Dorian Strengthens to Major Hurricane

Hurricane Dorian strengthened to a major hurricane on Friday afternoon.  Data from a reconnaissance plane indicated that Hurricane Dorian had strengthened to Category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale on Friday afternoon, which meant it was a major hurricane.  At 2:00 p.m. EDT on Friday the center of Hurricane Dorian was located at latitude 24.8°N and longitude 70.3°W which put it about 625 miles (1005 km) east of West Palm Beach, Florida.  Dorian was moving toward the northwest at 10 m.p.h. (16 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 115 m.p.h. (185 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 140 m.p.h. (225 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 970 mb.

Hurricane Watches had been issued for the Northwestern Bahamas.

The circulation around Hurricane Dorian exhibited much more impressive organization on satellite images and radar products generated by reconnaissance aircraft.  Clouds cleared out of the eye and it became even more circular.  The diameter of the eye was 21 miles (34 km).  The eye was surround by a ring of strong thunderstorms and the strongest winds were occurring in that ring of storms.  The overall appearance of Hurricane Dorian was more symmetrical.  Bands of showers and thunderstorms were revolving around the core of the circulation.  Storms around the core generating upper level divergence which was pumping mass away from the hurricane.

The circulation around Hurricane Dorian was still small.  Winds to hurricane force extended out about 25 miles from the center of circulation.  Winds to tropical storm force extended out about 100 miles from the center.  The Hurricane Intensity Index (HII) for Dorian was 20.6.  The Hurricane Size Index (HSI) was 9.0 and the Hurricane Wind Intensity Index (HWISI) was 29.6.  Hurricane Dorian was already capable of causing major damage.

Hurricane Dorian will move through an environment that is favorable for intensification.  Dorian will move over water where the Sea Surface Temperature is near 29°C.  It will move through a region where the upper level winds are weak and there will be little vertical wind shear.  Hurricane Dorian could start a period of rapid intensification at any time.  Dorian will almost certainly intensify to Category 4 and there is the potential for it to strengthen to Category 5.  After Hurricane Dorian strengthens, eyewall replacement cycles could cause fluctuations in intensity.

A ridge of high pressure north of Hurricane Dorian is starting to turn Dorian more toward the west.  The high is forecast to steer Dorian toward the west during the next two to three days.  On its anticipated track Hurricane Dorian will be near the Northwestern Bahamas on Sunday and it will approach the southeast coast of Florida on Monday.  Dorian will reach the western end of the high when it gets close to the Florida coast.  Hurricane Dorian could slow down and turn northward on Tuesday.