Drought continues; Yellowstone fires could become more frequent; 90L set to develop

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:58 PM GMT on July 27, 2011

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Southern Drought Continues

Temperatures continue to soar into triple digits in the Southern Plains this week, and are expected to remain well above average for at least the next month. High air temperatures and low humidity (because of the low soil moisture) will continue to maintain drought conditions in the South unless we see some Gulf-landfalling tropical cyclones—a good remedy for a such an extreme drought.

This year's drought in the South is unprecedented by many definitions. Last year at this time, 0% of the contiguous U.S. was in exceptional drought. Last week, the exceptional drought region covered 11.96%. The area of contiguous U.S. in exceptional drought conditions has never been this high since the Drought Monitor record started in 2000. The highest it had been before June of this year was 7.85% in August of 2002.


Figure 1. Temperature anomaly (difference from average) in degrees Celsius for the period July 1 through July 25 (top) and soil moisture anomaly in millimeters (bottom) on July 25 (from the Climate Prediction Center).

In late June, the U.S. Department of Agriculture designated 213 counties in Texas (84% of the state) as primary natural disaster areas. As I mentioned yesterday, the Texas drought and wildfires are one of the nine billion-dollar disasters of 2011 so far. The National Climatic Data Center estimated that this event had cost up to $3 billion as of June 16. This number is surely rising every day that the South doesn't see rain.

New study concludes Yellowstone wildfires could become more frequent

In a study published this week by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers have concluded that global warming could have a serious impact on the severity and frequency of wildfires in the Yellowstone region (an area where the states of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming come together). Historically in this region, fewer than 5% of wildfire occurrences account for 95% of the total area burned. But in a global warming scenario, they found that fire activity could become more severe and more frequent, causing the ecosystem to change dramatically.

Using climate conditions and historical fire data from 1972 to 1999, it was possible to link certain environmental thresholds (temperature, humidity, etc) to past wildfire events. Then by employing the output of various climate models, fire frequency can be forecast well into the future. Figure 2 illustrates the result from one of the climate models they used in the study, and the upward trend of fire activity over the next 100 years. In 1988, a particularly hot and dry year, 36% of the park burned. The study uses this year as a baseline to compare future events.


Figure 2. Figure 2B from the manuscript. Observed burn area (blue line) median of predicted area burned (black dotted line), and ranges (light and dark orange) aggregated over the Yellowstone area defined by the study by Westerling et al. (Source).

What was once a low-probability event could become a high-probability event by mid-century. Fires that have only happened every 100 to 300 years in the past could now be occurring every 30 years in the future. The results of this research has implications for sub-alpine forests across the globe. Warming temperatures and decreasing humidity will lead to more wildfires, and will cost billions of dollars to fight them, if we choose to do so.

Invest 90L

90L has moved west overnight and looks ripe to develop today. While the upper level circulation (500 mb) is very much displaced, the lower level circulation looks strong and coherent through the system's mid-levels (850 and 700 mb). Thunderstorm activity continues to organize, and it appears that a surface circulation is developing. Moisture remains high in the system (around 4.5 g/kg specific humidity) and wind shear should be somewhat favorable as it crosses through the Gulf of Mexico. In terms of track, the statistical models have generally been favoring a Brownsville landfall scenario, but the dynamical models have been inching north over the past day or so. The HWRF is in line with the ECMWF deterministic today, with landfall near Corpus Christi.



The Hurricane Hunters have a mission scheduled for 18Z today (2pm EDT) to investigate whether or not 90L has a closed surface circulation. If it does, given the amount of organized convection and moderate wind speeds (around 34 mph in the latest invest update), the Hurricane Center will probably call this system at least Tropical Depression Four.

If 90L develops this afternoon, I will have another update to look at track and intensity forecasts.

Angela

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Quoting Tazmanian:
90L went from bust too a name storm lol

Goes to show how fast things can change in the tropics.
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Quoting beell:


Currently-Anywhere from Friday afternoon into early Saturday. The where is much more of an unknown.

But this question is better resolved by keeping a close ear to local media and your Local NWS Forecast Office and your own individual needs.

Harris County Office of Emergency Management


Thanks so much!
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1423. j2008
Quoting MrstormX:
I agree that 90L should be given TS status, even if it is borderline. The media and residents of Texas will take it way more seriously, then something called TD 4.

Yea we have to get the word out, the gulf is way to warm imo we could have rapid intensifacation as the worst case senario.
Member Since: December 19, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 224
1421. deepee
Quoting washingtonian115:
This reminds me sooooo much of Dolly.It was named in the northern carribean.And then comes out over the Gulf and intensify into a respectable hurricane.


and the Bahia Mar hotel is STILL being rebuilt from that storm.
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Quoting FLWeatherFreak91:
I'd say we'll have another named as early as the 31st, but probably more like during the first week of aug.



2 possible AOI's to validate your comment.
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Product: Air Force Tropical RECCO Message (URNT11 KNHC)
Transmitted: 27th day of the month at 19:45Z
Aircraft: Air Force Aircraft (Last 3 digits of the tail number are 300)
Mission Purpose: Investigate third suspect area (flight in the North Atlantic basin)
Mission Number: 1
Observation Number: 08

Mandatory Data...

Observation Time: Wednesday, 19:43Z
Radar Capability: Yes
Aircraft Altitude: Below 10,000 meters
Coordinates: 22.7N 86.8W
Location: 107 miles (173 km) to the N (1°) from Cancún, Quintana Roo, México.
Turbulence: Light
Conditions Along Flight Route: In the clear
Pressure Altitude: 310 meters
Flight Level Wind: From 120° at 29 knots (From the ESE at ~ 33.3 mph)
- The above is a spot wind.
- Winds were obtained using doppler radar or inertial systems.
Flight Level Temperature: 23°C
Flight Level Dew Point: 16°C
Weather (within 30 nautical miles): Thunderstorm(s)
Mean Sea Level Pressure (MSLP): 1010 mb (extrapolated)

Optional Data...

Estimated Surface Wind: From 110° at 35 knots (From the ESE at ~ 40.2 mph)

Remarks Section...
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Quoting RitaEvac:


Bay Colony near FM 646 here


Baytown - just down the road - here.....
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I'd be quite surprised if the NHC doesn't upgrade to TS Don at 5 pm.
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This reminds me sooooo much of Dolly.It was named in the northern carribean.And then comes out over the Gulf and intensify into a respectable hurricane.
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Quoting HurricaneHunterJoe:
yes,they should do a special and get the word out as quickly as possible. 4 Named storms as of July 27, Any odds on the chaces of Emily before Aug,1?
I'd say we'll have another named as early as the 31st, but probably more like during the first week of aug.
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and so it grows.. this time from the inside out ;)
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Quoting Tazmanian:
90L went from bust too a name storm lol


A big T-bone steak of patience, garnished with the John Hope Rule. A1 Sauce added to taste.
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I agree that 90L should be given TS status, even if it is borderline. The media and residents of Texas will take it way more seriously, then something called TD 4.
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4436
Quoting RitaEvac:


Bay Colony near FM 646 here

Groves, TX near Port Arthur here
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yes,they should do a special and get the word out as quickly as possible. 4 Named storms as of July 27, Any odds on the chaces of Emily before Aug,1?
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Quoting IceCoast:

Well sorry to say it, but this blog is moving at a blazing pace right now, especialy woth the spam.I missed it the first time, and it's pretty clear you said this to aggregate Nea.

Thanks for having my back. Often data is posted more than once for the benefit of those who might have missed it, which happens often during high traffic times (and even more so when a troll is slamming the forum with multiple unnecessary comments).

(That one particular person to whom you responded is feeling increasingly frustrated, and that's understandable; he can't persevere in an honest scientific debate, so he generally feels obliged to resort to name-calling and petty sniping from the rafters. [And he's not alone.] It really doesn't bother me; he can do no harm beyond making himself look ever smaller. But, again: thanks!)
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are the models showing the high backing off any to let the storm go furthur north?? just wondering since the models are moving more to the east...
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Quoting Ameister12:
Winds at first advisory will probably be 40mph.

I'm hoping for a special advisory.
wow.....what a monster storm
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Quoting HurricaneHunterJoe:
Time: 19:31:30Z
Coordinates: 22.1667N 86.3833W
Acft. Static Air Press: 976.0 mb (~ 28.82 inHg)
Acft. Geopotential Hgt: 293 meters (~ 961 feet)
Extrap. Sfc. Press: 1010.0 mb (~ 29.83 inHg)
D-value: -
Flt. Lvl. Wind (30s): From 145° at 39 knots (From the SE at ~ 44.8 mph)
Air Temp: 19.1°C (~ 66.4°F)
Dew Pt: 13.1°C (~ 55.6°F)
Peak (10s) Flt. Lvl. Wind: 40 knots (~ 46.0 mph)
SFMR Peak (10s) Sfc. Wind: 38 knots (~ 43.7 mph)
SFMR Rain Rate: 7 mm/hr (~ 0.28 in/hr)

they are flying at only 961 feet altitude


They tend to fly low for weaker systems.

Quoting Ameister12:
Winds at first advisory will probably be 40mph.

I'm hoping for a special advisory.


It's only an hour away from the usual update time anyway, so they will typically wait. They might just post it a bit earlier.
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Quoting Ameister12:

TD 4/Don is born.
Oh okay.Thanks.
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1402. Patrap
ESL by LSU GOES-13 GOM Low Cloud Product Loop
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127550
Quoting reid221:


http://tropicalatlantic.com/recon/


Thank you!!!
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1400. Levi32
TS winds are being found in the eastern semicircle. The plane will likely come back around for another pass at the center now.

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Quoting Tazmanian:
90L went from bust too a name storm lol

So true.
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Let's see if this thing can spread out a bit once it hits open water. Very small system right now. Still, looks like this one will hit the CONUS. Has been a loooong time since that happened.
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1397. j2008
Quoting NotCircumventing:
NHC probably go to TS Don now, although many may disagree, the reasoning is to allow appropriate level of media coverage (evening and late local news) today, as opposed to some people not being aware until tomorrow afternoon because they miss the 11pm update then don't see any news in the am.

Could happen that way. Landfall not too far out, assuming there is to be one.

Lets hope the NHC doesnt stay conservative and keep it at a TD. They have enough data now to support TS but who knows??
Member Since: December 19, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 224
Quoting Tazmanian:
90L went from bust too a name storm lol


Familiar tune this year. Don't know what's up with these models.
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Quoting HurricaneHunterJoe:
Time: 19:31:30Z
Coordinates: 22.1667N 86.3833W
Acft. Static Air Press: 976.0 mb (~ 28.82 inHg)
Acft. Geopotential Hgt: 293 meters (~ 961 feet)
Extrap. Sfc. Press: 1010.0 mb (~ 29.83 inHg)
D-value: -
Flt. Lvl. Wind (30s): From 145° at 39 knots (From the SE at ~ 44.8 mph)
Air Temp: 19.1°C (~ 66.4°F)
Dew Pt: 13.1°C (~ 55.6°F)
Peak (10s) Flt. Lvl. Wind: 40 knots (~ 46.0 mph)
SFMR Peak (10s) Sfc. Wind: 38 knots (~ 43.7 mph)
SFMR Rain Rate: 7 mm/hr (~ 0.28 in/hr)

they are flying at only 961 feet altitude


can you link this
Member Since: June 17, 2011 Posts: 11 Comments: 6461
Quoting MrstormX:


I agree Rita, no Rita or Katrina evacuation repeats. It would be best to get the watches posted, and then have an Ike like evac.


Truthfully, Rita at peak was a terrifying prospect, and it scared many people who would have never left for a "normal" storm. That is very unlikely to happen again soon.
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Center no longer exposed as 90L/Don enters favorable conditions in the GOM.



Shear map shows a spot of light wind shear (5-10 knots) ahead of the storm.. The heavy wind shear that was shearing it earlier today is now east of the storm.




There is wind high wind shear near the Texas coastline though, but things do change.
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1391. reid221
Quoting weatherh98:
can someone link hh data


http://tropicalatlantic.com/recon/
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Quoting washingtonian115:
What's new?

TD 4/Don is born.
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Quoting roxycc:
Send it towards Corpus! we need the rain!


The NHC may oblige you, at least from the 18Z data in SHIPS.
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1388. angiest
Quoting jpsb:
Thanks, no names are showing up in ignore, but lots of comments require I hit the show button to see them. I hit the show all button, but no change. Maybe WU is just having a bad day today. Doesn't look like TD4 is gonna do much today so I will wait till tomorrow and hope everything is working well then.


Ahh, at the top of the comments section of this blog is a drop down that contains filters. Set it to show all.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
Quoting lazerpointernerd:


Never realized how many Clear Lake folks come here. I guess we all tend to lurk on the blog instead of posting.


Bay Colony near FM 646 here
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Well, with such a small system, maybe the HHs can save a bit of fuel!
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Winds at first advisory will probably be 40mph.

I'm hoping for a special advisory.
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As stated earlier, look out Central TX coast. Perfect scenario as far as rain goes. Winds are another story.
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What's new?
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Time: 19:31:30Z
Coordinates: 22.1667N 86.3833W
Acft. Static Air Press: 976.0 mb (~ 28.82 inHg)
Acft. Geopotential Hgt: 293 meters (~ 961 feet)
Extrap. Sfc. Press: 1010.0 mb (~ 29.83 inHg)
D-value: -
Flt. Lvl. Wind (30s): From 145° at 39 knots (From the SE at ~ 44.8 mph)
Air Temp: 19.1°C (~ 66.4°F)
Dew Pt: 13.1°C (~ 55.6°F)
Peak (10s) Flt. Lvl. Wind: 40 knots (~ 46.0 mph)
SFMR Peak (10s) Sfc. Wind: 38 knots (~ 43.7 mph)
SFMR Rain Rate: 7 mm/hr (~ 0.28 in/hr)

they are flying at only 961 feet altitude
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1380. OneDrop
Quoting BrockBerlin:


Generally Friday/Saturday would be landfall if it made landfall that far north it would be towards Saturday probably.
Brock, where you been? What team are you playing for?
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Probably straight to 45mph TS imo.
Member Since: April 29, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 7669
1378. Gearsts
Quoting Levi32:
Recon is finding lots of TS-force winds now.

000
URNT15 KNHC 271937
AF300 01DDA INVEST HDOB 17 20110727
192800 2157N 08622W 9760 00298 0102 +204 +137 163038 041 038 014 00
192830 2159N 08622W 9768 00287 0102 +192 +136 156041 045 057 022 03
192900 2201N 08622W 9753 00299 0101 +190 +136 159039 040 043 017 00
192930 2203N 08622W 9768 00290 0103 +191 +134 154038 040 041 009 00
193000 2205N 08622W 9752 00304 0101 +195 +133 151038 040 037 009 00
193030 2207N 08622W 9762 00292 0099 +208 +132 151039 041 034 009 00
193100 2209N 08622W 9759 00295 0101 +199 +132 148039 040 037 009 03
193130 2210N 08623W 9760 00293 0100 +191 +131 145039 040 038 007 00
193200 2212N 08624W 9758 00296 0100 +189 +131 145040 041 038 007 00
193230 2214N 08625W 9753 00299 0097 +200 +130 150040 041 037 004 00
193300 2215N 08626W 9764 00290 0097 +212 +130 144040 041 035 002 00
193330 2217N 08626W 9764 00290 0096 +217 +130 146041 042 035 002 00
193400 2219N 08627W 9762 00292 0096 +215 +131 145039 039 037 002 00
193430 2221N 08628W 9761 00293 0096 +215 +133 142039 039 038 003 00
193500 2222N 08629W 9762 00294 0098 +219 +136 142036 037 035 004 00
193530 2224N 08629W 9763 00293 0097 +220 +138 140036 036 034 005 00
193600 2226N 08630W 9763 00293 0097 +221 +141 138036 037 032 005 00
193630 2227N 08631W 9761 00295 0098 +223 +143 136034 035 031 004 00
193700 2229N 08632W 9763 00293 0097 +222 +146 133033 033 031 005 00
193730 2231N 08632W 9761 00296 0098 +216 +148 132033 034 031 005 03
$$
;
Levy you think this will go up to TS at the 5pm adv?And also, where you expecting 90L to be this strong?
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1430
Quoting MrstormX:


I agree Rita, no Rita or Katrina evacuation repeats. It would be best to get the watches posted, and then have an Ike like evac.


I don't think there is time to evac, there wont be an evac for a 70mph cane, then if it jumps to 115mph well....your stuck
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1376. angiest
Quoting MrstormX:


Either way, stay safe.


We are inland, so I have no surge concern. Our problem with this storm is most likely to be rain (in a drought!). I don't expect it to be strong enough for inland winds to be a problem. Still, thanks for the sentiment. :)
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766

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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.