The tropical disturbance near the Yucatan Channel is very near depression strength this morning if not already there. The system began to look healthy yesterday morning and has continued to improve in appearance. At 9z, there was a southwest wind at a buoy near the Yucatan Channel as you can see by the image I attached. To me this is indicative of a surface circulation. Also notice the light blue numbers which are water temperatures which are in the upper 80s in this area (plenty warm enough for tropical development).
As I said yesterday morning, I have felt this system had no real barriers to develop and it looks like with deep convection developing and maintaining itself along with some signs of a circulation it is on its way to developing. An aircraft reconnaissance flight will be in the system early this afternoon and I imagine the NHC will hold off until then before any upgrade will occur.
As far as the track goes, the synoptic setup is this. A strong upper ridge currently over Texas is going to strengthen and expand/relocate to the southeast US over the next 48 hours. As it does this the western flank of the ridge will weaken a bit and Invest90 will be able to gain latitude and likely move to the northwest. Therefore this is a threat in my opinion anywhere from the Louisiana coast to the northern Mexican coast. If the model data trends stronger with and slower with the building of the upper ridge into the southeast, Invest90’s track will likely trend south targeting northern Mexico and southern Texas. If the ridge trends weaker and moves quicker to the east, the model tracks could trend further up the coast targeting the northern Texas coast and perhaps even the western Louisiana coast. You can see by the attached ATCF plot most of the NHC hurricane models are targeting the Texas coast with the consensus models (TVCN, TVCA, TVCC) targeting the central Texas coast. The trend in the models has been to shift the track further north the last few cycles. The HWRF and ECMWF are targeting the south Texas coast with the GFDL and 6z GFS targeting closer to the La/Tx border. So these models reflect the synoptic pattern unfolding and thus have reasonable scenarios.
The intensity question is a tough one. The global models (GFS, ECMWF, GGEM) have consistently shown a circulation at 850mb but have not shown a strong surface reflection. They could either be right and Invest90 may struggle to get its act together or they may not be properly resolving the system which is small. The hurricane models are slightly stronger with the ever ambitious HWRF showing a strong tropical storm/minimal hurricane as it nears the Texas coast, with the latest 6z GFDL only showing a weak tropical storm of 1008mb. The NHC intensity models mostly show the system reaching tropical storm strength by tomorrow morning and peaking as a moderate to strong tropical storm. The LGEM and DSHIPs models both show this scenario peaking the winds around 60-64knots in 72 hours with most models showing landfall Friday night or Saturday morning.
The 8am Tropical Weather Outlook has come in as I type this up and the NHC now has development chances at 80%. The bottom line is that we will know this afternoon as a recon plane samples the storm. Whatever develop seems to have its eyes on Texas so we need to watch it closely.