Hurricane Earl takes aim at Lesser Antilles; 5-year anniversary of Katrina

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:35 PM GMT on August 29, 2010

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Hurricane warnings are flying for the islands in the northern Lesser Antilles, as they hunker down a prepare for the arrival of the 3rd hurricane of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season, Hurricane Earl. Earl, a classic Cape Verdes-type Atlantic hurricane, is a potentially dangerous storm for the islands in its path, should its eyewall pass directly overhead. Earl could intensify significantly as it moves through the islands late tonight and on Monday. An Air Force Hurricane Hunter aircraft found a central pressure of 978 mb at 1:21 pm EDT. This is a significant drop of 7 mb in four hours. Top surface winds were 75 mph, and they noted an eyewall open to the northwest. The incomplete eyewall can also be seen on Martinique radar (figure 1.) Recent visible satellite imagery shows the storm has continues to increase in organization this afternoon. The amount and intensity of Earl's heavy thunderstorms is increasing, low-level spiral bands are steadily building, and upper level outflow is becoming more established in all quadrants except the north. This lack of development on Earl's north side is due to strong upper level northerly winds from the outflow of Hurricane Danielle to the north. These winds are creating about 15 knots of wind shear over Earl, according to the wind shear analysis from the University of Wisconsin CIMSS group. Water vapor satellite images show a large region of dry air from the Sahara lies to the northwest of Earl, but Earl is successfully walling off this dry air with a solid circular region of heavy thunderstorms.


Figure 1. Radar image of Earl taken at 3:45 pm EDT. Image credit: Meteo France.

Intensity forecast for Earl
As Hurricane Danielle pulls away from Earl this afternoon and this evening, shear should fall to the low range, 5 - 10 knots, as predicted by the latest SHIPS model forecast. This should allow Earl to build a complete eyewall by tonight. Once a complete eyewall is in place, Earl will likely undergo a bout of rapid intensification, which could bring it to Category 3 or 4 strength by Tuesday morning. The ocean temperatures are at near record warmth, 30°C, and very warm waters extend to great depth, resulting in a total ocean heat content highly favorable for rapid intensification. Earl should be able to maintain major hurricane status through Thursday, when it will make its closest approach to North Carolina. Sea surface temperatures are very warm, 29°C, along the U.S. East Coast, and wind shear is expected to remain low through Thursday.

Track forecast for Earl
Earl is being steered to the west by the same ridge of high pressure that steered Danielle. Earl is now approaching a weakness in the ridge left behind by the passage of Danielle and the trough of low pressure that pulled Danielle to the north. Earl should move more to the west-northwest today, likely bringing the core of the storm over or just to the northeast of the islands of Barbuda, St. Barthelemy, Anguilla, and St. Maartin in the northernmost Lesser Antilles Islands tonight and Monday morning. NHC is giving its highest odds for hurricane-force winds to Barbuda and Saint Maarten--a 44% and 42% chance, respectively. These odds are 11% for St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, and 4% for Puerto Rico.


Figure 2. Wundermap view of the Lesser Antilles showing the NHC 5am wind radius forecast for Earl. Tropical storm force winds (dark green colors) were predicted to affect much of the northern Lesser Antilles, with hurricane force winds (yellow colors) predicted to pass just to the north of the islands.

Once Earl passes the Lesser Antilles, steering currents favor a northwesterly course towards North Carolina. History suggests that a storm in Earl's current location has a 25% chance of making landfall on the U.S. East Coast, and Earl's chances of making a U.S. landfall are probably close to that. None of the computer models show Earl hitting the U.S., and the 12Z (8 am EDT) set of model runs have mostly pushed the storm farther from the U.S. East Coast. It is not unusual for the models to make substantial shifts in their 5-day forecasts, and it is still possible that Earl could make a direct hit on North Carolina as a major hurricane on Thursday or Friday. One should pay attention of the cone of uncertainty, and the Outer Banks of North Carolina are in the 5-day cone. NHC is giving Cape Hatteras a 6% chance of receiving hurricane force winds. The main determinant of whether Earl hits the U.S. or not is a strong trough of low pressure predicted to move off the U.S. East Coast Friday. This trough, if it develops as predicted, should be strong enough to recurve Earl out to sea late in the week, with the storm just missing landfall in the U.S., but possibly making landfall in Nova Scotia, Canada. However, five day forecasts can be off considerably on the timing and intensity of such features, and it is quite possible that the trough could be delayed or weaker than expected, resulting in Earl's landfall along the U.S. East Coast. The most likely landfall locations would be North Carolina on Thursday or Friday, or Massachusetts on Friday or Saturday. The GFS and ECMWF models predict that Earl will come close enough to North Carolina on Thursday to bring the storm's outer rain bands over the Cape Hatteras region. The other models put Earl farther offshore, but it currently appears that Earl will not pass close enough to Bermuda to bring tropical storm force winds to that island. It is possible that if 97L develops into Hurricane Fiona and moves quickly across the Atlantic, the two storms could interact and rotate counterclockwise around a common center. Predicting these sorts of interactions is difficult, and the long-term track forecast for Earl will be difficult if a storm-storm interaction with Fiona occurs.

In any case, the U.S. East Coast can expect a long period of high waves from Earl beginning on Thursday. Significant beach erosion and dangerous rip current will be the rule, due to very high waves from Earl (Figure 3.)


Figure 3. Wave forecast for 8am Thursday, September 2, 2010, as produced by the 2am EDT August 29 run of NOAA's Wavewatch III model. The model is predicting waves of 4 - 5 meters (13 - 16 feet) in the offshore waters from Central Florida to Virginia.

Hurricane History for the northern Lesser Antilles
The last hurricane to pass through the northern Lesser Antilles Islands was Category 4 Hurricane Omar, on October 16, 2008. Omar's eyewall missed all of the islands, but the storm did $80 million in damage to the Caribbean, mainly on the islands of Antigua, Barbuda, Dominica, the SSS Islands (Saba, St. Eustatius, and St. Maarten), and the U.S. Virgin Islands. No direct deaths were attributed to Omar, and the name Omar was not retired from the 6-year rotating list of hurricane names.

Links to track Earl
Martinique radar
Wundermap of the northern Lesser Antilles Islands
Long range radar out of San Juan, Puerto Rico (current down for repair.)
Visible rapid scan satellite loop

97L
The tropical wave (Invest 97L) now midway between Africa and the Lesser Antilles Islands has developed a well-defined surface circulation, and appears destined to develop into a tropical storm and follow the path of Danielle and Earl. Satellite loops show the surface circulation clearly, but also reveal that there is not enough heavy thunderstorm activity associated with 97L for it to be called a tropical depression. The storm is experiencing low wind shear of 5 - 10 knots, is over warm 28°C waters, and is battling a region of dry air associated with the Saharan Air Layer (SAL) to its northwest. The latest SHIPS model forecast calls for shear to stay in the low range, 5 - 10 knots, through Wednesday, and this should allow 97L to organize into a tropical depression today or Monday. The storm will follow a track very similar to Danielle and Earl westward towards the Lesser Antilles Islands, and the storm should arrive near the northern Lesser Antilles Wednesday or Thursday. A more northwesterly path is likely for 97L as it approaches the Lesser Antilles, as the storm follows a break in the high pressure ridge steering it, created by Danielle and Earl. It currently appears that the Northern Lesser Antilles Islands may be at risk of at close brush or direct hit by 97L. If 97L moves relatively quickly, arriving at the Lesser Antilles on Wednesday, it is likely to be a weaker system, since it will have less time over water, and will be closer to big brother Earl. Earl is likely to be a large and powerful hurricane at that time, and the clockwise upper level outflow from Earl will bring strong upper-level northerly winds to the Lesser Antilles, creating high wind shear for 97L. However, if 97L moves relatively slowly, and arrives in the Lesser Antilles on Thursday, Earl will be farther away, the wind shear will be lessened, and 97L will have had enough time over water to potentially be a hurricane. Depending upon how fast they have 97L moving, the computer models have a wide variety of solutions for 97L, ranging from a making it a Category 1 hurricane five days from now (GFDL model) to a weak tropical storm five days from now (several models.) History suggests that a storm in 97L's current location has a 25% chance of making landfall on the U.S. East Coast. NHC is giving 97L a 80% chance of developing into a tropical depression by Tuesday.


Figure 4. Morning satellite image of 97L.

Danielle
Hurricane Danielle blew past Bermuda late Saturday night, bringing one rain squall to the island that brought top winds of 26 mph, gusting to 39 mph. Danielle is now on its way out to sea, and will not trouble any more land areas. High surf will continue to affect Bermuda and the east coast of the U.S. and Canada's Maritime Provinces today. The latest near shore water forecast for Cape Hatteras calls for 6 - 8 foot waves today. These waves will gradually subside during the week, then ramp up to 6 - 8 feet again on Thursday, as Hurricane Earl's wave field begins to pound the U.S. East Coast.

Elsewhere in the Tropics
Tropical Storm Kompasu is headed for China, and is predicted to intensify into a Category 2 typhoon by Wednesday and potentially threaten China's largest city, Shanghai. Over 16 million people live in the city, many of them in low-lying areas, and the Chinese will need to take this storm very seriously. In the South China Sea, the fearsome sounding Tropical Storm Lionrock is forecast to hit the Chinese coast near Hong Kong on Tuesday, but is not predicted to develop into a typhoon.

Katrina, five years later
It hardly seems possible that five years have elapsed since that cruel day in 2005 when the world changed forever for so many people in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Recovery from the great hurricane is nowhere near complete--the destruction wrought by Katrina still scars the land terribly, and the proud people of the Gulf Coast still suffer tremendously in the aftermath of the disaster. The scale and intensity of the destruction the hurricane brought is truly breathtaking, and can best be appreciated by viewing two of the best chronicles of Katrina's record storm surge--Margie Kieper's remarkable city-by-city aerial tour of the destruction, and extreme weather photographer Mike Thiess' 13-minute video of his storm surge experience in Gulfport, Mississippi. Katrina did do some good, though--it taught us that our nation can unite in the face of an overwhelming challenge to help our fellow citizens in need, and taught us not to be complacent about living in the realm where great hurricanes come.


Figure 5. A man wearing a tiny life jacket and clutching a neon green noodle and a pet dog floats on the remains of a house in Waveland, MS, during Hurricane Katrina. The photo was taken from the second floor window of a home, and the water is close to the roof line of the first floor. The home was at an elevation of about 17 feet, and the surge is close to ten feet deep here. There are electric lines running down from a pole to a home from left to right. In the distance on the right is a home with water up to the roof line. The eye is probably overhead, as the water is relatively calm and there appears to be little wind or rain, even though the pine trees are bent from the recent force of the eyewall winds. The photo was taken by Judith Bradford. Her husband, Bill Bradford, swam out and rescued the man and his dog, and two other people who floated by. He reported that the water was nothing like white water, but was a gentle, continuous flow. He was lucky. In the nearby Porteaux Bay area, a woman watched her fiance get pulled from a tree by the force of the current. The man was washed out into the Gulf and drowned. The image above is described in more detail in Part 9 of Margie Kieper's Katrina storm surge web page.

I'll share with you my personal story of blogging about Katrina. I starting writing blogs during the spring of 2005. For the first few months of this effort, it was a slow time for interesting weather events, and I had trouble finding things to write about. I was relieved when June of 2005 brought me two Atlantic tropical storms to discuss. But as July wore on, and the bombardment of the great Hurricane Season of 2005 began--a record five named storms, three hurricanes, and two major hurricanes, Dennis and Emily, both the strongest hurricanes ever recorded so early in the season--I was ready for less to write about! History was in the making, and the peak part of hurricane season was still a month away. I managed to take advantage of a slight break in the action in mid-August to travel for vacation and business, and the day Katrina was named found me in New York City. I was attending meetings with the Associated Press, who had just signed up to use Weather Underground as the weather provider for their 5000 newspapers. I wasn't able to follow the storm very closely that day, due to the all the meetings. Still, I had a very uneasy feeling about this storm. When one of the AP staff members made the remark, "It sure has been a slow summer for news. We need a big story!" I looked at her hard and thought, "Be careful what you wish for--you might get it!"

I flew home that Thursday afternoon, then made the decision Friday to drive up north with my family and spend a 4-day weekend at my father's house. The Hurricane Season of 2005 had kept me so busy that I hadn't made it up north to see him that summer, and this was my last chance. High speed Internet was not available in his small town of Topinabee on beautiful Mullet Lake, so I knew I'd be spending some slow hours blogging on his dial-up connection. Still, I figured Katrina would quickly recurve to the north and hit the Florida Panhandle before it had a chance to become a major hurricane. It wasn't like this storm would be worst disaster in American history or anything! Wrong. I spent virtually the entire weekend holed upstairs in the computer room, writing increasingly worried and strident blogs, exhorting people in New Orleans and Mississippi to evacuate. Every now and then, I'd emerge downstairs and say hi to everyone, then head back up to my cell to watch really slowly loading pages and write new blogs. Finally, I couldn't take it any more, and talked my family into returning home a day early. My wife couldn't fully understand why I was so agitated--wasn't this just another hurricane like Frances, Jeanne, Charlie, Dennis, or Emily? But, she agreed that we'd better go home that Sunday night before Katrina hit, since I was such a basket case. The next day, when Katrina hit and the full magnitude of the greatest disaster in American history unfolded, she understood. Indeed, three weeks later my wife headed down to the Louisiana disaster zone as a Red Cross volunteer, and she REALLY got an appreciation of why I had been so agitated in the days before Katrina hit.

It is difficult for me to read my Katrina blog posts again, as I relive those days and remember the terrible suffering this storm brought to so many. Let us not forget the people affected by Katrina, and the lessons the great storm taught. My thoughts and prayers are with all of Katrina's survivors on this fifth anniversary of the storm.

Next update
I may be able to post a quick update on Earl late this afternoon or early this evening.

Jeff Masters

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Earl should have reacted more to that weakness by now...instead it will run into the massive east coast high which is building more quickly than anticipated
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
12z ECMWF 72 hours has Earl as a Category 5 hurricane.



934mb for a dynamic model....yikes
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1033. robj144
Quoting newportrinative:


Me too!! Where are you from? I am from Middletown/Newport but now live in Ft Lauderdale.


From Coventry, but now I live in Delray... funny.
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Quoting stormlvr:


Perhaps a scenario with Earl accelerating into the weakness leaving 97L to the south in a weaker steering environment and more opportunity for a building ridge to the north should also be considered even with a further west Earl track.

Exactly
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1548
75mph seems a little weak?
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1030. Thaale
Quoting want2lrn:
Got it Thaale, thank you. So the 144/168 forecasts are run at 1200GMT (on that day) and predict the conditions in 6/7 days?

Yep, that's it. With models though, I believe the time indicates the age of the data. The data is as-of 12Z, but the models are started after that point in time, once the observed data is available, and it takes a while for them to run. That's why you'll still see 12Z model updates coming out 6+ hours after that point in time, so they're already that far out of date.
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This looks terrible to me here in Halifax, NS
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Quoting AWeatherLover:
Local NWS office is discussing how they think 97 (AKA Fiona) is clearly a depression. Not sure why the NHC hasn't named it one yet. Per their noon call they said they just didn't have enough evidence of a low level circulation. Not sure what kind of evidence they need... Any guesses?


the circulation is not well defined based on an ASCAT pass this morning and the convection has become disorganized

97L is not a TD or TS at this time
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12z ECMWF 72 hours has Earl as a Category 5 hurricane.

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Quoting YourCommonSense:


Since you have such awesome forecasting skills, can you tell me where this is going to hit?


Hurricane Danielle upside down...
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Quoting flhurricanesurvivor:
If Earl passes through the Hebery box but recurves he will be an exception. Not too many of those.
10 percent recurve
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1548
Quoting robj144:


It's hitting RI - New England?!?! Kidding... whenever I see RI, I immediately think of Rhode Island since I'm originally from there.
YOu may not have been too far off with that thought
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12z Euro slightly north of 0z at 78.
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Quoting YourCommonSense:


Since you have such awesome forecasting skills, can you tell me where this is going to hit?

lol
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Quoting futuremet:


If the Ear moves farther west, the ridge will have inadequate time build back over Fiona.


Perhaps a scenario with Earl accelerating into the weakness leaving 97L to the south in a weaker steering environment and more opportunity for a building ridge to the north should also be considered even with a further west Earl track.
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1020. Seastep
OK. After it refreshed on that post, I clearly see that reading back is not an option.
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Quoting IKE:


"Ear" moves?

This is getting kind of strange.

Indeed
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Great to see Drak is back.
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That is correct. Storms going through the Hebert box will most likely hit Florida, but that rule only applies if they are major hurricanes going through the box.



Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
One interesting thing to note...The Hebert Box applies to systems with winds above 110 mph. Well, the National Hurricane Center's forecast has this at Major Hurricane strength as its about to leave the box. We'll probably see an exception to this rule, and it will likely not hit Florida, but it'll be interesting to see to say the least.

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Local NWS office is discussing how they think 97 (AKA Fiona) is clearly a depression. Not sure why the NHC hasn't named it one yet. Per their noon call they said they just didn't have enough evidence of a low level circulation. Not sure what kind of evidence they need... Any guesses?
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Whats going on with two pm update, seeing that we are close enough to PR?
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1013. Seastep
Quoting DestinJeff:


Yes yes....well, in that case let the floggings continue!

MOOOOOVE!


SNL, right? LMAO.
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Quoting JupiterFL:


I would have guessed catcher.


batboy?
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Ready or not EC, here comes Earl. Looking at the latest model runs, it seems their showing an EC hit. Maybe NC but thats not etched in stone yet. I sure hope anyone living on the EC from Florida on up the EC seaboard continues to watch the progress of Earl. Now that the models have changed and the fact that Jeff M. stated the trough could be weaker or the timing could be off. But in any case, we will be getting a major H, our way.
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1008. jonelu
I think its safe to say that St Maarten, Anguilla, and Tortola will be getting a good swipe from the southern "eye wall" of Earl unless we see a nice bobble to the north...
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Quoting LADobeLady:


Divorce Shrek and hook up with Donkey?


That's just a wonderful comment and also a great looking Chocolate Lab....

Sorry Drak for spelling your user name in my earlier diatribe.....good to see you on the site today!
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Quoting DTwxrisk:


are you like married to that Jupiter FL guy?


I love me some powerlineman.
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1005. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting MZV:
Say goodby to Danielle, she looks to be transitioning to extratropical:


nothing more but a memory now
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1003. Thaale
Fiona's 144 hour position looks to have shifted a tad east on the 12Z HWRF.
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does it all really matter until we actually get TD 8 or Fiona

at this point I am starting to wonder whether the NHC is right
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Earl seems to be feeling the effect of that weakness and is bending WNW, but he seems to be almost past it. Here's hoping that trough is good enough to cause a recurve.
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Quoting MississippiBoy:

i believe once it slows down in forward speed the winds will ramp up


To answer your question further up, Earl would more than likely come farther west if he were weaker than forecast because the trof would be less likely to pick him up. However, there is really no reason why Earl shouldn't strengthen quickly now and become a powerful hurricane just north of Puerto Rico.
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Quoting Clearwater1:
I think the NHC has a good handle on Earl now, right on track, on time and as predicted.
you are correct
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Quoting robj144:


It's hitting RI - New England?!?! Kidding... whenever I see RI, I immediately think of Rhode Island since I'm originally from there.


Me too!! Where are you from? I am from Middletown/Newport but now live in Ft Lauderdale.
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Got it Thaale, thank you. So the 144/168 forecasts are run at 1200GMT (on that day) and predict the conditions in 6/7 days?
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995. MZV
Say goodby to Danielle, she looks to be transitioning to extratropical:


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Earl will pass through the Northern Leeward Islands and make landfall on the NE coast of PR then pass North of DR and Haiti and into the Bahamas
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Quoting futuremet:
The question is: will the ridge build back in time?



Its going to be close. I was looking at that run and wondering the same thing.
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I think the NHC has a good handle on Earl now, right on track, on time and as predicted.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1548
Quoting eyesontheweather:
Quoting Drakoen:
And if Earl comes further west guess what Fionia is going to do?


Divorce Shrek and hook up with Donkey?

Now that was funny


ROFLMAO!!
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Quoting DTwxrisk:



when I was the Last time I did that?

I mean can you find 1 post where I did that?

I mean besides Lying can you actually find ONE post from me where I claim to have awesome forecasting skills?

No of course not.






well I mean your forecast is better than everyone else forecast, so
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GOM



Caribbean

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987. IKE
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
he's a pro alright


Excitement on the blogs.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
Quoting Orcasystems:


OMG, are you asking the wrong person...
I don't even pretend to know how to forecast. I can tell you what the models say, but if you want answers like that... try either, StormW or Levi. They are about the only two I know that are very good at that sort of thing.


Allow me a few lines to respond about the history of this blog and my opinion of its purpose, content, and participants.....but first, Orcasystems response to my questions about the potential path of Earl.....

Orca, relax. This is a blog (you have been on it for a pretty good while as have I) and when you see the same people reporting credible information for years, it just makes sense to ask their opinion. So that is why I asked you the question - like having a discussion with you, asking for your opinion.

I made a comment about seven days or so ago about one of my prinicpal weather tenets that is founded on years of watching weather being reported on this sight (I remember the original Master's blog effort in 2005 - I think that was the year) and that is the 20N/70W line of departure for hurricanes and other tropical systems approaching from the East during the Hurricane season. It's simple. If systems get to or are under 20N when reaching 70W, bad things are liable to happen, which to me is, the system has a very good chance going below/over Cuba or Hispanolia, or through the Florida Straits and into the Gulf of Mexico. Then things really get tough for everyone and there are possible effects for me here in Texas.

Anyway, its just an observation baaed on years of watching South Atlantic/Caribbean weather. Its not something that always comes true. Just a long-term observation. I do a lot of work in Geospatial Information Systems software design and application implmentation here at Lockheed and have exactly two college courses in Climatology & Metrology from Cal State Fullerton from a couple of decades ago. So, I am certainly no expert like others who do this stuff for a living or are studying C & M in college on this blog, but still am willing to participate in a discussion of thoughts and ideas. Lots of participation is a good thing and probably the best facet of this blog.

Afterall, StormW is an old guy like me, needs lots of rest, and cannot answer every question on the blog (LOL). Besides its good to have other's participate and give their opinions. Used to be that Drakneon was the "StormW" of this blog. Now, rarely here from him/her these days which is too bad because whoever, he/she is, that person knew a lot about Tropical Weather. But there are others; Keeper, Dustin Jeff, Miami Hurricanes09, Cane, KK5 and host of others that I cannot remember their user names right now, who contribute good stuff (questions and information). Xcool at night provides great graphics. I even like to listen to Jason2010xxxx,ie, Mr. "Fish Storm", when he writes comments that approach readable English - by the way, they have started using the term "Fish Storm" on Fox News Channel, as I heard both the news and weatherlady using that term on Friday afternoon.

Anyway, this blog has always been a good place to ask questions and trade information. And to those who say that it is not as good as in the past, they are wrong. The quality of the information and questions is way better then it was in the beginning, and that's coming from somebody who is usually hesitant about saying anything from the present is always better than the past.

But in this case, I have no doubt. This blog has been getting better each year and the active participation by those I named and others who I can't remember right now (remember, I am probably older then StormW, although I don't wear bowties) who are now active on the blog have made it a really great place to get up-to-the moment information on the tropics - especially when things get hot!
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One interesting thing to note...The Hebert Box applies to systems with winds above 110 mph. Well, the National Hurricane Center's forecast has this at Major Hurricane strength as its about to leave the box. We'll probably see an exception to this rule, and it will likely not hit Florida, but it'll be interesting to see to say the least.

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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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