Bill intensifies to Category 4; globe has 5th warmest July on record

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:28 PM GMT on August 19, 2009

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Category 4 Hurricane Bill is now the the fourth strongest tropical cyclone to appear on the planet so far this year, and may grow even stronger. Visible and infrared satellite imagery continue to show an impressive, well-organized, hurricane, with plenty of low-level spiral banding and upper-level outflow well-established on all sides except the west. On Bill's west side, upper-level winds from the west are creating a modest 10 knots of wind shear, which is giving the hurricane a bit of a squashed appearance there.

Wind shear is forecast to remain low to moderate, 5-15 knots, for the next four days. Sea Surface Temperatures (SSTs) will rise steadily from 28.5°C today to 29°C on Friday. Total ocean heat content is at a maximum today, and will gradually decline over the next four days. Bill should be able to take advantage of these favorable conditions a remain a major hurricane the next three days.


Figure 1. Visible satellite image from NASA's Aqua spacecraft at 12:40pm EDT Tuesday August 18, 2009. Image credit: NASA GSFC.

Water vapor satellite loops show a small "short-wave" trough of low pressure to the north-northwest of Bill, and this trough has turned Bill on a more northwesterly track over the past two days. Bill will miss the Lesser Antilles Islands, and the main impact of the hurricane on these islands will be high waves. The short wave trough (so called because it has a relatively small amplitude and wavelength) is not strong enough to turn Bill due north, and Bill is also expected to miss Bermuda. High waves and sustained winds of 20 - 30 mph are the worst that Bermuda is likely to get from Bill.


Figure 2. Visible satellite image of Bill's eye zoomed in, taken from NASA's Aqua spacecraft at 12:40pm EDT Tuesday August 18, 2009. Image credit: NASA GSFC.

An unusually strong "long wave" trough of low pressure (called long wave because of its large amplitude and wavelength) is expected to develop along the U.S. East Coast late this week. This trough will turn Bill to the north, and also bring high levels of wind shear in the 40 - 65 knot range on Sunday. Exactly where this turn occurs is still not clear. The models continue to be in two camps: an eastern camp (GFS, GFDL, HWRF, and ECMWF) that takes Bill 300 - 500 miles east of Cape Cod, and a more western camp (NOGAPS, UKMET) that bring Bill within 150 - 200 miles of Cape Cod. Both sets of models bring Bill ashore over the Canadian provinces of Newfoundland or Nova Scotia. Bill will be weakening rapidly as it makes landfall, and is likely to be a Category 1 hurricane if it hits Nova Scotia, or strong tropical storm if it hits Newfoundland.

Bill's big waves
Large swells from Bill will begin impacting the U.S. East coast from Florida to Maine beginning Friday night or Saturday morning. Seas will build to 5 - 10 feet in the offshore waters from central Florida northwards to South Carolina, and to 10 - 15 feet from North Carolina to Cape Cod. Near shore, waves will be about 40% less. This will cause a significant coastal erosion event along some portions of the coast. The latest run of the NOAA Wavewatch III model suggests that significant wave heights near Bill's center will reach 50 feet on Sunday. Since maximum wave height is typically about a factor of 1.9 greater than the significant wave height (which is the average trough-to-crest height of the top 1/3 largest waves), a few huge waves near Bill's center may reach 95 feet high.

Possible impacts to New England
The current set of computer model runs predicts that the center of Bill will pass Cape Cod, Massachusetts Sunday afternoon or evening. Tropical storm-force sustained winds of 39 mph or greater currently extend out 185 miles to the west of Bill's center, so that if Bill maintains its current wind distribution, Cape Cod could see sustained winds of about 40 mph Sunday night if the models predicting a more westerly path are correct. However, Bill will not keep this same radius of winds. The hurricane will weaken considerably beginning Sunday morning, once the storm gets caught up in the approaching long wave trough. High wind shear of 40 - 65 knots due to strong southwesterly winds aloft will act to compress the hurricane in the east-west direction, keeping the hurricane's strongest winds away from Cape Cod. The highest winds are likely to be no more than 30 mph on Cape Cod from Bill, if the storm follows the track of the western camp of models nearest to the Massachusetts. A few rain squalls may affect coastal Massachusetts, but the main impact of Bill on New England is likely to be coastal erosion from high waves.

Elsewhere in the tropics
The remains of Tropical Storm Ana are bringing scattered heavy rain showers to the Bahamas and Florida today. The remains are disorganized, and are not likely to re-develop. The only model calling for a new tropical cyclone to develop in the Atlantic over the next seven days is the GFS model, which predicts development off the coast of Africa about 7 days from now.

Fifth warmest July on record globally; a cold July in the U.S.
The globe recorded its fifth warmest July since record keeping began in 1880, according to NOAA's National Climatic Data Center. NOAA rated the period January - July 2009 as the sixth warmest such period on record. NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies rated July 2009 as the 2nd warmest July on record, behind July of 1998. For the second month in a row, global ocean Sea Surface Temperatures (SSTs) in July were the warmest on record, 0.59°C (1.06°F) above the 20th century average. This broke the previous July record set in 1998. The record July SSTs were due in part to an ongoing El Niño event in the Eastern Pacific, which has substantially warmed a large stretch of the tropical Eastern Pacific Ocean. As El Niño conditions mature during the coming months, near-record global ocean and land temperatures will probably continue. Now that El Niño conditions have been well-established for three months, the atmosphere has begun to heat up in response. It typically takes up to seven months for the atmosphere to heat up in response to ocean heating from an El Niño. This may explain why June of 2009, which independent assessments by NOAA, NASA, and the UK Hadley center agreed was the 2nd or 3rd warmest June on record at the surface, recorded only average satellite-measured temperatures in the lower atmosphere. In contrast, the July satellite-measured temperatures in the lower atmosphere were the 2nd or 3rd warmest on record, in agreement with the assessments that surface temperatures were the 2nd to 5th warmest on record.


Figure 3. Departure of temperature from average for July 2009. Image credit: NOAA/NCDC.

A cold July for the U.S.
For the contiguous U.S., the average July temperature of 23.1°C (73.5°F) was the coolest since 1994, and July temperatures were the 27th coolest in the 115-year record, according to the National Climatic Data Center. Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Iowa, and West Virginia experienced their coolest ever July. Kentucky, Missouri, Michigan, and Wisconsin recorded their second coolest July in history. A strong trough of low pressure parked itself over the eastern portion of the U.S. in July, funneling down plenty of cold air from Canada. In the western U.S., a ridge of high pressure dominated, bringing unusually hot conditions. Arizona recorded its 3rd warmest July on record, and Seattle, Washington recorded its hottest day in history on July 28, notching a 103°F reading. This was 3°F above the previous record set in 1994.

U.S. precipitation was near average in July, with the month ranking 40th wettest in the 115-year record. U.S. tornado activity was above average in July, according to NOAA's Storm Prediction Center. However, no tornado deaths occurred in July.

At the end of July, 14% of the contiguous United States was in moderate-to-exceptional drought. This is a drop from the 19% figure observed at the beginning of the year. These extreme drought regions were exclusively in South and Central Texas.

I'll have an update Thursday morning.

Jeff Masters

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go to maps on the home page and look at models

Link

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Quoting Chicklit:
Amazing the NHC site can manage the hit load.


The SSD site had problems a few years back when a major was moving into the GOM. It crashed and that is when they introduced the "short" loop. When the site is really busy they sometimes restrict the number of frames you can load in a loop.
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1420. hydrus
Quoting Txwxchaser:
Cantori Cam...pathetic
Whats a cantori cam?
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Quoting TexasGulf:
I hope Obama doesn't cancel the vacation plans. Being an island off the south of Cape Cod in New England will give him a first-person perspective of the storm.

After Katrina, Bush flew over New Orleans to view the damage. Later, he stopped at the NOLA airport to meet & greet.

After Rita, Bush flew over Beaumont and stopped by Ford Park for a meet & greet.

At least if Obama is there... he will be the first president NOT to have to fly over a hurricane devistation, but could rather just walk down to the beach and see it for himself.
He also sat on the steps of a house that used to be there and wasn't anymore sown in east Biloxi..It happened to be the home of my supervisor at work and he was sitting there with his brother..he took quite a tour on land of the entire cost....
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1418. snotly
Quoting cajunkid:
GFS is showing a major storm nearing the East coast around the 4th


We all know how accurate those models are 16 days out.
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1416. lydine
Quoting TexasGulf:
Maybe Jim Cantore can visit the Obamas when they are vacationing on Martha's Vineyard this weekend.

Imagine renting a vacation home for $30,000 for the week... then having Jim Cantore show up broadcasting from your back yard.

Hope they weren't planning to go swimming or lay out on the beach.

That...is pretty funny. And, hello StormW from the midwest. Where we took a hit for the east today! My mom's in Delray, so I track! Love your posts.
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Amazing the noaa.gov site can manage the hit load. Actually, the water vapor images of the Caribbean are a bit messed up.
Link
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1414. jdjnola
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
New Jersey will not have a big impact from Bill.


Wow, the NHC should hire you if you can say this with 100% certainty 3+ days out. Like a young Nostradamus...
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1413. Dakster
StormW - I enjoyed reading your synopsis today... Things appear to be keeping you busy!

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Quoting cajunkid:
GFS is showing a major storm nearing the East coast around the 4th

Did you leave a "2" out as in the "24th". Or do you mean September?
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Quoting cajunkid:
GFS is showing a major storm nearing the East coast around the 4th


Link please?
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I hope Obama doesn't cancel the vacation plans. Being an island off the south of Cape Cod in New England will give him a first-person perspective of the storm.

After Katrina, Bush flew over New Orleans to view the damage. Later, he stopped at the NOLA airport to meet & greet.

After Rita, Bush flew over Beaumont and stopped by Ford Park for a meet & greet.

At least if Obama is there... he will be the first president NOT to have to fly over a hurricane devistation, but could rather just walk down to the beach and see it for himself.
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Evening Storm. I have a PSU E-Wall question. The zoom-in & zoom-out. On my computer once selected I can not stop the action, in or out. Is there another key I need to hit? I am using Vista.
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Quoting cajunkid:
GFS is showing a major storm nearing the East coast around the 4th
Really? wow..whats the link to that model
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1405. snotly
I think Dr. Lyons wanted to smack that Cantori cam outta his hands. Man they better be paying him good. Who's the producer at TWC smoking crack?
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1404. tramp96
Was there a lot of power outages?
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GFS is showing a major storm nearing the East coast around the 4th
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1400. 789
Quoting StormW:
Good evening!
good evening
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Good Evening, Just finising my long day, I see that Bill oficial track shifted west by few hundreed miles also the 4-5 days cone is more uncertain. Not good, folks Bill is like 400 hundred miles away from PR and we get some strong showers with gusty winds from him. This is an intense Strom let's hope that he turn on time to miss the NE United States.
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Evening Storm and Pat...
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I live in NJ about 15-20 mi inland, and I'm considering picking up a few extras at the store tomorrow - water, batteries, nonperishables. I'm not in the projected cone and I'm not that close to the ocean, but we do sometimes get big sputtering thunderstorms as a residual effect of tropical systems, and I have to say that Bill has me on edge a little bit. It's not bad to have extras on hand even in fair weather, and it's stuff I'll use anyway.

I'll keep an eye on it and see what happens - no use panicking right now, as most of the projected paths miss my neck of the woods. I am a little uncomfortable with the models, but I think my best idea right now is to stay alert.
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Well here's the 15/46, 8/43 wave, i think.
Link

shearmap
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Well, we get to add Hebert-casters to our caster list. That's 2 new additions this year. Model-casters and now Hebert-
casters.
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For those who might like to know what Herbert's boxes look like

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1392. viman
Virgin Islands checking in, how is everyone tonite. Everything fine here, kinda cool with the north winds and all, feels great. A little windy today I guess because of the pressure gradiant, but helped to cool off another really hot day. Should be at its closest point sometime early tomorrow morning 0700ish I guess about 350 miles to the NE or so. Really only expecting the heavy wave action, really need some rain though. Waves should be in the order of 10-15 feet, factor in the shallow reefs and local tidal effects and should prove to be quite a show.
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
$30,000 a week isn't that much....


Especially on the Tax Payers Dime...He's Probably giving them at least a billion after you factor in Inflation...I mean whats a billion dollars these days...:)
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1390. sctonya
Evening Storm
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1389. Dakster
Quoting prtr4192:
lol as soon as i get off here


The next comment is too easy... So I'll let it slide this time...
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1388. snotly
Hate to be a ship near -157, 18 this storm is nearly stationary.


http://rammb.cira.colostate.edu/ramsdis/online/loop_640.asp?product=tropical_mtsat_4km_ir4_floater
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The trough that will protect the CONUS east coast from Bill later this week is causing quite a few problems across the plains and midwest. I guess there's a price for everything.
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1386. Dakster
Evening STORMW!
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lol as soon as i get off here
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Good evening storm, good evening Patrap
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1382. Dakster
prtr4192 - Where you thinking of hitting the box tonight?
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i still would like input -i am not wishcasting

but isnt this type of scenario possible

http://www.news4jax.com/hurricanetracker/index.html

1964 dora
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Quoting Relix:
Any models for the new wave?


Funny you should ask but I was just looking off the coast of Africa. Not a lot of convection yet but a weak surface low that may provide the seed for something.

Quikscat evening pass
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The bit about "putting your shoes under the bed" is an old wives tale. They thought if they put their shoes under the beds it would keep the critters and insects from getting in them (i.e. snakes and spiders).
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Maybe Jim Cantore can visit the Obamas when they are vacationing on Martha's Vineyard this weekend.

Imagine renting a vacation home for $30,000 for the week... then having Jim Cantore show up broadcasting from your back yard.

Hope they weren't planning to go swimming or lay out on the beach.
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1376. snotly
EWRC?

http://rammb.cira.colostate.edu/ramsdis/online/loop_640.asp?product=tropical_ge_4km_ir4_floater_2
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my bad i thought the box was at 20 to 25

not 15 to 20 you are right
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he missed the box...but close
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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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