Weather and mortality

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:21 PM GMT on February 27, 2009

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Hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornadoes get the attention-grabbing headlines when a natural disaster kills people in the U.S. Yet heat waves, cold winter weather, severe thunderstorm winds, and flooding all killed more people in the U.S. between 1970 and 2004, according to a December 2008 article published by Kevin Borden and Susan Cutter of the University of South Carolina. Tornadoes and lightning were tied for fifth place, and Hurricanes and earthquakes tied for eighth place. However, had this study extended one more year into 2005, the roughly 1800 hurricane deaths from Hurricane Katrina would have vaulted hurricane deaths into third place, behind heat wave deaths and cold weather deaths. The study also showed that people living in rural areas were most likely to die from a natural disaster than those living in cities.


Figure 1. U.S. deaths due to natural hazards between 1970 and 2004 showed that weather associated with extremes of hot and cold weather, along with severe thunderstorm winds (the "Severe Weather" category), killed the most people. Image credit: Spatial patterns of natural hazards mortality in the United States, International Journal of Health Geographics. Authors: Kevin Borden and Susan Cutter of the University of South Carolina.

The authors used Spatial Hazard Event and Loss Database for the United States (SHELDUS)(available at http://www.sheldus.org). This database provides hazard loss information (economic losses and casualties) from 1960-2005 for eighteen different hazard types, and is primarily based on data from the NOAA/National Climatic Data Center publication, "Storm Data". The numbers have high uncertainty, and the authors conclude, "There is considerable debate about which natural hazard is the most "deadly". According to our results, the answer is heat. But this finding could be changed depending on the data source, or how hazards within a data source are grouped."


Figure 2. U.S. deaths due to natural hazards for the 10- and 30-year period ending in 2007, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Image credit: NOAA.

To illustrate, a 2008 study by Thacker et al. called, "Overview of deaths associated with natural events, United States, 1979-2004", concluded that cold deaths were twice as common as heat deaths in the U.S. However, they noted that the 1995 Chicago heat wave, which killed between 600 and 700 people by some estimates, was not properly represented in the data base used in their study. This data base attributed only 50 deaths in the entire state of Illinois to heat in 1995. The authors conclude that their data base "under-reports the actual number of deaths due to severe heat".

Another example: NOAA plots up annual natural hazard deaths from the same source ("Storm Data") as the first study I montioned. Their statistics for the ten-year period ending in 2007 show a much different picture (Figure 2). Heat deaths are a much more dominant source of mortality than cold and winter storm deaths, by a factor 3.5. The take-home message from all this is that heat- and cold-related extreme weather are probably the deadliest weather hazards in the U.S., but we really don't know the proportion of people killed by each. One can easily cherry pick the study of one's choice to show a desired result.

How global warming might affect heat and cold-related deaths
If the globe continues to warm up this century, as predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), heat-related deaths will increase and cold-related deaths will decrease (duh!). Unfortunately, that's about the most intelligent thing one can say about the matter. The 2007 IPCC report (section 8.4.1.3, Heat- and cold-related mortality), does not attempt to estimate the numbers, saying, "Additional research is needed to understand how the balance of heat-related and cold-related mortality could change under different socio-economic scenarios and climate projections."

This high uncertainty in future heat- and cold-related deaths does not stop advocates on either side of the global warming issue from cherry picking results from selected studies to support a particular point of view. For example, opinion columnist George Will stated in a recent Newsweek column: "In Europe, cold kills more than seven times as many as heat does. Worldwide, moderate warming will, on balance, save more lives than it will cost--by a 9-to-1 ratio in China and India. So, if substantially cutting carbon dioxide reverses warming, that will mean a large net loss of life globally." Will bases his arguments on Danish statistician Bjørn Lomborg's controversial 2007 book, "Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming." However, as pointed out by Danish biologist Kåre Fog, who has assembled a large web site dedicated to pointing out the errors in Lomborg's books, the huge number of excess deaths attributed to cold by Will and Lomborg are in large part because the death rate naturally rises in the winter: "Old and seriously sick people have less vitality in the dark season. It is too bold to say that the excess deaths during the dark part of the year are `deaths due to excess cold?. There is no evidence that a warmer climate will alter the seasonal variation. These people would soon die in any case, even if winters became warmer. Indeed, cold and warm climates, like Finland and Greece, have approximately the same seasonal variation in mortality." The IPCC underscores this problem, stating: "projections of cold-related deaths, and the potential for decreasing their numbers due to warmer winters, can be overestimated unless they take into account the effects of influenza and season".

Heat wave deaths are subject to a degree of uncertainty as well. It is somewhat of a subjective call if an elderly person who dies during a heat wave died primarily as a result of the heat, or of a pre-existing heart or respiratory condition. Complicating the diagnosis is the fact that air pollution is at its worst during heat waves, and can also be blamed as the cause of death in some cases. Different studies will use different criteria for classify deaths due to heat, pollution, or pre-existing medical conditions during a heat wave, leading to widely varying estimates of mortality. For example, the European heat wave of 2003 is blamed for 35,000, 52,000, or 70,000 deaths, depending upon the source. You're more likely to hear the higher 70,000 figure quoted by advocates of doing something about global warming, and the 35,000 figure quoted by those opposed.

The three 2008 studies for the U.S. show the ratio of cold deaths to heat deaths ranges from 2:1 to 1:3, which is very different from the 7:1 and 9:1 figures quoted by Will and Lomborg for Europe, India, and China. I don't trust any of these numbers, since heat and cold mortality statistics are highly uncertain and easy to cherry pick to show a desired result. It is rather unproductive to argue about how many people die due to heat and cold in the current climate or in a future climate. Excess heat deaths due to climate change should not get as much attention as the potential for death due to reduction in crop yields due to increased heat and drought, regional collapses of the oceanic food chain from the steady acidification of the oceans, and the wars these conditions might trigger.

For more information
For those interested, Kåre Fog also presents a list of the errors in Al Gore's book and movie, An Inconvenient Truth, and has a Comparison of error counts between Al Gore and Bjørn Lomborg. Lomborg has assembled a Short reply to Skeptical Questions to respond to some of Fog's criticisms, but does not answer Fog's criticism on cold deaths vs. heat deaths. Suffice to say, one should be wary of trusting climate change information from either source, or from opinion columnists, or from politicians. Blogs can also be a questionable source of climate change information, though I think wunderground Climate Change blogger Dr. Ricky Rood is one of the most knowledgeable and unbiased climate change experts in the world. Though imperfect, the best source of climate change information is the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The level of scientific collaboration and peer review that went into that document is one of the most remarkable achievements in the history of science, and the IPCC was fully deserving of the Nobel Prize awarded to it last year. Blogs and books like Lomborg's and Gore's have not gone through peer-review by scientific experts on climate change, and will have far more errors, biases, and distortions of the truth than the IPCC reports.

Jeff Masters

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172. unf97
Yeah, I am currently here in Charlotte visiting the in-laws for this weekend. Currently, NWS is forecasting 2-4 inches here. It is expected to changeover sometime mid-late Sunday afternoon and last into the evening. All depends on the track of the Low tomorrow of course.

I'm even more concerned about potential severe weather/tornado threat back at home later this evening in Jax area.
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I have a feeling this "southern snow" will be a much lighter affair then predicted,the flow seems to zonal...
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Quoting NorthxCakalaky:
"March Snow Storm"


Winter Storm Watch posted for many locations across the south. Here in NC, mets are not confident at posting snow accumalation because the track of the Low. Im suspose to get 1-2inches of rain then snow Sunday Evening.

I have heard of 1-3inches,7inches,4-5,....Potential of Heavy snow bands,or dry air getting in the storm leaving light snow..


Where in NC are you? I'm in Wilmington.
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Last chance for snow in VA I have a bet riding on whether we'll have a snow day
Member Since: March 29, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2375
..Heads up!!!!!! from tallahasee to jacksonville it appears the enviornment will be ripe for tornado's from late this afternoon-overnight and then a slight risk from tampa up to daytona thru tommorow morning.....
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"March Snow Storm"


Winter Storm Watch posted for many locations across the south. Here in NC, mets are not confident at posting snow accumalation because the track of the Low. Im suspose to get 1-2inches of rain then snow Sunday Evening.

I have heard of 1-3inches,7inches,4-5,....Potential of Heavy snow bands,or dry air getting in the storm leaving light snow..
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Re post 155

With Firefox and the NoScript extension I can control what gets played. It also can prevent some nasty hacker attacks.

Just an fyi.
Member Since: May 18, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 6156
Looks like whatever this stuff is is heading our way. Glad I blew off sailing today. Hope everyone in the way stays safe...keep your weather radios on!

Melissa
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163. beell
.
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Complete Blog Refresh
Mirror Site



Current Home weather station data.
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I just updated my Blog if anyone would like to view.....I now have a personnal Web site that mirrors Weather Undergrounds site...Thanks.

TampaSpins Weather Underground Link

http://tampaspinsweather.webs.com/index.htm
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20448
156. HTV
Quoting CybrTeddy:


Mm. I think that can be related to the Hurricane.
How many points did the DOW hit in Gustav, (I think it was a tuesday landfall)

The Dow on Fri. 8/29 was at 11,544. On Tues. the day after land fall was 11,544. The market did fall on Thursday, 9/4 to 11,188, a drop of of 356 points. It's hard to pinpoint if Ike or Gustav influenced the market, or dare I say It might of been Hurricane Obama? NAAA!
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154. Rodek
Damage reported at junction of 280/147 in Auburn.... Cars over turned. Lee county Alabama.
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It seems to me, that we should look not only at how high the storm surge is, but also how far inland it goes. 5'2" is over my head.
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Quoting Patrap:
Wind speed alone doesnt predict hurricanes%u2019 power
Story:Link

LAFAYETTE The potential damage and danger of a hurricane cant be defined by a single number as is sometimes done with the Saffir-Simpson category scale, warns The Weather Channels tropical program manager Steve Lyons.
Not all hurricanes of the same category are the same, he said Friday during a U.S. Department of Commerce 2009 Gulf Coast Marine Conference in Lafayette.

The Saffir-Simpson scale for measuring hurricanes by which a storm is labeled as Category 1-5 only measures wind speed, he said. That can be very misleading to the public since wind speed is only one part of the equation when it comes to how destructive a hurricane can be, he said.
For example, Hurricane Charley was a Category 4 hurricane, but it only produced a 6- to 9-foot storm surge while Hurricane Katrina as a Category 3 produced more than 27 feet of storm surge in some locations, he said.

Storm surge or the water pushed ahead of a tropical cyclone that can cause coastal flooding cant be directly tied to a Saffir-Simpson scale number, he said.




In all honestly, after Ike hit as a Category 2 with Storm Surge stronger than Katrina, I think we should revert to a new scale.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24574
tornado down in Talasee AL
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Quoting surfmom:
Tonight is my third attempt to snag this comet. I was given clear directions by my local WU buddy Stillwaiting -- trick is I have to say up late enough .............


I got to see it last night with binoculars, pretty cool. Wish I had a telescope though. It is almost unmistakable from a star unless you use binoculars or a telescope. Look due east in the night sky. The first bright object is Saturn. Just to the right of that and slightly above is where the comet should be around 11-12 ish. As the night progresses it will move from E-W in an Arc.
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Good Morning everyone!
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20448
Rain and thunderstorms on the way.(70% chance of precip)
Looking at the pie graph on Dr. Master's blog - 11.3% of natural hazard deaths are from lightning.(1970-2004)

From StruckByLightning.org (USA stats)
2008 Stats
In 2008 there were 329 people struck in the USA, with 302 injured and 27 killed. 74 (7 killed) were under trees, 29 in yards, 16 (3) on the beach, 12 (2) in the water and 10 (1) camping in or near tents.

27 Fatalities: All were outside, 22 males & 5 females. One child (6 years old), 7 teens and 19 adults.

302 Injuries: There were 176 adults, 62 teens and 15 children injured, 201 males and 60 females. 184 were outside and 13 were inside. The busiest day was Wednesday, July 23 with 7 incidents injuring 10 people. There were 14 injuries on both July 27 and October 31. The breakdown by day is Sunday 66, Saturday 47, Tuesday 46, Thursday 41, Wednesday 38, Friday 36 , & Monday with 27.
From these numbers it appears that the data for many of the strikes did not document location.

When Thunder Roars Go Indoors !
I plan to stay inside as much as possible today

EDITED
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141. unf97
Good morning WU community. I am visiting my in-laws this weekend here in Charlotte, N.C. I woke up here this morning to the news from the NWS that a winter storm watch has been issued here and throughout the entire Piedmont of NC and SC upstate. They are forecasting possibly 2-4 inches here in Charlotte metro.

I looked at the GFS models runs before leaving my home down in Jax yesterday. Those runs indeed showed a very dynamic and impressive upper level low diving down deep into the SE US. So, It appears that I may be in the midst of some a rather unique late season winter storm. It is raing steadily here with temp at 52 degrees at 7 a.m. Rain all day and thru the night. It ls expected to changeover to snow late tomorrow afternoon as the cold air gets entrenched in this region.

I will check back in whenever possible. Have a great day and weekend everyone.
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57 degrees, beautiful morning dawn, Birds are singing --coffee is ready
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139. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
BADAN METEOROLOGI DAN GEOFISIKA
Tropical Cyclone Warning Centre (TCWC) Jakarta

BULETIN INFORMASI SIKLON TROPIS

Dikeluarkan oleh TROPICAL CYCLONE WARNING CENTRE JAKARTA
Pada: 12:49 WIB 28/02/2009

Depresi Tropis 96S

Kondisi tanggal 28/02/2009 pukul 13:00 WIB :
Posisi: 10.4LS, 100.8BT (sekitar 750 km sebelah selatan barat daya Bengkulu)



---
Good luck translating indonesian =P
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 52 Comments: 46907
138. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Tropical Cyclone Warning Center Perth
Tropical Cyclone Advice Number THIRTEEN
TROPICAL LOW 09U
6:50 pm WDT February 28 2009
===============================================

At 6:00 PM WDT, A TROPICAL LOW [996 hPa] located at 19.7S 118.5E, or 70 kms north of Port Hedland and 205 kms east northeast of Karratha has 10 minute sustained winds of 30 knots with gusts of 45 knots. The tropical low is reported as moving towards the south at 10 knots.

Widespread heavy rain is likely in the east Pilbara overnight and significant flooding may result. Please refer to Flood Watch advices for more information.

The low remains weak and is expected to cross the Pilbara coast near Port Hedland overnight Saturday. A brief period of gales is possible in coastal areas tonight.

As the low moves inland, it may produce flash flooding and locally damaging winds through the eastern Pilbara, northeast Gascoyne, northern Goldfields and adjacent Interior. A separate Severe Weather Warning has been issued for these areas [IDW28001].

Tropical Cyclone Warning
=======================
A Cyclone WARNING is current for coastal areas from Pardoo to Roebourne.

The Cyclone Warning between Wallal and Pardoo and between Mardie and Roebourne has been cancelled.

Next Tropical Cyclone Advice is at 10:00 PM WDT..

---
Not forecasted to become a tropical cyclone anymore landfall is sometime overnigh (their local time)
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 52 Comments: 46907
Where are all the climate experts who know more than the IPCC at? Give me some analysis on this storm and compare it to past winter storms for coastal Carolina.
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We had a nice, wet, sticky 4-5" snowfall here in Wilmington on March 1st, 1983. Can anyone give me a climatological comparison between that storm and this one?
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Quoting Drakoen:


Yes, around a 50% chance. Little to no snow accumulation.


Thanks, but I have the Weather Channel. Can anyone give me some links to forecast models and let's do some analysis?
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134. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Tropical Cyclone Warning Center Perth
Tropical Cyclone Advice Number TWELVE
TROPICAL LOW 09U
3:50 pm WDT February 28 2009
===============================================

At 3:00 PM WDT, A TROPICAL LOW [997 hPa] located at 19.3S 118.5E, or 115 kms north of Port Hedland and 235 kms northeast of Karratha has 10 minute sustained winds of 30 knots with gusts of 45 knots. The tropical low is reported as moving towards the south at 10 knots.

Widespread heavy rain is likely in the Pilbara during today as the system approaches the Pilbara coast, and significant flooding may result. Please refer to Flood Watch advices for more information.

The low remains weak but there is a chance it could develop into a tropical cyclone prior to making landfall. If the system does intensify into a tropical cyclone gales may develop in coastal areas late today.

As the low moves inland, it may produce flash flooding and locally damaging winds through the eastern Pilbara, northeast Gascoyne, northern Goldfields and adjacent Interior. A separate Severe Weather Warning has been issued for these areas [IDW28001].

Tropical Cyclone Warning
=======================
A Cyclone WARNING is current for coastal areas from Wallal to Mardie.

The Cyclone Warning between Mardie and Onslow has been CANCELLED

Next Tropical Cyclone Advice is at 7:00 PM WDT..
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 52 Comments: 46907
Quoting natrwalkn:
Any new computer model forecasts for snow in Wilmington, NC?


Yes, around a 50% chance. Little to no snow accumulation.
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I have now got my Weather Underground Blog but, have also incorportated my own site...so that if WU goes down during the Hurricane Season which it has before One can now go to my Web site also......

TampaSpins Weather Underground Link

http://tampaspinsweather.webs.com/index.htm

Please let me know what you think as there is also a blog to leave comments...

Thanks,
Tim
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 179 Comments: 20448
Any new computer model forecasts for snow in Wilmington, NC?
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TOP PRIORITY FOR IMMEDIATE BROADCAST

TROPICAL CYCLONE ADVICE NUMBER 11
Issued at 12:50 pm WDT on Saturday, 28 February 2009
BY THE BUREAU OF METEOROLOGY
TROPICAL CYCLONE WARNING CENTRE PERTH

A Cyclone WARNING is current for coastal areas from Wallal to Onslow.

At midday WDT a tropical low was estimated to be
180 kilometres north of Port Hedland and
285 kilometres northeast of Karratha and
moving south southwest at 18 kilometres per hour.

Widespread heavy rain is likely in the Pilbara during today as the system
approaches the Pilbara coast, and significant flooding may result. Please refer
to Flood Watch advices for more information.

The low remains weak but there is a chance it could develop into a tropical
cyclone prior to making landfall. If the system does intensify into a tropical
cyclone gales may develop in coastal areas late today.

As the low moves inland, it may produce flash flooding and locally damaging
winds through the eastern Pilbara, northeast Gascoyne, northern Goldfields and
adjacent Interior. A separate Severe Weather Warning has been issued for these
areas [IDW28001].

Details of Tropical Low at midday WDT:
Centre located near...... 18.7 degrees South 118.5 degrees East
Location accuracy........ within 110 kilometres
Recent movement.......... towards the south southwest at 18 kilometres per hour
Wind gusts near centre... 85 kilometres per hour
Severity category........ below cyclone intensity
Central pressure......... 998 hectoPascals

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Quoting KEHCharleston:
Orca,
Now that we have the Mass Movement part of the pie figured out...

What about Coastal- Tides? Rip Currents?

And Geophysical - slippery slope?? - been on a few of those myself.



A coast or the coastal zone is a dynamic region where land is sculpted and shaped by wave action and currents. Barring the effects of tectonic uplift and sea level change, erosion is the dominate geomorphic process acting on coasts. Coastal sediments are subject to multiple episodes of erosion, transportation and deposition, though a net seaward transport takes place on a global scale. The deep ocean floor becomes the resting place for terrestrial sediment eroded from the land. (more)
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Quoting HadesGodWyvern:
Geophysical is probably the earthquakes
Coastal ripe tides, tsunamis, and storm surges?
Makes sense to me. So we have
Mass movement = Slides (land, mud etc) due to gravity
Coastal = tsunamis, surges, rip tides
Geophysical = earthquakes - and probably volcanoes as well.
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127. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Geophysical is probably the earthquakes
Coastal rip tides, tsunamis, and storm surges?
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 52 Comments: 46907
Quoting KEHCharleston:
Orca,
So what about Coastal- Tides? Rip Currents?

And Geophysical - slippery slope?? - been on a few of those myself.


Hold on.. I am waiting to see if SF can hold herself from commenting on 124 :)
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125. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Tropical Cyclone Warning Center Perth
Tropical Cyclone Advice Number ELEVEN
TROPICAL LOW 09U
12:50 pm WDT February 28 2009
===============================================

At 12:00 PM WDT, A TROPICAL LOW [998 hPa] located at 18.7S 118.5E, or 180 kms north of Port Hedland and 285 kms northeast of Karratha has 10 minute sustained winds of 30 knots with gusts of 45 knots. The tropical low is reported as moving towards the south-southwest at 9 knots.

Widespread heavy rain is likely in the Pilbara during today as the system approaches the Pilbara coast, and significant flooding may result. Please refer to Flood Watch advices for more information.

The low remains weak but there is a chance it could develop into a tropical cyclone prior to making landfall. If the system does intensify into a tropical cyclone gales may develop in coastal areas late today.

As the low moves inland, it may produce flash flooding and locally damaging winds through the eastern Pilbara, northeast Gascoyne, northern Goldfields and adjacent Interior. A separate Severe Weather Warning has been issued for these areas [IDW28001].

Tropical Cyclone Warning
=======================
A Cyclone WARNING is current for coastal areas from Wallal to Onslow.

Next Tropical Cyclone Advice is at 4:00 PM WDT..

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology
Western Australia Tropical Cyclone Warning Center Perth
TROPICAL CYCLONE OUTLOOK
Forecast for area south of 10S between 90E-110E
12:00 PM WDT February 28 2009
=====================================

TROPICAL LOW near 10.0S 102.0E at 9am WDT Saturday about 400 kilometres [220 nautical miles] west of Christmas Island

Central Pressure :1004 hectopascals
Recent movement :near stationary

Tropical Cyclone Formation Potential
====================================
Sunday: Low
Monday: Moderate
Tuesday: Moderate

REMARKS - The low is expected to gradually develop further in the following days and drift slowly to the south and then southeastwards. At this stage, gales are not expected at either Christmas or Cocos Islands within the next 48 hours.
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 52 Comments: 46907
Quoting surfmom:
Thank you for your vocabulary clarification Orca -- I feel much better knowing a cosmic load of "waste" isn't going to take me out


Sometimes a MASS MOVEMENT is a good thing, especially if it cleans out a choke point.
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Orca,
Now that we have the Mass Movement part of the pie figured out...

What about Coastal- Tides? Rip Currents?

And Geophysical - slippery slope?? - been on a few of those myself.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Thank you for your vocabulary clarification Orca -- I feel much better knowing a cosmic load of "waste" isn't going to take me out
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

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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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