BP's First Nightmare Is Now Named Alex: Tropical Storm Heading For Gulf Of Mexico Ground Zero

It was only a matter of time before "inclement weather" tested the BP falling knifers. Provisionally titled Tropical Storm Alex (currently disturbance 93L), the first tropical storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, is now expected to enter the GoM area as soon as next week, causing unpredictable and possibly irreparable harm to BP's clean up efforts. And this is just the beginning: as Bloomberg reminds: "Forecasters are predicting this year’s Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, may be among the most active on record...Three storms, two of them hurricane-level, may pass through the oil spill area, while three more may come close enough to affect cleanup operations and other rig activity, AccuWeather Inc. chief hurricane forecaster Joe Bastardi said." We are confident all those who have written exhaustive multi-page investment theses vouching their certainty that BP is at least a doublebagger have factored in such completely unpredictable factors as 100+ mph winds and currents that bring BP's tarballs all the way up to Virginia along the eastern seaboard.

How is BP preparing for this contingency? With yet more promises.

BP is developing a new containment response that will help clean-up operators to connect and disconnect oil-recovery systems faster, allowing the company to capture more oil ahead of and following a storm, said John Pack, a BP spokesman in London. Some of the changes will be ready before July, he said.

And here is the Wunderground Blog with an exhaustive analysis of L93/Alex:

A concentrated region of intense thunderstorms associated with a tropical wave has developed in the central Caribbean, a few hundred miles south of Puerto Rico. This disturbance was designated Invest 93L by NHC this morning, and has the best chance to become Tropical Storm Alex of any system we've seen so far this year. The disturbance is located near Buoy 42059, and this buoy has been reporting winds of 5 - 15 knots this morning. So far, pressures are not falling. Water vapor satellite loops show that 93L is embedded in a large region of moist air. Some dry continental air from North America is over the western Caribbean, but this dry air is too far away to interfere with development today and Tuesday. Wind shear is a low 5 - 10 knots. The high wind shear associated with the strong winds of the subtropical jet stream are over the northern Caribbean, too far north to interfere with development. Sea Surface Temperatures are plenty warm, a record 29 - 30°C. The Madden-Julian oscillation currently favors upward motion over the Caribbean, which will act to increase the chances of tropical storm formation this week. The Madden-Julian oscillation is a pattern of enhanced rainfall that travels along the Equator from west to east. The pattern has a wet phase with large-scale rising air and enhanced thunderstorm activity, followed by a dry phase with large-scale sinking air and suppressed thunderstorm activity. Each cycle lasts approximately 30 - 60 days. When the Madden-Julian oscillation is in its wet phase over a hurricane-prone region, the chances for tropical storm activity are greatly increased. The only negative for 93L would seem to be the lack of spin; the University of Wisconsin 850 mb relative vorticity analysis is showing only meager amounts of spin at 850 mb (roughly 5,000 feet in altitude.)

Figure 1. Morning visible satellite image of the central Caribbean disturbance 93L.

Forecast for 93L
NHC is giving 93L a 20% chance of developing into a tropical depression by Wednesday morning, which is a reasonable forecast. With wind shear expected to drop to low values less than 10 knots over the central and western Caribbean this week (Figure 2), I don't see any major impediments to the storm becoming a tropical depression by Friday. The ECMWF model is the most aggressive in developing this system, taking it into the Gulf of Mexico as a hurricane next week. The NOGAPS model keeps the storm weak and farther south, predicting that 93L will bring heavy rains to northern Honduras as a tropical disturbance or tropical depression on Friday and Saturday. The GFS model does not develop 93L. Expect 93L to bring flooding rains of 3 - 6 inches to Jamaica, eastern Cuba, and extreme southwestern Haiti on Wednesday. These rains will spread to the Cayman Islands and central Cuba by Thursday.