Ice and fire: extremes grip North America

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 7:16 PM GMT on January 16, 2009

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The lowest temperature ever recorded in the state of Maine occurred this morning, according to preliminary data from the National Weather Service. The temperature at Big Black River in northern Maine on the Canadian border bottomed out at -50F, besting the old record of -48°F. Here's the scoop from NWS:

At 0730 am EST this morning a USGS gage at Big Black River recorded a low temperature of -50F. This exceeds the current statewide record low temperature of -48F set on January 19th...1925 at Van Buren. This report is considered unofficial until a review of the equipment and data by the state climate extremes committee as to the validity of this report. If the committee ascertains that this is indeed a valid report...a separate public information statement will be issued at that time.


Figure 1. Temperature trace from the Big Black River, Maine USGS river gauge station, ending January 16, 2009. A record minimum of -50°F (-45.3°C) occurred. Image credit: USGS.

Figure 2. Minimum temperatures this morning for Maine. Image credit: National Weather Service, Caribou, Maine.


All-time state records are difficult to break. The last time a state record low was set was January 5, 1999, when Congerville, Illinois recorded -36°F. Only one state record high temperature has been set in the past the decade--the 120°F temperature measured in Usta, South Dakota on July 15, 2006.

This week's North American cold spell has been a notable one, with daily minimum temperature records falling in seventeen states, Sunday through Friday. A record low for the month of January was set Friday morning in Caribou, Maine, which recorded -37°F. This is the second coldest temperature ever recorded in Caribou, next to the -41°F recorded on February 1, 1962. Mason City, Iowa had it's lowest January temperature on record Friday morning, -31°F, and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, had its all-time lowest temperature for any month Thursday morning, a frigid -29°F. Bismark, North Dakota had its second coldest temperature ever, -44°F, on Thursday morning. This was only 1° from the all time low of -45° on January 13, 1916 and again on February 16, 1936. Bismark is also on pace for their snowiest season on record (61.2" so far).

Record heat in Alaska and California
The temperature swings this week in Alaska have been astounding. At Nenana, in central Alaska, the high was -42°F on Monday, with a low of -52°F. On Thursday morning, the temperature shot up 106°F from Monday, topping out at a positively tropical 54°F--the warmest January temperature ever measured in Nenana. Several other Alaska stations also set record highs for the month of January this week. Record highs for the month of January were also set at four California airports:

San Jose 75°F January 12
Sacramento 70°F January 12
San Francisco 72°F January 13
Red Bluff 78°F January 13, 15, 16

More record highs than lows have been set at the 381 major airports across the U.S. so far this week, through Friday. You can look up all the records at the National Climatic Data Center's excellent U.S. Records web site. Records for this week:

Jan 16
------
9 maximum high temperature records (CA, OR, WA, WY)
20 minimum low temperature records (GA, IA, IL, IN, MI, ME, MN, NH, PA, VT, WI)

Jan 15
------
11 maximum high temperature records (CA, WA, NV)
11 minimum low temperature records (IA, ND, IN, ME, NE, NY, SD)

Jan 14
-------
14 maximum high temperature records (AK, CA, OR, NV)
8 minimum low temperature records (IA, MI, MN, ND, TX)

Jan 13:
-------
13 maximum high temperature records (CA, OR, AK, FL)
9 minimum low temperature records (IA, MI, MN, ND)

Jan 12:
-------
9 maximum high temperature records (CA, OR, WA)
2 minimum low temperature records (AK, ND)

Jan 11:
-------
7 maximum high temperature records (CA, OR, WA)
1 minimum low temperature record (CA)

What's causing all this wild weather?
As usual, a sharp kink in the jet stream is responsible for the wild weather we're having. A ridge of high pressure over Alaska is forcing the jet to bow northwards into northern Alaska, allowing warm air from the Hawaii area to stream northwards over the region. Whenever the jet contorts into such a pattern, there must be a return flow of cold air from the pole that develops. That is occurring over the eastern half of the U.S., bringing us our Arctic air blast. The -17°F at my house in Michigan yesterday morning was the coldest it's been since 1994, brrr!

Jeff Masters

Icy Ferns (verlos)
Ice outside my window
Icy Ferns
January Sauna (pjpix)
Sunny bright at 12:30 P.M. and minus 7 degrees F. Some geese and mallards "enjoy" a January sauna in East Dundee, IL. The Fox River is about 38 degrees right now ... relatively warm when compared with today's frigid air temperature.
January Sauna
Very Cold Morning (Melagoo)
-18C or -1F in Burlington, ON ... and a beautiful sun-rise too!
Very Cold Morning

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That's a very interesting article, Cotillion!
Thanks for the link.

Stay warm and safe in that winterstorm you're getting.

Quoting Cotillion:


I'm afraid nothing on here, and a quick search hasn't found too much. Only thing I found with a specific focus on the 'storm' itself is in German...

Link

(Has some nice diagrams and images though.)

I hadn't actually heard of it until you mentioned it.

Link

That's a nice account also.

Highest I've seen is around Force 11 or so (That article does mention a gust of 80 or so, but it's not verified anywhere else), which is 65-72mph. That's fairly strong, but remember those are gusts. The pressure itself was probably in the 980s. That's nothing unusual as a system around the British Isles. The winds itself are nothing too unusual.

As with my previous few posts, 100mph+ gusts are expected in the next 24 hours. Kyrill from a couple of years ago brought in gusts of 115mph, sustained winds were at least that of an equivalent hurricane.

What's extraordinary is the timing. In the article, he mentions the pressure reading dropping from 1025 to 985 or so. Of course, he was sailing into the depression at the time, so this was expected. It did occur out of nowhere, and the weather reports did not expect it to happen. The winds probably came from the differential in pressures as the low as right by the B/A High at the time.

It's rare the British Isles will get a deepening low in the summer, which is what caught them out. Naturally, that it happened during a known shipping race emphasised the story. Deepening lows tend to occur from October to March time, with the peak in mid to late January.

This timing has specific mechanics (Which has been said to me, but I can't remember it offhand) but is partly the reason why former hurricanes don't cause that much damage here, there aren't the mechanics to make it rapidly deepen as an extratropical system.

That's all I know. :)
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---
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THANKS COTILLION-If you get the chance,check that storm out.One of the books I read reported the jet stream reached the surface of the ocean and caused freak weather conditions.
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Quoting HTV:


The Calendar.
no its not normal to have that cold even in the dead of winter
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good morning!
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69. calusakat 1:56 PM GMT on January 17, 2009
"pangean...

Perhaps you should start at the top..."


Not sure why you're addressing this to me but I've got a few minutes so I'll take a shot at it. First, your spiel about weather stations, all I can say is - blah, blah, blah - heard it all before - not buying it. Bottom line is that your argument boils down to "it's not really getting warmer, it's just a measurement artifact." Sorts of makes you fundamentalist skeptic.

Second, your imaging example. Unfortunately, you didn't state one very important assumption that you're making; you have no other information about the image except that contained within the image itself. In this case we'd generally make the assumption (valid or not) that intensity varies in a linear fashion across the image and use linear interpolation to create the new pixels in our magnified image. And you are correct, if a feature wasn't recognizable in the original image, you won't see it in the zoomed image. Unless, of course, we're watching CSI.

But, in the case of weather stations and most other things, we do have other information to use to identify that mysterious element. If we go back to the imaging example, we can use our knowledge that any complex signal that varies across time or space can be reasonably approximated by superposing an arbitrary number of sinusoidal signals. We can use a technique called Fourier analysis to break down the image into the component sinusoidal elements, then reconstruct the image using only the high frequency components. The low frequency stuff that we've removed might be a blur that's obscuring the mysterious element. Remove the blur and you might be able to discern the feature of interest.

Another example from the realm of imaging is deconvolution. This relies on the fact that all optical components introduce some amount of distortion into an image. Think of the effect of a wide angle (fisheye) lens. Or maybe the fact that the ideal focus of an image depends on the color of the light. If the blues are perfectly focussed, the reds won't be. Anyway, it might be these distortions induced by the optics that are obscuring our mysterious element.

However, if we can measure the modulation transfer function - a fancy way of saying a mathematical model of the distortions - of our optical system, we can use that information to deconvolve the image, i.e., mathematically remove the distortions. One of the most famous of the use of this technique is the Hubble Space Telescope. The original primary mirror for the telescope was ground to the wrong shape which resulted in distorted images. However, since they had precise measurements of the misshapen mirror, and therefore knew precisely the nature distortion, deconvolution could be used to correct those distortions in the images.

I know that I've gone on a bit here but I wanted to try and make the point that data adjustment does not necessarily equate to inappropriate manipulation of the data. By using all of the information at our disposal we're able to legitimately improve the reliability of the raw data.
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Good Mornig all, Hey TS only made it down to 31.1 last night. the wind stayed up and kept it warmer.
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Quoting hydrus:
COTILLION-I was interested to know if you have info about the fastnet race back in 1979.Good satellite pictures of that system are few and difficult to find.


I'm afraid nothing on here, and a quick search hasn't found too much. Only thing I found with a specific focus on the 'storm' itself is in German...

Link

(Has some nice diagrams and images though.)

I hadn't actually heard of it until you mentioned it.

Link

That's a nice account also.

Highest I've seen is around Force 11 or so (That article does mention a gust of 80 or so, but it's not verified anywhere else), which is 65-72mph. That's fairly strong, but remember those are gusts. The pressure itself was probably in the 980s. That's nothing unusual as a system around the British Isles. The winds itself are nothing too unusual.

As with my previous few posts, 100mph+ gusts are expected in the next 24 hours. Kyrill from a couple of years ago brought in gusts of 115mph, sustained winds were at least that of an equivalent hurricane.

What's extraordinary is the timing. In the article, he mentions the pressure reading dropping from 1025 to 985 or so. Of course, he was sailing into the depression at the time, so this was expected. It did occur out of nowhere, and the weather reports did not expect it to happen. The winds probably came from the differential in pressures as the low as right by the B/A High at the time.

It's rare the British Isles will get a deepening low in the summer, which is what caught them out. Naturally, that it happened during a known shipping race emphasised the story. Deepening lows tend to occur from October to March time, with the peak in mid to late January.

This timing has specific mechanics (Which has been said to me, but I can't remember it offhand) but is partly the reason why former hurricanes don't cause that much damage here, there aren't the mechanics to make it rapidly deepen as an extratropical system.

That's all I know. :)
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Some music for you ccccold weather runners.
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I just updated my Weather Blog and forecast a Major Snow Event coming Latne next Week!!

TampaSpins Weather Blog Link
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It's been pretty cold the past few days, with the temperature bottoming out at -24C (-11F) Wednesday morning. On Wednesday and Thursday morning, I was wearing so many layers I was more hot than cold, but every time I took a breath through my nostrils they would freeze on the inside! We're supposed to get some more snow today, but for places south of Buffalo in New York State, they could get over 32 in (80+ cm) of snow!
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Quoting atmoaggie:
Cool image, Cotillion.


Link

Shows the system as it moves in, it's a nice animation.
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COTILLION-I was interested to know if you have info about the fastnet race back in 1979.Good satellite pictures of that system are few and difficult to find.
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Cool image, Cotillion.
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Image of the system bringing the aforementioned severe weather.
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Good Morning all :)

Complete Blog Refresh
Mirror Site

The weather here is nicer then a lot of places down south right now.. thats a pleasant change of events.

37°F
Fog
* Feels Like: -
* Wind: NE 4m/h
* Sunrise: 7:59
* Sunset: 16:49

* Relative Humidity: 93%
* Pressure: 1,032.50 mb
* Visibility: 0.5 miles
* Ceiling: 200 ft

Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
I dont mind the cold IF it comes with snow (Snow=Snow day=No School!) But we've barely even had a snow shower since this cold snap started
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TORRO has also issued the following statement:

A TORNADO WATCH has been issued at 14:40GMT on Saturday 17th January 2009

Valid from/until: 1440-1000 on Saturday 17th/Sunday 18th January 2009, for the following regions of the United Kingdom & Eire:

Eire

N Ireland

S & E Scotland

IoM

England, Wales, and the Channel Islands

THREATS Tornadoes, perhaps strong, hail, thunderstorm wind gusts to 65 knots, torrential rain, and cloud-ground lightning.

SYNOPSIS

Intense Atlantic low will push strong cold front across the British Isles this afternoon and evening. With strong low-level wind shear, and convection already occurring, tornadoes and severe wind gusts are possible. A strong tornado is possible, especially for Eire/N Ireland this afternoon. Post-front, several bands of showers/thunderstorms are likely, especially for western and especially southern parts. These also bring the risk of severe winds and perhaps a tornado, with the threat continuing into tomorrow morning.'
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Quoting melwerle:
Morning Everyone -

Twenty seven here this morning...

yuck


I'll take it...better than 2ºF here in NY
:-P
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The Met Office has now released Code RED Severe Gale and Storm Warnings for Scotland.

People in these areas must Take Action.

(Basically this would be the Met Office's version of 'PREPARATIONS TO PROTECT LIFE AND PROPERTY MUST BE RUSHED TO COMPLETION.' Been a little while since I've seen red.)

Gusts have revised upward yet again... This rapidly deepening Windstorm expected to produce gales topping 100mph in these regions. Ireland, NW Scotland and the rest of Western Britain will also experience severe gales. Anywhere from 60-100mph expected.

Heavy rain warnings are also in effect for all of these areas.

Pressure is expected to be around 945mb when it crosses Ireland and Scotland.
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12 degrees here absolutely freezing tomorrow it should snow though
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Quoting melwerle:
Morning Everyone -

Twenty seven here this morning...

yuck


What's the plan? Did they call off the 'regretta'?
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 6 Comments: 2490
Chilly here in Miami at 9:30 - only 56 degrees. Will be interesting to see how it gets up to 70 today.

Have a daughter in Maine - yesterday low was a chilly -24. That is seriously cold weather.
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pangean...

Perhaps you should start at the top.

How about asking the blogmaster to provide us with the specifications for a certified weather station.

Then you could ask him what the requirements are for periodic calibration of those same stations.

While you are at it, you might also want to ask him what the placement restrictions are for a station to insure the data generated is not shadowed by external influences like such nuisances as buildings and central air conditioners.

Then you could ask him what provisions are in place for the weather community to verify the placement and condition of each weather station on a yearly schedule or some sort of other periodicity.

Has anyone ever seen a map of all the weather stations used in the data set that the blogmaster and his cohorts used to conclude run-away global warming?

Note that my questions are related to the certification of accuracy of the compiled data. We have very little to talk about until those certifications are in place.

Also realize that simply saying they are in place is not enough. It is appropriate that he provide the actual documentation because his prognostications are all predicated on the data that is, in his case, ASSUMED to be correct.

Saying the data is software adjusted is inappropriate because the assumptions used in the software are and have always been admitted to be conjecture.

Since the prognostications are supposed to be the final answer, then assumptions should not be part of the mix. Analysis of hard data is complicated and trying to smooth over bumpy spots with computer generated adjustments is not science it is extrapolation.

Here is an example.

Lets say I have an image that is 300 pixels by 300 pixels. There is an element in the image that I cannot identify. No problem...I'll blow the picture up to 1200 X 1200 pixels and then I can determine the identity of that mysterious element.

Right?...Nope. The imaging software used an algorithm to add those extra pixels. The image and its data are no more accurate than the original 300 X 300 image. If I see a corona where there was none in the original, that does not mean it was there all along. The algorithm has grouped bits of data in the image and assigned a new numeric to that batch of data. If the algorithm is changed and the corona goes away, was the corona really there after all.

Conclusion?

The weather station data is supposed to be HARD DATA (ie. a group of pixels in a grand image of the earth). Changing any of those pixels modifies the image and it is rendered pretty to look and nothing more.

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Morning Everyone -

Twenty seven here this morning...

yuck
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This blog post is biased. Why didn't you say how long records have been kept at Big Black River? 1880s? 1600s? or 1925? I set a record low temp at my house this morning. How long have I been keeping records? Since last week but it's sounds more official and sensational if I say "ever recorded". You only needed 5 words to make this a useful report: "since records began in (year)." Every record reported here is meaningless because the context is omitted. I guess it's more important to give the appearance of science.

It's interesting that the temperatre is subject to committee review. Maybe they can take a vote and say the low was -60 so the record could stand well into the future.

Also the jet stream does not bring cold (or warm) air. The jet stream (thermal wind) flows along temparature gradients, along the edge of a much larger air mass. So when you hear meteorologists say the jet strem will dip and bring cold air, that's not true. Why is it so hard to say, a cold air mass will move into the region- as a result, the jet stream will dip?

I guess nobody reads for comprehension anymore,
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Well I've pour 2 potfulls of Jack-me-UP juice down my throat, made the pot of oatmeal for Youngbuck.......time to head out east and get'her done...... the Klondike of Florida awaits...back later this afternoon --if I don't freeze and seize.

Take care all
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
Sounds like you had a full house last night MissNadia Hope there was no fur flying over territory last night -but I figure everyone got along-- cold temps make us all snuggle close and cooperative bed buddies
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
as I previously posted, here on Gulf of Mexico, the horizon line looks like a buzzsaw of massive waves and the sounds does travel quite a distance.....

Arena Polo has been delayed this morning due to our cold temps...... even the horses are complaining and need warmer temps to work out.

This beach bunny wants to hibernate

"Wishing cannot bring Spring Glory, nor cause Winter to cease" Kiowa Proverb
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
49f wind N 5-10mph I can hear the surf roaring from the NE winds of the last couple days. The ocean beach is one mile to my east across Indian River... sounds like a jet taking off in the distance.
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62 here in Port Aransas. Getting ready to head to the golf course. Have a wonderful day.
Tuna
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The NWS office in Jacksonville, just a few miles from me, has reported a low temperature of 27 degrees for this morning.
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Good Morning All.
6 degrees here-and we are usually warmer than the rest of the area because we are so close to the bay. Hope we get a day or two break soon.
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Good morning! Got out the coffee pot for a much needed brew this morning to help to warm me up this morning. I just checked the temperature here from my home in North Jax and it registered a reading of 28 degrees. It may drop another degree or two during the next hour until after sunrise. Pretty much about what was expected for the low this morning. The modified arctic high center will shift east toward the Mid-Atlantic Coast region through tonight. We will see some return flow begin to slowly develop on the back side of this High as a fast moving upper air disturbance will move in the South on Sunday. Another cold day today, but temps will warm slightly from yesterday here. High temps forecast to rise into low 50s in Jax. It will be even warmer here on Sunday as southerly flow very briefly evolves ahead of the incoming upper air disturbance. High expected mid 60s tomorrow. A series of embedded short wave impulses will continue to sharpen the massive upper level trough in place over Eastern US for at least through the middle of next week. We could some some rain here by Sunday evening ahead of the next disturbance moving down the trough axis in the SE US. For areas north of me, partial thickness values support a possibility of wintry mix of precip over N GA, upstate SC and piedmont NC as this disturbance rotates through Sunday-Monday period. Bottom line is that well below normal temps will continue into next week! Have a good day and weekend everyone!
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Morning gang, I hope everyone is keeping warm!
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Good Morning All

Another COLD day here in the Old North State
Last night all my cats slept inside for the first time in several years!
Now 20
Calm winds with clear skies
Forecast is for 38

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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
no by tue next week a brief warm up as current cold moves out all the while more cold air building over high artic will become intense and move s s e ward with a large storm to dev on 24 dump heavy snows then a rtn to bitter cold air to finish off jan starting on the 26 taking us into the first two weeks of feb so know winter is not going on hiatus but only just getting started


This is depressing,,,,, the only good that comes from this cold weather is the death of FLEAS, WEEDS, & HORSEFLIES.
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
MORNING! Rather Chilly here in SWFL -43 degrees, been progressively colder ever morning for the past few days.....I'm already pouring the coffee down my throat trying to get my heater going.

SWFL Cold Front Surf Alert - You Got To be A Polar Bear or Loco
Yesterday, the horizon looked like a buzz saw, but the swell just didn't have the angle-of-dangle to make it to the West coast. There is a shin high peeler for the starving Polar bears, but I'm really not feeling that, even with the tide push and the strong NNE wind, we will not receive any significant swell from this cold blast. If they would only open up travel to Cuba... Bundle up and have a great weekend! Gulf Temp 63
Member Since: July 18, 2007 Posts: 30 Comments: 26536
The current situation with above freezing air moving into Alaska to displace the extremely cold air that moved into the lower 48 states demonstrates an often overlooked fact about the polar ice caps. Earth has sufficient heat energy to melt the polar ice caps, but the heat is distributed unevenly. The heated water of the Gulf Stream along the European coast to Murmansk keeps the port there open.

Alaska in spite of its proximity to the North Pole draw an occasional influx of above freezing air when the cold air that develops there in winter moves south.

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Quoting melwerle:
alright - i have to just get in one last whine before the night is through. We have a regatta in the morning - it is 23 degrees out right now and the temp is dropping still. I REALLY want to bail from this race tomorrow but will look like an absolute weenie...OMG we are going to freeze out there in the water. Do we have an unexpected warm spell coming within the next few hours? :)

Ok...my whining is finished. Maybe I'll get hubby to call me in "sick"


Yep you are whining.....but i wouldn't do it either.....LMAO
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Waiting to see the TCR's on many 2008 Hurricanes,
Dolly, Fay, Gustav, Ike, Omar, Paloma need to be issued. Heck in 2005 they had the TCR's up for Katrina by October.
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alright - i have to just get in one last whine before the night is through. We have a regatta in the morning - it is 23 degrees out right now and the temp is dropping still. I REALLY want to bail from this race tomorrow but will look like an absolute weenie...OMG we are going to freeze out there in the water. Do we have an unexpected warm spell coming within the next few hours? :)

Ok...my whining is finished. Maybe I'll get hubby to call me in "sick"
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The postseason review for Hurricane Norbert is done: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/pdf/TCR-EP152008_Norbert.pdf
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47. HTV
Quoting crossroadsofdowneast:
BURRR!! Greetings from the coast of Maine. I find it somewhat comforting we Mainer's aren't the only ones suffering through this cold surge. That high of 27 on Sunday forecasted here will surely be the "heat-wave" we need. Stay warm.

Ellsowrth, Maine
0 °F
Mostly Cloudy
Windchill: -12 °F
Humidity: 51%
Dew Point: -15 °F
Wind: 6 mph from the NNW
Pressure: 30.36 in (Steady)
Visibility: 10.0 miles
UV: 0 out of 16
Clouds:
Few 3000 ft
Scattered Clouds 4200 ft
Mostly Cloudy 5000 ft
(Above Ground Level)
Elevation: 82 ft

Love Ellsworth, spent a few weeks in the area last summer. You can see me standing on the boulder at Jordon Pond. Got back home just in time to prep for "Ike". Tranquility to chaos in a nano second.
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Wow... I go away for a few days and the blog still goes on with "global warming" debacle.... er.... debate...
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BURRR!! Greetings from the coast of Maine. I find it somewhat comforting we Mainer's aren't the only ones suffering through this cold surge. That high of 27 on Sunday forecasted here will surely be the "heat-wave" we need. Stay warm.

Ellsowrth, Maine
0 °F
Mostly Cloudy
Windchill: -12 °F
Humidity: 51%
Dew Point: -15 °F
Wind: 6 mph from the NNW
Pressure: 30.36 in (Steady)
Visibility: 10.0 miles
UV: 0 out of 16
Clouds:
Few 3000 ft
Scattered Clouds 4200 ft
Mostly Cloudy 5000 ft
(Above Ground Level)
Elevation: 82 ft
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post 42

but remember these are models and things can and will change got to watch to see if it keeps showing same thing over several runs
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 170 Comments: 53767
Only got to 33F in Houston this morning---weak.
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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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