Increasing hurricane damages

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 9:53 PM GMT on December 05, 2008

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A conference called the Hurricane Science for Safety Leadership Forum convened this week in Orlando to look at how we can better prepare for the inevitable hurricanes in our future. The conference brought together an interesting mix of experts--scientists from environmental groups like the National Wildlife Federation, insurance industry representitives, and a representative from the pro-business Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI).

There are a number of interesting Powerpoint and video presentations posted on their web site, for those interested. The most eye-opening fact I saw came during a presentation done by Amanda Staudt of the National Wildlife Federation. In her presentation on the policy implication of hurricanes and climate change, she showed that the population of South Florida is projected to grow from a 1990 population of 6.3 million to a 2050 population of 15-30 million people. That's a startling increase in population. Higher and higher hurricane damage tabs are inevitable in coming decades, just from this huge increase in population. She goes further, showing that if the theoretical predictions for global warming by the end of the century come true--a 2-13% increase in hurricane winds due to ocean warming, a 10-31% increase in hurricane rainfall, and an increase in sea level of several feet--there is likely to be a huge increase in hurricane damage, and probably in deaths, as well.

I have a few comments on this. While I believe that hurricane damages will continue to grow primarily because of population increases, higher wealth, and poor land management, the contribution of increased damage due to global warming will start to become significant by the end of the century. The 5% increase in hurricane winds per °C of ocean warming theorized by hurricane researcher Dr. Kerry Emanuel (Emanuel, 2005) may not seem like much, it will make a significant difference in the destructive power of the strongest storms. A Category 4 hurricane does about four times more damage than a Category 3 hurricane, and 250 times more damage than a Category 1 storm (Figure 1). Given the expected increase of tropical sea surface temperatures of 1-2 °C by 2100, hurricane wind speeds should increase by 5-10%. Since the difference in wind speed between a Category 3 and Category 4 hurricane is about 15%, we can anticipate that the strongest hurricanes in 2100 will do 1 1/2 to 3 times more damage than they do now.

This may be an underestimate of the increase in damage, though. Global sea level rose about 0.75 feet last century, and is expected to rise 0.6 - 1.9 feet this century, according to the "official" word on climate, the 2007 report of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). A paper published by Pfeffer et al. in Science this year concluded that the IPCC underestimated sea level rise, and that the "most likely" range of sea level rise by 2100 is 2.6 - 6.6 feet. If true, we can expect greatly increased damage from hurricane storm surges. However, it is possible that there will be fewer hurricanes by the end of the century, thanks to an increase in wind shear over the tropical Atlantic (Vecchi and Soden, 2007).


Figure 1. Potential hurricane damage as a function of Saffir-Simpson category for U.S. hurricanes between 1925-1995. If the median damage from a Category 1 hurricane is normalized to be a "one", then Category 2, 3, and 4 hurricanes were 10, 50, and 250 times more damaging, respectively. Data taken from Pielke, Jr. R. A., and C. W. Landsea, 1998: "Normalized Atlantic hurricane damage 1925-1995" Wea. Forecasting, 13, pp.621-631.

Better building codes
Congressman Bennie Thompson, D-MS, Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, helped to kick off the conference with opening remarks that underscored his intention to hold Congressional hearings on developing new building codes in hurricane-prone areas. He was hopeful that President-elect Obama and new incoming head of Homeland Security, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, would work to adopt new, tougher building standards. "Take a look at the homes on the Bolivar Peninsula in Texas that are still standing after the hurricane," Thompson said. "We know how to build stronger homes. Now we just need to do it." Thompson said that while such legislation had been introduced in the past but failed, chances were better under an Obama administration of passage.

I think it is essential that more stringent and comprehensive building codes get adopted in hurricane alley to reduce the inevitable huge price tags from future hurricanes.

References
Emanuel, K. 2005, "Increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over the past 30 years", Nature, 436, 4 August 2005, doi:10.1038/nature03906.

Vecchi, G.A., and B.J. Soden, 2007, "Increased tropical Atlantic wind shear in model projections of global warming", Geophys. Res. Lett., 34, L08702, doi:10.1029/2006GL028905, 2007.

Jeff Masters

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Some strong and regular lightening to my north/west right now.
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Southeast Weather Blog. I'm starting this blog back up again and will try to provide updates every other day.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30833
Snow is approaching me...
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Dr.Masters,
Thank you for the Global Warming update? Sorry I missed you in Orlando, maybe some other FL WU bloggers can meet up for lunch next time your here.
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How about some music ?? Trinidad style
Go to U-Tube, search "musical vengeance"
Note, that every instrument is a percussion instrument. ie, tuned oil-drum.
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A .6 to 1.9 foot rise in sea level would be well within the normal range as the last century. Not exactly unexpected.
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Hello.
Temp 81 f
Raining..........
A good day for gardening, which is wot I have been doing since early.
Now, exhausted, but this cold beer is helping somewhat.......
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There were flurries here for a minute not much but considering we've already had two other occasions of flurries i think it's an extremely active start the snow season. Hopefully the rest of the season will follow the trend
Member Since: March 29, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2377
The politcal agenda driving GW is hysterical to the point of lunacy. I'm not convinced either way tho it does appear the last few years have seen a little cooling. It does seem to me however that anyone who doesn't agree with the manmade GW theory, gets shouted down. There needs to be free and open debate amongst scientist and climate experts w/o the dissenters being stygamtized or osterasized. This is too important an issue to
for there not to be. An open mind and honest, accurate, data is a must. My 2 cents.
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When everyone is "official" and there is strong consensus that it is going to warm - up 1-2C by the end of next century, that is when I become more and more of a skeptic. I believe that CO2 will warm-up the planet some, but doubling CO2 only increases the radiation absorption (from 385 ppm to 770 ppm) by only 1-2 watts per square meter. So other factors can clearly overwhelm the warming by CO2 alone. The computer models are way too sensitive to H20 impact from the warming of CO2, thus it isn't proven quite yet that we are going to warm - up this much next century. I still believe that Urban effects (Urban Heat Island) are much stronger than what most people realize, and that the data is skewed from our land stations, and satellite data is probably a safer bet on analyzing temperature trends. No one takes that into account, and now no one believes that UHI has any effect, but it does, and I see it every day. Now our planet is probably 3% urbanized, and will probably grow to 4-5% by 2100. So at least the cities are going to get warmer and warmer next century, I can guarantee that.

Cheers.



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Southeast Weather Blog

Snow?
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 30833
Anyone have any updates on the possible east coast storm next week?? Thanks in advance.
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Quoting MichaelSTL:


There is also a lot of confusion over this; the number of hurricanes that can develop depends more on the environment than on ocean temperatures, as long as the latter are warm enough (>26*C), they have little influence on how many storms develop, most storms also develop from tropical waves, so an expansion of warm water northwards won't have much of an effect (maybe right by Africa where the 26*C line doesn't go that far north). As for intensity, that is easily understood (you can see graphics depicting MPI here), since a hurricane is basically a heat engine and increasing the amount of fuel (warm water) increase the intensity, if other conditions are favorable enough (a recent study looked at only the strongest storms to see what the trend was, the idea being that these storms have near-perfect environments and are only limited by MPI/heat content):


Using global satellite data, FSU geography Professor James B. Elsner, University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor James P. Kossin and FSU postdoctoral researcher Thomas H. Jagger found that the strongest tropical cyclones are, in fact, getting stronger -- and that ocean temperatures play a role in driving this trend. This is consistent with the "heat-engine" theory of cyclone intensity.

"As seas warm, the ocean has more energy that can be converted to tropical cyclone wind," Elsner said. "Our results do not prove the heat-engine theory. We just show that the data are quite consistent with it."

Kerry Emanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology first suggested the possible connection between global warming and increases in tropical cyclone intensity in a 2005 paper. He linked the increased intensity of storms to the heating of the oceans, which has been attributed to global warming.

Critics argued that the data were not reliable enough to make assertions about the relationship between climate change and hurricanes. Moreover, when scientists looked at the mean tropical cyclone statistics, they did not see an upward trend.

Elsner's team addressed both issues by using globally consistent, satellite-derived tropical cyclone wind speeds as opposed to the observational record and by focusing on the highest wind speeds of the strongest tropical cyclones each year.

Emanuel's theory is that the intake of warm air near the ocean surface and the exhaust of colder air above the cyclone is what drives a hurricane. Other factors being equal, the warmer the ocean, the warmer the intake of air. This heat-engine theory of how hurricanes increase their intensity is well accepted, but there are many environmental factors, such as wind shear, that might prevent a hurricane from strengthening, Elsner said.

To address that problem, Elsner's team looked at a subset of hurricanes that are closest to their maximum possible intensity (MPI). Under the heat-engine theory, every storm will lose some energy through inefficiency, and that loss will limit the storm's potential. The MPI represents the storm's maximum potential under ideal environmental conditions.

"We speculated that you might not see a trend in the intensity of typical hurricanes due to environmental factors, but if the heat-engine theory is correct, you should see a trend in the intensity of hurricanes at or near their MPI," Elsner said. "On average, the strongest storms are closest to their MPI."

The researchers created a data set from satellite observations of hurricane intensity of all tropical cyclones around the globe and looked at the maximum wind speeds for each one during a 25-year period. Tropical cyclones, which include hurricanes, typhoons and tropical storms, occur on average about 90 times per year worldwide.

The researchers found that the strongest tropical cyclones are getting stronger, particularly over the North Atlantic and Indian oceans. Wind speeds for the strongest tropical storms increased from an average of 140 mph in 1981 to 156 mph in 2006, while the ocean temperature, averaged globally over the all regions where tropical cyclones form, increased from 28.2 degrees Celsius to 28.5 degrees Celsius during this period.

There is a lot of confusion on global warming, period. Wind shear may increase due to stronger and even permanent El-Ninos, but maybe the stronger heat could allow the jet streams, and thus wind shear, to lift further north, or perhaps the area off the East coast could cool, and the area near the Azores could heat up, and maybe the Bermuda High will shrink. From what I know about GW, I have an almost clear, but very, very complicated and confusing idea about what might happen. There are literally billions of possible factors and effects. Computer models might actually be doing a pretty good job, but many factors are being excluded. Anything can happen. Some things we have feared are already happening. Anyway, on a lighter note, it appears we will get about 11 inches (28 cm) of snow here in S. Ontario by Wednesday. Let it snow!
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Quoting ShenValleyFlyFish:
One of my first blogs, if not the first one, on my WU site was about the possible counterproductive effect of tightened Building Codes. If not accompanied by a much, much more stringent Zoning code taking into account Storm Surge we will wind up with intact buildings full of dead people.


Morning all. I have never felt the increased building codes were to save the people; instead, it was to save the houses. A house that's designed to withstand increased winds / surge is more likely to be there when the owner returns. People living in vulnerable storm surge zones should still evacuate; that seems pretty obvious to me.

OTOH, there would prolly be some people who would think "if the house doesn't fall down, I'll be OK right here 4 feet above the Gulf" . . . . so I suppose I can see ur point.
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22735
Good Morning from sunny Barbados where the breeze is cool, the skies are blue, clouds are puffy(great met. term.) and it is about 28C- absolutely wonderful.Glad for an update on SurfMom had a bad turn with lungs myself when I was 25, like Gabriel, young and strong that and the prayers and a Mom's strong love will hopefully bring him through.
POTTERY YOU GOT OLD AND MOULDING MAIL AND A NEW FRESH PIECE OF MAIL
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I'm out too...Will be checking in later...
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# 92 ORCA

Now it comes out..haha
Hey I have lots to do today...got to go.
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Quoting MissNadia:

You just have to be pure and innocent at Heart.. like myself :)

Are sure you were a fisherman?

Umm I might have forgotten some of that... thats it... it was before I was 18 :)
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You just have to be pure and innocent at Heart.. like myself :)

Are sure you were a fisherman?
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90. IKE
Looks like a good day to head up on cripple creek.

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Quoting MissNadia:

How do you get a halo? I could use one of them LOL


Well, first you have to find a sleeping angel... sneek up behind them with a baseball bat...

Umm no thats not it..

You just have to be pure and innocent at Heart.. like myself :)
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88. IKE
Quoting MissNadia:

How do you get a halo? I could use one of them LOL


Speeding ticket?

Haven't had one in a while...last one cost me about $160. I keep it within 10 mph of the limit now....lol.
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Quoting Orcasystems:


My Halo works on my Driving record...
(Not to mention, veteran plates on the car, so the RCMP basically leave us alone if possible)

How do you get a halo? I could use one of them LOL
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Quoting MissNadia:
81 Robdahood
82 Ike
Clean driving records????? What do you drive?... golf carts?
I too have a clean record ( this year) haven't been caught for 15 months, something of a record.


My Halo works on my Driving record...
(Not to mention, veteran plates on the car, so the RCMP basically leave us alone if possible)
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Could we change the subject from "clean driving records".....as I don't have much to offer the discussion....

(MissNadia....check your WU mail)
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Complete Blog Refresh
Mirror Site

I have also posted an update that Rob received from Surfmom in the comments section (post 340).
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81 Robdahood
82 Ike
Clean driving records????? What do you drive?... golf carts?
I too have a clean record ( this year) haven't been caught for 15 months, something of a record.
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82. IKE
I have a clean driving record too. I don't deserve it, but I'll take it.
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Quoting IKE:



EDITS>>On a personal note, I'm lucky to be alive at 50. My driving at 18-25 was awful and stupid.


LOL - I Echo that sentiment...have a natural affinity to all things mechanical, including cars...learned road racing skills at an early age while helping build cars for the old Camel GT series. (sebring, road atlanta, daytona)
Always owned fast cars, very lucky no incidents and somehow managed to keep a clean driving record all those years. Back then, though, much smaller population and better places to play. Not so much anymore. There comes a point for most of us that we find that we are not 10 ft tall and bullet proof.
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79. IKE
Quoting RobDaHood:
Posted msg from Surfmom on My Blog this morning, post # 192

Also thoughts and prayers going out to TampaSpin.


It may take her son awhile to recover(based on his injuries), but I think he will. Being young is in his favor too.

Traffic accidents around here by young folks happens too often. Almost a weekly occurrence.

EDITS>>On a personal note, I'm lucky to be alive at 50. My driving at 18-25 was awful and stupid.
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One of my first blogs, if not the first one, on my WU site was about the possible counterproductive effect of tightened Building Codes. If not accompanied by a much, much more stringent Zoning code taking into account Storm Surge we will wind up with intact buildings full of dead people.
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Posted msg from Surfmom on My Blog this morning, post # 192

Also thoughts and prayers going out to TampaSpin.
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morning all
partly cloudy with good vis.
temp 37 with a forecast high of 53
No rain until tuesday!
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74. IKE
Maybe the system weakens as it moves into my area, Florida panhandle, and then a secondary low forms in the eastern GOM.

Long-term from New Orleans,LA.......

LONG TERM...
MODELS CONTINUE TO BE ALL OVER THE PLACE FROM RUN TO RUN...WITH
THIS MORNINGS ECMWF APPEARING TO BE A VERY SLOW OUTLIER. THIS
MORNINGS GFS RUN LOOKS MUCH MORE REALISTIC THAN THE RUN 24 HOURS
PREVIOUS. PRECIPITATION CHANCE INCREASE DURING THE MORNING
TUESDAY...WITH LIKELY POPS FOR TUESDAY NIGHT. CONSIDERING THE GFS
SOLUTION THIS MORNING...IT APPEARS THAT PRECIPITATION SHOULD MOVE
OUT OF THE AREA DURING THE DAY WEDNESDAY...AND HAVE REMOVED THE
THURSDAY PRECIPITATION. WEEK ENDS DRY. ONE THING OF NOTE IS THAT
IF GFS SOLUTION VERIFIES FOR THE SURFACE PATTERN...POTENTIAL
EXISTS FOR SEVERE WEATHER TUESDAY NIGHT WITH CAPES 500-1000 AND
LIFTED INDICES GENERALLY IN THE -1 TO -3 RANGE...AND RAINFALL
TOTALS OF 1 TO 3 INCHES FOR THE EVENT.

TEMPERATURES IN SOUTHERLY FLOW TUESDAY WILL BE WELL ABOVE
NORMAL...IN THE 70S. AS FRONT MOVES THROUGH THE AREA WEDNESDAY
MORNING...COOLER AIR MOVES IN BEHIND AND HOURLY TEMPERATURE TRENDS
WILL HAVE MAX TEMPERATURES DURING THE MORNING WITH A SLOW FALL THE
REMAINDER OF THE DAY. WILL ACCEPT MEX GUIDANCE POST FRONTAL...WITH
READINGS GENERALLY 5 TO 10 DEGREES BELOW NORMAL. 35
&&


GFS 6Z at 102 hours.....




and 132 hours....



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73. IKE
Quoting vortfix:
Every local office has a different take on next week's action.
I posted all the discussions on my blog this morning.


Jackson,MS. office seems to lean more toward active weather compared to other offices(but they are further north and west of me)....other offices have kind of backed off on severe weather potential for now along the gulf-coast. That may change.

I raked and got rid of leaves in my front yard over a week ago. This last strong push of cold-air through here on Monday scattered leaves all over my yard again with the winds gusting to around 35 mph. Guess I should just wait until they all fall off. My yard gets covered in falling leaves. I'm talking COVERED in leaves. And the acorns are all over my front yard. If you burn leaves, their shooting off like firecrackers.
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72. IKE
Speaking of cold....seems like a normal morning for Barrow,AK. folks.... -14 is their normal low.

Barrow, Alaska (Airport)
Updated: 14 min 41 sec ago
Overcast
-8 °F
Overcast
Windchill: -25 °F
Humidity: 84%
Dew Point: -11 °F
Wind: 9 mph from the East
Pressure: 30.48 in (Rising)
Visibility: 10.0 miles
UV: 0 out of 16
Clouds:
Overcast 400 ft
(Above Ground Level)
Snow Depth: 14.0 in
Elevation: 43 ft
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70. IKE
8-14 day forecast shows above normal temps in the SE USA, finally.....looks like the cold-air retreats northward, finally.

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69. IKE
AREA FORECAST DISCUSSION
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE JACKSON MS
430 AM CST SAT DEC 6 2008

...STRONG TO SEVERE STORMS POSSIBLE FOR TUESDAY/TUESDAY NIGHT...


THE WEEK BEGINS WITH A N/S SURFACE RIDGE FROM THE APPALACHIANS TO FL
SUNDAY NIGHT MOVING E AND BRINGING SLY RETURN FLOW TO OUR REGION ON
MONDAY. MOISTURE RETURN KICKS INTO HIGH GEAR MONDAY NIGHT AND TUESDAY
MORNING WITH A WARM FROPA PRODUCING A ROUND OF SHRA/ISOLD ELEVATED
TSRA WITH A SURFACE LOW MARCHING E ALONG THE RED RIVER OF N TX/S OK.
THIS LOW HEADS ENE INTO NWRN TN AND THEN KY BY WEDNESDAY MORNING.

OUR PWATS RISE TO 1.7 INCHES BY MIDDAY TUESDAY WITH DEWPOINTS IN THE
MIDDLE 60S NOW PUSHING AT LEAST TO THE I-20 CORRIDOR. BOTH THE GFS
AND 06Z NAM12 SUPPORTING THE MOISTURE WITH 850MB THETA E VALUES OF
328-331K AS WELL. AMPLE INSTABILITY AND IMPRESSIVE WIND SHEAR VALUES
INCLUDING 50-60KT VEERING FLOW FROM 850-500MB UNDER A 120KT SWLY
200MB JET AXIS SPELLS OUR BEST CASE FOR STRONG/SEVERE STORMS SO FAR
THIS AUTUMN SEASON. THE COLD FRONTAL FORCING ARRIVES TUESDAY EVENING
OR JUST AFTER MIDNIGHT TO GENERATE A SQUALL LINE BY THE TIME THE
ACTIVITY REACHES ERN MS. WE SHOULD NOTE THAT THE GFS ENSEMBLE MEAN
IS ABOUT 6 HRS QUICKER TO BRING THE FRONT THROUGH THE CWFA WHICH
COULD LIMIT RICHER MOISTURE RETURN. WILL HAVE TO MONITOR CLOSELY
AND KEEP HWO MENTION GOING.

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68. IKE
My coldest night of the week is Sunday night, Monday morning....

Sunday Night
Mostly clear. Patchy frost after midnight. Lows 27 to 32 inland...33 to 37 at the coast. Calm winds.


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66. IKE
Looks like another shortwave/front, heading into the SE USA this morning....

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64. IKE
Good morning....

39 degrees, outside, at my house this morning.
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62. IKE
Long-term discussion from Tallahassee,FL.....

LONG TERM...
(TUESDAY THROUGH SATURDAY) THE EXTENDED PERIOD SHOULD BEGIN WITH A
RATHER NICE WARMUP...AS THE COLD SFC RIDGE HEADS EASTWARD OFF THE
CAROLINA AND MID ATLANTIC COASTS...WITH GOOD RETURN FLOW SETTING
UP OFF THE GULF OF MEXICO. HIGH TEMPS SHOULD QUICKLY MODERATE INTO
THE LOWER TO MID 70S ON TUES AFTERNOON...BEFORE THE NEXT LOW
PRESSURE SYSTEM AND ASSOCIATED COLD FRONT APPROACH QUICKLY FROM
THE W TUES NIGHT AND WED. INITIALLY...WITH THE RETURN FLOW... THE
INSTABILITY SHOULD BE SUFFICIENT ENOUGH TO SUPPORT CONVECTION...
BUT THE DYNAMICAL SUPPORT FOR ANY POTENTIAL STRONG TO SEVERE
STORMS WILL REMAIN IN QUESTION THIS FAR OUT. IN FACT...AS WE GO
FURTHER ALONG IN TIME...THE UPCOMING SCENARIO IS LOOKING MORE
SIMILAR TO LAST WEEK`S EVENT...WHERE THE BEST DYNAMICS WITH THE
UPPER LEVEL SHORTWAVE END UP LAGGING THE IDEAL THERMO...AND KEEP
OUR SVR WX THREAT TO A MINIMUM. NEVERTHELESS...IT IS STILL VERY
EARLY IN THE GAME...AND IF THE SUB-TROPICAL JET STREAM WERE TO BE
ABLE TO PHASE IN EARLIER THAN EXPECTED...THE FCST COULD CHANGE
SIGNIFICANTLY FOR MID WEEK. HOWEVER...EVEN IF WE DO NOT GET ANY
STRONG TO SEVERE STORMS WITH THIS SYSTEM...WE COULD VERY WELL GET
2 DISTINCT POTENTIAL HEAVY RAINFALL EVENTS...THE 1ST ONE TUES
NIGHT AND WED WITH THE INITIAL COLD FRONT...AND THEN WED INTO THU
(AND POSSIBLY INTO THU NIGHT IF THE 12 UTC ECMWF IS CORRECT) WITH
A SECONDARY LOW SPAWNED NEAR THE GULF COAST FROM THE POTENT UPPER
SHORTWAVE. HIGH PRESSURE WITH YET ANOTHER SHOT OF COOLER AND DRIER
AIR SHOULD MOVE IN BY LATER ON FRI AND INTO SAT.
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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