Loop Current Eddy cuts off; oil danger to Keys now greatly reduced

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:24 PM GMT on May 28, 2010

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A major ocean current re-alignment is underway the Gulf of Mexico right now, and the new configuration that is developing greatly reduces the threat of oil entering the Loop Current and affecting the Florida Keys and U.S. East Coast. As I explain in my Loop Current Primer, the Loop Current is an ocean current that transports warm Caribbean water through the Yucatan Channel between Cuba and Mexico. The current flows northward into the Gulf of Mexico, then loops southeastward just south of the Florida Keys (where it is called the Florida Current), and past the western Bahamas. Here, the waters of the Loop Current flow northward along the U.S. coast and become the Gulf Stream. With current speeds of about 0.8 m/s, the Loop Current is one of the fastest currents in the Atlantic Ocean. Every 6 - 11 months, the top bulge of the Loop Current cuts off, forming a 250-mile diameter circular eddy in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. This clockwise-spinning eddy is filled with warm water from the Loop Current, and is called a Loop Current Eddy. The main body of the Loop Current then takes a fairly direct eastward path from the Yucatan Channel to the Florida Keys.

Over the past two days, surface currents in the Gulf of Mexico have aligned to form a Loop Current Eddy, as seen in the analysis of surface currents done by the U.S. Navy (Figure 1, and see also a 30-day animation of the eddy forming.) It remains to be seen if the deep water currents have followed suit, and a stable Loop Current Eddy cannot exist until the deep water currents also cut off into a clockwise-rotating ring of water at depth. A NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft is out over the Gulf of Mexico today dropping expendable buoys and current probes to determine if a stable Loop Current Eddy has formed. Roffer's Ocean Fishing Forecast Service has a nice discussion on the Loop Current Eddy formation.


Figure 1. Comparison of surface currents in the Gulf of Mexico on May 19 (top) and May 27 (bottom) as simulated by the HYCOM model. On May 19, the Loop Current made a large northward loop into the Gulf, and was able to transport oil from the near the spill location southwards through the Keys. By May 27, this loop had cut off, and new oil moving southwards from the spill will now be trapped in the clockwise rotating Loop Current Eddy that is cut off from the Loop Current. Note on the west side of the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Texas, there is an old Loop Current Eddy that cut off from the Loop Current in July 2009. This eddy cut off in the same location as this week's eddy, and has drifted west-southwestward at 3 - 5 km per day over the past ten months. Image credit: U.S. Navy.

If the eddy does remain in place, it will greatly reduce the chances of oil making it to Cuba, the Florida Keys, and beyond. Any oil moving southwards from the spill location will now become entrained in the eddy, and will move in a 250 mile-wide clockwise circle in the east-central Gulf of Mexico. A small portion the oil will get shed away from the eddy's periphery and make it into the Loop Current and waters surrounding the eddy, but the concentrations of oil doing so will be small. Keep in mind, though, that during the first 1 - 2 months that a Loop Current Eddy forms, it is common for the eddy to exchange substantial amounts of water with the Loop Current, and in some cases get re-absorbed into the Loop Current. A 1-year animation of the Loop Current shows that the last Loop Current Eddy, which cut off in mid-July 2009, experienced a 2-week period in early August when it re-attached to the Loop Current. A significant portion of any oil entering the eddy during a period of re-attachment will be able to enter the Loop Current and flow past the Keys.

One bad result of the eddy breaking off is that now we have an extra source of heat energy for passing hurricanes during the upcoming hurricane season. Loop Current eddies have high-temperature water that extends to great depth, and hurricanes passing over such eddies often undergo rapid intensification. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita of 2005 both underwent rapid intensification as they passed over warm Loop Current eddies in 2005. The formation of a Loop Current Eddy during hurricane season means that a much greater portion of the Gulf of Mexico has deep, warm water capable of fueling rapid intensification of hurricanes.

Oil spill update
Light offshore northwesterly winds are expected to blow over the northern Gulf of Mexico today through Saturday, resulting decreased threats of oil to the Louisiana shore, according to the latest trajectory forecasts from NOAA. These offshore winds may be able to transport oil southwards into the Loop Current Eddy that just formed; a streamer of oil moving southeastward into the Loop Current Eddy is visible in yesterday's NASA MODIS imagery (Figure 2). Winds will shift to onshore out of the south on Saturday night, then shift to southwesterly by Tuesday. The long-range forecast from the GFS model indicates continued southwesterly winds all of next week. If this forecast verifies, we will see our greatest chances yet of significant amounts of oil reaching the beaches of Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida Panhandle.


Figure 2. Visible satellite image of the Gulf of Mexico taken at 2:55pm EDT Thursday May 27, 2010, by the MODIS instrument on NASA's Aqua satellite. Thin streaks of oil can be seen moving southeast and then southwest around the eastern side of the new Loop Current Eddy. Image credit: NASA.

Oil spill resources
My post, What a hurricane would do the Deepwater Horizon oil spill
My post Wednesday with answers to some of the common questions I get about the spill
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
Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery from the University of Miami

Central American disturbance
The Atlantic is currently quiet, with none of our reliable global forecast models predicting tropical cyclone development over the next 6 days. There is an area of disturbed weather (90E) just off the Pacific coast of Mexico that will be a major concern for southern Mexico and much of Central America over the next 3 - 4 days. The disturbance will bring heavy rains to Central America during the weekend, potentially bringing serious flooding rains to portions of Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. NHC is giving the disturbance a high (>60% chance) of the disturbance developing into a tropical depression by Sunday. Wunderbloggers Weather456 and StormW have more on the tropics.


Figure 3. Satellite image of the Central American disturbance 90E this morning.

Join the "Hurricane Haven" with Dr. Jeff Masters: a new Internet radio show
Beginning next week, I'll be experimenting with a live 1-hour Internet radio show called "Hurricane Haven." The show will be aired at 4pm EDT on Tuesdays, with the first show June 1. Listeners will be able to call in and ask questions. Some topics I'll cover on the first show:

1) What's going on in the tropics right now
2) Preview of the coming hurricane season
3) How a hurricane might affect the oil spill
4) How the oil spill might affect a hurricane
5) New advancements in hurricane science presented at this month's AMS Conference on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology
6) Haiti's vulnerability to a hurricane this season

I hope you can tune in to the broadcast, which will be at http://www.wunderground.com/wxradio/wubroadcast.h tml. If not, the show will be recorded and stored as a podcast.

I'll be back with at least one update over the coming 3-day Memorial Day weekend. Have a great holiday!

Jeff Masters

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Quoting Jeff9641:
This for stillwaiting. Likely rain chances this weekend as I was told I was making up rain chances.

AREA FORECAST DISCUSSION
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE TAMPA BAY RUSKIN FL
119 PM EDT FRI MAY 28 2010

.SHORT TERM (TONIGHT THROUGH SUNDAY)...UPPER TROUGHINESS TO HOLD OVER
THE AREA AS SHORTWAVE DROPS INTO THE DEEP SOUTH AND SPINS SERIES
OF VORTICITY MAXES OVER THE AREA THIS AFTERNOON THROUGH THE WEEKEND.
WEAK SURFACE LOW PRESSURE SYSTEM CURRENTLY OVER THE DEEP SOUTH AND
IN THE NORTHEASTERN GULF OF MEXICO TO APPROACH THE AREA THIS WEEKEND
AS MEAN LAYER MOISTURE CONTINUES TO INCREASE. UPPER ENERGY AND
SUPPORT COMBINED WITH COLLIDING BAY AND SEA BREEZES FROM THE ATLANTIC
AND GULF COAST FOR HIGH END CHANCE POPS ALONG THE COAST AND LIKELY
POPS INLAND ESPECIALLY SATURDAY
. SOUTHERN COASTAL POPS ARE EXPECTED
TO BE 30 AND 40 PERCENT. ON SATURDAY AND SUNDAY RAINFALL TOTALS TO
EXCEED A QUARTER OF AN INCH AREAWIDE INLAND WITH LOCALLY 1-2+
INCH AMOUNTS UNDER SLOW MOVING STORMS
. SURFACE WINDS WILL REMAIN
5-10 KNOTS FOR THE REST OF TODAY AND INTO THE WEEKEND AS TEMPERATURES
ARE EXPECTED TO STAY NORMAL FOR THE SEASON.


Oh my you predicted possible strong storms, over Florida at the end of May?

Wow you should win a Nobel Prize *rolls eyes*
Member Since: March 10, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 7397
Quoting Jeff9641:
This for stillwaiting. Likely rain chances this weekend as I was told I was making up rain chances.

AREA FORECAST DISCUSSION
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE TAMPA BAY RUSKIN FL
119 PM EDT FRI MAY 28 2010

.SHORT TERM (TONIGHT THROUGH SUNDAY)...UPPER TROUGHINESS TO HOLD OVER
THE AREA AS SHORTWAVE DROPS INTO THE DEEP SOUTH AND SPINS SERIES
OF VORTICITY MAXES OVER THE AREA THIS AFTERNOON THROUGH THE WEEKEND.
WEAK SURFACE LOW PRESSURE SYSTEM CURRENTLY OVER THE DEEP SOUTH AND
IN THE NORTHEASTERN GULF OF MEXICO TO APPROACH THE AREA THIS WEEKEND
AS MEAN LAYER MOISTURE CONTINUES TO INCREASE. UPPER ENERGY AND
SUPPORT COMBINED WITH COLLIDING BAY AND SEA BREEZES FROM THE ATLANTIC
AND GULF COAST FOR HIGH END CHANCE POPS ALONG THE COAST AND LIKELY
POPS INLAND ESPECIALLY SATURDAY
. SOUTHERN COASTAL POPS ARE EXPECTED
TO BE 30 AND 40 PERCENT. ON SATURDAY AND SUNDAY RAINFALL TOTALS TO
EXCEED A QUARTER OF AN INCH AREAWIDE INLAND WITH LOCALLY 1-2+
INCH AMOUNTS UNDER SLOW MOVING STORMS
. SURFACE WINDS WILL REMAIN
5-10 KNOTS FOR THE REST OF TODAY AND INTO THE WEEKEND AS TEMPERATURES
ARE EXPECTED TO STAY NORMAL FOR THE SEASON.
Dang it i wanted to enjoy the pool this weekend ah well
Member Since: April 8, 2010 Posts: 15 Comments: 2572
354. IKE
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
IKE, what's your location? Do you live in NOLA?


Panhandle of Florida.


Quoting FIU2010:
Those are horrific numbers, thoughts, Ike? Should we believe the ECMWF numbers, Levi?


It did a lousy job with 90L. It's been a good model in the past. It seems believable.
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Quoting Levi32:


ECMWF is king of the tropics, and many other things for that matter. At the hurricane conference last month the NHC said it had the highest skill scores over all the other models in the tropics for the past 3 years in a row.


Beats TVCN by about 5% on skill, and thats with the ECMWF interpolated from the previous 12 hours at 00Z and 12Z, interpolated 18 hours for the 06Z and 18Z runs.
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Quoting FIU2010:
Nope, Ikster is from the panhandle.
Oh!
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348. Skyepony (Mod)
Wow the 12ZCMC..that would be a season opener..

Lastnight CMC had done about 4th something like 61nm off for the day, LGEM was 2nd, Ukmet in the lead (41nm) ..maybe it was AVNO that was 3rd. Models on the 1st day runs did way better with 90E than even after days of running on 90L which none could ever seem to quite grasp.
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IKE, what's your location? Do you live in NOLA?
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Obama inspects beach threatened by Gulf oil spill



By DARLENE SUPERVILLE, Associated Press Writer Darlene Superville, Associated Press Writer – 24 mins ago

GRAND ISLE, La. – Intent on showing firm command of a deepening Gulf Coast crisis, President Barack Obama kneeled on a Lousiana beach Friday and lamented livelihoods and wildlife imperiled by America's largest-ever oil spill.

He flew to the Gulf Coast amid a rising crescendo of criticism as crude continued to spew into nature after an oil rig exploded and sank April 20. Amid fears the tragedy could also engulf his presidency, Obama has launched a campaign to step up public engagement and directly confront the public's anger.

That frustration — and skepticism about the presidential visit — was palpable here in Grand Isle, a small barrier island town south of New Orleans.

"It's a dog and pony show. What can he really do?" said Billy Ward, 53, who comes to his beach house here every weekend. "If he wants to do something, let him get out there and pump some mud and cement into that hole. Just fix it. Help us."

On Thursday, Obama held a rare White House news conference to address the matter, saying "I take responsibility" for handling what is now considered the biggest oil spill in U.S. history.

And on Friday, he interrupted a Memorial Day weekend stay with his family at their Chicago home for the Gulf visit, with his first stop a beach where absorbent booms and sandbags have been laid for miles to try to keep more oil from washing ashore.

No oil could be seen in the water during Obama's helicopter ride from New Orleans, over Louisiana bayous, to Port Fourchon down the coast from Grand Isle.

That changed when he arrived at Fourchon Beach, however.

A shirt-sleeved Obama walked to the water's edge, stooping as Adm. Thad Allen of the Coast Guard explained what he was seeing.

The beach, sealed off with crime-scene-style yellow tape, is one of the few sandy stretches on Louisiana's coast, where most is marshland. Obama called reporters traveling with him to the water's edge and picked up a few pebble-sized tar balls. No other oil was visible.

"These are the tarballs that they're talking about," he said. "You can actually send out teams to pick up as they wash on shore.

He added, "Obviously the concern is that, until we actually stop the flow, we've got problems."

After about 15 minutes at the beach, the president headed to Grand Isle for a formal briefing from Allen, who is overseeing the spill response for the federal government. At intervals along the way were handwritten wooden signs stuck in the sand with "BEACH CLOSED" in black block letters. One woman held up a sign saying "Clean Up the Gulf" while two people played guitar and sang.

Obama was joined by the governors of Louisiana, Florida and Alabama. He was spending a total of about three hours in the region.

Early in the morning in advance of the president's arrival, hundreds of workers clad in white jump suits and rubber gloves hit the beaches to dig oily debris from the sand and haul it off. Workers refused to say who hired them, telling a reporter only they were told to keep quiet or lose their jobs.

BP PLC is using what is called a "top kill" procedure to try to stop the leak by pumping in heavy mud. If it doesn't work, something BP says will be known within a couple days, Obama's political problems will only compound.

On Thursday, Obama acknowledged his administration could have done a better job on several fronts. They included misjudging the industry's ability to handle a worst-case scenario, not moving sooner to end "cozy and sometimes corrupt" relations between the oil industry and government regulators, and not getting a better estimate on the amount of oil gushing from the broken well.

He spoke in sometimes personal terms about his ownership of the crisis.

"I take responsibility. It is my job to make sure that everything is done to shut this down," Obama said. "This is what I wake up to in the morning, and this is what I go to bed at night thinking about."

But locals suffering the effects of the oil that is soiling birds and darkening beaches didn't see much coming from Obama's visit.

A frustrated Larry Freman, 72, who was cleaning up around his vacation home on Grand Isle's main drag, usually packed with tourists for the holiday, said Obama should have stayed home.

"He's wasting his time," the oil business veteran said.

Ward, a developer from Port Allen, was in the midst of building a gated fishing community here when the oil rig exploded. "We can't build this development not knowing if there's going to be any fishing here ever again," he said. "We don't know if it's gonna be six months or six years before we get back to normal, if ever."

Virginia Smith, 36, wasn't impressed.

"I like the man, but I personally feel he's only here to please everybody," she said. "He's not here to make any changes."

In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the government was still evaluating offers from 17 countries and organizations for such things as technical expertise and equipment. The Coast Guard hasn't yet accepted any of the foreign help, but BP has accepted booms and skimmers from Mexico and Norway.

___

Associated Press writers Brian Skoloff, Mary Foster and Kevin McGill along Louisiana's coast and Matt Lee in Washington contributed to this report.
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345. myway
Quoting WaterWitch11:
please tell me obama is going to visit other areas other than grand isle?!?


Flew from NOLA to Port Fourchon LA. About 75 miles as the blackhawk flies.
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Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


Ya :( ECMWF has been pretty good the last few years at seasonal prediction.


ECMWF is king of the tropics, and many other things for that matter. At the hurricane conference last month the NHC said it had the highest skill scores over all the other models in the tropics for the past 3 years in a row.
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Quoting IKE:
See what the 12Z ECMWF shows when it comes out within an hour. See if it shows anything in the GOM.
I think it will show something in the western Caribbean, not the GOM.
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Quoting IKE:


:(


Ya :( ECMWF has been pretty good the last few years at seasonal prediction.
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341. IKE
See what the 12Z ECMWF shows when it comes out within an hour. See if it shows anything in the GOM.
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XtremeStormJunkies Update:

The full-scale portable power test of the live severe webcam is now at 3 hours with no interruption in any service.

All bluetooth devices, which are operating on their own, internal batteries are still functioning well.

The webcam system (computer, cell phone, and wireless 3G broadband card) are still fully operational and running off the "main batt."

You can see the progress of this full-scale portable power test by going to our media call-out URL of 7674u.com
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Quoting Levi32:


Those wind-speeds are at 900hpa. The surface equivalent is 48 knots, or 55mph.
My bad, I missed that.
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.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
12z HWRF makes it a rather intense system in 30 hours, typical.

It makes 90E a CAT 1. hurricane.



I doubt that that model always blows systems up.
Member Since: April 8, 2010 Posts: 15 Comments: 2572
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
12z HWRF makes it a rather intense system in 30 hours, typical.

It makes 90E a CAT 1. hurricane.





Those wind-speeds are at 900hpa. The surface equivalent is 48 knots, or 55mph.
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HWRF something over the extreme western Caribbea/Yucatan and into the GOM. Potentially a piece of energy from 90E:

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90E iz in 30-32C SSt's so thats a reasonable forecast
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12z HWRF makes it a rather intense system in 30 hours, typical.

It makes 90E a 55MPH TS.



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Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


As with most ECMWF data. You can look at their forecast numbers for last year though.
Typical. I saw last years prediction already.
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Quoting Jeff9641:


Those are old models from 2AM Levi atleast most of them are.


90E hasn't moved, and if it has moved it's been closer to the models not farther away so the errors are still true. They were far more pronounced yesterday. Better this morning. 12z GFDL initialized very well.
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12z HMWF doesn't take 90E across but does take it to the coast and kills it, over the mountains it appears.
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Quoting Levi32:


Yes and because of that they are much closer than they were yesterday, but still a bit off. The center is elongated to the NE which may be why they have been initializing over there, but they initialized in the same spot yesterday when 90E was even farther west.


I have the center near 12.7N 95.3W
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Quoting IKE:


:(
If you split it down the middle, that means we will get 23 named storms. That would make 2010 the second most active hurricane season in history (In the Atlantic, of course).
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kuppensup; sadly yes they would

but 1 named storm will not happen, this season will be very active.
Member Since: March 10, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 7397
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
You need a password and username to enter.


As with most ECMWF data. You can look at their forecast numbers for last year though.
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Now at 70%.

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Quoting Hurricanes101:


I agree with that lol

I was trying to breakdown my 19 named storm prediction

I was like 2 in June, 4 in July, 6 in August, 5 in September; hmmmmm ok that is 17 so only 2 more, but wait October and November has to have more than 2 named storms lol

You would be surprised how quickly the numbers add up when you expect activity in all months


What if we fizzled out this yr and only had 1 named storm the entire Hurricane Season. Do you think a lot of people on this Blog would be dissapointed?
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321. IKE
Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


18-28 NS


:(
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Quoting Drakoen:


Doesn't seem that way to me. Looks like it has been slowly drifting eastward from that spot


Yes and because of that they are much closer than they were yesterday, but still a bit off. The center is elongated to the NE which may be why they have been initializing over there, but they initialized in the same spot yesterday when 90E was even farther west.
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Quoting IKE:


No. I was busy....what is it saying?


18-28 NS
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Quoting fsumet:
I just wanted to say what I found interesting from the hurricane conference a little while ago.

The number of storms that is being forecast from the ECMWF is 18-28 with 260-312% ACE.
The UKMET also was 16-25 if I remember correctly, the ACE was also up to 312%. I don't remember the lower range but it was over 200% as well.


Wow...312%?
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Quoting scott39:
Will wind shear kill 90E if it gets in the Southern GOM?


Likely yes.
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Gulf Oil Spill

Some news is so Big it needs its own page
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Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


No link, post #74 of this blog. If I remember correctly, that handle has provided verified information in the past.

ECMWF has been doing seasonal forecasts for several years now. WMO has set up a website

You need a password and username to enter.
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Quoting FIU2010:



YES, of course ike, the cmc is extremely accurate.
I hope you were being sarcastic.
Member Since: April 8, 2010 Posts: 15 Comments: 2572
Quoting Levi32:
Model initializations of 90E versus satellite-based center (blue dot).

They are still a bit off to the northeast.



Doesn't seem that way to me. Looks like it has been slowly drifting eastward from that spot
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Quoting alexhurricane1991:
Yeah your right just want to give him a chance to explain himself but i guess thats not going to work wow not even in hurricane season and we already have this unreal.


Oh, alex, give it a month...it'll be freakling pandaemonium in here
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310. IKE
TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
1100 AM PDT FRI MAY 28 2010

FOR THE EASTERN NORTH PACIFIC...EAST OF 140 DEGREES WEST LONGITUDE..

SATELLITE IMAGES INDICATE THAT THE BROAD AREA OF LOW PRESSURE
LOCATED A COUPLE HUNDRED MILES SOUTH OF THE GULF OF TEHUANTEPEC IS
GRADUALLY BECOMING BETTER ORGANIZED.
ONSHORE WINDS TO THE EAST OF
THE DISTURBANCE CONTINUE TO PRODUCE LOCALLY HEAVY RAINS FROM EL
SALVADOR WESTWARD ALONG THE PACIFIC COAST TO NEAR THE GULF OF
TEHUANTEPEC. THESE RAINS COULD CAUSE LIFE-THREATENING FLASH FLOODS
AND MUD SLIDES IN THESE AREAS OVER THE NEXT COUPLE OF DAYS.
ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS ARE FAVORABLE FOR FURTHER DEVELOPMENT...
AND A TROPICAL DEPRESSION COULD FORM LATER TODAY OR SATURDAY AS IT
DRIFTS NORTHEASTWARD. THERE IS A HIGH CHANCE...70 PERCENT...OF THIS
SYSTEM BECOMING A TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS.

ELSEWHERE...TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION IS NOT EXPECTED DURING THE
NEXT 48 HOURS.

$$
FORECASTER BROWN/STEWART
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Quoting Levi32:
Model initializations of 90E versus satellite-based center (blue dot).

They are still a bit off to the northeast.

Will wind shear kill 90E if it gets in the Southern GOM?
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Quoting Drakoen:


Link please


No link, post #74 of this blog. If I remember correctly, that handle has provided verified information in the past.

ECMWF has been doing seasonal forecasts for several years now. WMO has set up a website

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Quoting Drakoen:


Western Caribbean then GOM. It pushes it straight into the subtropical jet stream while the CMC has it riding along it.
Oh yeah I see it. It just looked too weak so I really didn't bother of thinking of it as a possibility.
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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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