El Niño is done; Haiti at risk of heavy rains next week; oil spill update

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 8:09 PM GMT on May 19, 2010

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El Niño rapidly weakened during late April and early May, with sea surface temperatures over the tropical Eastern Pacific in the area 5°N - 5°S, 120°W - 170°W, also called the "Niña 3.4 region", falling a significant 0.65°C in just one month. Temperatures in the region are now in the "neutral" range, just 0.18°C above average, and well below the 0.5°C threshold to be considered an El Niño, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. The speed of the collapse of El Niño makes it likely that a La Niña event is on its way this summer. This is what happened during the last strong El Niño event, in 1998--El Niño collapsed dramatically in May, and a strong La Niña event developed by hurricane season. Six of the sixteen El Niño models (updated as of April 15) are predicting La Niña conditions for hurricane season, and I expect more models will jump on the La Niña bandwagon when the May data updates later this week. The demise of El Niño, coupled with sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic that are currently at record levels, have prompted two major hurricane forecasting groups (tropicalstormrisk.com and Colorado State University) to predict a significantly above average 2010 Atlantic hurricane season. Over the full 160-year period we have records of Atlantic hurricanes, La Niña years have typically had more hurricanes, and more strong hurricanes, compared to neutral years. However, since 1995, there hasn't been any difference between neutral and La Niña years in terms of hurricane activity. La Niña conditions typically cause cool and wet conditions over the Caribbean in summer, but do not have much of an impact on U.S. temperatures or precipitation.


Figure 1. Oil spill edge over the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday, May 19, as seen from NASA's M ODIS instrument. Note that a band of cumulus clouds formed along the edge of the oil spill. I theorize this is because the low level wind flow out of the southeast moves faster over the oil, since the oil suppresses wave action. As the winds cross the spill boundary into rougher, clean water, they slow down, forcing the air to pile up and create updrafts that then spawn cumulus clouds. See my post on what oil might do to a hurricane for more information on how oil reduces wave action.

Oil spill update
Clouds over the Gulf of Mexico have again foiled satellite imaging of the extent of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, though through breaks in the clouds it appears that a significant amount of the oil that was pulled southwards towards the Loop Current is now caught in a counter-clockwise rotating eddy just to the north of the Loop Current. However, some oil has escaped this eddy and is on its way south towards the Florida Keys. According to the latest trajectory forecasts from NOAA, the tongue of oil flowing southwards has at most "light" concentrations. The oil will grow more dilute as it travels the 500 miles to the Florida Keys. My present expectation is that the oil entering the Loop Current this week will cause only minor problems in the Keys next week. However, there is a lot of uncertainty about what the oil may do to the fragile Keys ecosystem. See my post yesterday for answers to many of the common questions I get about the spill.

Oil spill resources
My post on the Southwest Florida "Forbidden Zone" where surface oil will rarely go
My post on what oil might do to a hurricane
NOAA trajectory forecasts
Deepwater Horizon Unified Command web site
Oil Spill Academic Task Force
University of South Florida Ocean Circulation Group oil spill forecasts
ROFFS Deepwater Horizon page
Surface current forecasts from NOAA's HYCOM model
HYCOM ocean current forecasts from LSU


Figure 2. Precipitation forecast from today's 8am EDT run of the NAVY NOGAPS model, valid 7 days from now. Precipitation amounts in excess of 70 mm (2.8") in 12 hours are predicted over Haiti, due to a tropical disturbance in the Western Caribbean. Image credit: U.S. Navy.

Potential serious rainfall threat to Haiti next week
Long-range forecasts from the GFS and NOGAPS models over the past few days have consistently been predicting an increase in moisture and decrease in wind shear over the Western Caribbean 5 - 7 days from now, and I expect that a tropical disturbance with heavy rains will develop in the Western Caribbean early next week. A strong subtropical jet stream over the southern Gulf of Mexico will steer the disturbance to the north and east, and the NOGAPS model shows heavy rains in excess of six inches impacting Haiti Wednesday through Thursday of next week. Rains of this magnitude are capable of causing a serious emergency with high loss of life in earthquake-shattered Haiti, and all interests in that nation should closely monitor the situation over the coming week. It is too early to speculate on the possibility of the disturbance becoming a tropical depression. The wunderblogs of StormW and Weather456, who are now featured bloggers for the coming hurricane season, have more information on this potential development, plus the possible development of a subtropical storm between Florida and Bermuda next week.

Major severe weather outbreak over Oklahoma expected tonight
NOAA's Storm Prediction Center has put much of Oklahoma in its High Risk region for severe weather today, warning that "The setup appears most favorable for large, relatively slow moving intense storms with large hail. A couple strong tornadoes also may occur."

I'll be back with a new post Thursday morning.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting kmanislander:
I remember reading the first Dune novels and wondering what the spice would be like. Of course, I was about 15 then LOL


The Pon-fire years were kinda experimental here in NOLA as well..

the 70's were phun.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127543
The Fremen have a saying: every faintly evil thought must be put aside immediately before it takes root.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127543
I remember reading the first Dune novels and wondering what the spice would be like. Of course, I was about 15 then LOL
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Quoting tomas5tex:


FYI:

In a paper presented at the 2000 Ocean Sciences Meeting in San Antonio, Texas, and titled Estimates of Total Hydrocarbon Seepage into the Gulf of Mexico Based on Satellite Remote Sensing Images, one researcher estimated that 500,000 barrels of oil seep into the Gulf each year, twice the result of the Exxon Valdez spill.

Thats less than 1500 gal per day.
Sounds low, actually, when you think about it. In the entire GOM.
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24023
Quoting Patrap:


Naw..I just Like the Dune quote wiki page..LOL


Ah, there we go. I feel much better now LOL
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Quoting kmanislander:
Hey Pat,

You seem different this year, a study in introspection perhaps ?.


Naw..I just Like the Dune quote wiki page..LOL
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127543
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Quoting Patrap:
No matter how exotic human civilization becomes, no matter the developments of life and society nor the complexity of the machine/human interface, there always come interludes of lonely power when the course of humankind, depends upon the relatively simple actions of single individuals.


Ok, you asked for it, but it is different this time :P

The Singularity
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8185
Hey Pat,

You seem different this year, a study in introspection perhaps ?.
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Quoting PcolaDan:


So is arsenic, carbon monoxide, strychnine, and snake venom. I don't suggest ingesting any of it though. And oh yea SO2 comes from the earth too. This is a serious issue, how serious we really don't know yet. And yes there will be some panic and bad information. But there is a whole state whose shores could potentially be affected. If it was a regular thing happening, well, tourism wouldn't be so big here then. But it's not normal and lives have been disrupted and jobs already in jeopardy. We need to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
Dis is a good un.
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There's no secret to balance. You just have to feel the waves.


Darwi Odrade
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127543
Quoting pottery:

Interesting. But I would imagine that the percentages would have changed in the 15 years since.
I think (I hope) that 'down the drain', 'Bilging' etc would have reduced with all the recent information and awareness.
Would be fun to find an updated study.


FYI:

In a paper presented at the 2000 Ocean Sciences Meeting in San Antonio, Texas, and titled Estimates of Total Hydrocarbon Seepage into the Gulf of Mexico Based on Satellite Remote Sensing Images, one researcher estimated that 500,000 barrels of oil seep into the Gulf each year, twice the result of the Exxon Valdez spill.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Beneath the world-in its rocks, its dirt and sedimentary overlays-there you find the planets memory, the complete analog of its existence,its ecological memory. Pardot Kines, An Arrakis Primer
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498. DEKRE
Quoting aspectre:
400 DEKRE "Diesel fuel doesn't form tar balls in 5 days"

Diesel doesn't form tarballs at all (unless ya sequester it deep underground for a sufficient amount of geological time....or crack it and chemically convert it).
As far as ship fuels, it'd take something like bunker oil to create tarballs; which are made mostly of the greases, waxes, resins, and asphaltenes found in the heavier fractions of crude oil.

You are perfectly right, I should have said : Nothing forms tar balls in 5 days.
Member Since: April 27, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 306
Quoting pottery:

Since 10th May, 35mm (about 1.4"). The mountains along the north of the island got 6 or 7 inches in the same period.

Cool, as your rainy season starts, mine is about to end in North TX (Arlington, TX)
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
495. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
I wonder what the strongest La Nina we know about was.


I think it was OND 1955..
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 161 Comments: 37336
494. DEKRE
Quoting WaterWitch11:


how long does the transition take?


This depends on the origin, the thicker the original oil, the faster - with a light crude as you generally find in the GOM - several weeks. My personal experience is with cold water spills only - five weeks is not enough
Member Since: April 27, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 306
Quoting Bordonaro:

Told ya', told ya', told ya' it was going to rain :o). How much rain have you received?

Since 10th May, 35mm (about 1.4"). The mountains along the north of the island got 6 or 7 inches in the same period.
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24023
ok, thanks ya'll. So we sit and wait.

skye, I'd like to see the comparison data, base-line analysis, heck I'd like to do some good old fashioned coplin-jar gas chromatography on those tarballs myself.

Musta come from Mars I guess. Maybe they'll let CBS see the data, hahahaha
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No matter how exotic human civilization becomes, no matter the developments of life and society nor the complexity of the machine/human interface, there always come interludes of lonely power when the course of humankind, depends upon the relatively simple actions of single individuals.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127543
Quoting hercj:

I am loving this. Has everyone forgotten that oil comes from the earth. It is a NATURAL substance. As a fellow Aggie keep after it.


So is arsenic, carbon monoxide, strychnine, and snake venom. I don't suggest ingesting any of it though. And oh yea SO2 comes from the earth too. This is a serious issue, how serious we really don't know yet. And yes there will be some panic and bad information. But there is a whole state whose shores could potentially be affected. If it was a regular thing happening, well, tourism wouldn't be so big here then. But it's not normal and lives have been disrupted and jobs already in jeopardy. We need to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Patrap:
Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. But the real universe is always one step beyond logic.


No singularity stuff, I could not sleep for days after the last round :)
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8185
Quoting DestinJeff:
Great ... Kman and StSimonds are both on. I am so confused with the matching avatars!


Are you kidding ??. I would never take my shirt off in front of this crowd !!
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2nd week of June?? We're liable to have run outta names by then!!

ok, thank you for the answers...at least there's 2 bloggers left that ain't iggied me yet! :)
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Major damage just reported near the town of Brady, OK, multi-vortex tornado, major tree damage :0(!!!!

KFOR-TV OKC, OK met said that about 12-14 tornadoes in OK today.
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
Quoting aquak9:
Lord'a'mercy, how many iggy lists am I on?

1. When was the NOAA update supposed to come out?

2. When WILL it come out?
Now who would ignore a nice lady like you? Nobody here I bet. I,m not sure when it was supposed to be released, but I think someone said May 27.
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Quoting aquak9:
Lord'a'mercy, how many iggy lists am I on?

1. When was the NOAA update supposed to come out?

2. When WILL it come out?


Er, um, I saw several posts a while back to the effect that it was delayed a few days due to some conference or other being moved from Washington to Miami or the other way around. Not sure which but if you go back a ways the answer is there LOL.
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I dont think they have a release date,but I hear tell the second week of June aquaK9
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127543
480. Skyepony (Mod)
DEKRE~How long does it take Marine diesel fuel to turn to tarballs in the ocean? The only research paper I see is $31.50 to view, not sure it has the answer either. NOAA describes the process of the lighter gases evaporating, which from chemistry class & leaving a can a gas open seems like can happen pretty quick..chocolate like goo left seems at the mercy of the waves to get broke up.. a smaller spill, lighter fuel, just had that low spin up just off the SE on the Gulf stream before it blew N..

I'm a little disturbed how little research has been done on these tarballs.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 161 Comments: 37336
Quoting aquak9:
Lord'a'mercy, how many iggy lists am I on?

1. When was the NOAA update supposed to come out?

2. When WILL it come out?
Not sure when it was supposed to but have seen posts saying May 27.
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Quoting pottery:

Yeah! It certainly did. Everything is green and pretty again. Except for the plants that didnt make it... Going nto have to replant big sections of the lawn too. Some amazing weeds coming up there, where the grass used to be. Oh, Well!

Told ya', told ya', told ya' it was going to rain :o). How much rain have you received?
Member Since: August 25, 2009 Posts: 20 Comments: 6785
Very deep and strong convection erupting near that LOW on the yucatan coastline..

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Quoting pottery:

Yeah! It certainly did. Everything is green and pretty again. Except for the plants that didnt make it... Going nto have to replant big sections of the lawn too. Some amazing weeds coming up there, where the grass used to be. Oh, Well!
Gitter done! :)
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Lord'a'mercy, how many iggy lists am I on?

1. When was the NOAA update supposed to come out?

2. When WILL it come out?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. But the real universe is always one step beyond logic.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127543
Quoting DestinJeff:


i didn't mean in this case specifically. in general, "next week" seems to promise big things


ah ok lol

maybe cuz reality in the current state sucks so bad, so we always look to next week for bigger and better things lol
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Quoting kmanislander:


No kidding but we still need a lot more. All it did was "spit" in South Sound of and on today. Maybe tomorrow, who knows.
.25" in
East End but still spraying off and on. At least I can go one day without watering the plants. I told my husband this morning that if the models keep predicting something to form a week or two in advance sooner or later it will happen.
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Quoting Hurricanes101:


but its not, the models have generally tabbed the week of May 20th-27th as the week for a storms formation


That starts tomorrow then.
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Quoting hydrus:
Did your Calabash tree finally get a big drink of watah Pott?

Yeah! It certainly did. Everything is green and pretty again. Except for the plants that didnt make it... Going nto have to replant big sections of the lawn too. Some amazing weeds coming up there, where the grass used to be. Oh, Well!
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24023
Quoting nweatherlover:

That's just about ready to blast through my neck of the woods. What is an occluded low? I know they said we are gonna get some good winds.


An occluded low defines the last stages of an extratropical cyclone's life. At this point, the cold front, which moves very quickly, overtakes the warm front which moves very slowly.

As a result, the cold front overtakes the warm front and lifts it aloft. So you have warm air rising twice - air that was rising above the cold front and air that was rising above the warm front.

This can produce heavy rains than otherwise. It also creates very deep pressures due to double rising airs. The deeper the pressures, the tighter the gradient and the stronger the winds.

It is no surprise that you guys are in for blustery winds.

Eventually the cold air wraps all the way around and the cyclone dies.
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Quoting Patrap:
..The Harkonen's can stop the flow..

It must flow..

Iracus is doomed
The Universe operates on a basic principle of economics: Everything has its cost. We pay to create our future, We pay for the mistakes of the past. We pay for every change we make...and we pay just as dearly if we refuse to change. Guild Bank Annals, Philosophical Register
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Quoting stormwatcherCI:
Soon come yeah but at least we are getting a little rain. Thankful for that.


No kidding but we still need a lot more. All it did was "spit" in South Sound of and on today. Maybe tomorrow, who knows.
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Quoting kmanislander:


In the Caribbean we call it " soon come "
Soon come yeah but at least we are getting a little rain. Thankful for that.
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Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21091
A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct. This every sister of the Bene Gesserit knows. To begin your study of the life of Muad'Dib, then take care that you first place him in his time: born in the 57th year of the Padishah Emperor, Shaddam IV. And take the most special care that you locate Muad'Dib in his place: the planet Arrakis. Do not be deceived by the fact that he was born on Caladan and lived his first fifteen years there. Arrakis, the planet known as Dune, is forever his place.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127543
461. auburn (Mod)
Heavy oil hits Louisiana shore
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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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