North Atlantic Tropics Wake Up with Beryl; Typhoon Maria Roars to Cat 5-Equivalent Status West of Guam

The North Atlantic tropics finally woke up after a weeks long period of dormancy…with the birth of Tropical Storm Beryl Thursday. The system formed in the west-central Atlantic after days in a formative stage as a tropical wave with no defined surface low.

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Small Beryl (circled) heading east. Mid-level water vapor image around 12:30 am CDT Friday.

Beryl is a very small system with tropical storm force winds only extending out 35 miles from the center of circulation Thursday night. However, it has continued to strengthen through Thursday Night and is expected to become a minimal hurricane later Friday.

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US National Hurricane Center forecast track and uncertainty cone for Beryl showing the system peaking in strength Fri-Sat then weakening as it approaches the Lesser Antilles late-Sunday.

Although the system is depicted to move near the Lesser Antilles late-Sunday, vertical wind shear…increasing wind speed with height…is expected to increase dramatically over Beryl as it approaches Sunday, leading to a rapid weakening and possible dissipation. This is highly likely given the small size of the circulation. However, regardless of what the status of the system is when it moves over the islands, accompanying what remains will be gusty winds, showers and thunderstorms and local downpours.

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One of model depiction of rainfall path associated with Beryl through Monday afternoon. Light to moderate rainfall amounts likely over parts of the Lesser Antilles.

Meanwhile, in the Western Pacific, Maria has become a Category 5-equivalent super typhoon with maximum sustained winds of 160 mph. The first Category 5-equivalent cyclone observed in either the North Pacific or North Atlantic in 2018. Maria moved over Guam and the southern Mariana Islands as a tropical storm, bringing strong winds and locally heavy rainfall. Damage was reported to Rota’s power system, but no damage to personal property or injuries were reported. The system then became a typhoon west of the island chain, before rapidly intensifying to a Category 3-equivalent typhoon around 1800 UTC (1 pm CDT Thursday in the US),  then to its present intensity (as of this post) several hours later.

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Powerful Category 5-equivalent Super Typhoon Maria over the Philippine Sea with maximum sustained winds of 160 mph. Visible image valid at 05:30 UTC Friday (12:30 am in the US/3:30 pm Friday in Guam).
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Wider view.

Maria is expected to move generally northwestward over open water during the next three days. It will remain a powerful typhoon thanks to absolutely steamy waters warmer than 90 F/32 C, 1 C or more above normal. Afterwards, it will move over slightly cooler waters, but may remain a powerful Category 3 or 4 hurricane (115 mph+ winds) as it approaches some of the southern most small Japanese islands on Tuesday.

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US Joint Typhoon Warning Center forecast track for Maria.
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Current sea surface temperatures east of the Philippines over 32 C.
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Sea surface temperature anomalies showing SSTs more than 1 C above normal (1961-1990 climatology) along the path of Maria as it continues moving northwest from Guam.

The most significant threats from Maria will be increasing high surf and rip currents for areas ahead of Maria (Philippines, southern Japan, Taiwan) followed by heavy rainfall and damaging winds for the remote southern Japanese islands as it moves closer toward mainland China midweek.

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One model depiction showing the path of heavy rainfall associated with Maria from southeast to northwest (bottom right to middle of image) through 18:00 UTC (2 am Guam time).

–Meteorologist Nick Humphrey

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Major Hurricane Bud continues movement offshore Pacific Coast of Mexico; watching for tropical development near Central America

Hurricane Bud strengthened to a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph overnight. The update released at 8 am PDT by the National Hurricane Center has now downgraded back to Category 3 with 125 mph winds. With ocean heat content (which accounts for warmth with depth) dropping off quickly farther to the north, Bud has likely begun a weakening trend which will likely take it below major hurricane status by tonight and weaken it to a minimal hurricane by tomorrow.

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Hurricane Bud seen this morning by the GOES-16 satellite.
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A close up view of Hurricane Bud this morning after sunrise in the Mountain and Pacific time zones.
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Rapid drop-off in oceanic heat content as the Hurricane Bud moves north, closer to the Baja California Peninsula. Although surface waters in this region are running ~2 C above 1961-1990 averages, the depth of warm water is not supportive for a strong hurricane this early in the year.

As Bud approaches the southern tip of Baja on Thursday, rainfall and high surf will increase over the area. I expect tropical storm watches to be put up over southern Baja California Peninsula by this evening. The biggest threat to southern Baja will be locally heavy rain from rain bands and high surf. The system will likely be a dying tropical storm by the time it arrives near Cabo San Lucas Thursday night.

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Heavy rainfall from Bud will spread over the southern Baja Peninsula and into the southern Gulf of California Thursday evening thru Friday evening.

Again, still expecting a moisture surge up the Gulf to generate increasing monsoon showers and thunderstorms into northern Mexico and Southwest US this weekend. Watch out in these areas for potential flash flooding concerns.

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One model depiction of precipitation through sunrise Sunday. Depending on track, precipitation axis may be a bit farther west than this model predicts. Locally heavier showers and storms likely in southern Arizona and southwest New Mexico as well as mountainous terrain farther north in the Four Corners. Rainfall expected to increase Friday afternoon from Mexico.

Checking in on the Atlantic…there’s a very slight chance of tropical development in the western Caribbean during the next 5 days (20% according to the National Hurricane Center). However, regardless of development, it appears a pattern is setting up for a significant surge of deep moisture from the Caribbean into Texas early next week, potentially bringing significant rainfall and possibly flooding. Texas is currently facing growing drought conditions.

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One model forecast for total rainfall through Monday evening. Much of the rain which falls in Southeast TX and Southwest LA will fall beginning Saturday. There’s a slight possibility it could be in association with a tropical system, so details may change among models, but more likely an “atmospheric river”, a connection of deep tropical moisture from the Caribbean moving into the region. Certainly flooding is a possibility, even with the drought or abnormally dry conditions spreading into Southeast and south-central Texas.
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High precipitable water plume expected to move from the tropics into Texas and Louisiana as forecast this weekend.

I’ll keep an eye on things, but regardless, I would be mindful of heavy rainfall in the forecast later this weekend and early next week if you live in Southeast Texas into Louisiana and perhaps farther north. I’ll keep an eye on things!

–Meteorologist Nick Humphrey.