I don't want to be a doomsayer, but things are looking pretty bad for the Texas Coast. By late Friday and early Saturday, it is looking increasingly likely that areas between Houston and Corpus Christie will be impacted by a very powerful hurricane.
1. Ike is travelling over water that is very warm. Ike's projected track will continue to take it over water that is 87 degrees. As you may or may not know, warm water is one of the main ingredients to get a hurricane to strengthen. The graphic below shows areas of enhanced oceanic heat content in the Gulf.
These little pockets of super heated water are called warm eddies and are part of the Gulf Loop Current. The Gulf Loop Current and these warm eddies that break off of the current, were responsible for Rita and Katrina's rapid explosion into category 5 hurricanes. Will this happen with Ike ? Too early to tell, but it certainly seems possible that Ike will go to category 4 status, and possibly even to a category 5 in the Central Gulf.
2. The upper atmosphere is very favorable for intensification and maintanance. High pressure at the upper levels of the atmosphere allows the hurricane to breath. What does it look like when a hurricane is breathing properly ? See below:
Notice how big the storm is getting, and how the outflow is not being restricted. The only slight exception is on the far western side, where it looks a touch ragged compared to other quadrants of the storm. Still, this is a very impressive looking hurricane and has that classic "buzz saw" look to it.
3. Wind shear will remain light. Strong upper level winds will tear a hurricanes structure apart and will weaken it. Most of the Gulf of Mexico is under the influence of upper level high pressue. This will keep upper level winds light, and conducive to strengthening and maintanence.
The track of Ike is still somewhat problematic. However, our computer models are coming into better agreement. The preferred track by the models takes it more northerly than what has been projected.
Computer Model Forecast Tracks:
This seems more likely and that is what the official track calls for ( see below):
If you have any loved ones or interests along the Texas Coast, this hurricane will likely have a huge impact on them. Hurricane Carla struck the same area in 1961. It was a category 4 storm, with winds of 145 mph with gusts over 170 mph. It produced a large storm surge and killed 31 people in Texas. Dan Rather was the first reporter ever to report on a hurricanes landfall, and the storm he reported on was Carla. Let's hope this is not a repeat of Carla, but it sure looks ominous for the Texas Coast.
Chief Meteorologist Brian Bledsoe