Alex continues to slowly organize

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 7:17 PM GMT on June 28, 2010

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Tropical Storm Alex continues to slowly grow more organized as it steams away from Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. Satellite loops show that Alex's heavy thunderstorms continue to increase in areal extent, and low level spirals bands are slowly building to the south and north. The clockwise flow around an upper-level high pressure system a few hundred miles west of Alex is bringing about 15 knots of wind shear to the storm, which is slowing intensification. Heavy thunderstorm activity is limited on the storm's northwest side, thanks to the shear and some dry continental air flowing off the coast of North America. Sea Surface Temperatures are very warm, 29°C. The latest Hurricane Hunter center fix, at 12:07 pm CDT, showed a central pressures of 990 mb, a 1 mb rise in six hours. Top winds were holding steady near 60 mph. Alex has stalled out the last few hours, as it began to "feel" the trough of low pressure to its north breaking down the high pressure ridge that has been pushing the storm to the west-northwest. This stall has allowed the storm to churn up cold water from the depths, which is probably interfering with development. Satellite loops show that Alex has a very large circulation covering about 2/3 of the Gulf of Mexico. We can expect that should Alex become a Category 2 or stronger hurricane, its storm surge will affect a much wider stretch of coast than Hurricane Dolly of 2008 did.


Figure 1. Afternoon satellite image of Alex.

Track forecast for Alex
The latest 12 UTC (7am CDT) runs of our most reliable computer models have come into much better agreement. A consensus forecast arrived at by averaging together most or all of the tracks of our top models--the GFS, ECMWF, GFDL, NOGAPS, HWRF, UKMET, and GFDN--is pretty much what NHC always uses as the basis of their forecast. This consensus forecast has narrowed in on the region just south of the Texas/Mexico border as being the most likely landfall location, with the usual cone of uncertainty surrounding it. The computer model that had been making the northernmost landfall predictions, the Canadian model, is now projecting a landfall 100 miles south of the Texas/Mexico border. There has been a general southward shift of the models in their latest runs, and the most northerly landfall location, near Port Mansfield, is now being predicted by the HWRF model. The earliest landfall time is Wednesday morning, and the latest is Thursday morning. Which model should you trust? Last year, the best performing models at the 3 day forecast period were the GFS, Canadian, ECMWF, and GFDL.

With steering currents relatively weak, the uncertainty in landfall location is high. The average error in an NHC 72-hour track forecast last year was 230 miles, which is about the distance from Brownsville to Port O'Connor. Consider also that the NHC cone of uncertainty is the region where 2/3 of the time (using the last 5 years of statistics) the center of a storm will go. Forecast errors tend to be equally large along track (speed errors) and cross-track (deviations from side-to-side), so that means that about 20% of the time a storm will not be in the cone of uncertainty. Given the slow motion of Alex and the recent uncertainty of the computer models, people living just beyond the edge of the cone of uncertainty should not be confident yet that Alex will miss them.

To get the probability of receiving tropical storm force winds or hurricane force winds for your location, I recommend the NHC wind probability forecasts. The 10am CDT (15 UTC) wind probability product predicted that Brownsville, Texas had the highest odds of getting a direct hit from Alex:

Brownsville, TX: 67% chance of tropical storm conditions (winds 39+ mph), 16% chance of hurricane force winds (74+ mph). This is the cumulative probability through Saturday morning. The wind probability forecasts also include separate probabilities for each 12-hour period between now and three days from now, and each 24 hours for the period 4 - 5 days from now.

La Pesco, MX: 49% tropical storm, 6% hurricane.

Tampico, MX: 31% tropical storm, 4% hurricane.

Corpus Christi, TX: 45% tropical storm, 6% hurricane.

Freeport, TX: 23% tropical storm, 2% hurricane.

Galveston, TX: 21% tropical storm, 1% hurricane.


Figure 2. Skill of computer model forecasts of Atlantic named storms during 2009. OFCL=Official NHC forecast; GFS=Global Forecast System model; GFDL=Geophysical Fluid Dynamic Laboratory model; HWRF=Hurricane Weather Research Forecasting model; NOGAPS=Navy Operational Global Prediction System model; UKMET+United Kingdom Met Office model; ECMWF=European Center for Medium Range Weather Forecasting model; CMC=Canadian GEM model; TVCN=one of the consensus models that lends together all (or most) of the above models; BAMM=Beta and Advection Model (Medium Layer.) Image credit: National Hurricane Center 2009 verification report.

Uncertainty in the NHC Cone of Uncertainty
A research project funded by NOAA known as the Joint Hurricane Testbed has produced a remarkable number of tools now in operational use at the National Hurricane Center to improve hurricane forecasts and warnings. One of these projects, called "Prediction of Consensus TC Track Forecast Error and Correctors to Improve Consensus TC Track Forecasts", was an effort by Dr. Jim Goerss at the Navy Research Lab to improve the accuracy of the NHC "cone of uncertainty" (AKA the "Cone of Death") showing where a storm is expected to track 2/3 of the time. The radius of the circles that make up the cone are based on error statistics of the official NHC forecast over the past five years. We can expect in certain situations, such as when the models are in substantial disagreement, a consensus forecast made using these models will have much greater than average errors. Since the NHC typically bases their forecast on a consensus forecast made using a combination of reliable hurricane forecasting models, it is instructive to view the "GPCE" (Goerss Prediction Consensus Error) circles to see if the uncertainty cone should be smaller or larger than usual. The consensus forecast I'll look at is called "TVCN", and is constructed by averaging the track forecasts made by most of (or all) of these models: GFS, ECMWF, NOGAPS, GFDL, HWRF, GFDN, and UKMET. In the case of this morning's 12 UTC (7am CDT) June 28 run of these models, here is what the radius of the "cone of uncertainty" should be, in nautical miles:

12 hours: 42 nm
24 hours: 73 nm
36 hours: 96 nm
48 hours: 112 nm
72 hours: 173 nm
96 hours: 327 nm
120 hours: 376 nm

And here is the radius of NHC's "cone of uncertainty" for their official forecast, based on the average errors for the past five years:

12 hours: 36 nm
24 hours: 62 nm
36 hours: 85 nm
48 hours: 108 nm
72 hours: 161 nm
96 hours: 220 nm
120 hours: 285 nm

So, the GPCE error estimates are showing that the latest forecasts for Alex out to 72 hours are 4% - 17% higher in uncertainty than average. The 4 - 5 day forecasts are 32% - 49% more uncertain than average--but of course, we expect Alex to be inland at those times.

Intensity forecast for Alex
Alex is currently over a region of ocean with relatively low total ocean heat content (about 10 - 30 kJ/cm^2). By Tuesday and Wednesday, the heat content will increase to 40 - 70 kJ/cm^2, which is high enough to allow Alex to rapidly intensify. Wind shear is currently a moderate 15 knots, and is projected by the SHIPS model to decrease to the low range, below 10 knots, on Tuesday and Wednesday. The combination of low wind shear and high ocean heat content should allow Alex to intensify into a hurricane. NHC is giving Alex a 78% chance of being a hurricane on Wednesday morning, and a 16% chance it will be a major hurricane at that time. Water vapor satellite images, though, show plenty of dry air over Texas and the adjoining waters, and this dry air may turn out to be a significant detriment to Alex. Another factor limiting Alex's intensification may be that the atmosphere is more stable than usual right now--temperatures at 200 mb are a rather warm -50°C, and are expected to warm an additional 1 - 2 degrees by Wednesday. Another factor limiting Alex's intensification may be its slow forward speed. Alex has already stalled out once, and may stall out later in its path, as well. A stalled-out storm tends to pull up cold water from the depths, limiting intensification. In short, Alex has the potential to intensify into a major hurricane, but there are enough roadblocks that I give a 20% chance of this happening.

Elsewhere in the tropics
None of the reliable computers models is calling for tropical storm formation over the the next seven days in the Atlantic.

Wind and ocean current forecast for the BP oil disaster
It currently appears that Alex will not directly affect the oil slick location, other than to bring 2 - 4 foot swells to the region on Wednesday. However, because Alex is such a deep low pressure region, strong southeast winds of 15 - 25 knots will blow over the oil slick region today through Wednesday, according to the latest marine forecast from NOAA. The resulting currents should act to push oil to the west and northwest onto portions of the Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama coasts, according to the latest trajectory forecasts from NOAA and the State of Louisiana. Oil will also move westward along the central Louisiana coast towards the Texas border.

Resources for the BP oil disaster
Map of oil spill location from the NOAA Satellite Services Division
My post, What a hurricane would do the Deepwater Horizon oil 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's interactive mapping tool to overlay wind and ocean current forecasts, oil locations, etc.
Gulf Oil Blog from the UGA Department of Marine Sciences
Oil Spill Academic Task Force
University of South Florida Ocean Circulation Group oil spill forecasts
ROFFS Deepwater Horizon page
Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery from the University of Miami

Portlight continues its Haiti response
Hurricane season is here, and Haiti is not ready. Over 1.5 million Haitians are living outside in tents or under tarps, and are highly vulnerable to a hurricane. Portlight is working on constructing steel shelters out of shipping containers for homeless Haitians, as detailed in the Haitian Relief Recap blog post. Please visit the Portlight.org web site or the Portlight blog to learn more and to donate to Portlight's efforts in Haiti.


Figure 3. Still frame from the remarkable video taken inside the Haitian Presidential Palace during the 2010 earthquake.

To remind people of just how devastating the earthquake was, the Haitian government released a video earlier this month showing the inside of the Haitian Presidential Palace during the mighty Haitian earthquake.

Next post
Dr. Rob Carver is planning on making a post late tonight, and I'll have an update by 9:30am CDT on Tuesday.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting CADZILLA:
Cantore is in Louisiana ... so Alex is going to Louisiana.


Do we have a model consensus and cone of death for Cantore? ;-)
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Quoting RecordSeason:
1618:

Wilmafication into Florida, just watch.


Do you think this could turn and come toward Florida?
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1655. MZV
Alex appears to have moved far enough north to allow room for a southern band to stay offshore. I think he's getting room to breathe and strengthen now.
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1654. xcool
Alex 20.7N & 91.5W
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1652. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting JamesSA:

Mountain height? The Yucatan is really flat... but that is an interesting view!


The right side of the brown is flat & the Yucatan the left is mountains south of there the blue on both ends is the 2 oceans.
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Evening all.

Thanks, nash, for being a voice of reason amongst the wildly gesticulating crowd....

Just took a look at IR and WV imagery, and I'm noting a slow, yet steady, drift towards the NNW since yesterday evening. I'm amazed that it's still over the continental shelf until I realize how little the centre has moved since this time on Sunday.

And Alex looks remarkably impressive nonetheless. I can only imagine what it will look like once it gets over some deeper water and away from the point where that ULH is blowing the tops off....
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Quoting JamesSA:
Convection is really building and wrapping around that dry west side now. I think this will be a very different looking storm in the morning.


Yeah. just saw that. He's winding up.
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1649. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting Randrewx:
Can I purchase the popcorn concession for this blog please?
This place is a real money maker.

well well well how are you
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 171 Comments: 53827
what are they finding in winds
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115085
Recon ain't done yet, they will probably go around for another run at the center.
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Quoting xcool:
Tazmanian .close cat 1 980 mb.) close not yet



oh
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115085
1645. GBguy88
Quoting bayoubug:
oh no jim cantore in venice, la.


Let's see if he stays there. I'd bet my soul that he moves at least a few times. The people need their candy, and Jim Cantore gets a fat salary to serve it up. Maybe they'll rig Stephanie Abrams from a pole so she can withstand 130mph rain to the face. I wish a lousy yet profitable TV network would pay me to do that.
Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 483
Quoting will45:

you have to have a blog i think not sure tho


Ok, I got it figured out. Thanks!
Member Since: August 14, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 67
1643. xcool
Tazmanian .close cat 1 980 mb.) close not yet
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1642. JamesSA
Quoting Skyepony:
Cloudsat pass a few minutes ago of Alex was a total miss. But the one before caught it. Brown on the bottom is the shape of the land there, where some Alex passed over. Gives a nice idea of mountain height to height of storm. Click pic for orientation of slice through storm (just right of center NNE to SSW).




Mountain height? The Yucatan is really flat... but that is an interesting view!
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Quoting HurricaneSwirl:
And definitely not suspect either, as they found TEN readings of pressure between 987 and 988.
Broad center of low pressure.
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Hurricane Cindy had a lowest pressure of 991mb, to think Alex is 987... wow.
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Quoting xcool:
close 980 mb.)




980mbs where did you find that in fo from
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115085
And definitely not suspect either, as they found TEN readings of pressure between 987 and 988.
Member Since: July 7, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 3237
StormW now on Barometer Bob - includes a chatroom: http://irc.hurricanehollow.org/
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1636. xcool
close cat 1 980 mb.) close
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Lowest pressure reading is 987.1mb.

000
URNT15 KNHC 290044
AF304 0701A ALEX HDOB 25 20100629
003500 2043N 09136W 9248 00575 9875 230 183 334013 015 015 003 03
003530 2044N 09135W 9245 00575 9871 226 187 322005 009 008 003 00
003600 2045N 09133W 9257 00566 9872 226 191 155001 003 007 003 03
003630 2044N 09132W 9243 00576 9871 225 194 216005 006 008 002 03
003700 2043N 09130W 9248 00572 9872 223 196 235009 010 010 002 00
003730 2042N 09129W 9250 00570 9871 225 198 233012 014 006 002 00
003800 2041N 09128W 9249 00571 9872 225 199 231017 018 005 003 00
003830 2039N 09127W 9249 00575 9874 226 200 235021 022 004 005 00
003900 2038N 09126W 9249 00576 9877 224 201 234025 026 015 005 00
003930 2037N 09125W 9248 00582 9882 221 202 228029 030 026 005 00
004000 2036N 09123W 9249 00585 9889 216 202 224039 041 031 006 00
004030 2035N 09122W 9246 00592 9895 215 201 225045 045 036 005 00
004100 2034N 09121W 9250 00595 9900 215 201 224048 049 036 004 00
004130 2033N 09120W 9246 00603 9905 216 200 222048 049 038 002 00
004200 2032N 09119W 9248 00608 9913 212 199 220050 051 038 003 00
004230 2030N 09118W 9250 00609 9918 211 198 216051 052 036 004 00
004300 2029N 09117W 9249 00613 9922 215 197 215050 051 035 005 00
004330 2028N 09116W 9250 00617 9927 215 196 217049 050 035 003 00
004400 2027N 09115W 9248 00625 9932 214 195 218047 049 034 003 00
004430 2026N 09114W 9247 00629 9937 212 195 215046 046 034 005 00
$$
;
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21193
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Lowest pressure reading 987.1mb!




OMG
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115085
1631. Grothar
Quoting atmoaggie:
Did they have an evacuation plan at the nursing home for Carrie in '57 just in case?


GRRR! Isn't watching and commenting on a stationary system a little redundant?
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26130
Lowest pressure reading 987.1mb!
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21193
1629. JamesSA
Convection is really building and wrapping around that dry west side now. I think this will be a very different looking storm in the morning.
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1628. amd
I read through some of the discussion earlier today concerning COC changes after a storm emerges from land, and it is nowhere near unprecedented.

Hurricanes Dean, Emily, and Dennis all lost their tight inner core as they re-emerged from land. Convection formed on the north end of the storm before it was able to fully emerge from land onto warm water, and the inner core collapsed in these cases.

Fast forward to now, and this may be occurring with Alex. Looks like a large area of no convection (notice I did not say eye yet) may be forming around a ring of very deep convection.

This will slow down intensification for some degree for the next few hours, but will not stop it. In fact, in the cases of Dennis and Emily, after some time over water, the inner core really regenerated, and there was a period of scary intensification (>10mb drop in an hour).

IMO, Alex will slowly intensify tonight as the pattern I described forms, but if shear does not come back tomorrow, don't be surprised to see a period of close to scary intensification (>6 mb/hour) sometime tomorrow.

In any case, I think the NHC track is right on, and the final landfall may be just south of the track. Hopefully, interaction to land, and possible shear right before landfall leads to weakening in the final hours over water.
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he's getting ready to chase the storm..
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Quoting OracleDeAtlantis:
It sure looks like a sneak attack in the making to me ... Look at that open door.







come on now guys i starting too find the map annyoing now one or two times ok but it now seen like there showing up on evere other post can we plzs stop with that
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115085
1623. JRRP
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
I was reading it wrong. Lol, my bad.

jejejee
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And it's still falling at the end of the set. May get even lower at the beginning of the next update.
Member Since: July 7, 2008 Posts: 2 Comments: 3237
Cantore is in Louisiana ... so Alex is going to Louisiana.
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Quoting bayoubug:
oh no jim cantore in venice, la.


Cantwhooie is done chasing canes, he's probably hiding there and reading this blog to find out where to go next.
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Goodnight Alex. Will you surprise us in the morning instead of just sitting there?

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Quoting RecordSeason:
1569:

Does anyone actually check the satellite?

Alex has been this big for 3 or 4 days now. It dwarfs Ike already, easily, not even close.

Get that in everyone's head, PLEASE.

No. Most of the clouds in the gulf are not useful to Alex's heat engine...and Ike had winds.

A few 25 knot obs, but mostly calm to 10 knots. Even calm not-to-terribly-far from Alex.


(Click for full size)


Seriously, Ike and Alex have little in common. Alex, if he spins up to a hurricane, will be much smaller than Ike. Or, he can be big and a TS. Not both. Try taking some physics before you make these wild statements.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461


Take last night in Central Florida. Thank you Tropical weather...
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
Recon finding 988 and 987 mb pressures.. Alex is back on a strengthening trend.
Could be a hurricane by 5AM tomorrow.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21193
It sure looks like a sneak attack in the making to me ... Look at that open door.



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Quoting CybrTeddy:
Recon finding 988 and 987 mb pressures.. Alex is back on a strengthening trend.



yup whats see what they find in winds
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115085
Quoting JRRP:


aha... and then ???
I was reading it wrong. Lol, my bad.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21193
1611. will45
Quoting natrwalkn:
Can anyone tell me why the ignore user button sends me to a creat blog page?

you have to have a blog i think not sure tho
Member Since: July 18, 2009 Posts: 1 Comments: 994
Recon finding 988 and 987 mb pressures.. Alex is back on a strengthening trend.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24018
Quoting CybrTeddy:
Miami look at the post directly above your post.
Lol, I was reading it wrong. But yeah 987.9mb.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21193
1608. JRRP
Quoting Stormchaser2007:
Recon just found a 988 mb pressure.

000
URNT15 KNHC 290034
AF304 0701A ALEX HDOB 24 20100629
002500 2059N 09203W 9246 00644 9961 +185 +172 052038 038 041 011 00
002530 2058N 09202W 9249 00640 9958 +188 +167 052036 037 038 010 00
002600 2057N 09201W 9245 00641 9955 +192 +163 051038 039 036 009 00
002630 2055N 09200W 9249 00636 9951 +197 +161 049038 040 036 007 00
002700 2054N 09159W 9245 00638 9949 +201 +160 044038 039 034 006 00
002730 2053N 09158W 9249 00632 9947 +202 +160 042037 038 034 003 03
002800 2052N 09157W 9252 00627 9942 +205 +161 042040 041 034 003 00
002830 2051N 09155W 9240 00635 9939 +206 +163 037038 039 033 004 03
002900 2050N 09154W 9249 00624 9935 +209 +165 037039 040 034 004 00
002930 2049N 09153W 9243 00626 9932 +206 +168 038042 043 035 002 00
003000 2048N 09151W 9246 00619 9927 +208 +171 039044 044 035 003 00
003030 2047N 09150W 9249 00611 9923 +203 +172 034044 046 037 006 00
003100 2046N 09149W 9251 00607 9919 +203 +173 035041 043 036 008 00
003130 2045N 09147W 9248 00605 9915 +201 +173 035038 040 039 007 00
003200 2044N 09146W 9249 00601 9909 +204 +172 030036 038 038 006 00
003230 2044N 09144W 9249 00595 9903 +207 +172 017030 034 035 006 03
003300 2043N 09143W 9248 00591 9896 +212 +172 009024 026 031 004 00
003330 2043N 09141W 9249 00586 9889 +223 +173 355023 024 026 006 03
003400 2043N 09139W 9244 00587 9882 +232 +175 354021 022 021 005 00
003430 2043N 09138W 9246 00581 9879 +230 +178 344017 019 020 005 03
$$
;


Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Has Alex weakened or did the HH miss the COC? Lowest pressure is 991.5mb.

000
URNT15 KNHC 290034
AF304 0701A ALEX HDOB 24 20100629
002500 2059N 09203W 9246 00644 9961 +185 +172 052038 038 041 011 00
002530 2058N 09202W 9249 00640 9958 +188 +167 052036 037 038 010 00
002600 2057N 09201W 9245 00641 9955 +192 +163 051038 039 036 009 00
002630 2055N 09200W 9249 00636 9951 +197 +161 049038 040 036 007 00
002700 2054N 09159W 9245 00638 9949 +201 +160 044038 039 034 006 00
002730 2053N 09158W 9249 00632 9947 +202 +160 042037 038 034 003 03
002800 2052N 09157W 9252 00627 9942 +205 +161 042040 041 034 003 00
002830 2051N 09155W 9240 00635 9939 +206 +163 037038 039 033 004 03
002900 2050N 09154W 9249 00624 9935 +209 +165 037039 040 034 004 00
002930 2049N 09153W 9243 00626 9932 +206 +168 038042 043 035 002 00
003000 2048N 09151W 9246 00619 9927 +208 +171 039044 044 035 003 00
003030 2047N 09150W 9249 00611 9923 +203 +172 034044 046 037 006 00
003100 2046N 09149W 9251 00607 9919 +203 +173 035041 043 036 008 00
003130 2045N 09147W 9248 00605 9915 +201 +173 035038 040 039 007 00
003200 2044N 09146W 9249 00601 9909 +204 +172 030036 038 038 006 00
003230 2044N 09144W 9249 00595 9903 +207 +172 017030 034 035 006 03
003300 2043N 09143W 9248 00591 9896 +212 +172 009024 026 031 004 00
003330 2043N 09141W 9249 00586 9889 +223 +173 355023 024 026 006 03
003400 2043N 09139W 9244 00587 9882 +232 +175 354021 022 021 005 00
003430 2043N 09138W 9246 00581 9879 +230 +178 344017 019 020 005 03
$$
;

aha... and then ???
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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.