Isaac reorganizing as it blows through the Lesser Antilles

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 8:34 PM GMT on August 22, 2012

Tropical Storm Isaac continues to maintain top winds of just 45 mph as its center prepares to move through the Lesser Antilles islands late this afternoon and early this evening. The entire Lesser Antilles chain of islands is receiving heavy rains from Isaac, with Martinique picking up 1.46" of rain as of 2 pm EDT, and St. Lucia receiving 1.49". However, Isaac is not yet generating much in the way of tropical storm-force winds, and none of the islands had received winds in excess of 30 mph as of 4 pm EDT. During their storm penetration to obtain their 2 pm EDT center fix, an Air Force Reserve aircraft measured top surface winds of just 40 mph, and a central pressure of 1004 mb. Top winds at their 5000 foot flight altitude were 49 mph. Isaac is undergoing significant changes to its structure. The plane found the center had become a broad, elongated oval that extended 40 miles from NW to SE. The old center, fixed at 2 pm near 16.1°N, and closer to the dry air to Isaac's north, is being challenged for dominance by a new center that is attempting to form near a burst of heavy thunderstorms at 15.5°N. The Hurricane Hunters' latest fix at 3:50 pm EDT put the center near 15.9°N, a southwards shift of about 17 miles. The resulting battle between centers is giving Isaac a rather odd spiral rectangular shape, as seen on visible satellite loops. The Hurricane Hunters did not observe an eyewall trying to form, and recent microwave satellite images also show no signs of an eyewall forming. A large area of dry air to the north of the storm, as seen on water vapor satellite loops, continues to interfere with development, and Isaac will not be able to begin strengthening until it resolves the battle between it two competing centers, and casts out the dry air infiltrating it. This is going to take at least a day, since Isaac is a very large storm, and it takes more time to spin up a big chunk of the atmosphere. Radar imagery from Barbados and Martinique show plenty of heavy rain showers, mostly on the south side of Isaac where it is moister. There has been a modest increase in spiral banding since this morning.

Figure 1. Afternoon satellite image of Isaac, showing its odd spiral rectangle shape.

Latest model runs for Isaac
The latest set of 12Z (8 am EDT) model runs are very similar to the previous set of runs, which I discussed in detail in this morning's post. The models show a westward track to a point on the south coast of Hispaniola. Isaac's center shift to the south may require some modest adjustments to the south and west for the models. This would result in the storm spending a few hours less time over Hispaniola, and more time over or just south of Cuba. This would slightly decrease the risk to the Dominican Republic, the east coast of Florida, and the Bahamas, but increase the risk to the west coast of Florida. The ECMWF--our best performing model over the past two years--continues to be an outlier among the models. It predicts that Isaac will track just south of Cuba, cross the western tip of Cuba on Monday, then head north towards an eventual landfall in Louisiana. However, this model is keeping Isaac weaker than the other models, and thus predicts the storm will have a weaker response to the trough of low pressure over the Southeast U.S. If the official NHC intensity forecast is right and Isaac becomes a hurricane on Thursday, the more southerly track of the ECMWF is not going to verify, and Isaac will spend considerable time over Cuba on Saturday and Sunday. Where Isaac pops off the coast of Cuba will be critical in determining its future path and intensity, and at this point, we don't know it its more likely that Isaac will go up the east coast of Florida, the west coast, or straight up the peninsula over land. At this point, I'd put the odds at:

40% chance of a track through the Gulf of Mexico, west of Florida
25% chance of a landfall in South Florida, and a track mostly over the Florida Peninsula
35% chance of a track along the east coast of Florida

Which model should you trust?
Wunderground provides a web page with computer model forecasts for many of the best-performing models used to predict hurricane tracks. So which is the best? The best forecasts are made by combining the forecasts from three or more models into a "consensus" forecast. Over the past decade, NHC has greatly improved their forecasts by relying on consensus forecast models made using various combinations of the GFS, GFDL, NOGAPS, UKMET, HWRF, and ECMWF models. If you average together the track forecasts from these models, the NHC official forecast will rarely depart much from it, and the NHC forecast has been hard to beat over the past few years. The single best-performing model over the past two years has been the ECMWF (European Center model). The GFS model has been a close second. You can view 7-day ECMWF and 16-day GFS forecasts on our wundermap with the model layer turned on. Ten-day ECMWF forecasts are available from the ECMWF web site. The European Center does not permit public display of tropical storm positions from their hurricane tracking module of their model, so we are unable to put ECMWF forecasts on our computer model forecast page that plots positions from the other major models. As seen in Figure 2, the HWRF and GFDL were well behind the ECMWF and GFS in forecast accuracy in 2011, but were still respectable. The BAMM model did very well at 4 and 5-day forecasts. The UKMET, NOGAPS, and CMC models did quite poorly compared to the ECMWF, GFS, GFDL, and HWRF. For those interested in learning more about the models, NOAA has a great training video (updated for 2011.)

Figure 2. Skill of computer model forecasts of Atlantic named storms 2011, compared to a "no skill" model called "CLIPER5" that uses just climatology and persistence to make a hurricane track forecast (persistence=a storm will tend to keep going in the direction it's current going.) OFCL=Official NHC forecast; GFS=Global Forecast System model; GFDL=Geophysical Fluid Dynamic Laboratory model; HWRF=Hurricane Weather Research Forecasting model; NOGAPS=Navy Operational Global Prediction System model; UKMET=United Kingdom Met Office model; ECMWF=European Center for Medium Range Weather Forecasting model; TVCA=one of the consensus models that lends together several of the above models; CMC=Canadian Meteorological Center (GEM) model; BAMM=Beta Advection Model (Medium depth.) Image credit: National Hurricane Center 2011 verification report.

I'll have a new post in the morning.

Jeff Masters

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

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4101. Seflhurricane
 looks like the center is tighting up near 15.0 N and 65 W
4100. Bobbyweather
 Quoting AussieStorm:Automated Tropical Cyclone Forecasting System That says it all. it's Automated a computer not human. NHC will name it at 11am. Until then it's still TD10 as per the NHCLet's all wait. I regret saying TS Ten :(
4099. AussieStorm
 Quoting Neapolitan:Yes, it seems some are confused about the relationship between ATCF (Automated Tropical Cyclone Forecast [or Formation], not "As the crow flies") and the NHC (National Hurricane Center). The two aren't separate, independent organizations; in fact, ATCF isn't even an organization at all. It's just a software package used by the NHC to process tropical data and plot tropical cyclones. So when ATCF calculates, for instance, that a particular cyclone is a tropical storm--as it has done this morning with TD10/Joyce--the NHC in just about every single case goes along with what ATCF spits out.And until the NHC names TD10 TS Joyce, It's still TD10.
4098. ProgressivePulse
 Quoting Drakoen:.3 degrees north and .2 degrees west. Poleward movement may be ensuing.Recon should find an organizing Isaac. Or a more organized center anyway, hence the pressure drops. Looks tilted with height now NE to SW.
4097. JTDailyUpdate
 000FONT14 KNHC 230912PWSAT4TROPICAL STORM ISAAC WIND SPEED PROBABILITIES NUMBER 9 NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL092012 0900 UTC THU AUG 23 2012 AT 0900Z THE CENTER OF TROPICAL STORM ISAAC WAS LOCATED NEAR LATITUDE 15.3 NORTH...LONGITUDE 64.0 WEST WITH MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS NEAR 35 KTS...40 MPH...65 KM/H. Z INDICATES COORDINATED UNIVERSAL TIME (GREENWICH) ATLANTIC STANDARD TIME (AST)...SUBTRACT 4 HOURS FROM Z TIME EASTERN DAYLIGHT TIME (EDT)...SUBTRACT 4 HOURS FROM Z TIME CENTRAL DAYLIGHT TIME (CDT)...SUBTRACT 5 HOURS FROM Z TIME I. MAXIMUM WIND SPEED (INTENSITY) PROBABILITY TABLE CHANCES THAT THE MAXIMUM SUSTAINED (1-MINUTE AVERAGE) WIND SPEED OF THE TROPICAL CYCLONE WILL BE WITHIN ANY OF THE FOLLOWING CATEGORIES AT EACH OFFICIAL FORECAST TIME DURING THE NEXT 5 DAYS. PROBABILITIES ARE GIVEN IN PERCENT. X INDICATES PROBABILITIES LESS THAN 1 PERCENT. - - - MAXIMUM WIND SPEED (INTENSITY) PROBABILITIES - - - VALID TIME 18Z THU 06Z FRI 18Z FRI 06Z SAT 06Z SUN 06Z MON 06Z TUEFORECAST HOUR 12 24 36 48 72 96 120 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -DISSIPATED 1 1 2 5 10 13 22TROP DEPRESSION 16 10 15 17 18 13 13TROPICAL STORM 81 77 51 59 51 44 38HURRICANE 2 12 32 20 21 29 28- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -HUR CAT 1 2 11 26 16 17 23 21HUR CAT 2 X 1 4 3 3 4 5HUR CAT 3 X X 1 1 1 2 2HUR CAT 4 X X X X X X XHUR CAT 5 X X X X X X X- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -FCST MAX WIND 40KT 50KT 65KT 55KT 60KT 65KT 70KTII. WIND SPEED PROBABILITY TABLE FOR SPECIFIC LOCATIONS CHANCES OF SUSTAINED (1-MINUTE AVERAGE) WIND SPEEDS OF AT LEAST ...34 KT (39 MPH... 63 KPH)... ...50 KT (58 MPH... 93 KPH)... ...64 KT (74 MPH...119 KPH)... FOR LOCATIONS AND TIME PERIODS DURING THE NEXT 5 DAYS PROBABILITIES FOR LOCATIONS ARE GIVEN AS IP(CP) WHERE IP IS THE PROBABILITY OF THE EVENT BEGINNING DURING AN INDIVIDUAL TIME PERIOD (INDIVIDUAL PROBABILITY) (CP) IS THE PROBABILITY OF THE EVENT OCCURRING BETWEEN 06Z THU AND THE FORECAST HOUR (CUMULATIVE PROBABILITY) PROBABILITIES ARE GIVEN IN PERCENT X INDICATES PROBABILITIES LESS THAN 1 PERCENT PROBABILITIES FOR 34 KT AND 50 KT ARE SHOWN AT A GIVEN LOCATION WHENTHE 5-DAY CUMULATIVE PROBABILITY IS AT LEAST 3 PERCENT. PROBABILITIES FOR 64 KT ARE SHOWN WHEN THE 5-DAY CUMULATIVE PROBABILITY IS AT LEAST 1 PERCENT. - - - - WIND SPEED PROBABILITIES FOR SELECTED LOCATIONS - - - - FROM FROM FROM FROM FROM FROM FROM TIME 06Z THU 18Z THU 06Z FRI 18Z FRI 06Z SAT 06Z SUN 06Z MONPERIODS TO TO TO TO TO TO TO 18Z THU 06Z FRI 18Z FRI 06Z SAT 06Z SUN 06Z MON 06Z TUEFORECAST HOUR (12) (24) (36) (48) (72) (96) (120)- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - LOCATION KT CHARLESTON SC 34 X X( X) X( X) X( X) X( X) 1( 1) 3( 4)SAVANNAH GA 34 X X( X) X( X) X( X) X( X) 1( 1) 5( 6)MAYPORT NS 34 X X( X) X( X) X( X) X( X) 2( 2) 9(11)JACKSONVILLE 34 X X( X) X( X) X( X) X( X) 2( 2) 9(11)DAYTONA BEACH 34 X X( X) X( X) X( X) X( X) 5( 5) 10(15)DAYTONA BEACH 50 X X( X) X( X) X( X) X( X) X( X) 3( 3)DAYTONA BEACH 64 X X( X) X( X) X( X) X( X) X( X) 1( 1)ORLANDO FL 34 X X( X) X( X) X( X) X( X) 7( 7) 12(19)ORLANDO FL 50 X X( X) X( X) X( X) X( X) X( X) 3( 3)COCOA BEACH FL 34 X X( X) X( X) X( X) X( X) 9( 9) 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1(38)CAMAGUEY 50 X X( X) X( X) X( X) 9( 9) 2(11) X(11)CAMAGUEY 64 X X( X) X( X) X( X) 3( 3) X( 3) X( 3)GUANTANAMO BAY 34 X X( X) 3( 3) 20(23) 28(51) X(51) 1(52)GUANTANAMO BAY 50 X X( X) X( X) 3( 3) 16(19) X(19) X(19)GUANTANAMO BAY 64 X X( X) X( X) 1( 1) 5( 6) X( 6) X( 6)GRAND CAYMAN 34 X X( X) X( X) X( X) 1( 1) 6( 7) X( 7)MONTEGO BAY 34 X X( X) X( X) 1( 1) 8( 9) 1(10) X(10)KINGSTON 34 X X( X) X( X) 2( 2) 7( 9) X( 9) X( 9)LES CAYES 34 X X( X) 13(13) 25(38) 5(43) X(43) X(43)LES CAYES 50 X X( X) 1( 1) 10(11) 3(14) X(14) X(14)LES CAYES 64 X X( X) X( X) 3( 3) 2( 5) X( 5) X( 5)PORT-AU-PRINCE 34 X 1( 1) 38(39) 22(61) 1(62) X(62) X(62)PORT-AU-PRINCE 50 X X( X) 6( 6) 19(25) 1(26) X(26) X(26)PORT-AU-PRINCE 64 X X( X) 1( 1) 5( 6) X( 6) X( 6) X( 6)CAPE BEATA 34 X 5( 5) 51(56) 5(61) X(61) X(61) X(61)CAPE BEATA 50 X X( X) 24(24) 5(29) X(29) X(29) X(29)CAPE BEATA 64 X X( X) 7( 7) 4(11) X(11) X(11) X(11)PUERTO PLATA 34 X 5( 5) 27(32) 7(39) 1(40) X(40) X(40)PUERTO PLATA 50 X X( X) 2( 2) 1( 3) X( 3) X( 3) X( 3)SANTO DOMINGO 34 1 29(30) 41(71) 1(72) X(72) X(72) X(72)SANTO DOMINGO 50 X 1( 1) 11(12) 1(13) X(13) X(13) X(13)SANTO DOMINGO 64 X X( X) 2( 2) X( 2) X( 2) X( 2) X( 2)PONCE 34 24 30(54) 1(55) X(55) X(55) X(55) X(55)SAN JUAN 34 14 16(30) 1(31) X(31) X(31) X(31) X(31)SAINT THOMAS 34 14 4(18) 1(19) X(19) X(19) X(19) X(19)SAINT CROIX 34 32 2(34) X(34) X(34) X(34) X(34) X(34)SAINT MAARTEN 34 3 1( 4) X( 4) X( 4) X( 4) X( 4) X( 4)ST KITTS-NEVIS 34 3 X( 3) X( 3) X( 3) X( 3) X( 3) X( 3)AVES 34 88 X(88) X(88) X(88) X(88) X(88) X(88)\$\$ FORECASTER STEWART
4096. reedzone
 Hey everyone.. After observing the steering pattern and center fix, I am working on the REED run, which is a drastic change from the last run that I made 2 days ago. Just haven't had the time to keep up.
4095. StormJunkie
 And after looking at Kermit's reading; it seems we still have a very decoupled system.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
4094. weatherboykris
 Just found the dropsondes from the NOAA plane...they are getting 1005mb surface pressures....winds aren't calm though....southeast at 36mph.
 .
4092. floridaboy14
 ISAAC IS NOT MOVINH WESTNORTHWEST. look at the steering. same as before. WEST. he has many center reformations. we learned that yesterday
4091. Bluestorm5
 Still a TD 10 until NHC named it otherwise. Could be denumbered again between now and 11 am.
4090. LargoFl
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
4089. AussieStorm
 Quoting Bobbyweather:3Didn't you agree on the fact that the ATCF is owned by the NHC?It is a TS, per 12UTC ATCF. The name is supposed to be confirmed at 15UTC.Automated Tropical Cyclone Forecasting System That says it all. it's Automated a computer not human. NHC will name it at 11am. Until then it's still TD10 as per the NHC
4088. Neapolitan
 Quoting CybrTeddy:Per ATCF, we have TS Joyce now.Yes, it seems some are confused about the relationship between ATCF (Automated Tropical Cyclone Forecast [or Formation], not "As the crow flies") and the NHC (National Hurricane Center). The two aren't separate, independent organizations; in fact, ATCF isn't even an organization at all. It's just a software package used by the NHC to process tropical data and plot tropical cyclones. So when ATCF calculates, for instance, that a particular cyclone is a tropical storm--as it has done this morning with TD10/Joyce--the NHC in just about every single case goes along with what the ATCF computer spits out.
4087. CybrTeddy
 NOAA plane is at 10,000 feet so the 1001mb reading is not accurate.
4086. serialteg
 Quoting Relix:.2N.3W1001mb at 15.7, 65W.If that's not a WNW-NW heading I don't know what it is.you go relix!
4085. Bobbyweather
 Quoting MahFL:Stop bickering about renames for a system 1000 miles out in the Atlantic, it's just childish.Haha... Sorry.
4084. MahFL
 Quoting jeffs713:You must be new here. ;)Meanwhile more rain for N Florida.....
4083. StormJunkie
 So we still can't find the center huh?Well at least the last HH mission did find a decent wind shift at 15.36...
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
4082. ILwthrfan
 Quoting Bluestorm5:Easily a Category 4 right now...+Looks as if its starting to bend to the WSW. Reminds me a bit of Mitch way back...
4081. LargoFl
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
4080. serialteg
 Quoting mikatnight:Wind Fields for IsaacLast Updated On 8/23/2012 12:00:00 PM GMTon a strictly straight line, this would miss PR TS winds
4079. GTcooliebai
 Quoting MahFL:Stop bickering about renames for a system 1000 miles out in the Atlantic, it's just childish.What's more childish is some of the wishcasting going on here.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
4078. Chiggy
 Quoting Drakoen:.3 degrees north and .2 degrees west. Poleward movement may be ensuing.couple of things DRAK -0.2 degs here are there matters little in a storm where there are several centers and LLC and MLC far apart..I have my own opinion where the center might be but I'll go with NHC and just say that it's moving WEST..
4077. unknowncomic
 Is TD 10 pumping?
4076. CybrTeddy
 Quoting FtMyersgal:Just checked the Navy site and NHC and it's still TD10Did you check the backup? ;)
4075. noraneinsite
 Quoting AussieStorm:They are in his left toe.What is wrong with someone stating their opinion? I would say that trends seem to be pushing westward but time will tell. If you dont like what someone has to say ignore them. I havent been a member long but have been reading for years and I get tired of the politics and attacks. Just sayin.
4074. JasonRE
 Quoting GetReal:Check out this loop of Isaac, and zoom in if necessary, and decide for yourself if Isaac is still moving west. (270)LinkThat's what I see. Almost, and I mean, ALMOST a SW jog for a split second. It's hard to judge but if anything, I still see W movement. Nothing to show a NW shift at all.
4073. weatherboykris
 Quoting Drakoen:Pressure in Issac appears to be steadily decrasing now down to 1001mb. Minimum found near 15.7NKeep in mind that that observation is from the NOAA G-IV jet and is from a much higher altitiude then the hurricane hunters....the extrapolation may not be as accurate. I'd like to see a dropsonde at that location.
4072. Relix
 .2N.3W1001mb at 15.7, 65W.If that's not a WNW-NW heading I don't know what it is.
4070. CybrTeddy
 Quoting zebrafreak:I have been away for a bit and I heard a rumor there was a named system in the gulf..I know we have Isaac, but has there been a Joyce named yet?Yes, by Africa.
4069. jeffs713
 Quoting MahFL:Stop bickering about renames for a system 1000 miles out in the Atlantic, it's just childish.You must be new here. ;)
4068. LargoFl
 Quoting zebrafreak:I have been away for a bit and I heard a rumor there was a named system in the gulf..I know we have Isaac, but has there been a Joyce named yet? not yet
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
4067. FtMyersgal
 Quoting AussieStorm:Per NHC we still have TD10.Just checked the Navy site and NHC and it's still TD10
4066. BahaHurican
 Quoting AussieStorm:Sorry but the NHC still have it as TD10, they are the only authority that names Storms. They're not going to upgrade it at 9:42 a.m. when they can just do it at 11. am.Anyway, catcha layta..
4065. CybrTeddy
 Quoting AussieStorm:Sorry but the NHC still have it as TD10, they are the only authority that names Storms.ATCF is the data feed from the NHC and by that we know what they will produce at 11am in terms of intensity and track. Sometimes the NHC gets second thoughts if the storm is truly disorganized but 90% of the time if the ATCF says it is Joyce and the Navy says it is Joyce.. It is Joyce.
4064. LargoFl
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
4063. zebrafreak
 I have been away for a bit and I heard a rumor there was a named system in the gulf..I know we have Isaac, but has there been a Joyce named yet?
4062. wunderkidcayman
 Quoting emguy:Greetings everyone...Just popping in for a quick minute...This was a map I posted sometime just before 4AM this morning. Just sharing for those who have not seen it. As of very early this morning, the red "cone" was my general thinking of what we are going to see based on what we have going on with Isaac. I feel more confident about this now the the morning models are showing continued support and ever slightly increasing consensus. I look forward to the afternoon when we get to see the next run of the EURO. I suspect the EURO, for the fourth straight run will shift to the east a little farther again. Have a good day. Happy posting.Hmm interestingQuoting Hurricane1956:This system will not even get close the the Cayman Island!!!!!.dude I did not say anything what so ever about Isaac tracking to Cayman so you Hurricane1956 stop putting word in my mouth that I did not say!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
4061. LargoFl
 small plane landed in the median strip of I-75 down near riverview this morning..you can believe what a traffic nightmare it is right now...thats the second time this week a plane has done that
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
4060. MahFL
 Stop bickering about renames for a system 1000 miles out in the Atlantic, it's just childish.
4059. 7544
 looks like some banding going on with issac at this hour
4058. Chiggy
 Quoting Seflhurricane:it is appearing more and more likely that Isaac will pass south of hispaniola and pose a danger to eastern jamaicaAGREE
4057. Grothar
 Quoting LoveThemCanes:Gro, what's your personal opinion on strength as it reaches FL?Probably not more than a Cat 1. It depends on how long it remains over water.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
4056. AussieStorm
 Quoting gprxomstr:Nowadays most people rely on GPS and can't distinguish their own neighborhood from the back on their hand.Put a name with the storm. We have dumbed down our society with Pop Culture and the Kardashians!Tembim....Isaac...Can you not tell the difference???
4055. ARiot
 Quoting AussieStorm:Euro is here.Not wishcasting or concern trolling, but a Mobile Bay storm ain't pretty (looking at EURO).Yall remember FEMA started partly in response to Frederick.I was just a kid in Mobile during that one. Everyone in the family came out OK, but lots of downed trees and messed up houses, and IIRC, it actually missed Mobile Bay by a hair and we never got the big swell that was possible.
4054. Seflhurricane
 it is appearing more and more likely that Isaac will pass south of hispaniola and pose a danger to eastern jamaica
4053. FOREX
 Quoting wunderkidcayman:look on sattlite Isaac looks like it is a whole degree maybe even degree and half S of the forecasted positionhmm maybe GFS is sooo stuck of it previous forecast path and it is not taking Isaac's W and S movements too well so that why GFS shows thatnope sorry dude don't see it it looks like it may have even taken a Southward jogWe will know in about 6 hours.lol.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
4052. floridaboy14
 Quoting Drakoen:Pressure in Issac appears to be steadily decrasing now down to 1001mb. Minimum found near 15.7N his center is still suspect because it keeps reforming. his motion is the same as before which is due west. could be a sign of slow stregthining
4051. hamla
 Quoting CURIOUSWEATHERGRL:PATRAP- where are ya?What's your thoughts on the track??!ppat started his vaca yesterday evening in cancun