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July 07, 2005

Hurricane Dennis upgraded to Category 4

The latest advisory from NHC has upgraded Hurricane Dennis to a devastating category 4 hurricane. Sustained winds are up to 145 mph and central pressure is estimated to be down to 950 mb, but could very well be lower. At this very moment, Hurricane Dennis is making landfall on Cuba and should move back out just off the coast soon before again making landfall further up the coast. Recently Dennis has wobbled to the north and it is unknown if this track will continue. If this is a real deviation in the track, it would heavily lend credit to the GFS model's track solution. Slight further strengthening is still expected in the next 12 hours. However, due to interactions with Cuba, Dennis' eye has opened up on the southwest side. Currently most of the models are forecasting a U.S. landfall in the area of Pensacola, including the afore mentioned GFS, but one model (the UKMET) is still wanting a direct hit on New Orleans while another two are going for Panama City (generally straight up the coast). A better fix on the track should be available tomorrow after Hurricane Dennis crosses Cuba. In regards to intensity, this is a really big question mark right now. After passing over Cuba, the core of Dennis could be seriously disrupted and spread out. Right now Hurricane Dennis has a very tight and strong core. If this core is significantly weakened while passing over land, it could spread out laterally as the central pressure rises. Much like a figure skater spreading her arms, this would cause the maximum sustained winds to slow down since angular momentum of the wind will have to be conserved. Another issue is the available latent energy in the Gulf of Mexico. Currently the surface waters in the Gulf are very warm which could full a rapid reintensification. However, this surface layer is also very thin and as Dennis churns the water of the Gulf, it will like cause a lot of cooler water to upwell from below, effectively killing its source of energy.

Click for the latest IR satellite loop:

Below is a map of the latest sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the Gulf of Mexico: NOTE: Although the color scale is deceptive, all of the waters on the map are conducive to tropical cyclone development.
Tracking God's Fury:
Tropical Storm Maria
Tropical Storm Nate
Hurricane Ophelia
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