Well, it figures. As soon as I leave the office, the Air Force Reconnaissance plane flew into the southeastern part of what is now Tropical Storm Beryl. A recent AMSU satellite pass shows that the most intense thunderstorms are in the southeast quadrant (Figure 1). Not surprisingly, that is also where the strongest winds are located. All afternoon, I was watching the hurricane hunters fly around the center of circulation, which is what they are tasked to do, but clearly not flying in the strongest part of the storm. Finally, right before the advisory was to be issued by NHC, the C-130 flew into the most powerful thunderstorms. Sure enough, they found strong enough winds to warrant an upgrade to tropical storm strength.
Interestingly, in the forecast discussion, the NHC forecaster mentioned that the main intensity model (SHIPS) has the sea-surface temperatures too cold. SHIPS is usually the most reliable velocity forecast, however, right now it is only forecasting Beryl to make it to a 50 kt tropical storm before moving over colder waters and becoming extratropical. In response, NHC bumped up its intensity forecast over what the SHIPS model is saying. In my opinion, given the real sea-surface temperatures (~29ºC) and low values of shear (one knot of shear 24 hours from now), Beryl has a chance, albeit slight, to intensify into a hurricane. The good news is that this storm most likely will only have fringe effects on the US mainland. Certainly, waves will be higher at the beaches tomorrow along the Carolinas and the Outer Banks could experience some gusty winds and locally heavy rain, but it doesn’t appear that Beryl will make a direct hit on the East Coast. I’ll be attempting to update throughout the evening, so stay tuned to the StormTrack for more.