I’m about to go to bed, but before I do, I just wanted to point out that the infrared satellite loop shows a sudden and significant increase in thunderstorm activity near Tropical Storm Gustav’s center. On the one hand, this may be partially a diurnal flare-up. But on the other hand, methinks Alan Sullivan may have jumped the gun in saying that Gustav is “disintegrating.”
We’ll have to wait and see whether the flare-up persists. It could be nothing, or it could be the beginning of redevelopment. If Gustav can get its core circulation back in order, it could get stronger fairly quickly, given how warm the waters are. (At the moment, Gustav is down to 45 mph, due to the longer-than-expected interaction with Haiti.)
Meanwhile, the NHC has upgraded Invest 95L’s chances of development in the next 48 hours to “high” (i.e., greater than 50%), according to the latest Outlook. We could be looking at Tropical Depression Eight, or Tropical Storm Hanna, tomorrow.
UPDATE, 7:17 AM: The “flare-up” persisted, and indeed flared further. The bathtub-like waters between Hispaniola and Jamaica have done their worst; Gustav is now rapidly getting re-organized — much more rapidly than expected. Now the NHC has issued a special 7:30 AM EDT advisory to make it official: Gustav’s winds are up to 70 mph, at the threshold of hurricane strength, and his pressure is down to 988 mb. He’ll be a hurricane again by this afternoon.
Meanwhile, the official forecast track shifted significantly leftward at 5am, when the discussion declared, “AN AIR FORCE RECONNAISSANCE PLANE HAS FOUND A SURPRISE THIS MORNING. GUSTAV HAS EITHER REFORMED TO THE SOUTH OR BEEN MOVING MORE TO THE SOUTH-SOUTHWEST OVERNIGHT.” Gustav is now expected to pass just south of Jamaica, then head toward central Louisiana, well to the west of New Orleans.
It bears repeating, however, that the entirety of the central Gulf Coast, from Texas to the Florida panhandle, remains in the potential target area. It’s still much too early to say where Gustav will eventually land.
Gustav’s track and intensity will remain quite unpredictable for the next 24 hours, as the high terrain of Jamaica can both disrupt the storm’s circulation and, potentially, cause the center to “bounce” around a bit. Once it clears the island tomorrow morning, we should be able to get a clearer idea of the storm’s future.
Oh, and meanwhile, T.D. #8 has indeed formed. It’s expected to become Tropical Storm Hannah later today, and to earn the catchy name Hurricane Hannah not long after that. The Hurricane Center shows Hannah peaking at 85 mph, but the discussion notes that “THE HWRF AND GFDL MODELS ARE MORE AGGRESSIVE…PREDICTING AN INTENSE HURRICANE.” The track forecast shows proto-Hannah “meandering” several hundred miles east of Florida and the Bahamas in five days.
Is it possible we could have two major hurricanes lurking off the U.S. coast early next week? Yikes.