Tropical Cyclone Ella Strengthens As It Nears Wallis and Futuna

Tropical Cyclone Ella strengthened on Wednesday as it moved closer to Wallis and Futuna.  At 11:00 p.m. EDT on Wednesday the center of Tropical Cyclone Ella was located at latitude 14.4°S and longitude 177.0°W which put it about 75 miles (120 km) east of Wallis and Futuna.  Ella was moving toward the west at 3 m.p.h. (5 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 65 m.p.h. (105 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 80 m.p.h. (130 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 989 mb.

The circulation of Tropical Cyclone Ella exhibited better organization on Wednesday.  A circular eye with a diameter of 25 miles (40 km) was evident on some microwave satellite images.  A ring of thunderstorms surrounded the eye.  Additional bands of showers and thunderstorms developed in the eastern half of the circulation.  Storms in the core of the circulation generated upper level divergence which pumped out mass and allowed the surface pressure to decrease.  The size of the circulation of Tropical Cyclone Ella is small.  Winds to tropical storm force only extend out about 100 miles (160 km) fro the center of circulation.

Tropical Cyclone Ella will move through an area that will be favorable for intensification.  Ella will move over water where the Sea Surface Temperature is near 30°C.  The upper level winds are weak and there is little vertical wind shear.  Tropical Cyclone Ella could intensify into the equivalent of a hurricane/typhoon on Thursday.  However, because the size of the circulation is small, any future increase in the vertical wind shear could quickly weaken Tropical Cyclone Ella.

Ella is moving around the northern side of a subtropical ridge, which is steering the tropical cyclone toward the west.  Ella is currently moving north of a weaker section of the ridge and the steering winds are weaker.  So, Ella is moving more slowly.  The ridge is expected to steer Tropical Cyclone Ella in a general westerly direction during the next several days.  On its anticipated track Tropical Cyclone Ella could pass near Wallis and Futuna in 12 to 18 hours.  It could be near hurricane/typhoon strength at that time.  Ella could approach the northeastern part of Fiji in two or three days.