Tropical Storm Bonnie became a minimal tropical storm at 2100 UTC on Saturday 28 May, the second named storm of the Atlantic Season (Hurricane Alex, which storm formed in January, was the first named storm). The water vapor animation above shows that Bonnie’s initial spin may be traced to a front associated with an occluded system crawled through the eastern United States, exiting on about 23 May 2016. It’s not uncommon for vorticity associated with extratropical cyclone fronts to sow the seed of a tropical cyclone, especially early (or late) in the season. In this case, the cold front failed to pass Bermuda, and by 27 May, persistent thunderstorms about halfway between Bermuda and the Bahamas suggested tropical cyclogenesis was underway.
Total Precipitable Water fields, from the microwave MIMIC product, above, show the system was embedded deep within tropical moisture. Tropical moisture associated with the storm moved up the east coast of the United States into the mid-Atlantic States with local flooding reported. This longer animation (from 21 through 28 May) shows that persistent westward motion of moisture occurred over the tropical Atlantic well in advance of Bonnie’s formation.
The tropical wave the produced Bonnie showed a closed circulation as early as 1012 UTC on 27 May according to rapidscat scatterometer winds (above), and MODIS Sea Surface Temperatures, below, showed very warm water over the Gulf Stream.
Suomi NPP overflew this tropical systems at various times during its lifecycle. Shortly after midnight on 27 May 2016, above, strong convection was centered just north of the apparent surface circulation (as inferred by the curved bands of low-level clouds, clouds made visible by moonlight in this night-time visible imagery). Twenty-four hours later, at 0742 UTC on 28 May, below, in a more zoomed-in view, the (then) tropical depression Number 2 is supporting strong convection that is obscuring the low-level circulation center.
Finally, at 0723 UTC on 29 May, (above) after strong shear has displaced all convection well north of the center, the low-level circulation of Tropical Storm Bonnie is southeast of the the South Carolina Coast. Strong convection is over North Carolina. This shear was noted in the 0300 UTC and 0900 UTC (29 May) Discussions from the National Hurricane Center. The effect of shear is apparent in the two GOES-13 Infrared Images below, from 2045 UTC on 28 May when convection was close to the center, and from 1045 UTC on 29 May, shortly before landfall, when convection was stripped from the center and displaced well to the north.