03 July 2024

Beryl maintains Category 4 intensity as it hits Jamaica

Beryl has weakened from its peak 165 mph intensity, but not a lot... at 2pm EDT on Wednesday, the peak winds are still a hefty 140 mph... a Category 4 hurricane.  And that hurricane is hitting Jamaica on Wednesday afternoon before heading toward the Cayman Islands and then the Yucatan peninsula.

Vertical wind shear picked up noticeably on Tuesday, causing the storm to weaken only slightly and the satellite appearance to deteriorate a bit, but the ultra deep warm water in the Caribbean has given Beryl the boost it needs to overcome that shear.  The ocean heat content in the Caribbean has never been higher for this time of year, and looks more like the second week of September typically would.

Beryl's northern eyewall is scraping over the southern coast of Jamaica.  The radar in Jamaica has been inoperable for years, but there's a radar in Pilon, Cuba that is able to catch a glimpse of the eyewall over the mountainous terrain on Jamaica (so keep in mind you're seeing pretty high up by the time the radar beam is intercepting the eyewall).  As I write this, the western rainbands are just coming in range of the radar in Grand Cayman as well.  You can find these at https://bmcnoldy.earth.miami.edu/tropics/radar/

Jamaica only has three examples of Category 4+ hurricanes passing over/near it in the history books going back to 1851: Dean 2007, Ivan 2004, and Gilbert 1988.  So Beryl is only Jamaica's fourth encounter with a Category 4+ hurricane in at least 173 years.

The NHC forecast brings Beryl to the Yucatan peninsula on Friday, then somewhere along the Gulf coast on Sunday-Monday.  The intensity is very uncertain because each land interaction comes with its own unique set of weakening/reintensification scenarios.  In other words, you almost have to get past one to get a clearer picture of what you're headed to the next one with.

But, in 4-5 days, the track spread among global model ensembles spans the central Mexican Gulf coast through Texas and even into western Louisiana.  The highest clustering of tracks is near the US/Mexico border as of today.  In the maps shown below, the European model ensemble is on the left and the American model ensemble is on the right... in both cases, a similar spread exists, and they also both indicate that a stronger storm will be more prone to turn north, while weaker scenarios head straight west into Mexico.  Given Beryl's resilient history, one might be inclined to lean toward the stronger/northern solutions. 

Then, Invest 96L, the wave that's been tagging behind Beryl all along, is still struggling to develop, but there's occassional support in the models for eventual development in the Gulf of Mexico.  Far from a sure thing, but still something to pay attention to besides Beryl.  You can see its current appearance in the satellite loop at the top of the post; it just entered the eastern Caribbean, exactly in Beryl's footsteps.

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