Tornadoes rip Massachusetts, killing 4

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:30 PM GMT on June 02, 2011

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The governor declared a state of emergency in Massachusetts last night after two rare and powerful tornadoes ripped through the state's third largest city, Springfield (population 150,000.) Separate tornadoes hit the city near 4:30 pm and 6:20pm EDT, killing four people, injuring 40, and causing extensive damage. The four deaths ties 2011 with 1973 as Massachusetts' deadliest tornado year since 1953, when 90 people died in an F-4 tornado that hit Worcester. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center logged seven preliminary reports of tornadoes in Massachusetts yesterday. The region was in their "Slight Risk" area for severe weather. The tornadoes were spawned by a large low pressure system centered over Canada that trailed a cold front southwards over New England. Record heat pushed northwards ahead of the cold front, with Newark, Washington D.C., Burlington, and Montpelier all recording record highs for the date. The contrast between the cold, dry air flowing south from Canada and the record warm, moist air ahead of the cold front created an extremely unstable atmosphere, helping fire off unusually intense thunderstorms over New England. And as we've seen so often this year, the jet stream over the thunderstorm region was unusually strong and had plenty of wind shear--a sharp change in wind speed and direction with height. This wind shear created shearing forces on the air over New England that helped get it spinning, creating rotating supercell thunderstorms capable of producing strong tornadoes.


Figure 1. Yesterday's tornadoes caused damage characteristic of at least an EF-2 tornado with 110 - 137 mph winds in Springfield, Massachusetts. Image credit: Springfield Falcons hockey team, via the cbslocal.com Boston website.


Video 1. Incredible tower cam view from wfsb.com of the June 1, 2011 Springfield, Massachusetts tornado crossing the Connecticut River. Another amateur video posted here on Youtube shows the tornado crossing I-91 in Springfield during rush hour (many swear words on this one!)

Springfield damage characteristic of an EF-2 tornado
Damage photos I've seen of the Springfield tornadoes show destruction characteristic of at least an EF-2 tornado with 111 - 135 mph winds. The damage photo above (Figure 1) shows the collapse of the top story walls of a brick building. According to the Storm Prediction Center's Description of Damage for this type of structure, the winds needed to do this type of damage typically range between 103 and 143 mph, or EF-2 speeds. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the damage gets rated EF-3, since there is a report of a 3-story building that collapsed (EF-3 winds are 136 - 165 mph.)


Figure 2. Satellite image taken at 6:01pm EDT June 1, 2011, showing the line of tornadic thunderstorms over Massachusetts, and Invest 93L near Tampa, Florida. Image credit: NASA/GSFC.

Massachusetts tornado history
One of yesterday's Springfield tornadoes pulled debris from Springfield and deposited it 45 miles to the east-northeast in Millbury, according to an NWS storm report. Powerful, long-track tornadoes like this are rare in New England. Most tornadoes in the region are small, weak, EF-0 and EF-1 twisters that touch down briefly and do minor damage. Only once every eight years, on average, does a strong or violent EF-3 or EF-4 tornado hit Massachusetts. According to the tornadohistoryproject.com, since 1951, there have been only eight strong to violent EF-3 or stronger tornadoes in Massachusetts:

May 29, 1995: An F4 tornado killed 3 and injured 24 in Great Barrington. The tornado tracked for 11 miles, and damage was estimated at more than $5 million.
Jun 22, 1981: An F3 tornado injured 3 people in Worcester County.
Sep 29, 1974: An F3 tornado injured one person as it hit Middlesex and Essex Counties.
Aug 28, 1973: An F4 tornado killed 4 and injured 36 in West Stockbridge as it tracked 9 miles from New York into Berkshire County.
Sep 13, 1971: An F3 tornado killed one person in Worcester County.
Oct 3, 1970: An F3 tornado killed one person in Worcester County. This tornado was on the ground for 35 miles.
Jun 9, 1953: The great 1953 Worcester tornado killed 90 and injured 1228 when it hit Worcester. The tornado had a path 40 miles long and up to 900 yards wide.
Jun 9, 1953: A separate F3 tornado hit Franklin in southern Massachusetts on the same day as the great Worcester tornado, injuring 17 people. The Franklin tornado had a path length of 28 miles.

Florida's surprise tropical disturbance 93L weakens
Invest 93L sped over Florida yesterday afternoon, bringing welcome rains of 1 - 3 inches over the center part of the state. Winds gusted as high as 29 mph at Daytona Beach as the storm came ashore. The storm has a rather unusual origin for a tropical disturbance--it began as a cluster of thunderstorms called a Mesoscale Convective System (MCS) that pushed across southern New England on May 30. On May 31, the MCS 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 on Tuesday. By Wednesday morning, 93L had grown organized enough to earn the designation 93L from NHC. However, passage over Florida disrupted 93L, and the storm is moving with such a fast forward speed--about 25 mph--that it has struggled to regroup. Wind shear is a low 5 - 10 knots, and SSTs in the Gulf are about 27°C (81°F), 0.5 - 1.0°C above average, so it is possible that 93L could make a comeback. NHC is currently giving 93L a 0% chance of developing into a tropical depression by Saturday. I think these odds should be higher, at least 10%, given the recent increase in heavy thunderstorm activity near the center of 93L, as seen on satellite imagery. Steering currents will keep 93L moving quickly to the west-southwest today and Friday, and 93L should make landfall in Mexico just south of Brownsville, Texas, on Saturday afternoon.


Figure 3. Radar-estimated precipitation from 93L's passage over Florida yesterday.

Central Caribbean disturbance
Disorganized heavy thunderstorm activity continues in the region between Central America and Jamaica. Wind shear has fallen to the moderate range, 10 - 20 knots, and is predicted to continue to fall over the next two days. This should allow the disturbance to increase in organization, though it will take many days for it to approach tropical depression status, since it is so large and poorly organized. The computer models are generally showing only very slow development of the disturbance over the coming week. NHC is giving the disturbance a 20% of developing into a tropical depression by Saturday. A surge of moisture accompanying a tropical wave may aid development when the wave arrives in the Western Caribbean on Sunday. 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 today through Sunday. Heavy rains have already hit Jamaica, where a flash flood watch is posted.


Figure 4. Morning 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, today (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. We'll also discuss the Massachusetts tornadoes.

Jeff Masters

Tornado Over My House (stoneygirl)
Oh, what a crazy day. I live in Massachusetts and we had 5 tornadoes today and so far 4 people have been killed. I still can't believe it. I have never seen anything like this. Just so hard to believe.
Tornado Over My House
Double Trouble (shenandoah)
Two huge clouds forming just beyond the hill. The Civil War battle of New Market (May 15, 1864) lies just beyond the tree line.
Double Trouble
Devestating Storm (02066steve)
Last night's storm as it moves out to sea. South of Boston we were extremely fortunate with only strong winds & lightening. The same storm produced tornadoes, significant damage and loss of life in central MA.
Devestating Storm
6/1/11 Plainfield MA (jashearer3)
6/1/11 Plainfield MA

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Quoting KoritheMan:
Good evening, everyone. I smell the start of a debate between Levi and kman. Classic. Refreshing, but classic. ;)


That's how us layfolks learn!
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Quoting KoritheMan:
The tropical wave is quickly approaching the system from the east, as per the NHC's 18z surface analysis:



This might allow the system to slowly (I mean slowly) organize from this point on, concurrent with the forecast reduction in vertical shear.


That is correct. This MAY be happening now with the development of convection off the coast of Nicaragua.
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The tropical wave is quickly approaching the system from the east, as per the NHC's 18z surface analysis:



This might allow the system to slowly (I mean slowly) organize from this point on, concurrent with the forecast reduction in vertical shear.
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Quoting AllStar17:
New convection is also forming closer to the Nicaraguan coast while the eastern convection continues to diminish.

plus looping the sat it look like the diminishing convection is looping back to the SW and getting dragged to Pre-94L one thing to show shear is becoming less, less shear mean less convection being pulled off to the E
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12719
Quoting caneswatch:


I never said a thing on 93L. Not a thing. Stay mad bro.


Put him on ignore, he's a troll.
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Quoting Levi32:


An interesting point. Perhaps direct upper divergence over the entire system is more conducive for persistent convection, though I have not seen many tropical cyclones survive better in that than the bad hair-day you are describing. Also, wind shear has been low south of about 12N, north Panama, during this whole event, so wind shear wasn't high over the whole thing at any given time, though perhaps a greater portion was covered before today. I still think my aforementioned reasons played the main role, but you bring up an interesting point.


This is why like exchanging ideas with you.We both take positives away from the discussion.
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15948
874. Skyepony (Mod)
I can see why the Caribbean blob hasn't been tagged. So the low came North of Columbia for the season, the models got excited. I haven't said much on it since it's looked days away if ever, so far. There has been such a broad area of low pressure & now multiple vorticity..what's there to run models on & why expect anything reliable to be produced from such a run? My thoughts on it for the day were..

As for the Caribbean.. This is what I was talking about~ a few days & then too many vorticity & rain for Hispaniola. The spin next to Nicaragua may come up with something but the whole area just vented alot of moisture. That blob of moisture may eventually produce something too.

Which I see now a bit of that has stalled & begun to blow up. Could be alot more rain for PR, Hispanola.

Don't get me wrong..it's been good blob watching. I think even more so now that it's pretty evident the models are in a funk, well that & the white speck of cloud top on rainbow.
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Quoting galvestonhurricane:


You just want to see the models show this tropical wave coming to Miami...


He is in no way a wishcaster. Don't bash him.

POOF!!!
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Quoting kmanislander:


Before today the shear was uniformly high across the entire top of the low. This morning the shear fell to almost nothing on the East and SE side of the low but was in the 20 to 30 knot range across the very top and to the NW and West as the low was sitting on the exact boundary between high shear and no shear. This was the result of the anticyclone being displaced to the SE of the low and cutting across the top from the SW.

I posted those maps this morning. Imagine the wind blowing at 25 mph across half of your head and not blowing at all across the other half. Not much chance of keeping your hair combed.


An interesting point. Perhaps direct upper divergence over the entire system is more conducive for persistent convection, though I have not seen many tropical cyclones survive better in that than the bad hair-day you are describing. Also, wind shear has been low south of about 12N, north Panama, during this whole event, so wind shear wasn't high over the whole thing at any given time, though perhaps a greater portion was covered before today. I still think my aforementioned reasons played the main role, but you bring up an interesting point.
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Quoting AllStar17:
New convection is also forming closer to the Nicaraguan coast while the eastern convection continues to diminish.


Shear may be decreasing in that area.
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From the official source:
"UPPER-LEVEL WINDS ARE LIKELY TO BECOME MORE
CONDUCIVE FOR DEVELOPMENT"
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869. JLPR2
It wont be long until we start watching this area for development, just two months. XD
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Quoting pressureman:
Well cane watch we will just have to wait and see you bombed out on 93L ...i think you need to read the extended charts for the caribbean sea then you tell me if something will develop...sorry no way i can see this thing cming close to developing with the hostile conditions..


I never said a thing on 93L. Not a thing. Stay mad bro.
Member Since: October 8, 2008 Posts: 14 Comments: 4553
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Pretty disappointed in the NHC's lack to not label the southwestern Caribbean low pressure area 94L yet. Would be nice to see some dynamic/statistical model runs on it, as well as some intensity forecasts. Then again, however, the labeling of an invest is completely subjective to the forecaster in charge and will be labeled only when he feels the time is correct.


You just want to see the models show this tropical wave coming to Miami...
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:


The maps that KOTG just posted says it all. Immediately West of 80 W is 30 knots plus of shear. The low cannot develop in that environment.
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15948
New convection is also forming closer to the Nicaraguan coast while the eastern convection continues to diminish.
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Quoting Levi32:


Yes shear is still high. My point is that it's been that way for a long time, yet convection has flourished over the main low center for the past 3 days, until today. Something else changed. The shear lessened today; it didn't get worse. Something else moved the convection aside. I think it was the change in jet configuration along with the tropical wave. How can shear have waited 3 days to finally shave it, and after weakening today?


Before today the shear was uniformly high across the entire top of the low. This morning the shear fell to almost nothing on the East and SE side of the low but was in the 20 to 30 knot range across the very top and to the NW and West as the low was sitting on the exact boundary between high shear and no shear. This was the result of the anticyclone being displaced to the SE of the low and cutting across the top from the SW.

I posted those maps this morning. Imagine the wind blowing at 25 mph across half of your head and not blowing at all across the other half. Not much chance of keeping your hair combed.
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15948
this is the decend pass



can't wait for the acend pass


Quoting kmanislander:
This map of the mid level shear reinforces why there is no convection over, to the North or West of the surface low.



kman remember that the COC of PRE-94L is at 80W and it is calm there plus as I told you earler look at the loop it is droping in the area more so in the last 4-5 pic
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12719
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Shear dropping throughout the Caribbean:
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Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:


Apart from when they put the invest up, a floater would be good to see more closely the area of interest.


Agreed.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Pretty disappointed in the NHC's lack to not label the southwestern Caribbean low pressure area 94L yet. Would be nice to see some dynamic/statistical model runs on it, as well as some intensity forecasts. Then again, however, the labeling of an invest is completely subjective to the forecaster in charge and will be labeled only when he feels the time is correct.


Apart from when they put the invest up, a floater would be good to see more closely the area of interest.
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Quoting RMM34667:


Wow. I read the globe every day. I knew the the storms were serious, but Hey It's Massachusetts can't be that bad. I knew 4 died. But I never expected the damage I saw in those pictures. thanks


In EF 4 in Oklahoma? Ok, not common, but is to be expected.

In New England? Unheard of. This severe weather season has been crazy.
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856. JLPR2
Quoting stormwatcherCI:


Pressure shown as 1007 again and stationary. Looks like convection flaring near the LLC tonight.


Also the TW is nowhere to be seen, seems it was absorbed by the low.
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Quoting kmanislander:


Shear is still high aloft, there is no denying that. The high was and is imparting SW shear due to displacement to the SE of the low and this was assisted earlier toady by SW shear coming from the SE GOM and NW Caribbean. The wind flow around this type of field would naturally create a diffluent area to the NE of the low hence the blow up we saw earlier today aided by the arrival of the tropical wave.

I didn't say shear wasn't less because it is. My point is that it is still too high for where the surface low is now.


Yes shear is still high. My point is that it's been that way for a long time, yet convection has flourished over the main low center for the past 3 days, until today. Something else changed. The shear lessened today; it didn't get worse. Something else moved the convection aside. I think it was the change in jet configuration along with the tropical wave. How can shear have waited 3 days to finally shave it, and after weakening today? Did the razor get stuck?
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Quoting IceCoast:

It truly is amazing. I have never seen tornado damage firsthand. Springfield is about 2 and a half hours from my house. One house is completely flipped upside down onto it's roof while the one next door lost a few shingles. Almost all homes around here have basements fortunately, and im sure that helped with the casualties.

Heres another album from the Globe, but from the ground. Photo 7 shows the flipped house that you can also see in Photo 16 of the aerial album.
Link


Wow. I read the globe every day. I knew the the storms were serious, but Hey It's Massachusetts can't be that bad. I knew 4 died. But I never expected the damage I saw in those pictures. thanks
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Here you go pressure.

A BROAD LOW PRESSURE SYSTEM OVER THE WEST-CENTRAL AND SOUTHWESTERN
CARIBBEAN SEA IS PRODUCING A LARGE BUT DISORGANIZED AREA OF SHOWERS
AND THUNDERSTORMS. UPPER-LEVEL WINDS ARE LIKELY TO BECOME MORE
CONDUCIVE FOR DEVELOPMENT OVER THE NEXT FEW DAYS
...AND THERE IS A
LOW CHANCE...20 PERCENT...OF THIS SYSTEM BECOMING A TROPICAL
CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS. REGARDLESS OF DEVELOPMENT...
HEAVY RAINFALL COULD PRODUCE FLASH FLOODS AND MUD SLIDES OVER
PORTIONS OF HAITI...THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC AND JAMAICA OVER THE
NEXT DAY OR TWO AS THE LOW REMAINS NEARLY STATIONARY.
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Quoting Levi32:


I disagree. Shear is less today than what it has been during the last 2-3 days, and there was convection directly over it that entire time. A combination of things lead to the convection migrating northeast of the low center today. It was a combination of the upper divergence region moving northeast due to a buckle in the subtropical jetstream, along with a pair of tropical waves bringing a massive surge of moisture and surface convergence northwestward towards Haiti and Jamaica, further helping to focus the convective activity northeastward away from the main low.


Shear is still high aloft, there is no denying that. The high was and is imparting SW shear due to displacement to the SE of the low and this was assisted earlier toady by SW shear coming from the SE GOM and NW Caribbean. The wind flow around this type of field would naturally create a diffluent area to the NE of the low hence the blow up we saw earlier today aided by the arrival of the tropical wave.

I didn't say shear wasn't less because it is. My point is that it is still too high for where the surface low is now.
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15948
tropic freak im a great forecaster im just telling you what i see...if you dont like it then we will see what happens...you were wrong on 93L just reminding you what you posted on 93L...Just trying to refresh your memory...i can pull your posts if you like...
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Good evening, everyone. I smell the start of a debate between Levi and kman. Classic. Refreshing, but classic. ;)
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:

well if not tonight then sometime on Friday


Agreed.
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Quoting pressureman:
Well cane watch we will just have to wait and see you bombed out on 93L ...i think you need to read the extended charts for the caribbean sea then you tell me if something will develop...sorry no way i can see this thing cming close to developing with the hostile conditions..


Conditions aren't hostile, what kind of forecaster are you? And can you not bash canewatcher, and besides many of the models are developing this, so hush!
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Quoting pressureman:
I agree fully kman its going to be a long process with this system like 6-10 days before we have to be concerned if it even develops...


He never said that.
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Quoting pressureman:
I agree fully kman its going to be a long process with this system like 6-10 days before we have to be concerned if it even develops...


Until that shear lifts out completely it will continue to decapitate that low. There is no such thing as half the conditions aloft being favourable.
It could happen tonight or in 4 days time or not at all. Forecast maps are not too helpful early or late in the season.
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15948
Quoting xcool:




The low pressure is in an area of 20 kt shear, which is moderate, and although it should slow the development somewhat, shouldn't be too much of a problem for pre 94L, shear is expected to lower in the next day or 2, so this would only be temporary.
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Quoting kmanislander:
This map of the mid level shear reinforces why there is no convection over, to the North or West of the surface low.



I disagree. Shear is less today than what it has been during the last 2-3 days, and there was convection directly over it that entire time. A combination of things lead to the convection migrating northeast of the low center today. It was a combination of the upper divergence region moving northeast due to a buckle in the subtropical jetstream, along with a pair of tropical waves bringing a massive surge of moisture and surface convergence northwestward towards Haiti and Jamaica, further helping to focus the convective activity northeastward away from the main low.
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93L is going to die a horrible, horrible death in the mountains of Mexico. Tis sad, it's got a nice little spin on it.

Okay, pre-94L has me totally confused. The L is just off the coast of Nicaragua right? Why is all of the convection way to the east of it, then? or am I missing where the COC is?
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Quoting Bitmap7:


Half the low is in and half the low is out. The anticyclone should cover it completely in a few hours.


Not necessarily. This morning the high was where it is now and then this afternoon it shifted farther to the SE and went inland over Venezuela. There is no rule that it will automatically build to the NW and create more favourable conditions.
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15948
I agree fully kman its going to be a long process with this system like 6-10 days before we have to be concerned if it even develops...
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Quoting sailingallover:


A month ago you posted upper air graphics with a High over the central Caribbean. With a comment about it allowing development. But it was to early in the season and that high was not from local outflow.

What I was saying last time talked is we usually do have upper and mid level high pressure over us..
mostly from outflow from the ITCZ ...that will always be a cap on convection. It also causes all that westerly shear we have except during hurricane season. So we did not need to worry about that upper level high allowing developement.
But in this case it is being caused by local convection under it and near it. So it may not cap but allow development if the convection and warm core can keep rising pushing the high up to where it provides the outflow needed for Tropical Development.
And the main thing is the shear is gone over an area convection is occurring.


I think you're talking about a key difference between the two scenarios. In the first, a mid-level high is produced from thunderstorm outflow that is sinking, compressing and warming, creating a stable capping region of high pressure. Here, you are removed from the convective area.

The second is the upper-level high generated by the release of latent heat from thunderstorms. This causes diffluence aloft which further enhances instability. Here, you are right at the location of the thunderstorms.
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Quoting kmanislander:


Soon come LOL. The convection with the low is East of 80W while the low is West of that line. Classic example of shear at work.No convection either over or West of the low center.



Half the low is in and half the low is out. The anticyclone should cover it completely in a few hours.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Pretty disappointed in the NHC's lack to not label the southwestern Caribbean low pressure area 94L yet. Would be nice to see some dynamic/statistical model runs on it, as well as some intensity forecasts. Then again, however, the labeling of an invest is completely subjective to the forecaster in charge and will be labeled only when he feels the time is correct.


I think it should have been tagged a few days ago
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This map of the mid level shear reinforces why there is no convection over, to the North or West of the surface low.

Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 15948
Quoting tropicfreak:


May see this thing develop quicker than once expected.

NHC should be tagging this 94L by now.

well if not tonight then sometime on Friday
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12719
Well cane watch we will just have to wait and see you bombed out on 93L ...i think you need to read the extended charts for the caribbean sea then you tell me if something will develop...sorry no way i can see this thing cming close to developing with the hostile conditions..
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831. xcool


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Quoting pressureman:
The tropics are quiet now ..The caribbean disturbance with all the shear forecast it will take at least 6-10 days before something could materialize with it..The tropics are quiet for the time being...


Can you stop saying that, you have been on here the past few days saying the same thing, and the tropics aren't quiet either, because if they weren't nearly none of us would be on here.
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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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