Tropical Storm Fay is churning just South of Cuba and moving slowly to the WNW. The latest look at the IR Satellite indicates a few areas of convection developing in the SE quadrant, but overall strengthening isn't extremely impressive at this current time.
Before we talk about Fay, I must remind us all to stay conservative in this situation. My main goal is to discuss Fay as she is developing, but I am not looking to over-hype the scenario.
After looking at several models, discussions, and tropical data, I have determined this a difficult forecast. Within the next 36 hours a couple of huge things could happen to alter Fay's forecast. Overall most models are showing a West Florida landfall, but some outliers have a track around the Western Panhandle and even along Florida's east coast. As most models project West Florida they also agree with a Cat 1 landfall (which does not cause main structural damage). Although the biggest factor in Fay's development includes the interaction with land.
Land is a big inhibitor to tropical storm growth. For tropical storm growth a storm needs warm water (typically 80º and above), a low shear environment, and the ability to breathe in moisture. Land helps inhibit growth by a cutting off the connection to water and allows drier air to enter the storm. So as Fay may ride alongside and then cross the land of Cuba, we will certainly see a decrease in convection while moving over Cuba.
At this time we are continuing to watch the directional influence of Fay's surrounding scene. Things such as a high pressure system can control tropical storms, and a high pressure system in the Gulf is forecast to break down by tomorrow evening. The break down of the ridge will allow Fay to take a more Northerly track, but a maintained ridge will allow a more westward movement.
Also, one small change in movement can make a huge difference in Fay's strength at landfall. The more time Fay spends in the Gulf then more convective growth I will expect in Fay's development.
Overall, Fay is tricky. So much depends upon the next 24 to 36 hours.
I will have an update by 10pm.