Tropical Storm Chris has intensified into a hurricane Tuesday afternoon, making it the second of the season. Chris has remained idle several hundred miles off the Carolina coast, caught between the circulation of two upper-level high pressure systems. A lack of wind shear and a narrow channel of moisture flowing between the high pressure systems toward Chris have enabled the storm to gradually intensify before making a sharp northeastward turn toward Newfoundland and Labrador. Besides generating rip tides along the coast, Chris is not a threat to the United States.
Chris has been busy since stalling over the weekend. The storm has developed a variable 20-30 nautical mile wide eye with heavy bands of rain surrounding it, as depicted in the visible satellite imagery from the GOES-East satellite below. Additional convective banding has developed symmetrically away from the eye, especially on the northeast flank where cloud-tops have towered. Upwelled cool water has thus far been the only significant factor hindering Chris’s development into a hurricane, until now.
Recent satellite imagery suggest that Chris has already begun its highly anticipated northeastward turn. A broad upper-level trough is expected to slide across southeast Canada and the Northeast US Tuesday afternoon. The trough will deepen (become stronger) and accelerate the southwesterly flow embedding Chris, acting to steer the storm faster to the northeast over the next 36 hours.Within this time frame, Chris will propagate away from its self-generated pool of upwelled water toward warmer sea surface temperatures. Wind shear and dry air intrusion are expected to remain minimal so these warm waters should support further intensification into a strong Category 1 or weak Category 2 hurricane by Wednesday night.
Chris will enter the colder waters on the north side of the Gulf Stream by Thursday. These waters will be far too cold to maintain Chris’s tropical characteristics. Despite the loss of warm water, Chris is not expected to immediately dissipate. The storm will quickly undergo extra-tropical transition by interacting with a nearby cold front as it races towards Newfoundland. Extra-tropical transition is the process through which a warm-core tropical system fueled by condensation becomes a cold-core nor’easter-like system fueled by temperature gradients.
The only area expected to receive direct impacts from Chris is Newfoundland and Labrador. Thursday night Chris will make a passing swipe at coastal Newfoundland as an extra-tropical cyclone. Statistical guidance has yet to reach a consensus about intensity, but it is possible the storm could have near-hurricane strength. The extra-tropical cyclone could make a brief landfall near St. John’s before weakening on its trek east-northeast toward the British Isles. Even if the storm does not make landfall, torrential rain, coastal flooding, and tropical-storm force winds are likely Thursday night and Friday in southeastern Newfoundland, with lighter impacts expected in eastern Nova Scotia. Swells are expected to reach up to 20 feet along the southeastern Newfoundland Coast and up to 13 feet possible along the Atlantic Coast of Nova Scotia.
Residents and visitors to Atlantic Canada should keep a close eye on what is Hurricane Chris at this time. The storm does not need a tropical status to pose significant risks to life and property. We will continue to monitor Chris throughout the storm’s evolution and provide updates as we know more.