Early 2011 Atlantic Hurricane Season Forecasts

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 6:22 AM GMT on April 07, 2011

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Hi everybody, this is Dr. Rob Carver filling in for Dr. Masters. 

A continuation of the pattern of much above-average Atlantic hurricane activity we've seen since 1995 is on tap for 2011, according to the latest seasonal forecast issued April 6 by Dr. Phil Klotzbach and Dr. Bill Gray of Colorado State University (CSU). They are calling for 16 named storms, 9 hurricanes, and 5 intense hurricanes. An average season has 10 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 2 intense hurricanes. The new forecast is nearly identical to their forecast made in December, which called for 17 named storms, 9 hurricanes, and 5 intense hurricanes. Only six seasons since 1851 have had as many as 17 named storms; 19 seasons have had 9 or more hurricanes. The 2011 forecast calls for a much above-average chance of a major hurricane hitting the U.S., both along the East Coast (48% chance, 31% chance is average) and the Gulf Coast (47% chance, 30% chance is average). The Caribbean is forecast to have a 61% chance of seeing at least one major hurricane (42% is average.) Five years with similar pre-season November atmospheric and oceanic conditions were selected as "analogue" years that the 2011 hurricane season may resemble: 2008, 1999, 1996, 1955, and 2006.  The first four years listed all had neutral to La Niña SST's during hurricane season, while 2006 had El Niño SST's.  The average activity for these years was 12.6 named storms, 7.8 hurricanes, and 4.8 major hurricanes.

This year, the forecasters have introduced a new statistical model for their  April forecasts.  There are four components in this model:

1. Average sea-level pressure in March around the Azores in the subtropical Atlantic.

2. The average of January through March sea-surface temperatures (SST's) in the tropical Atlantic off the coast of Africa.

3. Average sea-level pressure in February and March for the southern tropical Pacific ocean west of South America.

4. Forecasts of September's SST in the tropical Pacific using a dynamical model from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) 

The first two components are loosely linked together.  Statistical studies have shown that a weaker subtropical high near the Azores, combined with warmer SST's off the coast of Africa in March are associated with weak winds near the surface and aloft from August to October.  This decrease in wind speeds reduces wind shear which can disrupt forming storms.  These March conditions also are associated with warmer SST's in August to October, which is also favorable for more tropical storms.   For this forecast, the first component is strongly favorable for increased hurricane activity, while the second component is weakly negative.

The last two components represent the changes in sea-surface temperature and sea-level pressure that are the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO).  Briefly speaking,  El Niño conditions (warm sea-surface temperatures) are not favorable for Atlantic hurricanes.  For more info on ENSO and hurricanes, Jeff has this article.

Using the ECMWF model as guidance (see Figure 1), the CSU group believes that SST's in the tropical Pacific will be neutral (less than 0.5°C from normal).  This would have a small negative effect on hurricane activity.  However, the tropical Pacific sea-level pressure shows that the atmosphere looks like a La Niña event is still going on.  This is strongly favorable for Atlantic hurricane activity in the CSU group's model.

Figure 1. Forecasts of El Niño conditions by 20 computer models, made in March 2011. The ECMWF forecast used by the CSU group is represented by the dark orange square.  The forecasts for August-September-October (ASO) show that 5 models predict El Niño conditions, 7 predict neutral conditions, and 5 predict a weak to moderate La Niña. El Niño conditions are defined as occurring when sea surface temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific off the coast of South America ( the "Niño 3.4 region) rise to 0.5°C above average (top red line). La Niña conditions occur when SSTs in this region fall to 0.5°C below average. Image credit: Columbia University.

How accurate are the April forecasts? While the formulas used by CSU do well in making hindcasts--correctly modeling the behavior of past hurricane seasons--their April hurricane season forecasts have had no skill in predicting the future. This year's April forecast is using a new system and has not yet produced a verified forecast.  The scheme used in the past three years successfully predicted active hurricane seasons for 2008 and 2010, but failed to properly predict the relatively quiet 2009 hurricane season. A different formula was used prior to 2008, and the April forecasts using that formula showed no skill over a simple forecast using climatology. CSU maintains an Excel spreadsheet of their forecast errors ( expressed as a mathematical correlation coefficient, where positive means a skilled forecast, and negative means they did worse than climatology) for their their April forecasts. For now, these April forecasts should simply be viewed as an interesting research effort that has the potential to make skillful forecasts. The next CSU forecast, due by June 1, is the one worth paying attention to. Their early June forecasts have shown considerable skill over the years.


Figure 2.
Accuracy of long-range forecasts of Atlantic hurricane season activity performed by Phil Klotzbach and Bill Gray of Colorado State University (colored squares) and Tropical Storm Risk, Inc. (colored lines). The CSU team's April forecast skill is not plotted, but is less than zero. The skill is measured by the Mean Square Skill Score (MSSS), which looks at the error and squares it, then compares the percent improvement the forecast has over a climatological forecast of 10 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 2 intense hurricanes. TS=Tropical Storms, H= Hurricanes, IH=Intense Hurricanes, ACE=Accumulated Cyclone Energy, NTC=Net Tropical Cyclone Activity. Image credit: TSR.

2011 Atlantic hurricane season forecast from Tropical Storm Risk, Inc.

The  British  private  forecasting  firm  Tropical Storm Risk, Inc.  (TSR),   issued  their  2011  Atlantic hurricane season forecast on April 5. They are also calling for  a  very  active  year: 14. 2 named storms, 7.5 hurricanes, and 3.6 intense hurricanes. We would round that to 14 named storms, 8 hurricanes, and 4 intense hurricanes.   This  compares to their forecast issued in December of 15.6 named storms, 8.4 hurricanes,   and intense hurricanes. TSR predicts a 55%  chance  of  an  above-average  hurricane season, 28% chance of a near-normal season, and only a 17%  chance  of  a  below normal season. TSR bases their April forecast on predictions  that  sea  surface temperatures this fall in the tropical  Atlantic  will  be  above  about  0.08°C above average, and trade  wind  speeds  will  be  about 0.2  m/s  slower  than average.  The decrease in the trade wind speeds is favorable for enhanced hurricane activity, while the forecast SST's are expected to be neutral for hurricane activity.

TSR puts their skill level right next to the forecast numbers: 13% skill above chance at forecasting the number of named storms, 11% skill for hurricanes, and 10% skill for intense hurricanes. That's not much skill, and really, we have to wait until the June 1 forecasts by CSU, NOAA, and TSR to get a forecast with reasonable skill.

Rob's critiques of the April forecasts
I have to note that Jeff and I wrote this article together.  He wrote the general framework before the forecasts were issued, while I wrote the details based on the actual forecasts.  So the preceding text is a joint production.  However, I have a few observations to make that are my responsibility alone.

First, I am disappointed that the CSU group has changed forecast models only after three seasonal forecasts.  This makes it very difficult to assess the skill of the current forecast using past performance.  This is very important for forecast users, and they do it everyday.  For example, I tend to discount a forecast of rain if it comes from a source that over-forecasts rain (The boy who cried wolf problem).

In the documentation that came with the April forecast, the CSU group argue that the hindcasts show the new forecast model has skill.  However, I think hindcasts are a poor substitute for real forecasts in understanding the skill of a statistical forecast model, like that of the CSU's group.  As Jeff noted, the previous forecast model did well with the hindcasts and yet had mixed results with the actual forecasts.  This does not give me confidence that the new forecast model will be superior to the previous model.

From a philosophical viewpoint, I am inherently cautious about statistical forecast models like the one used by the CSU group.  Essentially, they look at what happened in the past and use that to predict the future.  However, for making forecasts, we assume that the relationships in space and time between the predictors (such as the average March sea-level pressure around the Azores) and the predictands (Atlantic hurricane activity) does not change as we move forward in time.  In a world with climate change, that's a tricky assumption to make.

In any event, it is customary in the meteorological community to continue running older forecast guidance models after the introduction of newer models.  This allows forecasters and forecast users to leverage their knowledge of the forecast skill of the older model and gain insight into the forecast skill of the new model.  The CSU group really should have included the forecast from the previous statistical forecast system in this forecast.     

I am uneasy with some of the methodology choices made in implementing the forecast model.  Data for the first three predictors was obtained from the Climate Forecast System Reanalysis (CFSR), NOAA's newest and most advanced reanalysis product.  However, CFSR data for 2010 and 2011 has not been released yet, so the CSU group used NCEP/NCAR Reanalysis (NNR), NOAA's first-generation reanalysis, to fill in the gaps.  Due to differences in design, resolution, etc., CFSR and NNR can have different depictions of the state of the atmosphere.  So using NNR's March 2011 average SLP instead of CFSR's could alter the forecast in unexpected ways.  It would be interesting to see how CFSR's 2010-2011 data changes the results. 

In any event, we will have to wait and see what the Atlantic hurricane season of 2011 brings.

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Quoting Skyepony:
Crazy chasin this cell in the dark..


Hey Skye, been watching that, is there no sound or I'm not doing something right?
Member Since: September 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1496
Forgot to admit not quite as old as Grothar but I liked it better when we didn't have street lights.
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932. Skyepony (Mod)
He's got atleast ping pong size hail there.
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931. Skyepony (Mod)
Crazy chasin this cell in the dark..
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The only thing nice I can say about Wilma was I saw the stars for two nites. And there was little sound around to go along with it. But I digress.
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Quoting emcf30:


Nice image. Looks like it is getting bigger.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27125
WARNING----- POLITICAL CONTENT


Looks like the government won't have to shut down for the time being.


END----- POLITICAL CONTENT
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Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1957
Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1957
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Quoting EYEStoSEA:
Grothar, question....recently I wanted to ignore a post....and found out I had to set up my own blog first, so I did. Do you think this would make my comments start over again? I now have only 58 showing and I had over 600, I think.....


I honestly don't know. I started my blog the first time I got on. Although I have never posted anything. I just don't have that much to say.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27125
Quoting sunlinepr:
For those of you that like planetary exploration, Very interesting ESA Venus Express Wpage...

Link




Close-up view of south polar vortex


This figure shows the volcanic peak Idunn Mons (at 46°S, 214.5°E) in the Imdr Regio area of Venus.


WOW........great visuals...will save link....my husband loves everything involving space exploration. Thanks for sharing...
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This is some tennis ball size hail that came out of a collapsing updraft from a storm reed was chasing tonight in OK
Member Since: August 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1957
For those of you that like planetary exploration, Very interesting ESA Venus Express Wpage...

Link




Close-up view of south polar vortex


This figure shows the volcanic peak Idunn Mons (at 46°S, 214.5°E) in the Imdr Regio area of Venus.
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9882
Grothar, question....recently I wanted to ignore a post....and found out I had to set up my own blog first, so I did. Do you think this would make my comments start over again? I now have only 58 showing and I had over 600, I think.....
Member Since: September 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1496
Quoting SWFLgazer:
When was the last time that the forecast for the season was low instead of high?


Here is a link for you. It is the Accuracy table of the CSU forecasts done by Gray and Klotzbach.


Link
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27125
Quoting emcf30:
December to May
Further information: Off-season storms
Probability of a tropical cyclone of tropical storm or hurricane strength at a specific date, expressed as systems per 100 years

Although the hurricane season is defined as beginning on June 1 and ending on November 30, there have been several off-season storms.[16] Since 1870, there have been 32 off-season cyclones, 18 of which occurred in May. In the same time span, nine storms formed in December, two in April and one each in January, February and March.[18] Four seasons, 1887,[25] 1953,[26] 2003[27] and 2007 have had storms form both before and after the official hurricane season.[28] In 1887, there were four storms that occurred outside the season, the most in a single year.[25] High vertical wind shear and low sea surface temperatures generally preclude formation.[5]

Tropical cyclones have been monitored in all months;[18] however, no tropical system have formed in January. Two tropical cyclones have existed during the month, both of which formed in late December. The first was the second Hurricane Alice in 1954 and more recently, Tropical Storm Zeta in 2005. The only system to form during the month was a subtropical storm during the 1978 season.[16] The strongest storm outside the hurricane season was Hurricane Able in 1951. This storm attained Category 3 status on May 21, the earliest date a storm has reached major hurricane status on record.[29]
[edit] Extremes
Hurricane Katrina was the costliest and one of the five deadliest hurricanes in the history of the United States, costing over 1800 lives and $81.2 billion USD.
See also: List of Atlantic hurricane records

The season in which the most tropical storms formed on record was the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season (28). That season was also the one in which the most hurricanes formed on record (15).[16]
The 1950 Atlantic hurricane season had the most major hurricanes on record (8).[16]
The least active season on record since 1944 (when the database is considered more reliable) was the 1983 Atlantic hurricane season, with one tropical storm, two hurricanes, and one major hurricane. Overall, the 1914 Atlantic hurricane season remains the least active, with only one documented storm.[16]
The most intense hurricane on record to form in the North Atlantic basin was Hurricane Wilma (2005) (882 mbar).[16]
The longest-lasting hurricane was the San Ciriaco Hurricane of 1899 (28 days).[16]
The fastest-moving hurricane was Hurricane Emily (1987) at 69 mph.[16]
The most tornadoes spawned by a hurricane was 127 by Hurricane Ivan (2004 season).[16]
The strongest landfalling hurricane was the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 (892 hPa).[16]
The deadliest hurricane was the Great Hurricane of 1780 (22,000 fatalities).[30]
The most damaging hurricane (adjusted for inflation) was Hurricane Katrina of the 2005 season which caused $81.2 billion in damages (2005 USD).[31]
The quickest forming hurricane was Hurricane Humberto in 2007. It was a minimal hurricane that formed and intensified faster than any other tropical cyclone on record before landfall. Developing on September 12, 2007, in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico, the cyclone rapidly strengthened and struck High Island, Texas, with winds of about 90 mph (150 km/h) early on September 13.
Very informal post.
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Quoting SWFLgazer:
Caneswatch: Are the predictions genera;;y worse than the results?


It can be, but it depends on which category. In 2004, NOAA predicted 12-15, in which 15 formed. But, the total number of hurricanes (prediction of 6-8) and majors (prediction of 2-4) were higher than what they predicted. 9 hurricanes and 6 majors formed. So, they're usually right in one category but wrong in the others. But, they're predictions, they don't need to be right.

In 2006, the number they predicted in all categories turned out to be higher than the total. In 2008, they nailed all categories correctly.
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December to May
Further information: Off-season storms
Probability of a tropical cyclone of tropical storm or hurricane strength at a specific date, expressed as systems per 100 years

Although the hurricane season is defined as beginning on June 1 and ending on November 30, there have been several off-season storms.[16] Since 1870, there have been 32 off-season cyclones, 18 of which occurred in May. In the same time span, nine storms formed in December, two in April and one each in January, February and March.[18] Four seasons, 1887,[25] 1953,[26] 2003[27] and 2007 have had storms form both before and after the official hurricane season.[28] In 1887, there were four storms that occurred outside the season, the most in a single year.[25] High vertical wind shear and low sea surface temperatures generally preclude formation.[5]

Tropical cyclones have been monitored in all months;[18] however, no tropical system have formed in January. Two tropical cyclones have existed during the month, both of which formed in late December. The first was the second Hurricane Alice in 1954 and more recently, Tropical Storm Zeta in 2005. The only system to form during the month was a subtropical storm during the 1978 season.[16] The strongest storm outside the hurricane season was Hurricane Able in 1951. This storm attained Category 3 status on May 21, the earliest date a storm has reached major hurricane status on record.[29]
[edit] Extremes
Hurricane Katrina was the costliest and one of the five deadliest hurricanes in the history of the United States, costing over 1800 lives and $81.2 billion USD.
See also: List of Atlantic hurricane records

The season in which the most tropical storms formed on record was the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season (28). That season was also the one in which the most hurricanes formed on record (15).[16]
The 1950 Atlantic hurricane season had the most major hurricanes on record (8).[16]
The least active season on record since 1944 (when the database is considered more reliable) was the 1983 Atlantic hurricane season, with one tropical storm, two hurricanes, and one major hurricane. Overall, the 1914 Atlantic hurricane season remains the least active, with only one documented storm.[16]
The most intense hurricane on record to form in the North Atlantic basin was Hurricane Wilma (2005) (882 mbar).[16]
The longest-lasting hurricane was the San Ciriaco Hurricane of 1899 (28 days).[16]
The fastest-moving hurricane was Hurricane Emily (1987) at 69 mph.[16]
The most tornadoes spawned by a hurricane was 127 by Hurricane Ivan (2004 season).[16]
The strongest landfalling hurricane was the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 (892 hPa).[16]
The deadliest hurricane was the Great Hurricane of 1780 (22,000 fatalities).[30]
The most damaging hurricane (adjusted for inflation) was Hurricane Katrina of the 2005 season which caused $81.2 billion in damages (2005 USD).[31]
The quickest forming hurricane was Hurricane Humberto in 2007. It was a minimal hurricane that formed and intensified faster than any other tropical cyclone on record before landfall. Developing on September 12, 2007, in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico, the cyclone rapidly strengthened and struck High Island, Texas, with winds of about 90 mph (150 km/h) early on September 13.
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Quoting Grothar:


Saw you defending me earlier. LOL


Yea, I try....but know it's all in fun :)
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Quoting EYEStoSEA:


Been here for a while ~~~~


Saw you defending me earlier. LOL
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27125
Mmmm I always wonder how our hurricane season will turn out.And what that map will look like after the season.I just wonder wich wave will become what,what storm will be remember.What storm will get retired?.All these mysteries will soon be anwsered in the coming months.
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When was the last time that the forecast for the season was low instead of high?
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Quoting Grothar:


Hey, EYES. How are you? Missed you tonight on the blog.


Been here for a while ~~~~
Member Since: September 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1496
generally.
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Caneswatch: Are the predictions genera;;y worse than the results?
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.
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Quoting EYEStoSEA:
SEVERE WEATHER STATEMENTS

Link


Hey, EYES. How are you? Missed you tonight on the blog.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27125
Quoting SWFLgazer:
Caneswatch: How did that forecast turn out?


It was actually lower than what he predicted. 9 named storms, 3 hurricanes, and 2 majors. Bill was the strongest storm that year, reaching Category 4 status.
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SEVERE WEATHER STATEMENTS

Link
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Thank you both. I'm trying to figure out who knows that of which they speak and those who are just blowing smoke because they can.
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Quoting SWFLgazer:
Caneswatch: How did that forecast turn out?


Sorry to answer for Canes, but thought you would like this. It was a boring year. I think it was the year I decided to join WU. I had lurked since 2005. I am actually very shy.



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Caneswatch: How did that forecast turn out?
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Quoting SWFLgazer:
Which is your source? caneswatch?


Actually, Canes is mostly correct. Here is the link for the 2009 Hurricane Forecast. It was expected to be slightly below average by most forecasters. And it was.

Link
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Quoting SWFLgazer:
Thank you Caneswatch.


No problem. I remember hearing about a below-average forecast in 2009, and I wanted to make sure if my memory served me right.
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Thank you Caneswatch.
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.
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Which is your source? caneswatch?
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Re: 1997 forecast.


Forecast: 1997 will make history

By DAVID BALLINGRUD

©St. Petersburg Times, published June 3, 1997

If Bill Gray's predictions for 1997 hurricane activity hold true, history will be made this year.

Professor Gray, who leads a team of highly regarded hurricane forecasters at Colorado State University, says this June-through-November season will be the third consecutive year of above-average hurricane activity.

That would make 1995, 1998 and 1997 the most active three-year span in history. More troublesome than the record, however, is what it might mean. Gray says the higher storm activity of recent years might mark the beginning of a long-term trend.
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Quoting SWFLgazer:
NOAA forecast for 2009:
NOAA Issues Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook, Encourages Preparedness
May 21, 2009

NOAA forecasters say a near-normal Atlantic hurricane season is most likely this year. However, as with any season, the need to prepare for the possibility of a storm striking near you is essential.

Near normal is not below normal.


I wasn't referring to NOAA. I was referring to another source.

From Wikipedia: On June 2, 2009, Klotzbach's team issued another updated forecast for the 2009 season, predicting slightly below average activity (11 named storms, 5 hurricanes, 2 of Category 3 or higher and ACE Index of 85).

Although it wasn't preseason, it was at the beginning.
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:
hey guys anyone have any ideas when we will have our first Tropical wave


I would say in the next 2 to 3 weeks
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Quoting hurricaneben:


You mean, POTENT wave which could be tagged as an Invest and has a chance of becoming a TD? Maybe in just a couple of weeks.



I'll just let that line go for now.

Hi Ben, you see how they all pick on me? I thought that was very nice of you to defend me.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27125
NOAA forecast for 2009:
NOAA Issues Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook, Encourages Preparedness
May 21, 2009

NOAA forecasters say a near-normal Atlantic hurricane season is most likely this year. However, as with any season, the need to prepare for the possibility of a storm striking near you is essential.

Near normal is not below normal.
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:
hey guys anyone have any ideas when we will have our first Tropical wave


You mean, POTENT wave which could be tagged as an Invest and has a chance of becoming a TD? Maybe in just a couple of weeks.
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Quoting emcf30:


Glad to have you back. I was searching the web for you.Tapped into you video camera at the house. Saw you com back from BINGO. See ya got a little side tracked

img src="">


Payback can be awful. LOL
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27125
Quoting twincomanche:
When I bought my house in Cape Coral they told me that there hadn't been a hurricane since 1934 or such. That was in 2003. And then.......and then......


Same in Miami-Ft. Lauderdale area. The last Hurricane we had was 1966, then nothing until 1992 when Andrew hit. There were a few minor storms, but no one even noticed. We even had school and went to work. It has been active ever since. When I was younger, we had a storm almost every year or every other year. I lived in Europe for a long time, but was mostly in Florida or Long Island for the Summers.
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Quoting twincomanche:
When I bought my house in Cape Coral they told me that there hadn't been a hurricane since 1934 or such. That was in 2003. And then.......and then......
Yeah I can't forget her either.She came through my city cuasing damage.A matter of fact she was the most expensive tropical cyclone to effect my area.I just couldn't forget that we went TWO WEEKS without power.Horrible situation.Grrrrr.
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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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