CSU predicts a very active hurricane season: 16 storms, 9 hurricanes

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:30 PM GMT on June 01, 2011

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A very active Atlantic hurricane season is on tap for 2011, according to the seasonal hurricane forecast issued June 1 by Dr. Phil Klotzbach and Dr. Bill Gray of Colorado State University (CSU). The CSU team is calling for 16 named storms, 9 hurricanes, and 5 intense hurricanes, and an Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) 166% of average. Between 1950 - 2000, the average season had 10 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 2 intense hurricanes. But since 1995, the beginning of an active hurricane period in the Atlantic, we've averaged 14 named storms, 8 hurricanes, and 4 intense hurricanes per year. The new forecast is identical to their April forecast. The 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 risk of a major hurricane in the Caribbean is also high, at 61% (42% is average.)

The forecasters cited four main reasons for an active season:

1) Neutral to weak La Niña conditions are expected during the most active portion of this year's hurricane season (August-October). This should lead to average to below average levels of vertical wind shear.

2) Above average May sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic.

3) Below average surface pressures during May in the tropical Atlantic.

4) We are in the midst of a multi-decadal era of major hurricane activity, which began in 1995. Major hurricanes cause 80-85 percent of normalized hurricane damage.

Analogue years
The CSU team picked five previous years when atmospheric and oceanic conditions were similar to what we are seeing this year: neutral to weak La Niña conditions in the equatorial Eastern Pacific, and above-average tropical Atlantic and far north Atlantic SSTs during April - May. Those five years were 2008, which featured Hurricane Ike and Hurricane Gustav; 1996, which had two hurricanes that hit North Carolina, Fran and Bertha; 1989, which featured Category 5 Hurricane Hugo; 1981, a very average year with 12 named storms, 7 hurricanes, and 3 intense hurricanes; and 1951, a year that featured 6 major hurricanes. The mean activity for these five years was 12 named storms, 8 hurricanes, and 4 intense hurricanes.

How accurate are the June forecasts?
The June forecasts by the CSU team between 1998 and 2009 had a skill 19% - 30% higher than a "no-skill" climatology forecast for number of named storms, number of hurricanes, and the ACE index (Figure 1). This is a decent amount of skill for a seasonal forecast, and these June forecasts can be useful to businesses such as the insurance industry and oil and gas industry that need to make bets on how active the coming hurricane season will be. Unfortunately, the CSU June 1 forecasts do poorly at forecasting the number of major hurricanes (only 3% skill), and major hurricanes cause 80% - 85% of all hurricane damage (normalized to current population and wealth levels.) This year's June forecast uses a brand new formula never tried before, so there is no way to evaluate its performance. An Excel spreadsheet of their forecast skill (expressed as a mathematical correlation coefficient) show values from 0.41 to 0.62 for their June forecasts made between 1984 and 2010, which is respectable.


Figure 1. Comparison of the percent improvement over climatology for May and August seasonal hurricane forecasts for the Atlantic from NOAA, CSU and TSR from 1999-2009 (May) and 1998-2009 (August), using the Mean Squared Error. Image credit: Verification of 12 years of NOAA seasonal hurricane forecasts, National Hurricane Center.


Figure 2. Comparison of the percent improvement in mean square error over climatology for seasonal hurricane forecasts for the Atlantic from NOAA, CSU and TSR from 2001-2010, using the Mean Square Skill Score (MSSS). The figure shows the results using two different climatologies: a fixed 50-year (1950 - 1999) climatology, and a 2001 - 2010 climatology. Skill is poor for forecasts issued in December and April, moderate for June forecasts, and good for August forecasts. Image credit: Tropical Storm Risk, Inc.

TSR predicts 25% more activity than normal
Expect the Atlantic hurricane season to be about 25% more active than usual, the British private forecasting firm Tropical Storm Risk, Inc. (TSR) said in their pre-season forecast issued on May 24. TSR calls for 14.2 named storms, 7.6 hurricanes, 3.6 intense hurricanes, and an Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) of 124, which is 22% above average. Their May 24 forecast numbers are very close to their previous forecast issued in April. TSR predicts a moderate 55% chance that activity will rank in the top 1/3 of years historically, and a 59% chance that U.S. landfalling activity will be above average. TSR rates their skill level as 16-25% higher than a "no-skill" forecast made using climatology, though an independent assessment by the National Hurricane Center (Figure 1) gives them somewhat lower skill numbers.

TSR projects that 4.4 named storms will hit the U.S., with 1.9 of these being hurricanes. The averages from the 1950-2010 climatology are 3.1 named storms and 1.5 hurricanes. They rate their skill at making these June forecasts for U.S. landfalls at 7 - 11% higher than a "no-skill" forecast made using climatology. In the Lesser Antilles Islands of the Caribbean, TSR projects 1.3 named storms, 0.6 of these being hurricanes. Climatology is 1.1 named storms and 0.5 hurricanes.

TSR cites two main factors for their forecast of an active season:

1) Their model predicts that sea surface temperatures will be 0.11°C warmer than average in August and September over the Main Development Region (MDR) for Atlantic hurricanes. They define this as the area between 10°N and 20°N, between the coast of Africa and Lesser Antilles Islands (20°W and 60°W). It is called the Main Development Region because virtually all African waves originate in this region. These African waves account for 85% of all Atlantic major hurricanes and 60% of all named storms. When SSTs in the MDR are much above average during hurricane season, a very active season typically results (if there is no El Niño event present.)

2) Their model predicts slower than normal trade winds in August and September over the Main Development Region (MDR). Trade winds are forecast to be 0.19 meters per second (about 0.4 mph) slower than average. This would create more spin for developing storms, and allow the oceans to warm up, due to reduced mixing of cold water from the depths and lower evaporational cooling.

FSU predicts a very active hurricane season: 17 named storms
The Florida State University (FSU) Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies (COAPS) issued their third annual Atlantic hurricane season forecast today. This year's forecast calls for a 70% probability of 14-20 named storms and 8-10 hurricanes. The mean forecast is for 17 named storms, 9 hurricanes, and an accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) of 163. They cite warm tropical North Atlantic sea surface temperatures, a weakening of La Niña conditions, and the ongoing positive phase of the Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation as the major factors influencing their forecast.

Other seasonal forecasts
The UK Met Office's Glosea4 model is predicting a moderately more active season than normal, with 13 named storms and a ACE index of 151. The Cuba Institute of Meteorology is calling for 13 named storms and 7 hurricanes. NOAA predicts 15 named storms, 8 hurricanes, and 4.5 intense hurricanes. Pennsylvania State University predicts 16 named storms.

A surprise tropical disturbance for Florida
The Atlantic hurricane season is officially underway, and Mother Nature appears to be taking her cue from the calendar, as we have a surprise storm off the coast of Florida that is a threat to develop into a tropical depression later this week, after it crosses Florida into the Gulf of Mexico. An cluster of thunderstorms called a Mesoscale Convective System (MCS) pushed across southern New England early yesterday, emerged over the ocean, and rotated clockwise towards Florida, steered by a large high pressure system centered over Kentucky. The center of the disturbance stayed over the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, a region of low pressure developed, and intense thunderstorms began to build yesterday afternoon. Early this morning, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) designated the disturbance Invest 93L, and gave it a 10% chance of developing into a tropical depression. At 8am EDT, they upped those chances to 30%. Invest 93L is becoming increasingly organized, with Melbourne, Florida radar showing the beginnings of some rotation, with a solid band of heavy rain on the southwest side of the disturbance. The pressure and winds have leveled out at Buoy 41012, 40 nm ENE of St. Augustine, Florida. Winds peaked at 19 mph, gusting to 22 mph, at 10:50am EDT. Satellite imagery shows a small but intensifying region of thunderstorms. Sea surface temperatures (SSTs) are about 26°C (79°F) off the east coast of Florida, which is just warm enough to support formation of a tropical depression, and about 0.5°C above average. Wind shear is a low 5 - 10 knots, and it is likely that 93L will continue intensifying until it makes landfall over Central Florida this afternoon. A 50-mile wide swath of Florida from Daytona Beach to just north of Tampa can expect 1 - 3 inches of rain from 93L as it tracks over the state this afternoon and tonight. A Windsat pass this morning did not show a closed circulation, and I doubt 93L has enough time to develop into a tropical depression before landfall in Florida. The coast between Daytona Beach and Cocoa Beach could see wind gusts of 25 - 35 mph this afternoon, though.


Figure 3. Afternoon radar image of 93L from the Melbourne, Florida radar.

Fate of 93L once in the Gulf of Mexico
Since 93L is expected to continue its rapid west-southwest motion at 15 - 20 mph through Thursday, it will cross the Florida Peninsula in about 12 hours and emerge over the Gulf of Mexico early Thursday morning. It is possible that the passage over Florida will greatly disrupt 93L, since it is such a small system. I give a 40% chance that the storm will see its peak strength this afternoon, and not significantly regenerate over the Gulf of Mexico. However, the latest SHIPS model forecast predicts that wind shear will remain low to moderate, 5 - 15 knots, as 93L moves westwards over the Gulf of Mexico Thursday and Friday. SSTs in the Gulf are about 27°C (81°F), 0.5 - 1.0°C above average, and it is possible that 93L could gain enough strength to become Tropical Depression One as it crosses the Gulf. Since 93L will be moving parallel to the coast a short distance offshore, it is difficult to predict where the storm might make a second landfall, since a slight change in heading will make a large difference in landfall location. I don't expect widespread heavy rains from 93L along the Gulf Coast, since the storm is so small, but some locations close to the coast could receive 2 - 4 inches as 93L brushes by. Heavier rains are possible at the eventual landfall location. Since 93L is so small, the computer models are having trouble seeing the system, and are not very helpful forecasting the behavior of the storm over the Gulf of Mexico. The Hurricane Hunters are on call to fly into 93L Thursday afternoon at 2pm EDT, if necessary.

Central Caribbean disturbance
Moisture and heavy thunderstorm activity continues to slowly increase in the region between Central America and Jamaica, and wind shear is falling. With wind shear now 20 - 30 knots, we can expect this disturbance to show increased organization today, and recent satellite images show the beginnings of a surface circulation trying to get going about 100 miles off the coast of Northeast Nicaragua. All of the computer models predict that an area of low pressure will form in this region by Thursday, and this low will have the potential to develop into a tropical depression late this week or early next week. A surge of moisture accompanying a tropical wave currently south of Hispaniola may aid development when the wave arrives in the Western Caribbean on Thursday. Water temperatures in the Central Caribbean are about 1°C above average, 29°C, which is plenty warm enough to support development of a tropical storm. Residents of Jamaica, Cuba, the Cayman Islands, Haiti, Honduras, and Nicaragua should anticipate the possibility that heavy rains of 2 - 4 inches may affect them Thursday through Saturday this week.


Figure 4. Satellite image of the Central Caribbean disturbance.

Catch my intro to the 2011 hurricane season on Internet radio
I'll be discussing the coming hurricane season on our Internet radio show, the Daily Downpour, tomorrow (Thursday) at 4:30pm EDT. Fellow wunderground meteorologists Shaun Tanner and Tim Roche will be hosting the show. We'll talk about the latest model runs, hurricane research, modeling accuracy, and hurricane climatology, and answer any questions listeners email in or call in. The email address to ask questions is broadcast@wunderground.com. Welcome to the hurricane season of 2011!

Jeff Masters

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Quoting hurricane23:


Yes, there is a correlation to that. When we have an active April-May tornado season, especially if April exceeds May, then we have more U.S. landfalls. That's because a strong trough will exist in the central and/or western part of the U.S. with a ridge along or just east of the U.S. east coast. That opens an 'alley' across the se and ern U.S.

Adrian
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IN THE UPPER LEVELS...AN UPPER LEVEL LOW IS
CENTERED OVER S FLORIDA NEAR 26N80W. SIGNIFICANT UPPER LEVEL
MOISTURE IS OVER THE NE GULF AND N FLORIDA WHILE THE REMAINDER
OF THE GULF HAS STRONG SUBSIDENCE. EXPECT THE LOW TO BE LOCATED
OVER THE W GULF S OF LOUISIANA IN 24 HOURS WITH CONVECTION.

Hmmmmmmmm.....
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Quoting hurricane23:


Yes, there is a correlation to that. When we have an active April-May tornado season, especially if April exceeds May, then we have more U.S. landfalls. That's because a strong trough will exist in the central and/or western part of the U.S. with a ridge along or just east of the U.S. east coast. That opens an 'alley' across the se and ern U.S.

Adrian
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Quoting washingtonian115:
Mmmm lets see 2003,2004,2008,1974,2008 all had above average counts of tornadoes.And that same year a storm or hurricane made landfall.Could their be a correlation?.Yeah maybe.But I need to do more research.


Yes, there is a correlation to that. When we have an active April-May tornado season, especially if April exceeds May, then we have more U.S. landfalls. That's
because a strong trough will exist in the central and/or western part of the U.S. with a ridge along or just east of the U.S. east coast. That opens an 'alley' across the se and ern U.S.

Adrian
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1139. wxhatt

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Quoting Tazmanian:
whats go overe the rulse so we dont get banned this year


Due to the high amount of traffic that Dr. Masters' blog receives, a special community standard has been established for the blog. The following list comprises the "Rules of the Road" for Dr. Masters' blog.

Keep it civil. Personal attacks, bickering, flaming, and general trollish behavior will not be tolerated. Disagreements are fine, but keep them civil and short.
Stay on topic.
No monomania.
No hot linking external or copyright images without the image owner's permission.
Do not circumvent a ban. Most bans last 24 hours or less, please accept the ban. If you create a new username to circumvent a ban, you will be blocked from the site completely.
No comments that contain only personal notes such as, "Good Morning!", or "You've got mail, X".
Do not "1st!", "1st post!", or any of the numerical/linguistic derivatives. This is a worthless use of blog space.
No spamming.
No spamming.
Seriously, no spamming. Spamming includes but is not limited to, trying to sell products, trying to solicit traffic for your own blog, trying to solicit traffic for other commercial entities, etc. Do not post links to your own site unless they are directly relevant and even then, use sparingly.




all so plzs note of this


During active periods of hurricane season, these rules will be strictly enforced. Violations will be met with a minimum 24 hour ban.


I can attest to being deleted this morning for posting "I'm first" and saying Good morning. Kinda hurt my feelings cause there are other posts saying good morning and some with their post number. But I'm a big girl. I'll do my time in the naughty corner. Rules are rules.

The rain has stopped in my area. Really haven't had any heavy rains so far by me. Let's see what happens later. We're under flash flood watch til tomorrow at 5pm.

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Quoting galvestonhurricane:


See comment 1081


Just looked again galveston, thanks! It WAS in Taz' post and I missed it completely. Too much multi-tasking.

I guess I can understand what with traffic levels and all. But not being able to greet people or tell jokes will make this a much less friendly place. Sort of grey and cold, perhaps. Not that ambiance matters when the Big Storm Gods are shaking their rattles!

On that note, I'm waiting for .... RAIN!

Hoping that N. Florida will have a few more surprises like 93L, none too extreme please.

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Mmmm lets see 2003,2004,2008,1974,2008 all had above average counts of tornadoes.And that same year a storm or hurricane made landfall.Could their be a correlation?.Yeah maybe.But I need to do more research.
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1133. help4u
Storm back???????????
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Quoting galvestonhurricane:
What happened to the fake Keeper of the Gate from last hurricane season?


Keeper is still here...He answered some tornado questions for me.
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Hey, Storm!
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Quoting Kibkaos:


That is an excellent question. We need rain so bad I am actually hopeful for a tropical system to come.


+1
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Quoting galvestonhurricane:


See comment 1081


Thank you, sir!
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1128. Kibkaos
Quoting galvestonhurricane:
Back on topic: Any possible way Invest 93L could bring Texas some rain?


That is an excellent question. We need rain so bad I am actually hopeful for a tropical system to come.
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Quoting PcolaDan:


Not me, I'm listless.
(wait, that doesn't sound right)






disregard


I'm going to say 'LOL' and hope that it isn't against the rules...!
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Quoting galvestonhurricane:
Back on topic: Any possible way Invest 93L could bring Texas some rain?
Some of the models steer it that way.Hopefully it does.Lord knows those people down there need all the rain they can get.But we in the northeast and mid-atlantic have been keeping it to ourselves.
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Quoting galvestonhurricane:
Back on topic: Any possible way Invest 93L could bring Texas some rain?


Well, one can hope, but that's all they can do with this much ambient subsidence around.
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Quoting fatlady99:


Caneswatch, I must have missed this part. Can you point me to the new rules post? I didn't see that in the ones that Taz posted.


See comment 1081
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Quoting fatlady99:


Everyone is on some list or another.... not to worry.
Greetings.


Not me, I'm listless.
(wait, that doesn't sound right)






disregard
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Back on topic: Any possible way Invest 93L could bring Texas some rain?
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Quoting fatlady99:


Everyone is on some list or another.... not to worry.
Greetings.
Ya but that still not gonna stop me!.I've been waiting to get down to tropical buisness for a while(that's my specialty,that's also why I joined the blog)Looks like their is something or somethings I should say to keep us busy for a while.Woot!
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Quoting caneswatch:


Seconded. I mean, we can't say "Hi!" I really think that's a bit much too.


Caneswatch, I must have missed this part. Can you point me to the new rules post? I didn't see that in the ones that Taz posted.
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Quoting KoritheMan:

The latter isn't. AOL was annoying. ;)


Agreed.
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Quoting washingtonian115:
And don't even get me started on the cafeteria food.18 freaking dollors for chinken fingers and fries with a drink...
Well, seeing as though I generally dislike cafeteria food, that'd be no problem for me. Hah!
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What happened to the fake Keeper of the Gate from last hurricane season?
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Quoting galvestonhurricane:

Kind of harsh, isn't it?
The latter isn't. AOL was annoying. ;)
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Quoting galvestonhurricane:
"No comments that contain only personal notes such as, "Good Morning!", or "You've got mail, X"."

Kind of harsh, isn't it?


Seconded. The second one I can see why, but we can't say "Hi!" I really think that's a bit much too.
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Quoting washingtonian115:
Serval people probally have me on their ignore list.But who the hell cares..


Everyone is on some list or another.... not to worry.
Greetings.
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Quoting EYEStoSEA:


Hey W115...just wanted to speak so you'll know your not on my list....good to see ya :)
Hey!.I'm ready to get down to buisness!
Quoting KoritheMan:

How expensive?
It cost 24-30$ per a person.So yeah it's very expensive.And don't even get me started on the cafeteria food.18 freaking dollors for chinken fingers and fries with a drink...
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Quoting washingtonian115:
Serval people probally have me on their ignore list.But who the hell cares..don't know them anyway.I'm still gonna say what I have to say.So anyway I went to the Katrina hall over at the Newseum today(washington D.C represent!)and they have news articles from around the world.They also have things that were left behind in the flood waters from New Orleans.Very interesting.But I must warn you...The museum is expensive..


Not on my list either :) You've been a good person.
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"No comments that contain only personal notes such as, "Good Morning!", or "You've got mail, X"."

Kind of harsh, isn't it?
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Quoting washingtonian115:
Serval people probally have me on their ignore list.But who the hell cares..don't know them anyway.I'm still gonna say what I have to say.So anyway I went to the Katrina hall over at the Newseum today(washington D.C represent!)and they have news articles from around the world.They also have things that were left behind in the flood waters from New Orleans.Very interesting.But I must warn you...The museum is expensive..



Not on my list, that's reserved for very offensive folk and intransigent trolls. :)

Howdy!
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Quoting washingtonian115:
The museum is expensive..
How expensive?
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1108. Patrap
Okley Dokley Neighbor
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 423 Comments: 128252
Quoting washingtonian115:
Serval people probally have me on their ignore list.But who the hell cares..don't know them anyway.I'm still gonna say what I have to say.So anyway I went to the Katrina hall over at the Newseum today(washington D.C represent!)and they have news articles from around the world.They also have things that were left behind in the flood waters from New Orleans.Very interesting.But I must warn you...The museum is expensive..


Hey W115...just wanted to speak so you'll know your not on my list....good to see ya :)
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1106. Bitmap7


Upper level winds are rearranging themselves off the coast of Nicaragua.
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Quoting scott39:
Is it forecasted to slow down any, while in the GOM? TIA


No. That ridge isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
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Quoting Patrap:
The Floater isnt gone,,its been moved Left to account for the Movement today.


93L Floater


I know Pat...j/k...have it on the bar..along with a lot of other stuff....lol..fun times on the blog :)
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1102. scott39
Quoting KoritheMan:


In fact, looking at the last of the visible satellite images, the system is clearly undergoing a bit of shear, likely due to its fast forward motion, as upper-level shear is relatively light.
Is it forecasted to slow down any, while in the GOM? TIA
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1101. Bitmap7


The dashed line suggests there is some major shear reduction going on in the Caribbean.
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Quoting MontanaZephyr:
Tornado Damage in Massachusetts

http://boston.cbslocal.com/photo-galleries/2011/0 6/01/tornado-severe-storms-tear-through-massachuse tts/


Very thankfully an hour away from the family. Right now, we don't need another tragedy.
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Quoting TexasGulf:
Oh... and please don't assume that you can't forecast a storm based on it's name. Just because nobody ever has doesn't mean it's impossible.


To quote the infamous Darth Vader "I find your [as in, everyone that doesn't adhere to your theory] lack of faith disturbing."
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Quoting Tazmanian:
93L RIP


...MMMMmmm..hmm.hmm..(cough)...hmmm.

MMMLAAAAA! LAAALAAALAAAA LLLLLAAAAAAAA!!!

OY VEY LAAAA!!!!

ahem...

Wish the thing had dropped a bit more rain as it sped by. We didn't get much at all up this way. Sigh. Northern Florida drought conditions continue.
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Quoting PSLFLCaneVet:



Roger that, Kori.


In fact, looking at the last of the visible satellite images, the system is clearly undergoing a bit of shear, likely due to its fast forward motion, as upper-level shear is relatively light.
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Quoting EYEStoSEA:


LOLOl, hello Vet, it's been a fun day....and I dont care if the fat folks are singing or the floater is gone....I'm still hopeful for some rain for these folks...



Agreed, Eyes.

Thanks, nice to "see" you too. :)
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1095. scott39
Quoting Patrap:
Hiccup

Hmmm..That was interesting.
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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.