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 RitaEvac:
Announced on local news that Shell has begun evacuating their workers offshore


bet they are watching the fish and birds then snicker snicker
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Quoting PcolaDan:


Someone last night said they were told to prepare for evacuation.



Nope not yet, well we've not been told that anyway. We are only at what is called stage 1 (which is what we are in all of hurricane season) we are still doing normal ops. In fact we are actually going in the opposite direction of a rig down right now lol.
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Quoting hydrus:
I agree...However, I truly believe it will never be a hurricane, and it still could miss Texas. I was hoping they would at least get some rain..


I do think that some of Texas will get rain from this, but I do not see it as a drought buster either.
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Quoting tiggeriffic:
HEY TACO.....im peeking too...waiting for the 2pm updates...for a storm that everyone said was dead...sure does look like 90L was playing opposum, dont think we have seen the end of it yet...watching close...if the ensembles move any more to the right it could end up being a sweeper to the east coast as well lol


Yes I have to agree.... I do know this storm has done a number onn everyone in here thats for sure....

I sure hope HH get in there so that way we all will know what to think about "Don"....

Taco :o)
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Quoting sarahjola:
if the llc is close to land wouldn't that be the reason its not getting better organized? also why has it not started to take a more northernly movement yet? why the almost due west motion? tia


The Yucatan is interesting:



A larger image is at Link

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It will be interesting to see how the NHC handles this possible TC landfall. They may overdo the intensity since it is close to land.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 108 Comments: 30241
Announced on local news that Shell has begun evacuating their workers offshore
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9625
LOL.........i too am peeking in! Good afternoon all!
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If you want proof that 90L still has a forming circulation, it is on radar. This is what NHC is and has been watching:


Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4355
Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:


This time it would be the opposite due to how deep the High pressure system is.


except that the east coast is covered by rain and it is expected to stick around for a couple more days....
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Good track and intensity comparison for 90L.


Claudette, 2003. In Houston we got brushed by the outer bands. She strengthened pretty much until landfall. If I am not mistaken, there was initially the thought that she touched cat 2 intensity right before landfall.
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if the llc is close to land wouldn't that be the reason its not getting better organized? also why has it not started to take a more northernly movement yet? why the almost due west motion? tia
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Quoting angiest:


OK, that may have been a little over-the-top there. I mean, I haven't exactly seen anyone say 90L is looking annular... ;)
lol..I had myself an invest adrenalin rush...:)
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HEY TACO.....im peeking too...waiting for the 2pm updates...for a storm that everyone said was dead...sure does look like 90L was playing opposum, dont think we have seen the end of it yet...watching close...if the ensembles move any more to the right it could end up being a sweeper to the east coast as well lol
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262. beell
Cancun. Mexico International Airport

1PM EDT Obs:
T 24°C
Td 24°C
Press 1011mb
Winds WSW 3
Light rain

1 PM (17) Jul 27 75 (24) 75 (24) 29.87 (1011) WSW 3 light rain

NWS Telecommunications Operations Center
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Quoting HimacaneBrees:
Well they need to get the move on with the HH flight. I work in the Gulf and these folks always wait to the last minute, to start rigging down for evacuations (which it takes us 18 to 24 hours to get in storm position and ready to leave). And if it isn't named before long, and blows up huge a little later guess what... then it's to late to leave and We ride it out!!! I don't like riding out storms. Tropical storms are not to bad but once they reach a high end cat 1, that gets a little scary on a rig.


Someone last night said they were told to prepare for evacuation.
Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 6010
Quoting tiggeriffic:
i see the ensemble models are moving more toward central tx to coastal LA as well...doesn't this mean that it is building? i know it isnt 100% of the time, but generally doesnt a weaker storm move more to the west and a strong storm get picked up by a trough?


This time it would be the opposite due to how deep the High pressure system is.
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Good track and intensity comparison for 90L.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 108 Comments: 30241
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125476
Quoting sky1989:


90L has the look of a developing tropical cyclone in its formative stages. If the mid-level circulation will align itself with the upper level vorticity, then I could see some reasonable intensification.
I agree...However, I truly believe it will never be a hurricane, and it still could miss Texas. I was hoping they would at least get some rain..
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i see the ensemble models are moving more toward central tx to coastal LA as well...doesn't this mean that it is building? i know it isnt 100% of the time, but generally doesnt a weaker storm move more to the west and a strong storm get picked up by a trough?
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12Z NGP now agreeing more with with ECMWF Ensemble/ CMC/UKM on developing P10L.

12Z CMC
still on board too.
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Quoting louisianaboy444:



"Just a hunch" The NHC might be viewing some sort of Center relocation


I'd have to guess its directly under the heaviest convection towers.
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Quoting hydrus:
WWWWOOOOWWWW !!!!!........what amazing outflow......and symmetry.......


OK, that may have been a little over-the-top there. I mean, I haven't exactly seen anyone say 90L is looking annular... ;)
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Quoting tiggeriffic:
hmmmmmmm....only 20 mins or so till update...btw...afternoon everyone :)


Good Afternoon to you too :o)

I'm just checking in to see what our little blob has for us today or has it made it to TD yet :o)

Taco :o)
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Quoting atmoaggie:
*sigh*
What I wouldn't give for some decent in-situ surface obs...


(full size...click)


Kinda surprised that Cancun has no winds.


lot of jungle to the wnw of Cancun....and seconded on the surface obs.
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:
Low-level clouds alone indicate a possible circulation.



"Just a hunch" The NHC might be viewing some sort of Center relocation
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Seriously though, radar stills shows sufficient rotation for TD upgrade. Satellite not as impressive.
Member Since: May 27, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 4355
Well
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Quoting atmoaggie:
*sigh*
What I wouldn't give for some decent in-situ surface obs...


(full size...click)


Kinda surprised that Cancun has no winds.


You may find a few here, but not around Cancun, they seem to be having issues.
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good thing is the system is small.

Good thing for development and good thing for where it hits.
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Quoting Leafgreen:

Levi, why is the water on this shelf so cold?
i don't think it's all that cold, personally... but my guess is upwelling in response to the flow of the Gulf Stream passing between Cuba and the Yucatan Peninsula. as that current passes north through the channel, it would be expected that surface water pulled along for the ride causes upwelling cooler waters along that region of the shelf.
being no expert, this is my amateur's 2 cents..
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hmmmmmmm....only 20 mins or so till update...btw...afternoon everyone :)
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WWWWOOOOWWWW !!!!!........what amazing outflow......and symmetry.......
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Low-level clouds alone indicate a possible circulation.
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Mexican radar reveals a consolidation:

Link
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Quoting hydrus:
Must be a very small circulation. The convection burst is tiny and I see no center.


90L has the look of a developing tropical cyclone in its formative stages. If the mid-level circulation will align itself with the upper level vorticity, then I could see some reasonable intensification.
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Quoting SomeRandomTexan:
Hey Homeless,

It has been a while. Haven't been on since I guess.

Good to see you on!


Good to see you as well. I'm always on. Lol. Except got to run out today for a bit. Figures. We may actually need to pay attention to this one. Hopefully whoever gets it will just get a rainy tropical storm. Be back in a little while. Have a good afternoon all.
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Almost looks like the center is on the northern tip..
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


How strong are those winds?


25-29 knots.
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Quoting Levi32:
Thanks for the update Angela.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~``

The shelf water south of 22N along the coast of the northern Yucatan is very cold. 90L's center won't pass this close, but the convection associated with it, which should stay confined south of the center, may suffer as it passes over.


Levi, why is the water on this shelf so cold?
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:


The circulation is not over Cuba. lol

Must be a very small circulation. The convection burst is tiny and I see no center.
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not today 90l diehards outflows boundries ext the real action is s.e of the cape verde islands
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is 90L weakining?
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*sigh*
What I wouldn't give for some decent in-situ surface obs...


(full size...click)


Kinda surprised that Cancun has no winds.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
90L still has a long way to go to become anything strong, but it appears that outflow is slowly becoming better. Despite a decrease in thunderstorm activity, this indicates the storm is "breathing" and shear is becoming less of a problem, which will allow better future buildup and organization of thunderstorms.
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:
FWIW

FULL





ZOOM



How strong are those winds?
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 108 Comments: 30241
Live look from Cancun in the direction of the circulation just offshore
Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 6010

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About JeffMasters

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.