Causes of the Russian heat wave and Pakistani floods

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:56 PM GMT on August 13, 2010

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The Great Russian Heat Wave of 2010 is one of the most intense, widespread, and long-lasting heat waves in world history. Only the European heat wave of 2003, which killed 35,000 - 50,000 people, and the incredible North American heat wave of July 1936, which set all-time extreme highest temperature records in fifteen U.S. states, can compare. All of these heat waves were caused by a highly unusual kink in the jet stream that remained locked in place for over a month. The jet stream is an upper-level river of air, between the altitudes of about 30,000 - 40,000 feet (10,000 - 12,000 meters). In July over Europe and Asia, the jet stream has two branches: a strong southern "subtropical" jet that blows across southern Europe, and a weaker "polar" jet that blows across northern Europe. The polar jet stream carries along the extratropical cyclones (lows) that bring the mid-latitudes most of their precipitation. The polar jet stream also acts as the boundary between cold, Arctic air, and warm tropical air. If the polar jet stream shifts to the north of its usual location, areas just to its south will be much hotter and drier than normal. In July 2010, a remarkably strong polar jet stream developed over northern Europe. This jet curved far to the north of Moscow, then plunged southwards towards Pakistan. This allowed hot air to surge northwards over most of European Russia, and prevented rain-bearing low pressure systems from traveling over the region. These rain-bearing low pressure systems passed far to the north of European Russia, then dove unusually far to the south, into northern Pakistan. The heavy rains from these lows combined with Pakistan's usual summer monsoon rains to trigger Pakistan's most devastating floods in history.


Figure 1. Winds of the jet stream at an altitude of 300 millibars (roughly 30,000 feet high). Left: Average July winds from the period 1968 - 1996 show that a two-branch jet stream typically occurs over Europe and Asia--a northern "polar" jet stream, and a more southerly "subtropical" jet stream. Right: the jet stream pattern in July 2010 was highly unusual, with a very strong polar jet looping far to the north of Russia, then diving southwards towards Pakistan. Image credit: NOAA/ESRL.

What caused this unusual jet stream pattern?
The unusual jet stream pattern that led to the 2010 Russian heat wave and Pakistani floods began during the last week of June, and remained locked in place all of July and for the first half of August. Long-lived "blocking" episodes like this are usually caused by unusual sea surface temperature patterns, according to recent research done using climate models. For example, Feudale and Shukla (2010) found that during the summer of 2003, exceptionally high sea surface temperatures of 4°C (7°F) above average over the Mediterranean Sea, combined with unusually warm SSTs in the northern portion of the North Atlantic Ocean near the Arctic, combined to shift the jet stream to the north over Western Europe and create the heat wave of 2003. I expect that the current SST pattern over the ocean regions surrounding Europe played a key role in shifting the jet stream to create the heat wave of 2010. Note that the SST anomaly pattern is quite different this year compared to 2003, which may be why this year's heat wave hit Eastern Europe, and the 2003 heat wave hit Western Europe. Human-caused climate change also may have played a role; using climate models, Stott et al. (2004) found it very likely (>90% chance) that human-caused climate change has at least doubled the risk of severe heat waves like the great 2003 European heat wave.


Figure 2. A comparison of the departure of sea surface temperature (SST) from average just prior the the start of the great European heat waves of 2003 and 2010. Temperatures in the Mediterranean Sea were up to 4°C above average in 2003, which has been implicated as a major cause of the Western European heat wave of 2003. Image credit: NOAA/NESDIS.

References
Feudale, L., and J. Shukla (2010), "Influence of sea surface temperature on the European heat wave of 2003 summer. Part I: an observational study", Climate Dynamics DOI: 10.1007/s00382-010-0788-0

Stott, P.A., Stone, D.A., and M.R. Allen (2004), "Human contribution to the European heatwave of 2003", Nature 432, 610-614 (2 December 2004) | doi:10.1038/nature03089. (Here is a free version of the paper, presented at a conference.)

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has posted an analysis of the recent extreme weather events, concluding, "the sequence of current events matches IPCC projections of more frequent and more intense extreme weather events due to global warming."

See also my posts, The Great Russian Heat Wave of 2010: 102°F in Moscow and, Over 15,000 likely dead in Russian heat wave; Asian monsoon floods kill hundreds more.

Moscow sees real relief from the Great Russian Heat Wave of 2010
For the first time in more than a month, temperatures at Moscow's Domodedovo airport failed to exceed 30°C (86°F) today. Clouds and thunderstorms blew into the city this morning, keeping the high temperature down to just 29°C (84°F). This breaks a string of 35 straight days when the temperature reached 30°C. At Moscow's official observing site, the Moscow Observatory, this string was 30 days. Moscow's average high temperature for August 13 is 20°C (68°F), so today's temperatures were still well above normal. However, today's cool-down marks the beginning of the end for Russia's great heat wave. The latest forecast for Moscow calls for high temperatures below 30°C for the coming week, and Moscow may not exceed that threshold for the remainder of summer. Long range forecasts from the ECMWF and GFS models continue to suggest that a series of troughs of low pressure will attack the ridge of high pressure anchored over Russia, bringing cooler temperatures just 5°C (8°F) above average to Russia late next week. By ten days from now, the ECMWF model shows a strong trough of low pressure over Moscow, and a end to the Great Russian Heat Wave of 2010. Moscow still has to concern itself with smoke from the wildfires burning southeast of the city; winds are expected to shift early next week and bring the smoke towards the city again. However, the cooler weather should aid fire-fighting efforts, so the smoke problems should not be as bad as last week's nightmare.


Figure 2. Image from NASA's Aqua satellite of smoke from wildfires burning to the southeast of Moscow yesterday, August 12, 2010. Northerly winds were keeping the smoke from blowing over the city. Image credit: NASA.

The tropics are quiet
The remnants of Tropical Depression Five continue to bring heavy rain to portions of Southeast Louisiana today. Up to five inches of rain has fallen in regions near New Orleans. The GFS model predicts that the remains of TD 5 could move off the coast of Mississippi by the middle of next week and regenerate, but none of the other models is making this forecast. Both the GFS and ECMWF models are predicting that a tropical storm will develop off the coast of Africa by next Friday, August 20.

Donations urgently needed in Pakistan
The devastation wrought by the worst flooding in Pakistan's history requires a huge response by the international community. Wunderblogger Dr. Ricky Rood, author of our Climate Change Blog, has a friend working in Pakistan who underscored the desperate situation there:

This is the worst natural disaster in the history of Pakistan in terms of number of people and area affected. Although not as many people have been killed as in the 2005 earthquake, we have already nearly 900,000 displaced persons thus far just in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Crops are destroyed; shops, hotels, and other business have simply been swept away in Swat, which had just this year been cleared of Taliban and was on the way to recovery; and districts closer to Peshawar and parts of Peshawar district are still, or perhaps again after yesterday/today, under water. After the immediate emergency response, it will be years of rebuilding to replace what has been lost and to start to develop again. I know you have the power to control the weather, so if you cold give us a week or two without more rain at least we could keep the helicopters flying and give people a chance to go to their homes, recover what might still be there, set up tents if we can get enough to them, and start to clean up."

She gave the following recommendations for charities that do work in the flood-ravaged zone, and are effective at getting aid to those who need it the most:

Doctors Without Borders

The International Red Cross

MERLIN medical relief charity

The mobile giving service mGive allows one to text the word "SWAT" to 50555. The text will result in a $10 donation to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Pakistan Flood Relief Effort.

She mentioned that it is better to send money to the organizations doing the relief work than to try to organize shipments of goods.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
The vigorous tropical wave being developed by the models has reached western Africa. The mid-level circulation is stationed near 10N, and has just reached the Prime Meridian. At its current pace, it should be emerging in about 3-5 days, with the earlier day being the most likely.



The first one looks impressive too. Too bad it has to sacrifice itself, I dont think it will like that very much...lol.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32818
923. JLPR2
Quoting Caribbeanislands101:
hey JLPR2 !! wow, were you in PR for that one ?


Didn't exist LOL!
I came around two years later.
Was around for Georges tho :)
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Terrible damage and this is the first time I've seen that. I guess we were so concerned about SC that we didn't stop to think about the other devistated areas. Well, for myself, I didn't.
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Quoting JLPR2:


True, it really devastated The El Yunque National Forest (which is by the way the only tropical rain forest in the US forests service)
hey JLPR2 !! wow, were you in PR for that one ?
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The vigorous tropical wave being developed by the models has reached western Africa. The mid-level circulation is stationed near 10N, and has just reached the Prime Meridian. At its current pace, it should be emerging in about 3-5 days, with the earlier day being the most likely.

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The NASA GRIP Mission Starts Aug 15th


Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129841
918. JLPR2
Quoting NHCstevehayward:
Well, just clarifying Hugo impacted the extreme east coast of puerto rico with winds of 130 mph, a high end category 3 storm.


True, it really devastated The El Yunque National Forest (which is by the way the only tropical rain forest in the US forests service)
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Quoting stormpetrol:

Like they say "Its the angle of the dangle" but quite seriously its amazing , just this evening my son and I were driving through town in heavy rain and within a minute we were in sunlight with no rain at all and could watch the heavy down pour within a few hundred feet of us, amazing!
I heard about that. No rain up here yet but sky getting very black and some lightning.
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Quoting ElConando:
2009 Hurricane Season Damage 77 million.

Hurricane Alex 1.8 Billion.

Just saying.

Great point , about 19 times more with just one hurricane than a whole season combined, maybe someone should ask the Mexicans if this Season is bust!
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867. The gulf coast doesn't look decent either.
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Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 428 Comments: 129841
Quoting CoopsWife:
889 yep - quite a few of us remember Hugo. And weeks of no power, and cooking on a hibachi. :)

Yep and we got thru it somehow. I worked for a lawyer and he made us come to work using a karosene lantern for light, lol. I'm glad to see some Hugo folks on here.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Flooding will be an issue...a bad issue with ex-05L. IKE wanted rain...well now he's got it.



My goodness that is a large amount of rain.
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911. xcool
iammothernature EMAIL
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
2009 Hurricane Season Damage 77 million.

Hurricane Alex 1.8 Billion.

Just saying.
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XCOOL where do you get all your links for the cool satellite images and weather models?????
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908. JLPR2
Quoting jurakantaino:
jEANNY WAS a very strong storm with 70mph winds and gust to 90 mph when it cross the island fron the SE to NW, but we were only a week without power.


-.-
I was a whole month without power, it was more of a electric company screw up, but yeah. T_T

In comparison, after hurricane Georges it took two weeks for the power to come back.
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Quoting stormwatcherCI:
I agree with everything you said. Also, East End and South Sound are both on the south side of the island. As for bouncing back, you had to see it to believe it. I know sometimes when a hurricane passes us (example Paloma) people that I work with in town were saying we barely felt it and when I told them the winds we had up here they were very skeptical. Thought I was exaggerating until they heard about the damage we sustained.

Like they say "Its the angle of the dangle" but quite seriously its amazing , just this evening my son and I were driving through town in heavy rain and within a minute we were in sunlight with no rain at all and could watch the heavy down pour within a few hundred feet of us, amazing!
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Quoting JLPR2:


A month without power? O.o
So... did Jeanne beat that? XD
jEANNY WAS a very strong storm with 70mph winds and gust to 90 mph when it cross the island fron the SE to NW, but we were only a week without power.
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Quoting JLPR2:


A month without power? O.o
So... did Jeanne beat that? XD
LOL, in the district I live in, in Grand Cayman Ivan left us without power for 2 1/2 months. Not very nice. The heat and the mosquitoes were unbearable.
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I the west of Puerto Rico when the eye of Jeanny cross our town in Aguadilla we witness the calm and it was a very define eye, that's but it got stronger once it hit the waters of "el canal de la Mona", and we received wind in Rafael Hernandes airpor of hurricane strenghs 90mph gust, and in squalles. Quite a night with Jeanny in P.R. another strong storm to remember.
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902. JLPR2
Quoting jurakantaino:
Wheh Hugo hit us , we were without power for almost a month. It was a lower category 4 storm, since it weaken a bit when approaching the east of Puerto Rico, a very interesting storm.


A month without power? O.o
So... did Jeanne beat that? XD
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Flooding will be an issue...a bad issue with ex-05L. IKE wanted rain...well now he's got it.

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Quoting stormpetrol:

Yep South Sound sees its share of heavy winds also , thats why some in other parts of the tiny Island others think we you tell them your winds they practically think you're exaggerating, It s the lay of the Island , your height(East End ) the highest point or if by the sea on the south side you get the full impact, for ie: In Ivan 04 from East End to Grand Old House took the brunt, thank Heavens Georgetown was mostly spared or nearly everyone would have had to evacuate the Island. BY the way we should have been given a very High grade for the way we bounced back from Ivan , just my humble opinion.
I agree with everything you said. Also, East End and South Sound are both on the south side of the island. As for bouncing back, you had to see it to believe it. I know sometimes when a hurricane passes us (example Paloma) people that I work with in town were saying we barely felt it and when I told them the winds we had up here they were very skeptical. Thought I was exaggerating until they heard about the damage we sustained.
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Quoting CoopsWife:
889 yep - quite a few of us remember Hugo. And weeks of no power, and cooking on a hibachi. :)
Wheh Hugo hit us , we were without power for almost a month. It was a lower category 4 storm, since it weaken a bit when approaching the east of Puerto Rico, a very interesting storm.
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. Look how close North Side is to East End and Ivan demolished East End and North Side was barely touched.Exactly...I'm out for a while, good evening!
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Quoting wdtcnewsonlinewx:


Unforutantely I wasn't born when Hugo made landfall, but I have remember tons of stuff about.

P.S. If and I stress IF that Cape Verde Storm ends up lurking near SC, feel free to let us know how things are going in the Charleston area! I'm pretty sure Josh Marthers and the others at WCBD and Dave Williams and the others at WCIV will predict it down to the minute for you and keep you updated with the latest info as it comes in.
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Quoting MississippiWx:


Well, I was on the fence about it. Models like to do weird things far out in the forecast. I was expecting the GFS to start trending toward the other models that weren't so gung-ho about the redevelopment, but that obviously hasn't happened (yet another time I've been wrong this year). I think it will get back into the Gulf. Whether or not it is involved with the Gulf enough to develop into a tropical cyclone is a coin flip. Personally, I've never seen a tropical cyclone strengthen that close to the Central Gulf Coast for whatever reason, so I'm not terribly excited about its chances. Because of all the model support, though, I'm going to have to give it a 40/60 chance of actually developing tropically. Experience says go against tropical development, though.
thanks for the input .. still lookin fairly healthy and sent up some rain into the florida panhandle earlier . i was thankful it is hot
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Quoting stormwatcherCI:
I'm good. We had it pretty good from Gustav that year too. 90+ mph winds. Sitting on the east and south most storms affect this side more than any other side.

Yep South Sound sees its share of heavy winds also , thats why some in other parts of the tiny Island others think we you tell them your winds they practically think you're exaggerating, It s the lay of the Island , your height(East End ) the highest point or if by the sea on the south side you get the full impact, for ie: In Ivan 04 from East End to Grand Old House took the brunt, thank Heavens Georgetown was mostly spared or nearly everyone would have had to evacuate the Island. BY the way we should have been given a very High grade for the way we bounced back from Ivan , just my humble opinion.
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Did anyone hear about this?
http://gizmodo.com/5612400/nasa-launches-unprecedented-drone-mission-to-study-the-mysteries-of-hurr icane-formation

An unmanned Global Hawk recon drone will join a team of aircraft—all equipped with advanced weather instrumentation—to observe the 2010 storm season closer than ever before.

So far this hurricane season, the Atlantic has been quiet. That's good news for Gulf oil spill cleanup efforts, but a team of NASA and NOAA scientists are hoping things will get just a little nastier.

This weekend, NASA is launching a six-week mission to study the formation and intensification of hurricanes, hoping to inform forecast models and improve hurricane prediction abilities. The GRIP experiment (for Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes) involves more than a dozen satellite-quality scientific instruments onboard a Global Hawk unmanned drone, a converted WB-57 cold-war bomber and a modified DC-8.

Ramesh Kakar, the weather focus area leader for NASA's science programs, says the goal is to improve understanding of the physical processes that generate hurricanes. He hopes forecasters will assimilate GRIP data into their prediction models, improving forecasts and providing earlier warning for communities in a burgeoning hurricane's path.

So he's hoping for some storms.

"Of course I do not want these to get to the land — just allow them to be spinning and then just move on," he says. "But yes, I hope we do get enough cases, that Mother Nature allows us to see enough genesis cases so that we can say this was a successful mission." The mission is timed to take advantage of the peak hurricane season, which generally starts in mid-August.

Scientists are increasingly skilled at predicting a hurricane's path once it forms, but it's very difficult to tell whether a tropical disturbance will grow into a named storm and if so, how big it will get, says Bill Gray, a renowned hurricane forecaster at Colorado State University who is not involved in the GRIP mission.

"It's a problem of the physics. We don't have good enough observations," he says. "A hurricane is a very complex thing. It requires large-scale features to be of a certain characteristic, and to understand the small-scale — how the clouds evolve, the wind and condensation, see how these all interact with each other — it's a complex thing. It's not so easy to piece all this physics together."

That's the goal of GRIP, Kakar says. Instruments on the Global Hawk are designed to study hurricanes' innards, using a microwave radiometer and radiosondes that rival the equipment used on NASA's next-generation tropical weather satellites, one of which won't launch until 2013. It contains instruments to measure wind, both horizontally and vertically; temperature and water droplet distribution inside clouds; pressure and humidity; and lightning.

The WB-57 airplane includes a new instrument that will take high-resolution radar measurements of the wind profile, from the ground to the aircraft's height, around 60,000 feet. This will give scientists a good idea of the wind speed around the hurricane.

The information can be used to produce better models, according to Tim Miller, an atmospheric scientist at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and principal investigator for the Hurricane Imaging Radiometer instrument.

"Even though we're only measuring the ocean's surface, computer models can take that information and use it to help develop a three-dimensional structure of the hurricane," he says.

Gray says a detailed picture of how hurricanes form could help forecasters make better guesses, but every storm is different.

"They develop and intensify in different ways. Often you go measure one or two systems and think you understand it, but then you find next year, a system will form quite in a different way," he says. "The storms are so variable in their structure and how they intensify and so on, that it is very hard to generalize."

He and colleague Phil Klotzbach just updated their forecast for the remainder of the season, and they're calling for 10 named storms. Gray says the ocean's thermal heat capacity is high and sea-surface temperatures are increasing; what's more, a La Nina effect, bringing cold water to the eastern equatorial Pacific, has taken hold.

Gray rings a bell on the Colorado State campus every year around Aug. 20, to herald the active part of the hurricane season.

"Given all those factors, we'll eat a lot of crow and be very surprised if this is not a very active year," he says.

But Kakar says even if the Atlantic remains quiet, GRIP will be a success.

"We will be looking at cases where there is potential for tropical storm formation, and it may not form. But that's again a successful experiment, because the G of the GRIP is focused on what happens in the genesis — why some disturbances become tropical storms and some do not," he says. So either way, we will learn."
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Quoting charlestonscnanny:
I've posted a few comments but wanted to let everyone know that I really value the knowledge that is given to a novice like me and decided to jump in the water with other bloggers on WU. Hurricane Hugo brought out the interest I have in tropical weather. I want to ask questions and pass on information about weather conditions in my beautiful lowcountry of SC.


Unforutantely I wasn't born when Hugo made landfall, but I have remember tons of stuff about.

P.S. If and I stress IF that Cape Verde Storm ends up lurking near SC, feel free to let us know how things are going in the Charleston area! I'm pretty sure Josh Marthers and the others at WCBD and Dave Williams and the others at WCIV will predict it down to the minute for you and keep you updated with the latest info as it comes in.
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Ida was a hurricane befor reaching the GOM

Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12716
889 yep - quite a few of us remember Hugo. And weeks of no power, and cooking on a hibachi. :)
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Quoting superpete:
It is amazing the difference that only 10 miles makes, in any given direction directly away from a storm centre?
Yep. Look how close North Side is to East End and Ivan demolished East End and North Side was barely touched.
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I've posted a few comments but wanted to let everyone know that I really value the knowledge that is given to a novice like me and decided to jump in the water with other bloggers on WU. Hurricane Hugo brought out the interest I have in tropical weather. I want to ask questions and pass on information about weather conditions in my beautiful lowcountry of SC.
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Quoting PRweathercenter:

no hurricanes in pr since 1998
hurricane jeanne in 2004 was so close it turn in to hurracane in between Dominican REP and PR
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Quoting stormwatcherCI:
I'm good. We had it pretty good from Gustav that year too. 90+ mph winds. Sitting on the east and south most storms affect this side more than any other side.
It is amazing the difference that only 10 miles makes, in any given direction directly away from a storm centre?
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I'm out guys, have nice weekend!!
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Still no Danielle folks......then again, wasn't Gustav/Ike not until very late August, early September in 2008?
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Quoting btwntx08:

he didnt say major just a hurricane on that one
Ida was a hurricane until she crossed Honduras and did not re-intensify until the GOM if IIRC.
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Quoting NHCstevehayward:
Here's a very good atricle that explains what exactly is the MJO or Madden–Julian oscillation, and how it affects tropical cyclone development.
Hope it helps.
Link



do you work for the nhc?
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Quoting superpete:
CI..I recall that now you mention it. Only saw about 50--60 mph here in Savannah.How are you anyway?
I'm good. We had it pretty good from Gustav that year too. 90+ mph winds. Sitting on the east and south most storms affect this side more than any other side.
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:


We will see what happens, but I bet it will come right on back once again. All the heat is bundled in the Atlantic, untouched by Hurricanes.
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Quoting MississippiWx:


It's taking advantage of land's version of Diurnal Max. Since it's still close to the Gulf, it has plenty of moisture to work with and is looking good. This is what is supposed to help it maintain itself enough to re-develop early next week.
where is it going Milwaukee?
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Quoting stormwatcherCI:
Actually, East End experienced 100 mph winds with Paloma too.
CI..I recall that now you mention it. Only saw about 50--60 mph here in Savannah.How are you anyway?
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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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