Tropical trouble could bring Labor Day headache

A robust disturbance is being closely monitored by the NHC

By Blake Mathews - Meteorologist
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The latest from the National Hurricane Center on a tropical disturbance, Invest 96L, has shown little if any improvement in organization Thursday.

Nonetheless, the system poses enough of a threat that the hurricane recon plane was sent from St. Croix Thursday afternoon to investigate the system.

Currently, as of 2 p.m., the NHC has maintained the chance of development at 50 percent over the next 48 hours and 70 percent over the next 5 days.

Here is what the NHC had to say about the system as of 2 p.m. Thursday:

"Satellite data indicate that an area of low pressure located about 275 miles east of Guadeloupe has become a little better defined today. However, the associated shower and thunderstorm activity remains limited and disorganized. Environmental conditions are expected to be conducive for some development during the next day or so, and a tropical depression could form while the system moves west-northwestward at around 20 mph across the Lesser Antilles. The mountainous terrain of Hispaniola could limit development during the first part of the weekend, but conditions are expected to become more conducive for development by Sunday when the system is forecast to move near or over the Bahamas. Regardless of tropical cyclone formation, gusty winds and heavy rainfall are possible across portions of the Lesser Antilles, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands through Friday, and over Hispaniola late Friday and Saturday. Interests in those islands and in the Bahamas should closely monitor the progress of this disturbance. An Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft is currently investigating the system."

Models continue to "windshield wipe" going from left to right in regards to the eventual track of this system. The more reliable models are indicating that this system will approach Florida before turning out to sea much like Bertha did. The more basic, not so trusted models indicate more of a US threat.

As far as how strong the storm could be, the main forecasting models don't do much with it--perhaps making it a weak tropical storm. Other models that aren't relied upon as often make this a rather strong hurricane as it approaches south Florida. Currently, a weaker system east of Florida is what is being forecast, for now. 

Seen at right are two of the models with snapshots at the exact same time period: 126 hours from now. Look at the difference in location and the difference in strength.

First, the model that develops a strong storm and brings into the Port Lucie, FL area is the HWRF model. This is a poorly functioning model that isn't heavily relied upon. 

The second image is of the GFS model. This model is a more seasoned, trusted model and is the catalyst to many forecasts. The good news is this model keeps this disturbance away from Florida and maintains a weak, disorganized system.

The 2014 tropical season has already seen two hurricanes, yet conditions over the open Atlantic, even stemming back to the 2013 season, remain incredibly harsh for tropical development. The Inter-tropical convergence zone (ITCZ) has been plagued by massive amounts of dry air and Saharan dust.

The dry, dusty air has acted as an atmospheric vice grip on the throats of these waves that emerge off Africa. However, as we approach the peak of hurricane season (September 10th), things may begin to change and we might be seeing that already.

By the way, the next name on the list is Cristobal, pronounced "krees-TOH-bahl."

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