through the morning hours.”

Shortly after I published that update on the SWAT Facebook page, several reports of 75 mph wind gusts were received along the Eastern Florida Coast from the United States Air Force weather observing stations. The winds were strong enough that the National Weather Service was forced to not only issue High Wind Warnings but also Storm Warnings for the adjacent waters. Storm Warnings are extremely rare in the Southeast during Hurricane Season.

In addition to radar data and reports of winds gusting well over 70+ mph at several official reporting stations, the pressure also began to rapidly drop. Cape Canaveral, Florida saw pressures rapidly fall as the area of disturbed weather approached.

The center of circulation passed very close to Cape Canaveral and their pressure bottomed at 999.5 millibars, a pressure reading commonly found in tropical storms. Nearly all (if not all) of the characteristics needed for a storm to be classified as a tropical storm had been met, so why did the National Hurricane Center and National Weather Service choose not to classify or upgrade the storm to a “tropical storm”? There is still some doubt in the meteorology community whether the area of disturbed weather attained a warm core. A definition of tropical cyclones is that they must have a warm core, which means the temperature in the vertical core of the cyclone extending up through the atmosphere is higher than in the air surrounding it. With the area of disturbed weather over extremely warm sea surface temperatures, I personally believe that at the very least, a shallow warm core was likely present.

The second possible reason that the National Weather Service/National Hurricane Center did not upgrade the storm to an official “tropical storm” could be based off of the logistical nightmare surrounding a possible late evening upgrade. The following was posted by a National Weather Service Melbourne, Florida Meteorologist on an online forum.

“You probably don’t realize what a logistical nightmare this would cause our office to name this thing at such a late hour. We would have to cancel the Gale Warning, High Surf Advisory, Wind Advisory and Lake Wind Advisory that have been up now for two days and replace them with Subtropical Storm Warning. We would need to put out products cancelling the current advisories, and then issue a Subtropical Storm Local Statement, update the Zone Forecasts, Coastal Waters Forecast Hazardous Weather Outlook, our blog and Short term Forecast. Local graphics would have to be updated as well as our forecast grids.”

While I understand his point, I do not agree with the decision. If the storm truly was a tropical storm, tropical storm warnings grab the attention of the public far better than high wind warnings or storm warnings. This area of “disturbed weather/non tropical gale force” caused significant damage and as seen via multiple social media outlets, the public appeared to have had no real idea that inclement weather was likely. Granted, high wind warnings were in place, but again, tropical storm warnings have much more significance on public perception than a high wind warning does.

Needless to say, I 100% believe the area of disturbed weather off the Florida Coast Sunday Night was a tropical storm. Hopefully the system is revisited/relooked at in post season analysis. This means that the National Hurricane Center can revisit and take a second look at the storm to decide if it was actually a tropical storm and add it to the list of 2011 tropical cyclones/historical data.



All Eyes On The Tropics

August 30, 2011

With Hurricane Irene causing billions of dollars of damage up and down the United States East Coast, killing at least 40 people and destroying 1,115 homes in North Carolina alone, all eyes continue to be on the tropics as Katia churns over the Atlantic and as a new potential tropical cyclone could form in the Gulf of Mexico.

Tropical Storm Katia continues to strengthen at a fairly rapid rate. As of the 5:00 PM National Hurricane Center advisory, Katia had winds of 60 mph and was moving to the West Northwest at 20 mph. Katia continues to look more organized and will likely gain hurricane status by Wednesday morning. Satellite imagery continues to show a much more organized Katia.

Environmental conditions ahead of Katia remain extremely favorable for strengthening. Nearly all of our forecast guidance develops Katia into a major hurricane with some of the numerical forecast guidance developing Katia into a Category 4 or Category 5 hurricane.

While Katia will likely continue to strengthen, the most uncertainty regarding Katia is where she will track. Our forecast guidance generally show Katia tracking West Northwest through the short term. At this point, I believe there is at least a 60% chance Katia will likely be tracking far enough North that she will likely be impacted by a trough that will move tracking through the Ohio Valley. If this happens, Katia will recurve to the North and Northeast and will likely have little impact on the United States. There is still significant uncertainty in the ultimate track of Katia and if she is not impacted by the trough, then there is an increased chance that she will continue to move more Westerly and could post some type of threat to the East Coast. If Katia can make it to 70W, then she will be close enough to the East Coast that significant media coverage and frenzy will likely occur, especially since Katia will likely be a major Category 3 or stronger hurricane.

Another area we are watching quite closely is an unorganized area of convection in the Northwestern Caribbean.

Most of our forecast guidance is in agreement in developing this area of unorganized convection into a tropical cyclone at some point during the upcoming weekend. With weak steering currents, it will be difficult to pinpoint where this eventual tropical cyclone will track. Most of our forecast guidance indicates some type of eventual threat to the Gulf Coast. This system will have to be watched extremely closely as sea surface temperatures in the Gulf are running well above normal.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned!

Brandon Redmond


Hurricane Irene – Legitimate East Coast Threat

August 22, 2011

Irene strengthened into a hurricane overnight despite her interaction with land. Nearly all of Puerto Rico is without power as Irene battered the island with 80 mph wind gusts.

Here is a radar loop of Irene as she passed over Puerto Rico early this morning:

Our forecast guidance continues to track Irene just North of the Island of Hispanolia. If this were to occur, land interaction would be very minimal and Irene would likely continue to strengthen. With an extremely favorable upper air environment, Irene should have no problem reaching major hurricane status within the next 48-72 hours.

The track of Irene is the big question. With a weakeness in the subtropical ridge, Irene will likely take a turn towards the North or Northwest. The only caveat in this theory is the strength of the cyclone as stronger hurricanes will often exhibit or try to exhibit a leftward motion.

While some uncertainty still exists, most of our forecast models agree that a Carolina Coastline landfall is in the works.

Irene will likely have major impacts on nearly all of the Eastern Seaboard. The cyclone will likely be large in nature with tropical storm force and hurricane winds extending well out from the Central. Tropical Storm and Hurricane force winds are likely to impact much of the Eastern Seaboard with the Western part of Irene likely coming close to the Eastern Florida Coast.

Hurricane watches and warnings are in effect for much of Hispanolia, Cuba and the Bahamas.

In addition to strong winds, storm surge and extremely heavy flooding rains will be a significant threat across much of the Southeast and Eastern United States Coast. With a slow moving cyclone and a deep moisture connection/influx into the hurricane, flooding rains will be an extremely dangerous threat up and down the Southeastern and Eastern Coast. Our forecast models are already keying in on this threat with the GFS indicating widespread flooding rains from Florida to Maine.

Residents from Florida to Maine should be on high alert and be monitoring the progress of Irene. Hurricane Irene will be a large hurricane with her effects being felt well away from the center of circulation/eye wall. Irene will be a multi-facet hurricane bringing not only damaging winds, but torrential flooding rains, storm surge, strong rip currents and tornadoes.

For SWAT’s latest information on Hurricane Irene, you can follow us at:


Please take time to visit our websites at www.SWATChasers.com and www.SWATTours.com

Tropical Storm Emily Is Official!

August 1, 2011

A Hurricane Hunter Aircraft found a closed low level circulation in the tropical wave that is now Tropical Storm Emily. Tropical Storm Watches and Warnings have been issued for the Leeward and Windward Islands and Puerto Rico. Emily currently has winds of 40 mph and is moving West at 17 mph. Emily should continue to gradually strengthen and turn to the Northwest. The ultimate track of Emily continues to be in question due to land interaction with Hispaniola, however all residents along the Eastern Seaboard should closely monitor the progress of Emily over the next several days.

SWAT will be closely monitoring the progression of Emily as there is a chance we may hurricane chase if she comes close to the United States Coast!

Don’t forget to check out SWATTours.com for the latest on our 2012 Storm Chase Tours!

Don is dead but Emily could soon be born

July 30, 2011

Unfortunately Tropical Storm Don did little in the way to offset the drought conditions in Texas and as a meteorologist, I can honestly say it was one of the most bizarre tropical storms I have ever tracked as the precipitation field just fell apart once the storm hit the Texas Coast. Another strong tropical wave is being monitored about 900 miles East of the Windward Islands. This tropical wave is likely to develop into a tropical storm (Emily) and eventually into a hurricane.

Here is the projected forecast paths of some of our forecast models showing where the future Emily may track.

I would look for the National Hurricane Center to initiate advisories on the future Tropical Storm later this afternoon. All interests along the Southeastern United States Coast should monitor the progress of this future tropical storm very closely.