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July 08, 2005

A look ahead, cooler waters in the Gulf?

Ok, I thought this might be a good time to take a look at the waters ahead of Hurricane Dennis in the Gulf of Mexico. The sea surface temperatures (SST's) in the Gulf are almost as high as the ones to the south of Cuba. However, the depth of that warm water surface layer is much more shallow. This makes a lot less latent heat available to a tropical cyclone.

Below is a look at the current SST's in the Gulf of Mexico. Please not that the color scale is a little deceiving and in reality these waters are all warm enough to support a very strong hurricane.

Next is a map of the depth of the 26 degree C water. As you can see, the warm water in the Gulf of Mexico is much more shallow than the areas that Hurricane Dennis has previously been over. It is evident here that if Dennis takes a more westerly track towards New Orleans, it will likely remain much stronger than if it takes an easterly track towards the Florida panhandle.

Finally, take a look at the Total Cyclone Heat Potential (TCHP) in the Gulf of Mexico. While there are solid pools of high potential water just north of Cuba, and in the central Gulf, the eastern Gulf near Florida is a much lower potential area. This is one reason why major hurricane are so rare this early in the season. This graphic probably best explains why Hurricane Dennis should slowly weaken and spread out laterally after a quick reintensification near the Florida keys.

My current best guess: expect a category two hurricane somewhere around Pensacola, perhaps Ft Walton, FL.
Tracking God's Fury:
Tropical Storm Maria
Tropical Storm Nate
Hurricane Ophelia
  • None
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    Ask Bryan:
    What steers hurricanes?
    What is eyewall replacement?
    Jordan Golson
    Bryan Woods