The first hurricane of the 2021 Atlantic season is still days away from impacting the United States but for now, the potential track includes the South Carolina Coast.
Chris Justus Discusses Hurricane Elsa’s Track Forecast
Latest Information from the National Hurricane Center
Reports from a NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that Elsa has strengthened a little more since the last advisory, with a combination of flight-level winds, SFMR surface wind estimates, and dropsonde data showing that the maximum winds are near 75 kt. The aircraft also reported that the 700-mb circulation remains somewhat disorganized, and that the 700-mb center is not vertically aligned with with the surface center. The former issue is likely due to the rapid motion, and the latter may be due to the effects of westerly shear.
The initial motion now is 280/26. There is again little change to the forecast track or the forecast guidance. The guidance is in good agreement on a rapid west-northwestward notion to near the south coast of the Dominican Republic and Haiti by 24-30 h, followed by a continued west-northwestward motion at a slower forward speed through 48 h.
After that time, Elsa should gradually turn northwestward and eventually northward as it moves through a weakness in the subtropical ridge created by a mid-latitude trough over the eastern United States. This motion should take the cyclone across Cuba and over the eastern Gulf of Mexico or the nearby Florida Peninsula, eventually moving into the southeastern United States by the end of the period.
The track guidance is a little less divergent than earlier, but there is still enough spread in the potential tracks that this part of the forecast remains low confidence. The latest global model runs and the associated intensity guidance are forecasting a less favorable environment for Elsa during the next several days. The SHIPS model now calls for 10-20 kt of northwesterly shear during the next 48 h, and 15-25 kt of shear after 60 h. In addition, the 12Z GFS forecasts a considerably weaker storm than its last several runs.
The intensity forecast thus calls for little change in strength during the first 24 h, although it is possible the hurricane could strengthen a little more during that time. After that, land interaction and shear are likely to cause weakening until Elsa emerges into the Gulf of Mexico. However, the HWRF still calls for Elsa to intensify into a Category 3 hurricane, and like the track forecast the intensity forecast remains of low confidence due to the spread in the guidance.
It should be noted that the average NHC track errors are 175 miles and 200 miles at days 4 and 5, respectively. Given the larger-than-normal uncertainty and because hazards will extend well away from the center of the storm, users are urged to not focus on the exact forecast points.