A trio of tropical disturbances: What does it mean for NJ?
Right on schedule, the tropics are heating up as the big Labor Day Weekend approaches.
Last week, I discussed the impending peak of the Atlantic hurricane season as August turns to September. And right on cue, the tropics have caught fire, with three notable disturbances in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.
Direct vs. Indirect
New Jersey is already experiencing indirect impacts from these storms, although direct impacts are not forecast at this time. Before I dive into the details about the present trio of storms (and before panic sets in), let me explain what I mean by these terms:
--Direct Impacts: Even a glancing blow by a hurricane, tropical storm, or tropical depression can cause some serious weather and surf impacts: Heavy rain leading to inland flooding, storm surge leading to coastal flooding, powerful winds causing widespread damage, and even a few tornadoes.
--Indirect Impacts: Even if a tropical storm stays hundreds (or even thousands) of miles away, we could still feel its touch in New Jersey. The most obvious indirect impacts occur along the coast: rough surf, high waves, and an elevated risk for rip currents. Worst-case scenario, minor storm surge and coastal flooding could occur, depending on the distance, orientation, and movement of the storm. Additionally, tropical cyclones are moisture machines. Even a close pass by a tropical storm could significantly increase humidity and clouds in New Jersey. The increased "precipitable water" in the atmosphere could make any existing rain threat more serious, as tropical deluges become possible in such a moist, humid environment.
Trio of Storms
Let's break down the details of each storm's current condition, forecast track, and potential impacts on the Garden State. Position and strength statistics are current as of 5 a.m. Monday.
--Major Hurricane Gaston: Over the weekend, Gaston grew into a beast of a storm. Currently a category 3 "major" hurricane, Gaston is packing sustained winds of 115 mph and is nearly stationary. The forecast continues to show Gaston turning to the north/east and out-to-sea. Even though it is over a thousand miles away from the Jersey Shore, the swell from Gaston is expected to produce marginally rough surf and an elevated risk of rip currents for at least Monday and Tuesday.
--Tropical Depression 8: Centered just shy of 400 nautical miles south-southeast of Cape May, N.J., T.D. 8 is fairly disorganized with peak sustained winds of 35 mph. #8 is expected to intensify into a tropical storm by Tuesday morning, as it drifts toward the Outer Banks of North Carolina. All models agree the storm will then make a sharp right turn out-to-sea by Wednesday. So once again, direct impacts are not a big concern for New Jersey - although increased cloud cover, higher humidity, and maybe a shower can't be ruled out in South Jersey on Tuesday and Wednesday. The ultimate distance of the storm's track to the Jersey coastline and the storm's strength will dictate how much of a surf and coastal threat we'll see.
--Tropical Depression 9: We have been tracking this mess of a tropical disturbance since it pushed off the African coast early last week. It was finally upgraded to a Tropical Depression on Sunday, with sustained winds up to 35 mph. Centered just northwest of the Cuba mainland, T.D. 9 is forecast to strengthen into a tropical storm by Tuesday morning as it enters the warm open waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Models are in good agreement that a right-turn toward the Florida Gulf coast is likely, crossing back into the Atlantic from Thursday to Friday. What happens next is a bit uncertain. T.D. 9 will probably track along the East Coast, and might develop into a low-grade hurricane. How close it hugs the coastline will dictate what (if any) direct impacts we experience in New Jersey for the tail-end of the Labor Day Weekend. A few ensemble members also show a sharp left-turn toward the coast around our latitude. Calm down - that's an outlier solution. It only reaffirms the need to carefully monitor this developing storm over the coming week.
If T.D. 8 or T.D. 9 intensifies into a tropical storm, the next names on the list are Hermine (her-MEEN) and Ian.
The Bottom Line
Rough surf and more frequent, stronger rip currents are almost a sure bet for New Jersey over the next week (at least). Tropical Depression 8 may bring a few extra clouds and a shower to South Jersey from Tuesday-Wednesday. Tropical Depression 9 is worth watching as it slides up the east coast early next week.
The Rest of the Forecast
--Monday: The air over New Jersey is kicking off the new week on the muggy side, with temperatures in the upper 60s. But our atmosphere will dry out a bit later thanks to a weak front pushing through. So, skies should clear to sunshine by the afternoon. A couple of spot showers or little thunderstorms will be possible in the early morning and late afternoon hours. But rain will be the exception and not the rule on Monday.
--Monday Night: Still an isolated shower chance, but generally we'll enjoy mostly clear skies and comfortable temperatures overnight. Most lows will dip into the mid 60s. But the coolest places in N.J. (far north and Pine Barrens) could taste upper 50s for a brief time by Tuesday morning.
--Tuesday and Wednesday: Pleasant. Mostly to partly sunny skies, with seasonable warm temperatures. Tuesday will top out around 80 to 86 degrees, while Wednesday warms to about 84 to 90 degrees across the Garden State.
--Thursday: Probably the strongest cold front we've seen in a while will begin traversing New Jersey. Mostly cloudy skies and a stiff breeze will accompany a chance for wet weather across most of the day. While forecast rainfall totals are on the light side, the rain could be persistent for at least a few hours. High temperatures will get stuck in the upper 70s to around 80 due to the clouds and rain.
--Friday and Beyond: Models suggest the rain may linger into part of Friday, before high pressure returns sunny skies to the Garden State. While this forecast is somewhat dependent on the tropical weather forecast, things are looking good for the Labor Day Weekend. Low humidity and slightly below normal temperatures will carry into Friday, Saturday, and Sunday with highs between about 75 and 81 degrees.