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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What's the chance of this thing hangin a hard right and heading towards Tampa ???

(Had to do this to rile up Tampaspin)
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Fresh Radar loop:

Link
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4438
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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.

Claudette spun up into a Cat 1 just offshore, also!
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Quoting louisianaboy444:
Honestly, He was right TropicalAnalysis but i think the map was incorrect. Because there is no way this thing is almost a TD with no convergence. Thats basically saying this thing is almost a TD with no Vorticity...I think that map may have had incomplete data...Although i do still have to admit it worries me that the vertical directional shear is blowing things in two different ways. The HH recon can easily find a decoupled or not a fully closed SFC in that type of setup its basically getting sliced vertically



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!
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Mexico Radar Sites.

Link
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Three storms to finish July out...Way above average, we aren't supposed to get our second named storm until August 1, and we are already at 4 named storms :P
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Recon 300 miles out
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Now if only there were true percentages as to where it will go...
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Quoting HCW:
Ptrap take cover

BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE NEW ORLEANS LA
1252 PM CDT WED JUL 27 2011

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN NEW ORLEANS HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
CENTRAL ORLEANS PARISH IN SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA...
THIS INCLUDES THE CITY OF EAST NEW ORLEANS...
WEST CENTRAL ST. BERNARD PARISH IN SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA...
THIS INCLUDES THE CITY OF CHALMETTE...

* UNTIL 115 PM CDT

* AT 1248 PM CDT...THE PUBLIC REPORTED A WATERSPOUT NORTH OF VIOLET
OVER THE MARSHES...MOVING WEST AT 10 MPH.




NOAA RAdio Squawked that ,,but Im Uptown ,or about 8 miles West of that cell.

...thanx for the heads up.
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Quoting hurricanehunter27:
Just stop will you? We get it!


I agree, this is getting a little ridiculous.
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4438
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.

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Quoting ProgressivePulse:
The oddities are occuring everywhere with this system, lol. No probability here.



Figures
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Quoting TampaSpin:
That 100% means it will become a Tropical system in the NEXT 48HRS
Just stop will you? We get it!
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Quoting help4u:
WOW!!!Cat 4 by Friday!!



no no no make it cat5 by firday
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115456
Patience is virtue guys just wait for recon to confirm TD 4/ TS Don.
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Quoting MississippiWx:
Well, this would make the third storm in a row that developed when models really didn't care for it...


Kinda scary, there are oddities all over with this one. Wonder if someone hacked the system, lol.
Member Since: August 19, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 5458
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403. HCW
Ptrap take cover

BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE NEW ORLEANS LA
1252 PM CDT WED JUL 27 2011

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN NEW ORLEANS HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
CENTRAL ORLEANS PARISH IN SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA...
THIS INCLUDES THE CITY OF EAST NEW ORLEANS...
WEST CENTRAL ST. BERNARD PARISH IN SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA...
THIS INCLUDES THE CITY OF CHALMETTE...

* UNTIL 115 PM CDT

* AT 1248 PM CDT...THE PUBLIC REPORTED A WATERSPOUT NORTH OF VIOLET
OVER THE MARSHES...MOVING WEST AT 10 MPH.


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A 3rd July storm, that would be unexpected especially after earlier this month.
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4438
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Tropical Storm/Hurricane Don - 65-75 mph - Central/Southern Texas.


I have my money on a Cat 2 that sweeps SE -> NW into Victoria, TX on Saturday.

I also saw an analog between 90L and 2003 Claudette yesterday by posting the newspaper article on the aftermath.
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Quoting Minnemike:
would you rule out frictional forces from the gulf stream?
Any cool water must come from a deeper area. Upwelling, caused by wind or frictional forces from the Gulf Stream need to pull it up from somewhere. If the Gulfstream was pulling up cooler water with it out of Caribbean, I would think it would affect the entire coast of the Yucatan, not just that northern coast. But I don't have charts of the area or maps. Just seems strange that cool water is there with all the hot water surrounding it. I know it is realtive. I have felt cold streams of water off shore at Smather's beach. And it is only waist deep. Picturing the area, with all that underground water (Cenotes), I would think that perhaps there is an underground source for the cool water. To me that is the logical explanation, but I don't know if that water stays cool all the time. I guess I am "just guessing" again. :)
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Well, this would make the third storm in a row that developed when models really didn't care for it...
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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


We need intensity, size, etc. Too early to forecast effects anywhere.
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Not more than 65mph. good one for Texas. just imagine if this pattern persists the entire hurricane season but BETTER conditions meaning BETTER AND SCARIER storms
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Please curb the cussing or be sidelined for 24.


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That 100% means it will become a Tropical system in the NEXT 48HRS
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WOW!!!Cat 4 by Friday!!
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Radar supports a well-defined low-level circulation. Satellite observations support a closed low-level circulation. The hurricane hunters are enroute to find out, but more likely than not, we have TD #4/Don.
I agree the hurricane hunters will know more once they reach the system, since it will be as current as it gets, rather than using charts from hours ago.
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Honestly, He was right TropicalAnalysis but i think the map was incorrect. Because there is no way this thing is almost a TD with no convergence. Thats basically saying this thing is almost a TD with no Vorticity...I think that map may have had incomplete data...Although i do still have to admit it worries me that the vertical directional shear is blowing things in two different ways. The HH recon can easily find a decoupled or not a fully closed SFC in that type of setup its basically getting sliced vertically
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Quoting barbamz:


Awesome!! Thank you.


Quoting metwombly:
Thanks for this!!


You're welcome, glad you enjoy it :~)

No surprise NHC is waiting for recon although it's quite obvious we have a TD
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Link

NASA's TRMM Satellite Sees Heavy Rainfall in a Caribbean Tropical Depression Candidate
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Quoting hurricanehunter27:
ok so we will have a TD or Don question is where will it go and how strong will it get? Your thoughts? I think it goes Cat2.


Tropical Storm/Hurricane Don - 65-75 mph - Central/Southern Texas.
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Quoting beell:


Gosh, maybe they should send a plane out...
; - )


You may like the 12Z GFDL, weak storm your way.
Member Since: September 23, 2005 Posts: 15 Comments: 11346
Quoting tkeith:
Corpus Christie Bay...

(an excellant Robert Earl Keen song)


I like Copano Bay (Randy Rogers, possibly others as well).

Of course, I love the Rockport-Fulton area. I will be so sad when they finally take their overdue hit.
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Quoting MrstormX:


Definitely our next player, I still think 90L "looks better"...I think NHC shall agree.


I agree. Despite no model support (just like with 90L) it will be in a more favorable environment once it gets near the longitude of Cuba.
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Well 100%... I guess I would have just said TD, but do understand their hesitation.
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Quoting Ameister12:
100%!!!



Beatcha to it! LOL! :)
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The oddities are occuring everywhere with this system, lol. No probability here.

Member Since: August 19, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 5458
am happy for 90L we can get rid of 90L its been a pian in the butt
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115456
agreed, tampa just lost major amount of credit.
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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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