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Ernesto set to make Landfall near Key Largo

At least that's what NHC says. Their latest advisory has Ernesto moving to the northwest with landfall occuring overnight tonight. NHC kept the intensity at 40 kts, despite the 55 kt surface observation I saw earlier today. The satellite picture has become better organized today (Figure 1), with objective satellite intensity estimates as high as 55 kts from UW-CIMSS. To say I'm a bit surprised at the latest adivsory would be accurate. At the moment, there are no hurricane hunter aircraft investigating Ernesto, although the G-IV aircraft is sampling the upper level wind structure, which should aid the 0Z models tonight. Also, a hurricane hunter aircraft is set to enter Ernesto around 8 o'clock tonight as well.

Figure 1. Infrared satellite image of Tropical Storm Ernesto

The direction of motion of Ernesto confuses me as well. I spent most of my afternoon looking at the regional radar loop out of Key West and Miami and I thought the storm was moving to the west-northwest. This seemingly subtle difference in motion could make a huge difference as whether the storm, in the short term, makes it into the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico or makes landfall in the Everglades. Figure 2 shows radar images from 3PM and 5PM this afternoon, along with low level center, just to give you an idea as to why I came to my conclusion.

Figure 2. Composite radar images from Key West and Miami from 3PM (top) and 5PM (bottom). The red "L" indicates the center of Ernesto

The official NHC forecast track is virtually unchanged from this morning (Figure 3). The short term model guidance hasn't shifted much either (Figure 4), with the global models still forecasting the turn to the north and Ernesto racing across the Florida Peninsula. The statistical-dynamical models are still a bit further left, calling for landfall on the Gulf coast of Florida. Again, I'm not sure why NHC is so quick to discount these models, because in my mind, the path Ernesto has taken has been similar to them. Then again, I've only been at this for two years and they have much more experience than I do. I'd like to know where I am screwed up in my analysis.

Figure 3. Official NHC forecast track for Tropical Storm Ernesto

The intensity forecast is also quite similar to this morning (Figure 5). However, it should be noted that if Ernesto does make it into the Gulf, the rapid intensification probability is up to 44% now. Also, the models are suggesting that Ernesto will remain a tropical storm when it makes its 2nd landfall in the Carolinas. I'll try and make some more sense of this as the night goes on. Stay tuned to the StormTrack for more.

Posted by Adam Moyer | Permalink