Delta Moves Through the Gulf Of Mexico, Some Forecast Uncertainty Remains

The Weather Authority

Hurricane Delta made landfall Wednesday morning in the Yucatan Peninsula, and is now moving through the Southern Gulf of Mexico.

As of the 10 AM advisory, Delta was a Cat. 2 hurricane. Winds are up to 105 mph. We expect some gradual strengthening over the next 24 hours or so in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. There will still be some wind shear for Delta to contend with, but models suggest at least modest strengthening within the next couple of days. The NHC forecast still has Delta strengthening into a Major Hurricane again in the Southern Gulf. You can keep up with the forecast cone from the NHC using our interactive map below.

While we’re fairly confident in landfall location in southern Louisiana at this point, some questions still remain with the forecast of Delta.

First, is the aforementioned intensity of the storm at landfall. There are some complicating factors to forecast intensity for this storm. First and foremost, we aren’t entirely sure how much more the storm will intensify in the Southern Gulf. Also of note will be the inhospitable conditions the storm will face in the lead-up to landfall. Stronger shear and cooler water will be weakening Delta as it approaches Louisiana.

However, Delta is expected to be a much larger and more resilient storm by then. We also expect Delta to be moving fairly quickly at landfall, so there may not be much time for the cool water and shear to weaken the storm before it makes landfall. In addition, as Delta’s peak intensity drops, the wind field of the storm becomes larger, meaning impacts will be felt further outward from the center of the storm.

Perhaps the area with the lowest forecast confidence is the timing of Delta as it approaches landfall. While the “spaghetti plots” show very little spread in landfall location, timing is a concern.

I’ll be honest, even as a forecaster, I’ve never been a huge fan of these spaghetti plots. We have other ways of displaying similar information. An ensemble plot showing forecast storm center locations does a better job telling the story here.

The map above shows the forecast location of the eye of the storm. Each red number is a different model’s forecast of where the storm will be. While each model has landfall in the same general area, the time of landfall varies a lot here. At 7 pm, this ensemble model run suggests the storm could be anywhere from a couple hundred miles offshore to near Natchez, Mississippi! That orange blob around the cluster of red numbers indicates there’s large model spread, meaning in this case, uncertainty in the timing of landfall and even uncertainty in the timing of impacts here in North Alabama too. We tend to think landfall timing happens sometime Friday evening, but that could absolutely change, and that would change the timing of the biggest impacts in the Tennessee Valley too, so be sure to check back often for any forecast changes on News 19 and online in our forecast discussion.

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– Alex Puckett
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