7:38PM August 29, 2018

TROPICAL DEVELOPMENT POSSIBLE IN SOUTHEASTERN GULF NEXT WEEK… There is a low, but increasing, chance that a tropical depression or tropical storm may form in the southeastern Gulf of Mexico late next week. Uncertainties loom large, as this system is still about a week out, but several reliable models point to “tropical mischief” forming near the Florida Peninsula in the days ahead. Main headline on this Wednesday evening is that there is considerable uncertainty (thus absolutely no need for fear, panic, or stress), yet some weather models show a potential tropical storm affecting south Alabama and northwest Florida late next week. Let’s talk details about what we do know…

EURO MODEL: TROPICAL STORM… We look at a variety of weather models each day to generate a forecast. One of the models that often proves reliable is the ECMWF (European) model. This model has suggested for the last few days that a tropical depression or tropical storm could form near The Bahamas before crossing the Florida Peninsula and emerging in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. The European model brings the system rapidly to the northwest over the warm waters of the Gulf, before moving the system inland along the northern Gulf Coast (LA/MS/AL/FL). This is ONE idea on the table and must not be taken at face value as exactly what WILL happen. It’s one idea of what COULD happen.

GFS MODEL: OPEN WAVE IN CENTRAL GULF… Adding to the uncertainty is that the American-based Global Forecast System (GFS) has consistently suggested that this same system will remain weak, in the form of an open tropical wave, as it moves from east to west across the Gulf of Mexico. We note that the GFS has been more bullish on the idea of taking the system well to our south and ultimately into Texas or Louisiana late next week as a much weaker system. The Canadian and Japanese models also lean toward this “weaker, more westerly” solution.

CONSIDERABLE UNCERTAINTY… The “truth” of what will likely happen is probably somewhere in the middle of these two solutions. No one, and I mean NO ONE, knows IF this area of low pressure will develop into a tropical storm or remain an open tropical wave. The key message as of now is that we are monitoring a low-end potential for a tropical storm that COULD threaten Alabama and northwest Florida. Certainly doesn’t mean that will happen. It’s one possibility.

DON’T CHANGE ANY PLANS YET… It’s way too early to consider trip/vacation cancellations/postponements. We’re in a “wait and see” mode at this point. More guidance will provide clarity later this week into the weekend.

WARM WATERS IN GULF OF MEXICO… It’s totally normal for the Gulf of Mexico to feature sea surface temperatures (SSTs) of mid- to upper-80s this time of year, and that’s exactly what we’re seeing. Several buoys are reporting water temperatures of 86, 87, and 88° in the northeast part of the Gulf where this potential tropical system could move. Water temperatures in that range are conducive for significant tropical/hurricane development, although that’s only ONE ingredient in this process. I meet folks that stress out over high water temperature values in the Gulf, when in truth, that’s one piece of the 20 piece puzzle. Moisture content in the atmosphere, shear values near and around the storm, and surrounding pressure systems (like the Bermuda high, as one example) are all other factors that must be weighed properly when forecasting tropical systems.

DISTINCT SYSTEM EMERGING FROM AFRICA… The National Hurricane Center is also monitoring a vigorous tropical wave that will emerge from the African continent into the far eastern waters of the Atlantic Ocean on Thursday. This system now has a 70 percent chance of developing into a tropical storm as it moves westward in the days ahead. Plenty of uncertainty with the future track, but early model indications point to this system recurving into the open waters of the Atlantic between Europe and Bermuda and affecting no land masses. That would be a great thing IF that solution verifies. We’ll keep you posted about this separate, distinct system as well.

CRAZY POSTS AHEAD: BEWARE… As I consistently caution when we start looking at tropical development potentials: If you’re reading this on social media, odds support that you’re going to see some crazy, bizarre, “fear mongering” posts in the days ahead. It’s a sad part of today’s world. Again, the truth is, we don’t have a firm grip just yet of anything concrete. What we know at this point is there is a growing consensus that a tropical storm could form/move across the eastern part of the Gulf of Mexico late next week. Please join me in not sharing bad info… That just feeds the trolls, hype machine, fear mongers, and click-baiters. It is stunning that we have trained meteorologists that feed into this fear-based narrative, yet it happens A LOT in these situations. Please ignore the HYPE. My working guidance for folks is — if there aren’t a lot of details/clarity (aka if a post is two lines long without explanation), it probably isn’t worth your time and certainly not worth your “share” on social media.

APP ALERTS… Be sure to turn ON “Medium-Level Alerts” for the latest information about this system by visiting the Alerts tab (bottom right corner here in the RZWeather app) and tapping the large, yellow “Alert Settings” button to customize which alerts you would like to receive from me.

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