Ernesto: Jamaican Gold?

Jamaican Gold? The 50 year storm? A topical day to be picking a headline for a storm that, far from making landfall and the devastation that entails, looks instead to have delivered a healthy dose of swell and moderate winds to the Central Caribbean and Jamaica in particular.

Rozelle Beach Southern Jamaica

With it’s more southerly track than originally thought swell spinning towards Cuba, Jamaica and other Caribbean locations is arriving with fresh winds in places, but not the storm force expected. With wave buoys hitting 13ft there’s plenty of size to find any shelter available.

Gulf Coast surfers don’t ask for, or expect, much. Given Ernesto’s latest forecast track Texas might well find these expectations met, but there’s much less cheer for the Panhandle.

We’ve been try to balance sensible caution with a little excitement over the possibility of Ernesto finding itself in the Caribbean sea and negotiating the window between Cuba and Cancun to enter the Gulf with a bit of power. This track seemed very plausible and the outcome likely to deliver some form of summer surfer for most Gulf Coast surfers.

Tropical Storm Ernesto Track (Courtesy NHC)

The weekends NHC guidance indicated Hurricane status for this storm in the Caribbean sea with only a couple of model outcomes diverging from this. However on the latest guidance a more southerly track sees the storm only really starting to intensify as it makes landfall over Belize on a Southerly track sure to bring a little disappointment to the Gulf contingent. As you’ll know once a Tropical Storm hits land the lack of warm, moist air cuts fuel to it’s engine and intensity is lost. With a continuing westerly track bringing the storm into the briefest contact with the Gulf the most likely scenario is for a brief region of probably less than storm force wind generating swell for Texas next weekend. At this stage we need to point out again that our normal forecast model typically undercalls hurricane swell so where the numbers on the Bob Hall Pier forecast at the moment are for a couple of feet of swell the more reliable NAH Wavewatch model is seeing 5-6ft@10. If you look at the latest NAH chart for the region for Friday you’ll see the potential (albeit with high variability) for 20ft seas in the Southern Gulf:

For surfers further north and east the outlook in Pensacola, for example, is even more muted with any swell most likely having to pass through the narrow 135 miles of the Yucatan channel while the storm is in it’s current phase. We have little confidence in model outcomes at this range, but expect little and you can at best be pleasantly surprised.

Florence likewise shows every sign of leaving East Coast surfers wondering when, or if, Hurricane season is going to move into gear.

Cool water and dry air steal power from Florence as we speak, and her track into energising warm water is forecast to coincide with high wind shear impacting further development. On the latest forecast we’ve got a perfect track for the East coast, but simply not the power for more than a couple or three feet of weak swell down the line.