Record Atlantic SSTs continue in the hurricane Main Development Region

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 8:03 PM GMT on May 15, 2010

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Sea Surface Temperatures (SSTs) in the Atlantic's Main Development Region for hurricanes had their warmest April on record, according to an analysis of historical SST data from the UK Hadley Center. SST data goes back to 1850, though there is much missing data before 1910 and during WWI and WWII. The area between 10°N and 20°N, between the coast of Africa and Central America (20°W - 80°W), is called the Main Development Region (MDR) because virtually all African waves originate in this region. These African waves account for 85% of all Atlantic major hurricanes and 60% of all named storms. When SSTs in the MDR are much above average during hurricane season, a very active season typically results (if there is no El Niño event present.) SSTs in the Main Development Region (10°N to 20°N and 20°W to 85°W) were an eye-opening 1.46°C above average during April. This is the third straight record warm month, and the warmest anomaly measured for any month--by a remarkable 0.2°C. The previous record warmest anomalies for the Atlantic MDR were set in June 2005 and March 2010, at 1.26°C.


Figure 1. The departure of sea surface temperature (SST) from average for May 13, 2010. Image credit: NOAA/NESDIS.

What is responsible for the high SSTs?
As I explained in detail in a post on record February SSTs in the Atlantic, the Arctic Oscillation (AO) and its close cousin, the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), are largely to blame for the record SSTs. The AO and NAO are climate patterns in the North Atlantic Ocean related to fluctuations in the difference of sea-level pressure between the Icelandic Low and the Azores-Bermuda High. If the difference in sea-level pressure between Iceland and the Azores is small (negative NAO), this creates a weak Azores-Bermuda High, which reduces the trade winds circulating around the High. During December - February, we had the most negative AO/NAO since records began in 1950, and this caused trade winds between Africa and the Lesser Antilles Islands in the hurricane Main Development Region to slow to 1 - 2 m/s (2.2 - 4.5 mph) below average. Slower trade winds mean less mixing of the surface waters with cooler waters down deep, plus less evaporational cooling of the surface water. As a result, the ocean heated up significantly, relative to normal, over the winter. Negative AO/NAO conditions have been dominant much of this spring as well, resulting in further anomalous heating of the MDR waters. This heating is superimposed on the very warm global SSTs we've been seeing over the past few decades due to global warming. Global and Northern Hemisphere SSTs were the 2nd warmest on record this past December, January, and February, the warmest on record in March, and will likely be classified as the warmest or second warmest on record for April, since NASA just classified April as the warmest April on record for the globe. We are also in the warm phase of a decades-long natural oscillation in Atlantic ocean temperatures called the Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation (AMO). This warm phase began in 1995, and has been partially responsible for the high levels of hurricane activity we've seen since 1995.

What does this imply for the coming hurricane season?
The high April SST anomaly does not bode well for the coming hurricane season. The three past seasons with record warm April SST anomalies all had abnormally high numbers of intense hurricanes. Past hurricane seasons that had high March SST anomalies include 1969 (0.90°C anomaly), 2005 (1.19°C anomaly), and 1958 (0.97°C anomaly). These three years had 5, 7, and 5 intense hurricanes, respectively. Just two intense hurricanes occur in an average year. The total averaged activity for the three seasons was 15 named storms, 11 hurricanes, and 6 intense hurricanes (an average hurricane season has 10, 6, and 2.) Both 1958 and 2005 saw neutral El Niño conditions, while 1969 had a weak El Niño.

The SSTs are already as warm as we normally see in July between Africa and the Caribbean, and we have a very July-like tropical wave approaching the Lesser Antilles Islands this weekend. However, wind shear is still seasonably high, and the tropical waves coming off of Africa are still too far south to have much of a chance of developing. The GFS model is indicating that shear will start to drop over the Caribbean the last week of May, so we may have to be on the watch for tropical storms forming in the Caribbean then.

For those of you interested in a more detailed look at the early season tropical weather outlook, consult the excellent wunderblogs of StormW and Weather456. I'll be back with a new post on Monday.

Jeff Masters

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1268. Patrap
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128730
1267. help4u
new orleans was destroyed because billions of dollars that were suppose to be spent on leevees were taken by the politicans.Refrigerators full of cash etc.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Drakoen:


GFS and ECMWF


Drak what site do you use.....the Navy was pretty good.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting RitaEvac:
Relocate NOLA one day?

Good morning, thought of you as 5" of rain fell over Houston/Galveston over the weekend. And you are all still 2-3 " below normal for the year!!

They probably will never mover NOLA, although they should slowly move portions of the city to higher ground, away from the MS River delta area. Considering half of NOLA is below sea level and they're at a high risk of a major hurricane in any given season.

I understand the NOLA residents love their city, like Patrap, I respect that. Blame it all on the folks who busted up that log-jam on one of the area rivers in the 1860's. That started this mess, and it will not finish until:
A) The Army Corp of Engineers "engineer" a way to tame the MS River, which is not likely.

or

B) Mother Nature wins and NOLA is reclaimed by natural forces.
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Just stating the facts folks. FYI i aint buying a 2nd home on the beach either. It's not nice and it will be gone in a big storm. Common sense, I aint wasting my money and time
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1262. Patrap
www.deepwaterhorizonresponse.com
Latest Information


May 17, 2010
Identifying oil in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida
May 17, 2010
Identifying oil in Louisiana
May 17, 2010
Unified Area Command to hold press briefing in Robert, La.
May 17, 2010
Current Operations and Ongoing Response
May 17, 2010
PHOTO RELEASE: Bird cleaning at FT JACKSON, La.
May 17, 2010
DHR: Vessels of Opportunity Program
May 17, 2010
Situation Status Map - May 17, 2010


Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128730
1261. Drakoen
Quoting TampaSpin:
Where is and what models does everyone think is the best Shear forecast sites and models. Just courious.....I know the models are not very accurate after 36-48 hours.


GFS and ECMWF
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1258. help4u
Lol ritaevac
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NOLA had a flood
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Quoting TampaSpin:
Where is and what models does everyone think is the best Shear forecast sites and models. Just courious.....I know the models are not very accurate after 36-48 hours.


the gfs, imo
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
1255. Patrap
Well sport..not many Ports above sea Level Globally..

And MAnhattan and Miami are well..just awaiting their turn.

Shoot,,Fla builds trailer parks and called them Houses at the beach..

Ever seen what Andrew did to those things?

I did.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128730
news sites seem to be pushing the oil-in-loop-current story today based on computer models indicating it is there(or in one case, within 3 miles). Shouldn't this be something actual measurements can be taken of, rather than hypothesis?
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1252. help4u
great video oz!
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so...The levees breaking was not a result of Katrina? guess that was just a coincidence...
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Where is and what models does everyone think is the best Shear forecast sites and models. Just courious.....I know the models are not very accurate after 36-48 hours.
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Fools are ones who live on the beach knowing what surge will do and ones who live below sea level in a bowl
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Quoting Drakoen:


frontal? based on what?


I would like to know the same thing, lol.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
1245. Patrap
Quoting Bordonaro:

That is right!! Both Katrina & Rita made landfall as CAT 3 storms, pushing a CAT 5 strom surge.

Ike, a strong CAT 2 pushed an early 10' storm surge, starting at around 6 am CDT on 9-12-10, basically cutting off all escape routes from Galveston. a full 18 hrs before landfall. At 2:30AM CDT 9-13-08, as Ike roared ashore with 100 MPH winds at the surface, 130MPH winds were about 400' above the surface, per Doppler radar, and a CAT 4 surge roared ashore from near the Bolivar peninsula all the way to Bridge City, TX.


Ike's surge was 17 feet max..

Katrina's was 30' at Waveland,

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128730
1244. help4u
Agree doabarrellroll.mississippi was destroyed.
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1243. Drakoen
Quoting hurricane23:


Would not quite call that consensus...Nogaps-horrible model along with the trigger happy GFS. I just don't see anything significant down there anytime soon those westerlies are still kicking. If anything this appears to be frontal nothing tropical. Hope they'll get those convective issues on the GFS solved with the june upgrade.


frontal? based on what?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Patrap:
CAt 3 at Landfall..pushing a CAt-5 surge,

The SSS isnt the tell all for a Storm..

Id stick to Catcrackers...

That is right!! Both Katrina & Rita made landfall as CAT 3 storms, pushing a CAT 5 strom surge.

Ike, a strong CAT 2 pushed an early 10' storm surge, starting at around 6 AM CDT on 9-12-10, basically cutting off all escape routes from Galveston. a full 18 hrs before landfall.

At 2:30AM CDT 9-13-08, as Ike roared ashore with 110 MPH winds at the surface, 130MPH winds were about 400' above the surface, per Doppler radar, and a CAT 4 surge roared ashore from near the Bolivar peninsula all the way to Bridge City, TX.
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I was in western eyewall in Ike
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1240. Ossqss
No matter your stance, an interesting read :)

The Hartwell Paper
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1239. Drakoen
Quoting Weather456:


Agree, I'm being conservative on this one though and going as far as a broad area of low pressure in the Caribbean. As time goes by and models change then confidence can shift up or down. But from what we are seeing with the models, development is not impossible.


I'm being conservative as well; i'm still watching the MJO models to see if they come into our basin more.
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Relocate NOLA one day?
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1237. Patrap
I think the Good Dr. MAsters and anyone who was here from PAsscagoula to Houma would easily disagree with any assertions that K missed NOLA.

9 Hours in the western eyewall was a real joy.

And the weeks after while you were watching CNN from yer Lazy Boy must been real hard as well.

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128730
Quoting Stormchaser2007:
Looks like we have a consensus on a Tropical Cyclone developing in the Caribbean.


Would not quite call that consensus...Nogaps-horrible model along with the trigger happy GFS. I just don't see anything significant down there anytime soon those westerlies are still kicking. If anything this appears to be frontal nothing tropical. Hope they'll get those convective issues on the GFS solved with the june upgrade.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Drakoen:


Yea. At least we can expect a broad area of low pressure to form in the Caribbean. I'd like to see something more on the ECMWF but with other models coming in it is a step in the direction favoring development.


Agree, I'm being conservative on this one though and going as far as a broad area of low pressure in the Caribbean. As time goes by and models change then confidence can shift up or down. But from what we are seeing with the models, development is not impossible.
Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
1233. Patrap
Vort in da haus..alert.,less the "NO".

Great idiocy thinks alike ..especially to my EAST.

LOL

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128730
Quoting CycloneUK:
Volcanic ash update.

Latest information from the Icelandic Met Office indicates that the Eyjafjallajokull volcano continues to erupt. It is estimated that the current height of the ash plume is still between 23000 and 26000 ft (7 to 8 km), with extremes at 29500 feet (9 km). Following the spread of the plume southeastwards, there were numerous reports received during Sunday. These ranged from a milky sky in South Uist, smells of sulphur near Newcastle, visible ash clouds observed (from the both the ground and the air) in the skies above northern England, and at the end of Sunday of ash deposits in Waddington and Conningsby. Issued at 0252 on Mon 17 May 2010.




Good old "E", the lil' volcano that could!!!
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1231. Drakoen
Still concerned about the upper level winds for development; it looks like a tight gradient between the upper level high over the southern Caribbean and the upper level trough to the north which will either make or break the system.
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1230. help4u
Great post seastep!
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Public Pat
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1228. Drakoen
Quoting Weather456:


ECMWF, weaker but it exists



Yea. At least we can expect a broad area of low pressure to form in the Caribbean. I'd like to see something more on the ECMWF but with other models coming in it is a step in the direction favoring development.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1227. Patrap
Quoting RitaEvac:


Experts made the SSS, thats what we go by


We..?

LOL



You best get back to sweeping under the Reformer.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128730
1226. JRRP
Quoting Drakoen:
Haven't seen this posted, the NOGAPS is forecasting for a tropical cyclone to form in the southern Caribbean:


yea
Link
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 5985
1224. Patrap
New Orleans: A Geopolitical Prize - 09-10-2005, 02:31 PM

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

New Orleans: A Geopolitical Prize

By George Friedman
http://www.stratfor.com/news/archive...cs_katrina.php
September 01, 2005 22 30 GMT -- The American political system was
founded in Philadelphia, but the American nation was built on the
vast farmlands that stretch from the Alleghenies to the Rockies.
That farmland produced the wealth that funded American
industrialization: It permitted the formation of a class of small
landholders who, amazingly, could produce more than they could
consume. They could sell their excess crops in the east and in
Europe and save that money, which eventually became the founding
capital of American industry.

But it was not the extraordinary land nor the farmers and ranchers
who alone set the process in motion. Rather, it was geography -- the
extraordinary system of rivers that flowed through the Midwest and
allowed them to ship their surplus to the rest of the world. All of
the rivers flowed into one -- the Mississippi -- and the Mississippi
flowed to the ports in and around one city: New Orleans. It was in
New Orleans that the barges from upstream were unloaded and their
cargos stored, sold and reloaded on ocean-going vessels. Until last
Sunday, New Orleans was, in many ways, the pivot of the American
economy.

For that reason, the Battle of New Orleans in January 1815 was a key
moment in American history. Even though the battle occurred after
the War of 1812 was over, had the British taken New Orleans, we
suspect they wouldn't have given it back. Without New Orleans, the
entire Louisiana Purchase would have been valueless to the United
States. Or, to state it more precisely, the British would control
the region because, at the end of the day, the value of the Purchase
was the land and the rivers - which all converged on the Mississippi
and the ultimate port of New Orleans. The hero of the battle was
Andrew Jackson, and when he became president, his obsession with
Texas had much to do with keeping the Mexicans away from New
Orleans.

During the Cold War, a macabre topic of discussion among bored
graduate students who studied such things was this: If the Soviets
could destroy one city with a large nuclear device, which would it
be? The usual answers were Washington or New York. For me, the
answer was simple: New Orleans. If the Mississippi River was shut to
traffic, then the foundations of the economy would be shattered. The
industrial minerals needed in the factories wouldn't come in, and
the agricultural wealth wouldn't flow out. Alternative routes really
weren't available. The Germans knew it too: A U-boat campaign
occurred near the mouth of the Mississippi during World War II. Both
the Germans and Stratfor have stood with Andy Jackson: New Orleans
was the prize.

Last Sunday, nature took out New Orleans almost as surely as a
nuclear strike. Hurricane Katrina's geopolitical effect was not, in
many ways, distinguishable from a mushroom cloud. The key exit from
North America was closed. The petrochemical industry, which has
become an added value to the region since Jackson's days, was at
risk. The navigability of the Mississippi south of New Orleans was a
question mark. New Orleans as a city and as a port complex had
ceased to exist, and it was not clear that it could recover.

The ports of South Louisiana and New Orleans, which run north and
south of the city, are as important today as at any point during the
history of the republic. On its own merit, the Port of South
Louisiana is the largest port in the United States by tonnage and
the fifth-largest in the world. It exports more than 52 million tons
a year, of which more than half are agricultural products -- corn,
soybeans and so on. A larger proportion of U.S. agriculture flows
out of the port. Almost as much cargo, nearly 57 million tons, comes
in through the port -- including not only crude oil, but chemicals
and fertilizers, coal, concrete and so on.

A simple way to think about the New Orleans port complex is that it
is where the bulk commodities of agriculture go out to the world and
the bulk commodities of industrialism come in. The commodity chain
of the global food industry starts here, as does that of American
industrialism. If these facilities are gone, more than the price of
goods shifts: The very physical structure of the global economy
would have to be reshaped. Consider the impact to the U.S. auto
industry if steel doesn't come up the river, or the effect on global
food supplies if U.S. corn and soybeans don't get to the markets.

The problem is that there are no good shipping alternatives. River
transport is cheap, and most of the commodities we are discussing
have low value-to-weight ratios. The U.S. transport system was built
on the assumption that these commodities would travel to and from
New Orleans by barge, where they would be loaded on ships or
offloaded. Apart from port capacity elsewhere in the United States,
there aren't enough trucks or rail cars to handle the long-distance
hauling of these enormous quantities -- assuming for the moment that
the economics could be managed, which they can't be.

The focus in the media has been on the oil industry in Louisiana and
Mississippi. This is not a trivial question, but in a certain sense,
it is dwarfed by the shipping issue. First, Louisiana is the source
of about 15 percent of U.S.-produced petroleum, much of it from the
Gulf. The local refineries are critical to American infrastructure.
Were all of these facilities to be lost, the effect on the price of
oil worldwide would be extraordinarily painful. If the river itself
became unnavigable or if the ports are no longer functioning,
however, the impact to the wider economy would be significantly more
severe. In a sense, there is more flexibility in oil than in the
physical transport of these other commodities.

There is clearly good news as information comes in. By all accounts,
the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port, which services supertankers in the
Gulf, is intact. Port Fourchon, which is the center of extraction
operations in the Gulf, has sustained damage but is recoverable. The
status of the oil platforms is unclear and it is not known what the
underwater systems look like, but on the surface, the damage -
though not trivial -- is manageable.

The news on the river is also far better than would have been
expected on Sunday. The river has not changed its course. No major
levees containing the river have burst. The Mississippi apparently
has not silted up to such an extent that massive dredging would be
required to render it navigable. Even the port facilities, although
apparently damaged in many places and destroyed in few, are still
there. The river, as transport corridor, has not been lost.

What has been lost is the city of New Orleans and many of the
residential suburban areas around it. The population has fled,
leaving behind a relatively small number of people in desperate
straits. Some are dead, others are dying, and the magnitude of the
situation dwarfs the resources required to ameliorate their
condition. But it is not the population that is trapped in New
Orleans that is of geopolitical significance: It is the population
that has left and has nowhere to return to.

The oil fields, pipelines and ports required a skilled workforce in
order to operate. That workforce requires homes. They require stores
to buy food and other supplies. Hospitals and doctors. Schools for
their children. In other words, in order to operate the facilities
critical to the United States, you need a workforce to do it -- and
that workforce is gone. Unlike in other disasters, that workforce
cannot return to the region because they have no place to live. New
Orleans is gone, and the metropolitan area surrounding New Orleans
is either gone or so badly damaged that it will not be inhabitable
for a long time.

It is possible to jury-rig around this problem for a short time. But
the fact is that those who have left the area have gone to live with
relatives and friends. Those who had the ability to leave also had
networks of relationships and resources to manage their exile. But
those resources are not infinite -- and as it becomes apparent that
these people will not be returning to New Orleans any time soon,
they will be enrolling their children in new schools, finding new
jobs, finding new accommodations. If they have any insurance money
coming, they will collect it. If they have none, then -- whatever
emotional connections they may have to their home -- their economic
connection to it has been severed. In a very short time, these
people will be making decisions that will start to reshape
population and workforce patterns in the region.

A city is a complex and ongoing process - one that requires physical
infrastructure to support the people who live in it and people to
operate that physical infrastructure. We don't simply mean power
plants or sewage treatment facilities, although they are critical.
Someone has to be able to sell a bottle of milk or a new shirt.
Someone has to be able to repair a car or do surgery. And the people
who do those things, along with the infrastructure that supports
them, are gone -- and they are not coming back anytime soon.

It is in this sense, then, that it seems almost as if a nuclear
weapon went off in New Orleans. The people mostly have fled rather
than died, but they are gone. Not all of the facilities are
destroyed, but most are. It appears to us that New Orleans and its
environs have passed the point of recoverability. The area can
recover, to be sure, but only with the commitment of massive
resources from outside -- and those resources would always be at
risk to another Katrina.

The displacement of population is the crisis that New Orleans faces.
It is also a national crisis, because the largest port in the United
States cannot function without a city around it. The physical and
business processes of a port cannot occur in a ghost town, and right
now, that is what New Orleans is. It is not about the facilities,
and it is not about the oil. It is about the loss of a city's
population and the paralysis of the largest port in the United
States.

Let's go back to the beginning. The United States historically has
depended on the Mississippi and its tributaries for transport.
Barges navigate the river. Ships go on the ocean. The barges must
offload to the ships and vice versa. There must be a facility to
empower this exchange. It is also the facility where goods are
stored in transit. Without this port, the river can't be used.
Protecting that port has been, from the time of the Louisiana
Purchase, a fundamental national security issue for the United
States.

Katrina has taken out the port -- not by destroying the facilities,
but by rendering the area uninhabited and potentially uninhabitable.
That means that even if the Mississippi remains navigable, the
absence of a port near the mouth of the river makes the Mississippi
enormously less useful than it was. For these reasons, the United
States has lost not only its biggest port complex, but also the
utility of its river transport system -- the foundation of the
entire American transport system. There are some substitutes, but
none with sufficient capacity to solve the problem.

It follows from this that the port will have to be revived and, one
would assume, the city as well. The ports around New Orleans are
located as far north as they can be and still be accessed by ocean-
going vessels. The need for ships to be able to pass each other in
the waterways, which narrow to the north, adds to the problem.
Besides, the Highway 190 bridge in Baton Rouge blocks the river
going north. New Orleans is where it is for a reason: The United
States needs a city right there.

New Orleans is not optional for the United States' commercial
infrastructure. It is a terrible place for a city to be located, but
exactly the place where a city must exist. With that as a given, a
city will return there because the alternatives are too devastating.
The harvest is coming, and that means that the port will have to be
opened soon. As in Iraq, premiums will be paid to people prepared to
endure the hardships of working in New Orleans. But in the end, the
city will return because it has to.

Geopolitics is the stuff of permanent geographical realities and the
way they interact with political life. Geopolitics created New
Orleans. Geopolitics caused American presidents to obsess over its
safety. And geopolitics will force the city's resurrection, even if
it is in the worst imaginable place.


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Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128730
Quoting Drakoen:
In the same spot the GFS 06z shows:



ECMWF, weaker but it exists

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
1222. Drakoen
Quoting Stormchaser2007:
Looks like we have a consensus on a Tropical Cyclone developing in the Caribbean.


It's nice to see development on the NOGAPS as it is one of the older more conservative models.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Patrap:
CAt 3 at Landfall..pushing a CAt-5 surge,

The SSS isnt the tell all for a Storm..

Id stick to Catcrackers...


Experts made the SSS, thats what we go by
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1220. JRRP
2010

2005

2004

Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 5985
Volcanic ash update.

Latest information from the Icelandic Met Office indicates that the Eyjafjallajokull volcano continues to erupt. It is estimated that the current height of the ash plume is still between 23000 and 26000 ft (7 to 8 km), with extremes at 29500 feet (9 km). Following the spread of the plume southeastwards, there were numerous reports received during Sunday. These ranged from a milky sky in South Uist, smells of sulphur near Newcastle, visible ash clouds observed (from the both the ground and the air) in the skies above northern England, and at the end of Sunday of ash deposits in Waddington and Conningsby. Issued at 0252 on Mon 17 May 2010.



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About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.