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 Matt74:
Do you think it has a chance to attain hurricane status?


It is possible, yes, but not likely at this time. A strong tropical storm is more likely, IMO.
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Quoting Txrainstorm:
Link

NASA's TRMM Satellite Sees Heavy Rainfall in a Caribbean Tropical Depression Candidate
WOW can invests have hot towers like hurricanes?
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Quoting Torgen:
Just popped over to WU to see if I should water the 'maters today or if I should wait for rain, and see the blog's poppin'! Good luck to TX. May this just be a big fat TS with widespread rain.

I like what you're saying. I"m in Rockport TX-6 ft above SL--don't want any storm surges of any kind.
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Quoting hurricanehunter27:
I have a sat pick of Alex hanging on my wall im my room! Strongest cat2 ever! I think the pressure at peak was 947mb.

It was upgraded to 946mb, tied for the lowest pressure for a storm in June. Epic hurricane.
Member Since: July 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 5521
let me explain something. the more northerly the system is in this situation the weaker it is the more southerly the stronger so south texas strong system upper texas weaker system
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Quoting help4u:
Taz,pin-hole eye alert on friday!





lol
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5089 Comments: 114075
When one gets a TVS Warning,,it can be a Waterspout,or Tornado,on radar,but the NOAA Local Message will describe the threat as per protocol.

NWS kinda knows what they doing,..

Area forecast discussion
National Weather Service New Orleans la
825 am CDT Wednesday Jul 27 2011




..sounding discussion...
No problems with this mornings flight. This mornings profile shows
ample moisture. Saturated from the surface through 880mb. Precipitable water is up
to 2.5 inches indicating the potential for very heavy rainfall in
a few spots. Storm motion is only 1kt. Mean low level winds from
the surface to 5k feet is west at 5kt. From 5k through 30k feet the
winds are light and variable. Temperature inversion from 880mb to
850mb. This mornings sounding indicates the potential for
waterspouts today.



&&


Previous discussion... /issued 358 am CDT Wednesday Jul 27 2011/
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It's spitting rain in my yard, and I can look at the field across the road from my house and see the pouring rain.
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90L 100% chance of development now!!! And just yesterday morning it was 0% chance...
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464. Jax82
Visible
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Anyone got an opinion on the outflow over the last few hours to the north of the system. Looks as if the shear has really dropped off recently judging by the cirrus clouds now beginning to vent to the north of the storm as well.
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Quoting SHOREACRESTX:
Any idea of the storm surge in Galveston Bay if it heads toward Matagorda .... Im at 12ft msl .... just curious


As long as it does not explode on us, you should probably be okay (meaning TD,TS,or low cat 1). If you need a reference point, once they declare the estimated surge look at the stop signs at the major intersections in Shoreacres and La Porte (Shoreacres blvd.&old 146, Bayforest stop sign & 146 etc.) On the poles you will see reflective colored bands circling the pole. Those band show what the estimated storm surge height will be for different category storms for the specific area. If you have not known these existed already, they can be pretty disconcerting, especially if you realize the bands are at the tops of the poles in a lot of places.

Really not a lot of fun to be having to think about these types of things again, especially so soon....
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The models taking it North yesterday were the models keeping it very weak...Now it appears the models are making it a moderate TS and bringing it more northward...maybe the setup with the high could be changing a bit
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Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:




90L 12Z HWRF


I can agree with the location (that is in the area where I am thinking), not so sure about the lack of intensity. Of course, there is no cyclone to work with yet.
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12Z GFDL 90L
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992mb pressure doesn't match up with only 40 knot winds

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Current intensity forcasts for 90L are very problematic at the moment considering the models never forcasted it to develop in the first place. I really do not trust the models' intensity forcasts for this one.
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Product: Air Force Tropical RECCO Message (URNT11 KNHC)
Transmitted: 27th day of the month at 17:54Z
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: 02

Mandatory Data...

Observation Time: Wednesday, 17:53Z
Radar Capability: Yes
Aircraft Altitude: Below 10,000 meters
Coordinates: 25.4N 89.8W
Location: 317 miles (510 km) to the S (177°) from New Orleans, LA, USA.
Turbulence: None
Conditions Along Flight Route: In the clear
Pressure Altitude: 7,320 meters
Flight Level Wind: From 110° at 11 knots (From the ESE at ~ 12.6 mph)
- The above is a spot wind.
- Winds were obtained using doppler radar or inertial systems.
Flight Level Temperature: -17°C
Flight Level Dew Point: Not available, probably because the dew point hygrometer was not working.
Weather (within 30 nautical miles): Broken clouds (5/8 to 7/8 cloud coverage)
400 mb Surface Altitude: 7,600 geopotential meters

Recon well on the way!
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That 12Z HWRF is alot more North then the last
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Quoting HCW:


I don't agree with LIX and don't see the need to Tornado warn a waterspout


When we get waterspouts (in Galveston) or "funnel clouds" (which by that I think our local WFO means a waterspout forming over land) they will get t-warned if there are enough reports.
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Taz,pin-hole eye alert on friday!
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Now that the mid-level circulation is starting to couple with the low-level circulation, 90L should begin its strengthening phase, which should continue up to landfall.
Do you think it has a chance to attain hurricane status?
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Just popped over to WU to see if I should water the 'maters today or if I should wait for rain, and see the blog's poppin'! Good luck to TX. May this just be a big fat TS with widespread rain.
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hey ya Keep...this system has the GATES of "YOU KNOW WHERE" open as far as opinions...you should have shut em on your way out snicker snicker...btw...how the heck are ya?
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445. beell
Quoting jasonweatherman2011:
next update at 8pm will be 110% wow!!


LOL, jason!
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444. HCW
Quoting angiest:


Looking at velocity and I don't see it. Wonder if it is a "true" waterspout/landspout. Those storms don't look especially severe.


I don't agree with LIX and don't see the need to Tornado warn a waterspout
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90L 12Z HWRF
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Quoting Patrap:


Looking at velocity and I don't see it. Wonder if it is a "true" waterspout/landspout. Those storms don't look especially severe.
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So I guess the chances of this system making a sudden turn to the north will depend on how far east the high pressure moves?
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I am trying to figure out which i am, a Wishcaster or a DownCaster! You all have fun and have a great Afternoon.
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

I saw Alex. He was not "little".
I have a sat pick of Alex hanging on my wall im my room! Strongest cat2 ever! I think the pressure at peak was 947mb.
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Quoting Tazmanian:



no no no make it cat5 by firday
careful what you wish for there are people out there in the way of whatever comes
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ZCZC MIATWOAT ALL
TTAA00 KNHC DDHHMM

TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
200 PM EDT WED JUL 27 2011

FOR THE NORTH ATLANTIC...CARIBBEAN SEA AND THE GULF OF MEXICO...

1. SATELLITE IMAGERY INDICATES A TROPICAL DEPRESSION OR TROPICAL STORM
COULD BE FORMING ABOUT 90 MILES NORTH OF CANCUN MEXICO. AN AIR
FORCE RESERVE HURRICANE HUNTER AIRCRAFT IS CURRENTLY ENROUTE TO
INVESTIGATE THE AREA...AND IF IT CONFIRMS THE PRESENCE OF A
CIRCULATION...ADVISORIES WILL BE INITIATED THIS AFTERNOON.
INTERESTS IN THE CENTRAL AND WESTERN GULF OF MEXICO SHOULD MONITOR
THIS SYSTEM AS IT MOVES WEST-NORTHWESTWARD NEAR 15 MPH. THIS
SYSTEM HAS A HIGH CHANCE...NEAR 100 PERCENT..OF BECOMING A TROPICAL
CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS.

ELSEWHERE...TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION IS NOT EXPECTED DURING THE
NEXT 48 HOURS.

$$
FORECASTER BEVEN
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ok people calling for a hurricane landfall. ENVIRONMENTAL CONDTIONS OF PAST TROPICAL CYCLONES THAT SPUN INTO A HURRICANE BEFORE HITTING TEXAS ARE DIFFERENT THEN THE ONES WE HAVE NOW. LIKE CLAUDETE ON 03
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Quoting OracleDeAtlantis:
Judging from what I see in the developing spin of this thing, in a broader sense, which is what the precip. image can show sometimes; it's trying to turn in on itself and double up in size, and it may well do it within 24-36 hours, which is plenty of time to get a lot stronger when this occurs.

I'm going to predict a Cat. 3 before landfall. Where, I'm still debating, but Texas is the obvious target.



There is a little dry air in the Gulf of Mexico at the moment, but it looks like nothing compared to what Ma-on in the West Pacific had to deal with earlier this month. And it became a weak Category 4. Category 3 is unlikely with this system but possible. I have had a bad feeling about it for a couple of days now. Hopefully, it will at most become a moderate tropical storm that brings a few inches of rain to Texas. That appears to be the most probable scenario.
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432. beell
Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


You may like the 12Z GFDL, weak storm your way.


LOL. I like any of them that point to Texas, nrt.

Still think a bit of development in the run-up to landfall (final 24hrs) will land it farther down the coast based on a strengthening ridge. Which could still drag in the moisture here.

I liked yesterday's 18Z HWRF on track and intensity from a purely objective (read-non selfish!) forecast.
: -)
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Quoting KennyNebraska:
The thing that really concerns me about any organized system that approaches the TX coastline ANYTIME in the summer are analogs like Dolly, Humberto, & Alex. These storms did not amount to much until about 24 hours prior to landfall where they all spun up like little buzz saws.

That could easily happen again this weekend with this storm.

I saw Alex. He was not "little".
Member Since: July 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 5521
Quoting TampaSpin:



Thank you! Knew some would understand what i was saying. I agree as i stated earlier. If the graphic is wrong then we probably have a storm........if the graphic is correct....then we don't!


Its obviously wrong Tampa. You've been around long enough to know better
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Quoting KennyNebraska:
The thing that really concerns me about any organized system that approaches the TX coastline ANYTIME in the summer are analogs like Dolly, Humberto, & Alex. These storms did not amount to much until about 24 hours prior to landfall where they all spun up like little buzz saws.

That could easily happen again this weekend with this storm.


Alicia in 83 too. Seems like they always to to RI offshore of TX, maybe the shape of the coastline and just the environmental setup in the NW gulf. NW gulf is notorious for rapid intesification
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Quoting marknmelb:
What's the chance of this thing hangin a hard right and heading towards Tampa ???

(Had to do this to rile up Tampaspin)


I feel the LOVE! Thanks tho!
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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.