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Hurricane Gil likely to weaken over the weekend

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Hurricane Gil is likely to weaken to a  tropical storm by the time it reaches the Central Pacific on Monday, according to the latest forecasts from the National Hurricane Center.

Gil intensified today and reached category 1 hurricane strength with sustained winds of near 80 mph, extending 10 miles from the center. Tropical storm force winds of 39 mph or more extend 60 miles from the center.

Gil was about 985 miles southwest of the southern tip of Baja, California, at 5 p.m. today, still far from Hawaii.

The latest five-day forecast has Gil as a tropical storm with maximum sustained winds of 45 mph early next week as it heads toward the Central Pacific.

Behind Gil, another storm system is forming and has a 50 percent chance of strengthening into a tropical cyclone over the next 48 hours, according to the National Hurricane Center. It is moving west at 10 to 15 mph and was about 750 miles south southwest of the tip of Baja.

Forecasters say Gil will strengthen if it remains on a southerly path over warm water or will weaken faster if it moves to the north into cooler waters and wind shear.

The TRMM satellite, operated by NASA and the Japan Space Agency, took measurements of then Tropical Storm Gil today, just before it became a hurricane, showing that it had intense storms near the center of circulation, a sign the system will grow in strength.

NASA released video animation showing the so-called “hot towers,” tall cumulonimbus clouds that reach at least to the top of the troposphere, the lowest layer of the atmosphere, about 9 miles high in the tropics.

These clouds are called “hot” because they rise to such altitude due to the large amount of latent heat, the agency says. Water vapor releases this latent heat as it condenses into liquid.

The clouds were dropping more than 5 inches of rain per hour this afternoon, according to NASA.

A tropical cyclone with a hot tower in its eyewall was twice as likely to intensify than a cyclone that lacks one, NASA said.

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