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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281. HCW
12Z Earl runs from the NHC

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting angiest:


The problem, in the case of Earl, is that he was supposed to feel that tug several days ago, and stubbornly has not done so yet. He may likely feel it yet, but timing is becoming more and more critical.


Yes re: timing ... and as he strengthens he will need a stronger tug. The tug is not forecast to be all that strong by tomorrow evening.

E-Wall 12Z GFS, CMC, Navy 36 hours out ... top row
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Quoting latrendsetter:
WOW, channel 7 in fort lauderdale weather man said if earl does not start going more north in the next 24 hours or making that turn, then south florida could be under the gun. There saying for people to be prepared. So i guess the next 24 hours is crucall for south florida.


******VOIcE YOUR OPINIONS ON THIS****************



Earl is making it's turn right now....Fl. is not getting hit with this storm....
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Levi, do you think there is any chance at all that Earl could possibly hit Florida?
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Quoting weatherxtreme:

Please stop inducing panic here. There are lurkers here that may panic based on your comments.
Quoting katrinakat5:
i have been saying this all along sou fla people go out and get your supplies while you still have time...this is going to be a cat 5 folks it will do lots of damage please get prepared..

KatrinaKat5-
Please take a chill pill!!! Thank you
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Jax82

Thanks for the post of the WU radar I asked for!

My late reply is due to being the phone for over 1/2 hour with American Express...
sorting something out.

...I guess they don't want me to be blown away without it.

heh heh
CRS
Member Since: July 12, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6051
275. Relix
Hurricane gusts are expected as the system is moving more West than expected.
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Quoting Scuddz:


Probably because your basis uses no facts, no science, and no logic. Pure fear-mongering and speculation


See im glad u understand this
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Quoting angiest:
San Juan radar indicating consistent 80-90kt max winds now.


Thanks for that...pretty high considering the distance yet...the wind field is indeed expanding still.
Member Since: June 26, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 383
Quoting IamTheCanesSurfer:



5 days out has a cone of error of more than 300 miles - right :) Earl did not landfall in the antilles - so looks like a good call to me.


Sorry mate, but it's still considered a strike. A few of those islands were stuck in the eyewall for hours on end as well.

Don't downplay the fact that its eye didnt pass overtop of an island to say it's not a landfall.
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Quoting weatherxtreme:

Please stop inducing panic here. There are lurkers here that may panic based on your comments.
Quoting weatherxtreme:

Please stop inducing panic here. There are lurkers here that may panic based on your comments.
I lived in South Florida for many years...I do agree with the first statement Katrina kat made , but not the second one. The only reason is because S. FL has a history of not being prepared at all. When the do figure that they need to be prepared, its like a Laurel and hardy scenario.Instead of the last sentence I would have changed it to check your local weather station and emergency management for further updates. The statement of Cat5 et al, was non productive.
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Quoting Tazmanian:
the HH found 118kt winds


From 155° at 112 knots
(From the SSE at ~ 128.8 mph) 8.2°C*
(~ 46.8°F*) -* 118 knots
(~ 135.7 mph)


118kts is CAT 4 hurricane.

It will be CAT 5 in the next 24h according to NHC 7% but looking this maybe 20%
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Quoting Codaflow:
Is there any way of turning off the auto-hide on some of the selected bloggers here? I'd like to see the entire discussion, the good and the bad. Thanks!


Does "show all" work ?
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Quoting rarepearldesign:


So when you say it's likely to recurve and miss the US, do you imply miss maritimes too?


No, because I was only referring to the US. The Canadian Maritimes have a much greater chance of being directly affected by Earl.
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Quoting medicroc:

I used to work as a Disaster Planner for a large insurance company on Wall Street(which will remain nameless). I got a look at FEMA's projections of NYC getting hit with the strong side of a major. Due to the extreme right angle caused by Long Island jutting out into the Atlantic, downtown, from Battery Park to at least City Hall could see flooding up to 30 feet high!


That's the rumor...
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Quoting LongGlassTube:
Really? The 11:00 am advisory on August 25th had Earl at 20.5 N and 57.0 W five days out.

Now five days out, Earl is 18.7 N and 63.6 W.

Missed by 1.8 N and 6.6 W, a difference of 450 miles.


Very good statement of the facts with graphic evidence Allstar. IT is not bashing the NHC it is just the error in the long range forcast that they so often state themselves, Just look at the satement in the 5 am discussion this morning.


The scary part to me is the 30 mile error they have made in just 3 hours.

The last advisory took it over the 65 at the 20.

Now it is passing the 65 at 19.5.

It's likely going to pass 10 miles south of that point too.
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Quoting katrinakat5:
well brandi thats the exact same thing i was told when katrina was going into the panhandle of fla and then the computers made the 250 mile shift to the left and put new orleans in the bulls eye...dont believe me i have 25 years of forecasting these storms i know them pretty well..i will tell you this if earl does not make the nw turn by by 66west then all bets are off for sou fla...


Hey, Earl is already moving WNW, will certianly miss Puerto Rico - by a good shot and "hopefully miss the East coast", in which FLorida is not really of concern. Not even a remote need to panic at this point.
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Quoting BDAwx:
What kind of storm surge would you get from a category 2 hurricane going up the Bay of Fundy?


The SLOSH data goes up to Maine.. but I'm sure the Canadian Hurricane Center has got to have models...

http://www.ec.gc.ca/ouragans-hurricanes/
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Quoting latrendsetter:
WOW, channel 7 in fort lauderdale weather man said if earl does not start going more north in the next 24 hours or making that turn, then south florida could be under the gun. There saying for people to be prepared. So i guess the next 24 hours is crucall for south florida.


******VOIcE YOUR OPINIONS ON THIS****************


damn herbert box
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Quoting AllStar17:


Really? The 11:00 am advisory on August 25th had Earl at 20.5 N and 57.0 W five days out.

Now five days out, Earl is 18.7 N and 63.6 W.

Missed by 1.8 N and 6.6 W, a difference of 450 miles.



5 days out has a cone of error of more than 300 miles - right :) Earl did not landfall in the antilles - so looks like a good call to me.
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Quoting CybrTeddy:


Are they on SFMR?

Flight level winds, not surface.
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Levi or Storm
Living in Dover, Nh as I do and the track of 100 miles off the coast holds true, what kind of winds can we expect. this past Feb we got slammed with 90 mile winds from Nor'easter and lost power for 3 whole days (got damn cold) Are we looking at that kind of WIND GUSTS

Not looking for definite, just guestiments
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So according to some, Earl could make landfall anywhere from Florida to NS??

sheesh
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Quoting katrinakat5:
latrendsetter i been saying this all morning...gee why wont you people LISTEN


Probably because your basis uses no facts, no science, and no logic. Pure fear-mongering and speculation
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Quoting LongGlassTube:
Really? The 11:00 am advisory on August 25th had Earl at 20.5 N and 57.0 W five days out.

Now five days out, Earl is 18.7 N and 63.6 W.

Missed by 1.8 N and 6.6 W, a difference of 450 miles.


Very good statement of the facts with graphic evidence Allstar. IT is not bashing the NHC it is just the error in the long range forcast that they so often state themselves, Just look at the satement in the 5 am discussion this morning.


I don't want to bash the NHC either. But when people keep saying that the NHC "nailed the track with this one," and that track keeps shifting, I tend to wonder why they don't call it as it is. Sure, the NHC has the track right now, this minute, but they didn't before and they may not tomorrow either. It is weather, not an exact science at all.
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Quoting CybrTeddy:


Are they on SFMR?



yes i think they where but there not there now has they did other pass and still found a 955mb
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115252
Quoting Levi32:


Yes. In general, Earl really has been following the projected path up until this point fairly closely. It's after Puerto Rico that the path could start diverging from the forecast, and we'll have to watch it more closely then. Certainly any northward wobbles are good news for everyone concerned :)
Correct, there are more dynamics and surface features we have to look for, and its all about timeing!
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251. Relix
Toa Baja PR: Heavy heavy 35+mph gusts winds at a constant 25mph or so. Heavy squalls. We still have power here in Levittown.
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I agree! Anxiety is probably a better word. I think being prepared at any time is always good though.
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Quoting Levi32:
Earl is still most likely to recurve east of the US but only a small track error could result in a large portion of the US coastline experiencing a hurricane....it really is a nail-biting situation. The good news is Earl could weaken some before turning up towards the Carolinas, but he could just as easily be a Cat 4 once the dry air disperses and if the shear is not strong enough to affect him significantly.


So when you say it's likely to recurve and miss the US, do you imply miss maritimes too?
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If track verifies for NS... we have 3 1/2 days to get boats out of water, and move the car away from the large tree in your yard. Friday may be too stormy already to do anything but watch.
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Quoting Tazmanian:
the HH found 118kt winds


From 155° at 112 knots
(From the SSE at ~ 128.8 mph) 8.2°C*
(~ 46.8°F*) -* 118 knots
(~ 135.7 mph)


Are they on SFMR?
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Quoting Orcasystems:


If... you just look at the last two plots (like people like to do).. he has started his turn. If you look at the last three... he is right on the NHC track.


Yes. In general, Earl really has been following the projected path up until this point fairly closely. It's after Puerto Rico that the path could start diverging from the forecast, and we'll have to watch it more closely then. Certainly any northward wobbles are good news for everyone concerned :)
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Quoting AllStar17:


To put that 450 miles in perspective, it'd be like saying Earl would landfall in New York, when really it landfalls in Eastport, Maine:

thats why 5 day forecasts are very unreliable.
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PR getting some nasty squalls now with the worst to come.


Member Since: September 22, 2005 Posts: 18 Comments: 2343
12z gfs is running

http://raleighwx.easternuswx.com/models/gfs/12zgfs500mbHGHTPMSLtropicalGFSLoop.html
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Quoting rwdobson:
Forecasts now should be better than they were 5 days ago b/c they now have hurricane hunter data to work with.


There's still too much variability to give a dead on forecast. There is no supercomputer that can model the atmosphere down to the molecular level. The error circle shrinks every year, however, individual storms can still throw everything out the window.

I've met the folks at the NHC. Taught with them. Listened to lectures. These people are dedicated to the forecasting and are working their hind-ends off.
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240. BDAwx
What kind of storm surge would you get from a category 2 hurricane going up the Bay of Fundy?
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239. Skyepony (Mod)
Earl still looks like he could be better stacked by the recon. Lowest~ 955.4mb was in 54mph flight winds. The near still winds was 3 minutes later. Kinda suspect the pressure reading too, notice the plane isn't at it's lowest at the lowest pressure reading or in the calmest winds. Can see why the dropsonde in the eye hasn't been replaces.
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the HH found 118kt winds


From 155° at 112 knots
(From the SSE at ~ 128.8 mph) 8.2°C*
(~ 46.8°F*) -* 118 knots
(~ 135.7 mph)
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115252
Quoting WatchingThisOne:


Sounds reasonable. GFS, Navy and CMC steering forecasts at E-Wall agree that Earl should start to feel a significant tug Tuesday evening Eastern).


The problem, in the case of Earl, is that he was supposed to feel that tug several days ago, and stubbornly has not done so yet. He may likely feel it yet, but timing is becoming more and more critical.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
WOW, channel 7 in fort lauderdale weather man said if earl does not start going more north in the next 24 hours or making that turn, then south florida could be under the gun. There saying for people to be prepared. So i guess the next 24 hours is crucall for south florida.


******VOIcE YOUR OPINIONS ON THIS****************
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Quoting weatherxtreme:

Please stop inducing panic here. There are lurkers here that may panic based on your comments.

ANXIETY you mean not PANIC. People are not going to start jumping out windows or trampling their grandmothers because of anything that is posted on this board. If people start heading out now buying flashlights, batteries, extra food and water so much better for them. Rather have too much than not enough
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Impressive 955 mb found by recon.

Earl is a VERY dangerous hurricane.
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Quoting weatherxtreme:

Please stop inducing panic here. There are lurkers here that may panic based on your comments.


Stupid is as stupid does, mama always says.
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Quoting LongGlassTube:
Really? The 11:00 am advisory on August 25th had Earl at 20.5 N and 57.0 W five days out.

Now five days out, Earl is 18.7 N and 63.6 W.

Missed by 1.8 N and 6.6 W, a difference of 450 miles.


Very good statement of the facts with graphic evidence Allstar. IT is not bashing the NHC it is just the error in the long range forcast that they so often state themselves, Just look at the satement in the 5 am discussion this morning.


As shown here:

earl verification
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
231. dader
Quoting StormW:
I'm back! Give me some time to perform a reanalysis of things, and I'll have a full update.

I received a nice email earlier, asking me to make some guest appearances on myfoxhurricane.com


Very nice- congrats. Look forward to the update
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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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