Category 3 Hurricane Earl pounding northern Lesser Antilles and Puerto Rico

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:40 PM GMT on August 30, 2010

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An intensifying Hurricane Earl is pounding Puerto Rico and northern Lesser Antilles Islands with heavy rain and high winds this morning. The eye of Earl passed just north of Anguilla at 9am EDT, and Juliana airport on neighboring St. Martin Island recorded sustained winds of 47 mph, gusting to 68 mph at 8am EDT before going silent. An Air Force Hurricane Hunter aircraft currently in Earl just found a central pressure of 960 mb at 9:42 am EDT. This is a significant drop of 25 mb in 25 hours. Top flight level winds at 10,000 feet seen by the Air Force aircraft were 128 mph. Using the usual rule of thumb that the surface winds are 90% of the 10,000 foot flight level winds gives one surface winds of 115 mph, which is right at the border of Cat 2/ Cat 3 strength. Top winds seen at the surface by the Air Force's SFMR instrument were lower, 104 mph. Recent satellite imagery shows that Earl is not perfectly symmetrical--there is still fewer heavy thunderstorms on the hurricane's north side, suggesting that upper-level northerly winds are bringing 5 - 10 knots of wind shear to the storm.


Figure 1. Radar image of Earl taken at 7am EDT 8/30/10 from the St. Maarten radar. Image credit: Meteorological Service of the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba.

Outlook for the Caribbean islands today
Latest radar animations out of Puerto Rico and St. Marten show that the eye of Earl is on track to pass just to the northeast of the islands of Anguilla, St. Maarten, and The Settlement in the British Virgin Islands today. The periphery of Earl's southern eyewall will probably bring Category 1 hurricane conditions to some of these islands today. NHC is giving its highest odds for hurricane-force winds to Saint Maarten--a 99% chance. These odds are 4% for St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, and 2% for San Juan, Puerto Rico. The main threat to Puerto Rico will be heavy rains--up to eight inches in isolated areas. Earl's rains, in addition to causing flooding and dangerous landslides, will also help alleviate drought conditions that have affected many of the islands this year.

Intensity forecast for Earl
Wind shear as diagnosed by the latest SHIPS model forecast is nearly non-existent over Earl--just 3 knots--put is probably higher than that, based on the fact that the northern portion of Earl cloud pattern is ragged. Further evidence of this is the fact that Earl's eyewall had a gap in its west side, according to the latest report from the Hurricane Hunters. Ocean temperatures are a near-record 30°C, and very warm waters extend to great depth, resulting in a total ocean heat content highly favorable for rapid intensification. These nearly ideal conditions for intensification should bring Earl to Category 4 strength by Tuesday morning, and Category 5 is not out of the question. 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. By Friday, when Earl will be making its closest approach to New England, wind shear will rise to a high 20 - 30 knots and ocean temperatures will plunge to 20°C, resulting in considerable weakening. Earl will still probably be a Category 2 hurricane on Friday, when it could potentially make landfall in Massachusetts or Nova Scotia, Canada.


Figure 2. Swath of surface winds from Earl predicted by the 2am EDT Monday August 30, 2010 run of NOAA's GFDL model. Hurricane force winds (yellow colors, 64 kt and above) are predicted to stay off the coast and tropical storm force winds (light green colors, 34 knots and above) are predicted to stay off the U.S. coast, but affect the coast of Canada. Image credit: Morris Bender, NOAA/GFDL.

Track forecast for Earl
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., but the storm will likely come uncomfortably close to North Carolina's Outer Banks and to Massachusetts. The latest set of model runs (2am EDT, or 6Z) project Earl will miss North Carolina by 200 - 300 miles on Thursday, and Massachusetts by a similar distance on Friday. Keep in mind that the average error in a 4 - 5 day NHC forecast is 200 - 300 miles, so the East Coast cannot breathe easily yet. The Outer Banks of North Carolina and Cape Cod, Massachusetts are both at the edge of the cone of uncertainty. NHC is giving Cape Hatteras a 9% chance of receiving hurricane force winds. These odds are 14% for Nantucket, 4% for Boston, and 2% for New York City. 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.

Regardless of Earl's exact track, the U.S. East Coast can expect a long period of high waves beginning on Thursday. Significant beach erosion and dangerous rip current will be the rule, due to waves that will reach 10 - 15 feet in offshore waters (Figure 3.)


Figure 3. Wave forecast for 8am Friday, September 3, 2010, as produced by the 8pm 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 North Carolina to New Jersey.

Hurricane History for the northern Lesser Antilles
The last Cape Verdes-type hurricane to affect the Barbuda and the surrounding northern Lesser Antilles Islands was Hurricane Debby of 2000, which passed over the islands on August 28 as a Category 1 hurricane. Damage was less than $1 million, and no fatalities were reported. The last hurricane of any kind to pass through the northern Lesser Antilles Islands was Category 4 Hurricane Omar, on October 16, 2008. Omar took an unusual track, moving towards the northeast, and the storm's eyewall missed all of the islands. Omar 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
Wundermap of the northern Lesser Antilles Islands
Long range radar out of San Juan, Puerto Rico
Visible rapid scan satellite loop

97L
The tropical wave (Invest 97L) now 1000 miles east of the Lesser Antilles Islands has a well-defined surface circulation and enough heavy thunderstorms to be classified as a tropical depression, if it can maintain that state for another six or so hours. Satellite loops show the surface circulation clearly, but also that heavy thunderstorm activity has been slow to build. The storm is experiencing low wind shear of less than 5 knots, and is over warm 29°C waters. The main impediment to development continues to be dry air associated with the Saharan Air Layer (SAL) surrounding the storm. The latest SHIPS model forecast calls for shear to stay in the low range, 5 - 10 knots, through Tuesday, and this should allow 97L to organize into a tropical depression today or Tuesday. NHC is giving 97L a 90% chance of developing into a tropical depression by Wednesday.

97L is moving quickly to the west, at about 20 mph. This means it is catching up to Earl, which has slowed down to 14 mph. By Tuesday night, Earl is expected to be a large and powerful major hurricane with a well-developed upper-level outflow channel heading clockwise out from Earl's center at high altitudes. These strong upper-level winds will bring high levels of wind shear, 20 - 30 knots, to 97L, and probably arrest the storm's development. The most likely scenario depicted in the computer models is for 97L to be drawn into the low pressure wake of Earl and pass to the northeast of the Lesser Antilles. Earl would then eventually destroy 97L through high wind shear, and by robbing the storm of its moisture. An alternative scenario is that 97L will stay far enough away from Earl that it will be able to pass through the northern Lesser Antilles islands as a tropical storm on Wednesday and Thursday, then bend northwestwards to potentially threaten the Bahamas and U.S. East Coast. There is a very high degree of uncertainty on what may happen to 97L. History suggests that a storm in 97L's current location has a 25% chance of making landfall on the U.S. East Coast.


Figure 4. Morning satellite image of 97L.

Danielle
Hurricane Danielle is on its way to oblivion over the cold North Atlantic waters, and is only of concern to shipping interests.

Elsewhere in the Tropics
Over in the Western Pacific, tropical cyclone activity is ramping up, with two named storms expected to affect land this week. As is typical in a La Niña year, these storms have developed close to mainland Asia, and don't have a lot of time over water to intensify into strong typhoons. The storm of most concern is Typhoon Kompasu, which is expected to hit Okinawa today and recurve northward into Korea on Thursday. It now appears the Kompasu will not have major impacts on China's largest city, Shanghai. 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.

The GFS model is predicting formation of a tropical depression off the coast of Africa about seven days from now.

Jeff Masters

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1281. Titoxd
Best track:


AL, 07, 2010083018, , BEST, 0, 190N, 642W, 115, 954, HU, 34, NEQ, 175, 160, 120, 160, 1010, 250, 20, 0, 0, L, 0, , 0, 0, EARL, D,
AL, 07, 2010083018, , BEST, 0, 190N, 642W, 115, 954, HU, 50, NEQ, 100, 100, 50, 75, 1010, 250, 20, 0, 0, L, 0, , 0, 0, EARL, D,
AL, 07, 2010083018, , BEST, 0, 190N, 642W, 115, 954, HU, 64, NEQ, 60, 50, 25, 40, 1010, 250, 20, 0, 0, L, 0, , 0, 0, EARL, D,
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1280. 7544
wow looks at earl if he slows down or stalls 97l will ram right into in and become one huge strom could the outflow from 97 be pushing earl west thats why he goes from wnw back to west is this a first for a cat 4 to become relaity
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Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


He has been staying pretty much in the cone from the last 3 days of forecasts, but for forecasts before that.... not so much. Some data I put together.


So if I read that right, he has been off 95 miles at the 48 hr forecast points? That's a huge difference for the NE. It's the difference between landfall and not.

Not sure I read everything right on that, but very interesting table. Fine work, as always nrti! What's n stand for? Number of data points? After taking prob and stats this summer, I that's what it should be?
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Quoting weathermanwannabe:


Just dropped my Daughter off for college in New Haven, Conn last weekend so I am watching this very closely even though I live in Florida........Will have to fly her out (back to Florida) if this model pans out.......LOL


i live a bit north of new haven and i will tell you there is no talk of this possibility up here. My brother is moving to hilton head tomorow and had no idea there was a threat to here or the carolinas

If that ever panned out, we would be in a world of hurt up here
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1277. will40
Quoting heavyweatherwatcher:
When all is said and done (counting the recent Northward jog on radar), the 3PM fix should put Earl right back on the NHC track line...


if it dont they will move it so that it does
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
ECMWF now showing a Category 4/5 Hurricane heading towards New York (Earl)

Not wishcasting, just telling what it shows.


Unfortunately, when we KNOW for certain that Earl has made the turn and the models have zeroed in on probable landfall (if any), there will be less than 48-hours notice till landfall. That's almost too short of a time for evacuations, boarding up structures and getting civil defense and FEMA to get prepared.

You can't evacuate all of the coastal cities and towns along the New England states. That's unrealistic at the best of times. Considering that many people in Boston or New York don't even own a car, the best they may be able to do is issue a 'shelter in place' and a hurricane warning for those areas if storm projections show possible landfall. It would be chaos regardless.

Unlike the Gulf Coast, people in New England states have no practice at evacuations.
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
Earl has become a Category 4 Hurricane

AL, 07, 2010083018, , BEST, 0, 190N, 642W, 115, 954



the nhc could all so go a little higher like 120 too 125kt but will seee
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Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:


based on 12z models probably getting a little nudge left dont you think?


Unfortunately it would appear that way........ :)
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115kts - could be 130 or 135mph.

Probably go with 135, but it isn't definite.
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Storm or anyone with knowledge...
When will he have a better grasp on Earl??
The OBX seems like we will be fine but if not we may be caught off guard. What are your thoughts on the future path, seems it changes with each model run. When will the next model runs be??
This morning we were really in the cone, now not so much. Do you think we will remain just outside of the cone from this point on???
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1268. NJ2S
Quoting TampaSpin:
I sure Hope the city of NY is ready for such a possbile REAL THREAT NOW.......WOW!


wont he be moving away from the city tho? like gloria or floyd if earl takes western track?
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Quoting yonzabam:
Looks NW to me.


Earl moving NW


Definitely a Western job at the end of that frame but that's most likely temporary and it will continue on it's WNW path.
Member Since: August 25, 2006 Posts: 1 Comments: 3055
192 hrs...sorry about earlier posts...it was 0z

12z

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Quoting DestinJeff:


This similar thing happened to Ivan back in 2004.

Check the graphics. Continuous west shift in track (from West coast of FL, with recurve NE, all the way to North Central landfall).

NHC kept going with this wnw to nw bend followed byy the lift out by a trough to the NE. That did happen, but not until Ivan was well west of where initially expected.

Beware the "JAMAICA STALL" ... that is when Ivan when haywire....and west.


Ivan was a different scenario. It was trying to go N and the ridge kept building to the West forcing him further West. With Earl, if the ridge came over the top some it should still keep him offshore because he would not be able to punch through it all the way to the SE coast.

With Ivan the path of least resistance was to the West. With Earl the path of least resistance would be to the NE. The further N he goes the more he will want to go to the N and NE as a natural process.
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Quoting weathermanwannabe:
A lot of people on here bash NHC but the fact of the matter is that their track forecasts are based on a consensus of the same "non-human" computer models that we here wait on the runs for....Don't blame NHC if the track shifts to the West a bit; you need to blame Mother Nature and our computer models just trying to keep up with the ever changing atmospheric conditions.


based on 12z models probably getting a little nudge left dont you think?
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Earl has become a Category 4 Hurricane

AL, 07, 2010083018, , BEST, 0, 190N, 642W, 115, 954
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When all is said and done (counting the recent Northward jog on radar), the 3PM fix should put Earl right back on the NHC track line...
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1259. Thaale
Fiona in 8 days:
Member Since: October 19, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 308
Back in here for a bit.

I just did one of those "talisman" type actions.
Even though I am confident it will not be needed, I put the hurricane panels over the one window which I have to use a ladder to do the installation.

I will just leave that one covered for the remainder of the season.

The remainder of the panels I can put up in less than an hour.
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In the Atlantic right now:
1. Tropical Storm DANIELLE
2. Cat. 4 Hurricane EARL
3. Invest 97L (90% dev. chance over next 48 hours)
4. Wave behind 97L
Member Since: June 29, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 5313
Quoting weathermanwannabe:
We will not have a good picture of exactly where Earl may be headed towards the East Coast of the US until a few days from now but this potential track is consistent with a few higher trajectories associated with a La Nina year:

Smith, Shawn R., Justin Brolley, James J. O’Brien, Carissa A. Tartaglione, 2007: ENSO’s Impact on Regional U.S. Hurricane Activity. J. Climate,

East Coast landfalling hurricanes, except those forming during a warm phase, typically form farther east than those that strike Florida or the Gulf Coast (Figs. 5–7). In fact, the median longitude of tropical storm classification during cold and neutral ENSO phases is near or less than the 25th percentile longitude for both Florida and Gulf Coast landfalling hurricanes (Fig. 7). Tropical cyclones that form in the far eastern Atlantic have more time to be influenced by upper-level troughs as they travel across the Atlantic, thereby increasing the likelihood that they will reach a more northern latitude and impact the East Coast.

This compares to seven landfalls for every 10 ENSO cold phases along the East Coast. Differences in ENSO cold versus neutral landfall probabilities are notably smaller for Florida and the Gulf Coast (Figs. 2b,c). These results suggest that there is a significant change in formation location and/or steering patterns during neutral years that limits East Coast landfalls.




That's an important paper. I wish more were aware of it. There are definite regional effects of ENSO on the location of CONUS-landfalling hurricanes.
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A lot of people on here bash NHC but the fact of the matter is that their track forecasts are based on a consensus of the same "non-human" computer models that we here wait on the runs for....Don't blame NHC if the track shifts to the West a bit; you need to blame Mother Nature and our computer models are just trying to keep up with the ever changing atmospheric conditions.
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1254. angiest
Over the last hour I am seeing a motion of ~316 degrees. There was a significant jog to the NW there, but it may be evening out now. Need a few more volume scans.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
Quoting NOVArules:
Remember when Earl was soo cute?

Now, he's a ferocious beast who wants to destroy us all...






LOL
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Quoting CBConnie:
Thanks for the reply, Hurricane4life.....I live in Cape Breton, right beside the beach! I'm preparing for Earl, just incase! I was living in Halifax during Hurricane Juan, and it scared the living bejeesus out of me!


Not a problem, I dont usually comment much on here as storm rarely effect our region (im in dartmouth). However its nice to see some more people from the area on the blog! Juan was a horrible storm, but thats because halifax metro got into the north eastern eye wall (worst part of the storm) as it cut across NS. Ones that parallel the coast are oftens over hyped (like bill), because the strongest part of the storm is over the altantic.
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1250. kramus
Quoting angiest:


Ike stayed within his cone too, but wound up hundreds of miles from where he was expected to go.


It's like throwing a scoop of ice cream while still in the cone.
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Quoting RecordSeason:
1139:

The problem is, based on the NHC's own data, Earl has already passed the weakness/inflection point in the ridge, and is beginning to interact with the continental ridge. It would literally have to move UPWIND in order to make a turn at this point.

you can get this from 850mb and surface pressure map, as well as various other steering and wind overlay graphics.

The surface pressure map shows a virtual impossibility of a northward turn within the next several days.

The 850 pressure maps shows the storm is already passed the weakness and experiencing steering winds from the north associated with the ridge at that layer.

I know I've made some bonehead calls on here before, but I really do not see what the models are picking up on at all to make this turn north and be a fish.

A 1012mb ridge is all it took to steer Alex, and you expect me to believe Earl is not going to be steered by a 1016 to 1024mb ridge? That just doesn't add up.

Hey, hope the models are right though, because if this hits the bahamas and still has a 2 to 1 or 3 to 1 heading, it's going to be easily a major hurricane at landfall...easily...



Precisely what I'm seeing. Thanks.
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Quoting nyhurricaneboy:


If that model verifies...


Agreed...but still nervous for any of the current models that run it into NS.
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Quoting Yankeesfan924:


Looks like a more western movement in the last frame or two.


Yes. Quite a pronounced westerly movement, there. Jog or trend? Who knows?
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1245. divdog
Quoting rarepearldesign:
I am getting real nervous here in Nova Scotia..a cat 1/2 sounds bad, new models showing cat 4/5 off NY would mean likely cat 2/3 hit in NS...OMG

So much can happen, but as it stands now, it's nervewracking
way too far away to be real nervous but close enuf to make sure you are fully prepared in case the model scenario you are watching plays out.
Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 755
Remember when Earl was soo cute?

Now, he's a ferocious beast who wants to destroy us all...

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1243. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
110 knots for NHC

they could not upgrade to Category 4..
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1242. unf97
Quoting Alockwr21:
Wow Earl is a MONSTER. Praying for all those it might eventually affect.


Amen to this! Earl is definitely a monster cyclone and I pray for all of the people in the islands who are being impacted by this extremely dangerous cyclone.
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Quoting StormW:


Need that ridge over the east coast to basically stay put, until the next trof comes into the picture. If that ridge shifts NE or ENE any distance, the chances of Earl feeling the current weakness diminish greatly.

jinkies..okay...that I understand. Thanks Chief.
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Quoting PcolaDan:


I know, they show the "uncertainty" quite well. That's why they are so big. People were talking last night about how the NHC could be so far off. Well they weren't really. Earl has stayed in the cone, albeit on the left side, but the cone moves, as it should.
Hm can't quite convey what I'm trying to say.


Kinda like when your headlights point the direction your car is moving, but changes with every little adjustment and twist of the steering wheel?
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1239. geepy86
Quoting Patrap:

Looks like 97L is towing the next invest
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Quoting Patrap:


Looks like Earl is dragging a ball and chain behind....
Member Since: June 29, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1136
Quoting rarepearldesign:
I am getting real nervous here in Nova Scotia..a cat 1/2 sounds bad, new models showing cat 4/5 off NY would mean likely cat 2/3 hit in NS...OMG

So much can happen, but as it stands now, it's nervewracking


If that model verifies...
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Quoting StormW:


Need that ridge over the east coast to basically stay put, until the next trof comes into the picture. If that ridge shifts NE or ENE any distance, the chances of Earl feeling the current weakness diminish greatly.

So after going NW a turn back west is possible?
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Hoping Earl does not get on the long island express.
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1234. Patrap
Large Image IR Earl and more
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Quoting StormJunkie:


wnw actually...And pretty much in line with guidance for now. Granted, he is remaining on the southern edge of guidance. He's done that for quite a while now...But again, he is still staying within guidance and the cone.


He has been staying pretty much in the cone from the last 3 days of forecasts, but for forecasts before that.... not so much. Some data I put together.
Member Since: September 23, 2005 Posts: 14 Comments: 11215
Quoting Floodman:


Not "nose on top" but "nose over"...if the ridge extends eastward and passes over the "top" of Earl, it will effectively close off the trof and he will not have the weakness to turn into, pulling him out, first NW, the N then NE...he will be "trapped" in a more westerly course



The few model runs I've bothered to observe are not depicting Earl to turn into the closing Danielle weakness, but rather turning with the exiting CONUS trough. Unless, I've missed 'em - and, could have.
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I am getting real nervous here in Nova Scotia..a cat 1/2 sounds bad, new models showing cat 4/5 off NY would mean likely cat 2/3 hit in NS...OMG

So much can happen, but as it stands now, it's nervewracking
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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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