Impressive Bill churning huge waves; New England air pollution episode underway

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:38 PM GMT on August 18, 2009

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Hurricane Bill has popped out an impressive eye, and continues to gather strength over the middle Atlantic. Visible and infrared satellite imagery show a well-organized, symmetric hurricane, with plenty of low-level spiral banding and upper-level outflow channels to the north and south. The spectacular appearance of the storm is evidence of the light wind shear environment that Bill finds itself in.

Wind shear is low, 5 - 10 knots, and is forecast to remain low to moderate, 5-15 knots, for the next five days. Sea Surface Temperatures (SSTs) will rise steadily from 27.5°C today to 29°C on Friday. Total ocean heat content also rises today into Wednesday, and it is expected that Bill will take advantage of these favorable conditions to intensify into a major hurricane. The Hurricane Hunters make their first penetration into Bill this afternoon. The NOAA Hurricane Hunters will be continuously flying Bill for the next three days. They are flying research missions that will feed real-time radar data into an experimental version of the HWRF model to see if this data can improve the model forecasts.


Figure 1. Wave forecast for Hurricane Bill from NOAA's Wavewatch III model. Beginning Saturday (right panel) large waves from Bill are expected to affect most of the U.S. East Coast. By Sunday, the model predicts waves of 10 - 15 feet may impact the offshore waters of New England.

Water vapor satellite loops show that a trough of low pressure is diving down towards Bill, and this trough will be able to turn Bill more to the northwest over the next two days, and Bill will miss the Lesser Antilles Islands. The main impact of Bill on these islands will be high waves. Yesterday, Bill passed just north of Buoy 41041, which recorded significant wave heights of 28.8 feet. Maximum wave height is typically a factor of 1.9 greater than the significant wave height, so Bill was likely generating waves up to 55 feet high. High waves from Bill are propagating across the Atlantic towards the U.S. East Coast, and will arrive there on Saturday, according to NOAA's Wavewatch III model (Figure 1). The highest waves spawned by Bill will affect the New England coast, where waves of 10 - 15 feet in offshore waters can be expected. The waves will cause significant erosion of beaches, and possible damage to shoreline structures.

A much larger trough of low pressure is expected to develop along the U.S. East Coast late this week, turning Bill to the north. Exactly where this turn occurs is still not clear, and both Bermuda and Cape Cod, Massachusetts will be in Bill's 5-day forecast cone of uncertainty. At present, it appears that the Canadian provinces of Newfoundland or Nova Scotia are at greatest risk from a strike by Bill, but New England and Bermuda cannot relax just yet.

Elsewhere in the tropics
The remains of Tropical Storm Ana are bringing heavy rain to Haiti, Cuba, and the Bahamas today, and this activity will spread over South Florida tonight. The remains are disorganized, and are not likely to re-develop. No models are calling for any new tropical cyclones to develop in the Atlantic over the next seven days.


Figure 2. Image from NASA's Terra satellite of air pollution haze over the Northeast U.S. on Monday, August 17, 2009.

First major air pollution episode of the summer for the Northeast U.S.
New England is currently experiencing a far more deadly weather event than a direct hit by Hurricane Bill would likely bring--a large dome of high pressure. The reason? The high pressure system camped over the Northeast U.S. has brought hot temperatures, stagnant air, and the summer's first major air pollution episode.

The event started on Sunday, when a high pressure system with light winds moved over the eastern U.S., limited mixing and leading to stagnation and a buildup of pollutants. Mostly sunny skies and high temperatures also enhanced formation of ground-level ozone gas, a dangerous pollutant. Furthermore, southerly winds brought high humidity into the Northeast, which is conducive to particle pollution formation in the atmosphere. Particle pollution is the most deadly form of air pollution in the U.S. The poor air quality led to issuance of air quality advisories and action days on Monday in more than 30 cities, including New York City, NY; Newark, NJ; Providence, RI; and Portland, ME.

Today's air pollution forecast
Today, similar conditions are expected across much of the region, and Air Quality Index (AQI) levels are forecasted to remain in the Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups (Code Orange) range for many areas in the Northeast. For a complete list of action/advisory days and their locations, visit the EPA AIRNow website.

Health Tip: Cut back on strenuous outdoor exercise when air quality is expected to be poor.

How You Can Help: Choose a cleaner commute - share a ride to work or use public transportation. Bicycle or walk when possible. Combine errands and reduce trips.

Mortality from air pollution
As I discussed in a previous blog post, air pollution is a far more deadly weather hazard in the U.S. than hurricanes. Sure, hurricanes have killed an average of 150 people per year in the U.S., and the "premature deaths" caused by air pollution are only partly attributable to breathing bad air, while drowning in a hurricane's storm surge is entirely due to the hurricane. Nevertheless, a great many children die of pollution-induced asthma attacks who would not have died otherwise, and the mortality due to air pollution in the general population is in the thousands or ten of thousands each year. Outdoor air pollution in the U.S. due to particulate pollution alone was estimated by the EPA in 1997 to cause at least 20,000 premature deaths each year. A 2005 study by EPA scientists (Particulate Matter Health Risk Assessment for Selected Urban Areas) estimated that over 4,700 premature deaths occur each year in just nine cities (Detroit, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Boston, Phoenix, Seattle, and San Jose)--even if those cities all met the current federal standards for particulate matter pollution. Extrapolating these data to the entire nation puts the annual death toll in the tens of thousands--but the EPA has not calculated that total. Some studies have placed the annual pollution death toll in the U.S. at 50,000 to 100,000 (Dockery, D.W., and C.A Pope III. Acute Respiratory Effects of Particulate Air Pollution. Annual Review Public Health, 1994, vol. 15,107-32.) The death toll is much higher in other parts of the world, where air pollution standards are not as stringent. Globally, about 800,000 people per year die prematurely due to outdoor air pollution, according to a 2005 study published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health. This represents about 1.2 percent of total annual global deaths.

In the debate over the costs of switching over the cleaner energy sources, the huge costs and deaths attributable to air pollution are often ignored. Sure, it will be costly to move away from fossil fuels, but let's not forget that the price per gallon we pay at the pump does not include the billions in medical costs we pay for the effects of air pollution.

I'll have an update Wednesday morning.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting CybrTeddy:


You where in Isabel too? I was in Southern Chesapeake county during that, we had some fairly strong winds up to 115 mph gusts. We lost a tree that feel on our neighbors fence and garage.


Yup, I was here and still am. Love this area- never get Hurricanes, always protected by the OBX.
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545. Prgal
Hi there JRRP!
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I guess an Isabel-like path is more likely than for Bill to hit Florida...but if you look at the archive, the chance of it hitting the US was always present in the 5-day cone.
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Can anyone on here post a link to radar out of Cuba ?

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Quoting CybrTeddy:


You where in Isabel too? I was in Southern Chesapeake county during that, we had some fairly strong winds up to 115 mph gusts. We lost a tree that feel on our neighbors fence and garage.



Isabel is the storm that made me follow the tropics every season. I live in NC and experienced very high winds inland.
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Quoting FLdewey:


Wasn't speaking of you... I love me some tropical systems too. I was speaking of the consistent freak outs people have on here. It's like every hurricane is the first and worst hurricane ever. :-)


Oh okay! :)
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Quoting StadiumEffect:


We'll have to wait for a couple more hours to see if this is a trend or just a wobble. My guess is that it's a wobble.

Agreed, if its still below 17N at 55W that could spell bad news for the Leewards.
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Quoting stormwatcherCI:
Insurance is good for property but what about lives ? I have good insurance on my home but do you really think if I lost a family member in Ivan that would have made everything better >


What? I'm not quite understanding your point. I also had insuarnce on my place and obviously I would not have wanted to lose a loved one either. Not quite sure I'm following you. Lives are more important than property.
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Quoting stormpetrol:
The remnants of Ana is south of Haiti where there's a weak circulation I posted on quikscat earlier, that area around Florida is not the remnants of "Ana' imo.
I guess you mean this is actually part of the upper level low that was north of Ana. I know I posted earlier that what is on Key West radar as Ana's remnants. I just considered it all part of the same system.

Your description is more accurate that what I posted. It just something else to watch.

The rain and some wind has already started in lower Keys according to radar and webcams.


National Weather Service Enhanced Radar Image Loop - Key West, FL Radar
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537. JRRP
west
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Quoting P451:


NorthWest?

West
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534. 7544
nice work all star but after the hh finish could the track change will they see the high weakening or staying stronger . did the track change after the hh flew into ike also
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Quoting StadiumEffect:


Of course thats why you have good insurance. I would rather a hurricane than a tornado though, and I have been through both. You have far too little warning with a tornado as opposed to a hurricnae. Also, winds in many torandoes exceed winds which you would typically find in your average hurricane.
Insurance is good for property but what about lives ? I have good insurance on my home but do you really think if I lost a family member in Ivan that would have made everything better >
Member Since: October 9, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 8393
Quoting SeVaSurfer:
Question? No way possible Bill could be another Isabel? I just looked at the 2003 archives on NHC, I can't remember but was Isabel supposed to be picked up by a trough also? Check out it's path. Definately not wanting that to happen again, removing the Oak tree from my roof was no fun.


You where in Isabel too? I was in Southern Chesapeake county during that, we had some fairly strong winds up to 115 mph gusts. We lost a tree that feel on our neighbors fence and garage.
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531. IMA
It's time for Ima's/Ann's [first] stupid question of the day...

What does it mean when a HH flight is called a "non-tasked mission"? I'm on Google Earth, viewing the info from here

Thanks!
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Quoting stormpetrol:
The "eye" Hurricane Bill splitting the 16N in 2 for nearly a degree now , I would say the for the last degree it has moved due west or just barely north of due west.


We'll have to wait for a couple more hours to see if this is a trend or just a wobble. My guess is that it's a wobble.
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Quoting FLdewey:
So many fear mongers on this blog... it's almost as bad as the kiddies.

Now let's see what the hunters find.


Why aren't we ever allowed to observe a Tropical Cyclone without being called 'fear mongers' I haven't seen any on here that are that are over the top (there are some though that might be 'wishing' for a storm, after Isabel though I'm not)
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Question? No way possible Bill could be another Isabel? I just looked at the 2003 archives on NHC, I can't remember but was Isabel supposed to be picked up by a trough also? Check out it's path. Definately not wanting that to happen again, removing the Oak tree from my roof was no fun.
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Could somebody post the visable image. TIA
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Quoting P451:


NorthWest?



Definitely moving WNW, not NW
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Quoting Melagoo:
LOL I guess we covered that image !

Latest EUMETSAT :)
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522. Prgal
Quoting cycloone:
bill has a little ways to go before it gets to be a major, why is eveyone so stirred up about its track, lets look at it meteorologicly

Because even if its not a "major hurricane" it could do a LOT of damage and those of us living in the island chain HAVE to follow the system carefully in case it changes the track. Its obvious!
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The "eye" Hurricane Bill splitting the 16N in 2 for nearly a degree now , I would say the for the last degree it has moved due west or just barely north of due west.
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Eye looking better every frame.

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Well, it is starting to look more and more likely that Bill will not affect the east coast other than wave action. I'll be sure to look to the east and say hi to Bill as he flys on by.
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Quoting Nickelback:
69viking What do you think About Brett Favre. Also Accuweather Predicts ANA to Reform and then make Land fall in FL as a Weak 45 MPH TS. Bill Out to Sea maybe NOVA


If his arm is ok I'm good with it, just don't want him to do to us what he did to the Jets. I have no confidence in our current QBs, both already are nursing injuries after the first preseason game.

Now, as far as the reminants of Ana I think it's another Claudette, a weak tropical storm potential for my area to give us a nice rainy weekend! I can live with 45 mph storms, just keep the hurricanes away! I think everybody should keep an eye on Bill until he makes the turn.
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SFMR is on for the Recon, already getting strong TD force winds.
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Quoting pfdfirefighter:



He didn't miss the turn they said he was blocked by a strong high pressure system!!!!!!!!!!!


And the high that prevented the northern movement was not initially forecasted. My point is that so many have written this storm off as a non threat to the eastern seaboard and that is not justified. Atmospheric changes in the next 2-3 day can always change to outcome!!!!
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LOL I guess we covered that image !
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Solid Storm!
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Entering the outer spiral bands.

Ill be back later.

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509. Prgal
Quoting stormwatcherCI:
Well, he does live on an island as do quite a few people on here so jokes are okay a times but he is facing a real danger right now and yes, I hope it misses St Kitts altogether but one never knows so just take it easy please and have consideration for what other folks are facing.

I am glad you said this because its been on my mind constantly while reading this blog. Many people here are "wishcasters" as you call it and they have no idea what its like to feel the threat of a system like Bill. I am still alert with this system and hope it follows NWS's track but it can certainly brush the islands and put us at risk if it doesnt. This is real danger folks, not just a cute system on a screen.
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bill has a little ways to go before it gets to be a major, why is eveyone so stirred up about its track, lets look at it meteorologicly
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Quoting snotly:


I've been through a weakening hurricane inland. There is no way you'd get me to live on the coast or an island. Hurricanes aren't fun. That's why I live in the middle of a continental land mass and take my chances with tornado's. If I had a home on the sea, I'd be sure to have some good insurance and know there is a price to pay for 'good atmosphere' and a sea view. No one is safe anywhere on earth really, what if Weather456 dodges this hurricane and get run over by a runaway milk truck next weekend? But hay no one better make fun of run away milk trucks or your going to hurt my feelings.


Of course thats why you have good insurance. I would rather a hurricane than a tornado though, and I have been through both. You have far too little warning with a tornado as opposed to a hurricnae. Also, winds in many torandoes exceed winds which you would typically find in your average hurricane.
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It will be better to have HH info from the storm...but the major player in the steering pattern is a trough that is over the continental US at the present. This trough has been well sampled by the upper-air network for days now.
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Quoting Acemmett90:

not good


Its perfectly fine.


This isnt going to directly affect land anytime soon. Bermudas quite a distance away.
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Quoting snotly:


I've been through a weakening hurricane inland. There is no way you'd get me to live on the coast or an island. Hurricanes aren't fun. That's why I live in the middle of a continental land mass and take my chances with tornado's. If I had a home on the sea, I'd be sure to have some good insurance and know there is a price to pay for 'good atmosphere' and a sea view. No one is safe anywhere on earth really, what if Weather456 dodges this hurricane and get run over by a runaway milk truck next weekend? But hay no one better make fun of run away milk trucks or your going to hurt my feelings.
Well, he does live on an island as do quite a few people on here so jokes are okay a times but he is facing a real danger right now and yes, I hope it misses St Kitts altogether but one never knows so just take it easy please and have consideration for what other folks are facing.
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:
We'll see what happens.



Ohhh Danny Boy
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kill bill
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As for now, the models are saying this stuff without some real information from the storm. Once NHC inputs the information that Hurricane hunters got from Bill into the computer models, then we will see if this storm will change its track..If it doesn't but still show a turn to the north, I say a 70% chance that it will happen..if it moves due west that earlier runs, I say a landfall in the East Coast is still not out of the picture...

It could be an Andrew Track, or a Ike track or a Hugo track or a Floyd track..

Lets not forget, storms with great intensity can create their own steerin pattern, that at least what they said Hugo did
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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.