"Tropical" Storm Alberto is spinning somewhere north of the Yucatan Peninsula right now, not really moving all that much as it does so. It has a broad center of circulation about where the NHC 11a ET position was, though there is another very small circulation center rotating around the broader center. All of the convection is displaced over 100km from the center of the storm from NE to SE, giving the system a decidedly baroclinic appearance on satellite imagery. Recon and microwave satellite data, however, suggest that the system is tropical in nature, with low-level temperature anomalies of about 1-2.5 degrees C in the core of the system.
However, unless or until convection can develop and persist over the center, there's just not going to be a whole lot of strengthening associated with Alberto. Wind shear and dry air are just too prevalent over the storm's circulation to allow it to organize all that much, however, and the NHC forecast intensity looks pretty good from here on out. There is a chance for some extratropical intensification as -- well, if -- it passes along and north of the Gulf Stream into the middle part of the week, but I do not anticipate a major extratropical cyclone out of this.
How deep the system can become will ultimately help determine where it goes. The FSU MM5 and, to a lesser extent, UKMET solutions of a more westward movement have panned out thus far; the question is, will they continue to do so? Most of the reliable model guidance is still clustered somewhere between Apalachicola and Tampa Bay, and that is where the NHC official forecast lies. The steering flow products from the Univ. of Wisconsin, however, suggest an impact further west toward the western Florida Panhandle (if the low-to-mid level steering pattern remains the same). So, the question becomes, is it? And, does it matter?
Well, for people in the Panhandle, it does matter; an impact further south would likely leave them dry from this storm, while an impact further north and west would help focus some of the precipitation their way. For the Florida peninsula, it's not as big of a factor, given that winds are not likely to be all that strong (even accounting for the potential of some minor strengthening) and the rainfall is already becoming established across the region. There are a couple of weak shortwave troughs in the middle-upper atmosphere that may help provide the kick for this system to turn; these are currently located over the northern Great Lakes, Minnesota, and Oklahoma. Will they reach far enough south and be deep enough to pick up Alberto? That's the projection as of now, but it is an uncertain one. The weaker Alberto remains, the less likely that happens.
Bottom line: those in Florida need to stay tuned to this one. Those along the coast in central Louisiana through Alabama as well as from Jacksonville to Cape Hatteras need to keep an eye on the next 24 hours to see which way this storm is going to go. The timing for everything has been pushed toward early Tuesday as opposed to late Monday and continues to trend later, thus giving us a window today to potentially determine the final course of this storm.
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