96L Likely A Northern Gulf of Mexico Tropical Cyclone Early Next Week

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Fig. 1: The western North Atlantic basin satellite view of 96L and Paulette.

Fig. 2: The latest 90-hour rainfall forecast from ECMWF (valid through Monday 7PM CDT).

Fig. 3: Tropical cyclone models indicate a 3-in-5 chance of a minimal hurricane prior to landfall in the northern Gulf of Mexico for 96L.

Discussion: The SST near the core of Tropical Disturbance 96L is 85F in the western Bahamas. The SST off the east coast of Florida is 86-87F. The SST in the northern Gulf is in the 85-86F range. Any tropical entity moving across these anomalous warm waters beneath a light shear aloft environment will intensify. Tropical Disturbance 96L is not an exception.

Currently, Tropical Disturbance 96L is an organizing area of thunderstorms spread across the Bahamas (Fig. 1). NOAA/NHC increased the risk of tropical cyclone formation to 40% within 48 hours and 60% after 48 hours with their 8AM EDT update. Expect these values to increase at 2PM EDT.

The 0600 GMT ECMWF has the best “early look” at 96L…across Florida as a disturbance and becoming a depression off the west coast of Florida quickly Sunday after encountering the very warm Gulf of Mexico surface. Steady intensification follows to a tropical storm and (preliminarily) inland as a strong tropical storm near Mobile, AL Monday night. The ECM already has a streak of 5-8 in. of rain into the western Florida Panhandle/Alabama coast (Fig. 2).

There is certainly a chance at a minimal hurricane.