I am not sure of any recent papers/studies on the subject matter, but here what I learned in tropical meteorology: There is a very brief time dependence requirement between a cyclones encountering of differentiating SSTs. The trick is, the forward motion of the hurricane can not be too fast or too slow. If too fast, the system has too much momentum stowed in the translational vector, such that the coupled lower boundary layer sea-surface interface does not have time to register.. That is why New England (every couple few decades) gets a good "Long Island Express", there is relative cold water S of Long Island; where as the N wall of the Gulf stream is about 38degrees N extending ENE out into the open Atlantic. What happens is the steering field is humming right along, the hurricane picks of translational speed and punches deep into hostile environment before it has time to weaken substantially.
Rite, by comparison, is moving quite a bit slower... the coupled lower boundary layer to sea-surface interface probably does have enough time to impose a track behavior nuance, because by very nature, the hurricane is making use of upper oceanic heat content. If for some reason the water is that substantially warmer to the W of Rita's track, it is possible that could impart a tug, or shift W...
But there's a problem with this... The thing is, there is a ridge currently over TX, particularly the N sections of the state...I'm not sure how Rita could really garner much momentum in that direction given that as she nears, there is ever increasing conflict - perhaps this is where TPC is getting the shear from...
Speaking of shear... Deeply evolved tropical cyclones have the capacity to create a kind of protective shell about their circumvallate.. This is because they have deep layer subsidence associated, which tends to deflect lighter shear fields from encroaching....If the shear is going to get "that" strong than forget about it - the hurricane is no match. But in some in situ scenarios, the approach of a weak mid lvl shear is noted to have been shunted away by very powerful hurricane centered outward max fluxes.
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