Ernesto reaches hurricane strength as it approaches the Yucatan

By: Angela Fritz , 8:55 PM GMT on August 07, 2012

Ernesto strengthened to a category 1 hurricane this afternoon after the morning hurricane hunter mission found winds of 80 mph, which is unusual for a hurricane without an eye wall. The hunters also found a minimum central pressure of 984 mb, which has dropped since this morning. The next hurricane hunter mission is scheduled to reach the center of the hurricane around 8pm EDT. The rain bands from Ernesto have reached the coast of Belize and Mexico as it continues to move west along the coast of Honduras, and landfall is expected north of the the Belize/Mexico border tonight around midnight. The Yucatan Basin buoy is now reporting gusts up to 53 mph, with sustained winds around 40 mph and 19 foot waves. These gusts are about 10 mph stronger than this morning's readings. Weather stations along the coast of Mexico and Belize aren't reporting winds stronger than 10 mph, however, they are expected to pick up around 8 or 9pm EDT tonight. The island of Roatan in Honduras is experiencing winds around 15 mph this afternoon, along with some light to moderate rainfall. Honduras seems to be the most impacted country so far, although they have avoided issuing evacuations. Nicaragua, however, has evacuated 1,500 people as of last night, and Mexico's authorities have evacuated around 600 residents from Punta Allen, which is a fishing village between Cozumel and Chetumal.

Visible satellite imagery suggests Ernesto still has the potential to develop an eye wall before landfall, as strong, organized thunderstorms are present in all four quadrants of the hurricane. Infrared satellite imagery shows the clockwise circulation at high levels (the upper level anti-cyclone) which will help ventilate the hurricane and could support further enhancement. If Ernesto wasn't approaching landfall, it would likely continue to strengthen and could have even experienced a period of rapid intensification, given the heat content of the Caribbean Sea. Wind shear around the hurricane remains low at 5-10 knots.


Figure 1. Radar image from Belize as the outer rain bands of Ernesto approach. This image was captured at 2:30pm EDT.


Figure 2. IR satellite imagery of Hurricane Ernesto captured at 4:15pm EDT.

Forecast for Ernesto
Ernesto will continue to track west this afternoon and evening, making landfall north of the Belize/Mexico border around midnight tonight. Given the current state of the hurricane, some more intensification is possible over the next few hours as it approaches land. Heavy rains continue to be the main threat from Hurricane Ernesto. The Hurricane Center is forecasting 4 to 8 inches of rain to fall, increasing in the higher elevation of Belize. After landfall, the storm will take about a day to cross the Yucatan, and the terrain will diminish its winds. Once Ernesto re-emerges over water into the Bay of Campeche in the southern Gulf of Mexico, wind shear will be light and ocean waters warm with high heat content. Ernesto is then expected to redevelop some strength and potentially regain hurricane status while over water, which a few of the models are suggesting. Second landfall will probably occur Friday morning around Veracruz, Mexico, but could reach land anywhere from Tuxapan to Coatzacoalcos.


Figure 3. Webcam image from Caye Walker Village in Belize.

Angela


The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

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Quoting CybrTeddy:
What I find interesting is that all the major global models (ECMWF, GFS, UKMET, CMC) all say that Ernesto's peak intensity will happen in the Bay of Campeche regardless of how strong Ernesto gets before landfall.


I think since he has trended further north the past few days that he should have enough room to strengthen in the BOC, similar to Karl.
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Based on Doppler radar out of belize Ernesto is moving due west
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
What I find interesting is that all the major global models (ECMWF, GFS, UKMET, CMC) all say that Ernesto's peak intensity will happen in the Bay of Campeche regardless of how strong Ernesto gets before landfall.


I tend to agree with that. And as Levi and I think someone else pointed out 2 nights ago, tropical systems that are intensifying right up until landfall will emerge back into water with a MUCH better chance of restrengthening than systems that are stable or weakening near first landfall.
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It's probably going to be 80 mph at landfall with an update shortly afterwards.
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Quoting angelafritz:


Yes, el Nino tends to increase wind shear, which is unfavorable for TC formation. The seasonal forecasts so far have been average-below average, and NOAA is coming out with their next update on Thursday.

We had some activity early maybe because we hadn't transitioned fully into an el Nino. As of yesterday, we still aren't in a full el Nino.

I'd caution that there's a lot of time left in the season.
I was about to add that we sometimes don't feel effects vis a vis the season for up to 8 weeks... which means that a healthy CV wave train could bring enough sufficiently viable Twaves into our vicinity .... I agree we can't assume the season is over. I think we may get lucky with that secondary peak in October.
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Quoting floridaboy14:
18z GFS major hurricane gordon hurricane helene and tropical storm issac :O


Do you have the graphic?
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Quoting Thrawst:
Recon hasn't updated since 21.12z ... suggesting that the plane could very well be in the air.. just having some transmitting errors.


We've had situations before were the information won't transmit until it's already halfway there, or sometime's it won't update 'till the 6th or so update.
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What I find interesting is that all the major global models (ECMWF, GFS, UKMET, CMC) all say that Ernesto's peak intensity will happen in the Bay of Campeche regardless of how strong Ernesto gets before landfall.
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18z GFS major hurricane gordon hurricane helene and tropical storm issac :O
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Quoting Tazmanian:
recon out of time




The explosive convection will be significantly effected by land in less than an hour if not now. We won't know exactly how Ernie topped out before wreaking the Yucatan, but he sure did look damn good doing it.
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Quoting Thrawst:
Recon hasn't updated since 21.12z ... suggesting that the plane could very well be in the air.. just having some transmitting errors.


This happens very often, they have problems relaying the data but can fix this...still an hour until they reach the meat of the system so I wouldn't rule out having data by then.

Classic pinwheeling effect going on with Ernesto's inner core/eyewall on IR imagery
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The HH not going into Ernie right before landfall is a very bad thing.
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Quoting Thrawst:
Recon hasn't updated since 21.12z ... suggesting that the plane could very well be in the air.. just having some transmitting errors.


That would still put the plane only about half way to Ernesto. Too late IMO
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recon out of time


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Quoting floridaboy14:
if NHC was smart the 8pm advisory should be Ernesto makes landfall in the yucatan as a category 2 hurricane because he looks EXCELLENT
I would expect 80 mph at landfall.
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7 mins old

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Recon hasn't updated since 21.12z ... suggesting that the plane could very well be in the air.. just having some transmitting errors.
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I highly doubt the NHC will make Ernesto a Cat 2 without having recon observations to back them up.
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come on NHC send a noaa plane if the recon cant go at lest we would have some in in there
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Quoting cg2916:
Uh oh...



Other than a slight weakness in the banding near Guatemala, from the whole picture, you can barely tell that the land is interacting with Ernie.
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if NHC was smart the 8pm advisory should be Ernesto makes landfall in the yucatan as a category 2 hurricane because he looks EXCELLENT
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Quoting kmanislander:


Would you like a dropsonde through your roof ?

If it was an Atlantic Governing Authority dropsonde that might deliver soundings, I certainly would.
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This is why we all have a fascination with hurricanes.

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Quoting Tazmanian:



that 10% is ex FLORENCE



Thanks, I overlooked that.
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This happens sometimes with recon flights, right? But I can't believe it's grounded at such a crucial time in Ernesto.
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317. ATCr
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Any reason as to why it was grounded?


They were supposed to depart at 2045z but Im not sure why they didnt. I just know that they didnt.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Any reason as to why it was grounded?


It hasn't taken off! What the heck, NOAA? The weather there is fine, I hope it's not plane issues.
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Quoting PRweatherWatcher10:
We have another yellow circle in the Atlantic at 10%.



that 10% is ex FLORENCE
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Quoting BahaHurican:
Evening all. I'm sorry I missed the "excitement", but ended up at the doctor's today because of shoulder pain. It's still hurting like crazy, but I figure I can read even if I can't type much... lol



This is from RandyB's blog. He's our resident HHer, and his blog is always great to check out when they're flying... besides great info he always has great pics as well.....

Quoting BahaHurican:
Hi Randy,

I assume u have been pretty busy w/ Ernesto lately, but I hope u will b around later to talk about it and upcoming storms.

Meanwhile, I leave 1 qtn that bloggers in Doc Masters' blog have been curious about. Aside from Biloxi and St. Croix, is there any other location from which the HHers regularly fly missions? Some were disputing even that Biloxi was a mission start point....


Quoting LRandyB:


Hi Baha,


That's a good question. The Hurricane Hunters are based out of Keesler AFB in Biloxi MS. Whenever it is practical, they do fly out of Biloxi. For example, the mission currently in the air this morning (Tuesday morning at 8:00am CDT) took off from Biloxi and will return there. It's simply more cost effective to fly from here whenever they can. The Hurricane Hunters area of operation, as defined by the National Hurricane Operations Plan, includes storms from 55W in the mid-Atlantic to about 155W in the eastern Pacific. As a storm approaches 55W in the Atlantic, NHC will task the Hurricane Hunters to begin flying. St. Croix is considered a forward opoerating location for storms in the mid-Atlantic. If a storm threatens St. Croix while they are operating there, they often evacuate to either Barbados or Homestead, FL. For Pacific storms, believe it or not, most often they will fly out of Biloxi. A storm on the west coast of Mexico can be flown pretty easily from Biloxi. For storms threatening Hawaii, they fly out of Hickam AFB in Hawaii.

I hope that answers your question. I will be posting an update later today on the tropics.

Randy
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Oh boy...

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Quoting mcluvincane:
Gordon on a track towards the conus
Can you continue posting the runs?.
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
That's at least a good 1hr and a half flight right?


I would think closer to 3 from there to being on station. Max cruise speed for a C 130 is 400 MPH and you have to factor in climb out on take off and descent to 5000 feet on station.
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belize radar loop
Link
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Quoting Skyepony:
Excellent TRMM pass. Click pick for very large quicktime.

Do you know which model has done the best with Ernesto in regards to track and intensity?
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We have another yellow circle in the Atlantic at 10%.
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Quoting ATCr:


On the ground at Keesler AFB
Any reason as to why it was grounded?
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Quoting hurrtracker1994:
Afternoon everyone! Just got back from working at the NHC. I am going to be working on a blog post regarding Ernesto and the rest of the Atlantic basin, and I am going to include a little bit about my internship at NHC. If anyone has any general questions I would be happy to answer them about my experiences there.
Looking forward to it.
Just remember though...what happens in Hooter's(after-work) stays in Hooter's.
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Belize radar shows storm at 18.8n,86.8w moving just south of west. Type Belize radar in google search and select first choice I think.
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Uh oh...

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Ernesto just keeps on growing in coverage!!! He's a BEAST!

7 hours ago:




Now:

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301. ATCr
Quoting Dunkman:


The plane hasn't broadcast anything for 80 minutes so I guess there's still some hope that they sent out a message to make sure it was working then turned off observations for the flight to Ernesto. If they aren't in the air by now there's no reason to take off.


they are on the ground at Keesler AFB
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Quoting kmanislander:


Biloxi
That's at least a good 1hr and a half flight right?
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Where is recon? XD
Best question.
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Quoting redwagon:


Well, then that's just wrong, and somebody should do something about it.


Would you like a dropsonde through your roof ?
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Where is recon? XD


not where we wnt it
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Quoting centex:
Ok, but I looked it up and they can't release dropsonde over land.


Well, then that's just wrong, and somebody should do something about it.
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Quoting hurrtracker1994:
Afternoon everyone! Just got back from working at the NHC. I am going to be working on a blog post regarding Ernesto and the rest of the Atlantic basin, and I am going to include a little bit about my internship at NHC. If anyone has any general questions I would be happy to answer them about my experiences there.

Where is recon? XD
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Quoting kmanislander:


Google earth shows the aircraft still on the ground. It's simply a timing thing and any data from the aircraft would be too late for upgrading the warnings etc..


The plane hasn't broadcast anything for 80 minutes so I guess there's still some hope that they sent out a message to make sure it was working then turned off observations for the flight to Ernesto. If they aren't in the air by now there's no reason to take off.
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Cat 6 lead authors: WU cofounder Dr. Jeff Masters (right), who flew w/NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990, & WU meteorologist Bob Henson, @bhensonweather