Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:27 PM GMT on September 15, 2011
Tropical Storm Maria is roaring past Bermuda, bringing winds near tropical storm force. At 11 am local time, winds at the Bermuda airport were sustained at 36 mph, just below the 39 mph threshold of tropical storm strength. Outer spiral bands of Maria have brought a few brief heavy rain squalls to the island, as seen on Bermuda radar. The core of Maria is now at its closest point of approach to the island, about 150 miles (240 km) to the west, and the island may yet see an hour of two of sustained winds of 40 - 45 mph. Maria is headed north-northeast, and will brush Newfoundland, Canada on Friday afternoon. Since Newfoundland will be on the weak (left) side of a rapidly weakening Maria, I'm not expecting much in the way of wind damage from the storm in Canada, though heavy rains may cause isolated minor to moderate flooding. Top sustained winds in St. Johns will probably be in the 25 - 35 mph range Friday afternoon, though a few hours of tropical storm force winds of 40 - 45 mph are possible if Maria ends up tracking farther west than expected.
Figure 1. Radar image of Tropical Storm Maria taken at 10:13 am EDT September 15, 2011. Image credit: Bermuda Weather Service.
Elsewhere in the tropics
Even the busiest of hurricane seasons have lulls, and we're hitting one this week during what is traditionally the busiest week of hurricane season. A westward-moving tropical wave a few hundred miles south of the Cape Verde Islands, off the coast of Africa, has a modest amount of poorly organized heavy thunderstorm activity. This wave is under a moderate 10 - 20 knots of wind shear, is in a moist environment, and is over warm waters, so has the potential for some development, though NHC is currently not mentioning it in their Tropical Weather Outlook. The UKMET and NOGAPS models predict this wave could develop into a tropical depression 5 - 6 days from now. The NOGAPS model continues to predict the Western Caribbean off the coast of Nicaragua could see the development of a tropical depression 6 - 7 days from now, but the other models are showing little support for this scenario.
Figure 2. Heidi Cullen of Climate Central introduces Boulder, Colorado teacher John Zavalney, one of the presenters of the Climate Reality Project's 24-hour live streaming special.
The Climate Reality Project
The Climate Reality Project (climaterealityproject.org) is a little more than halfway through their live, 24-hour streaming video effort that features 24 different presenters for 24 hours, representing every time zone around the globe. The presentations began last night at 7 pm EDT, and will end tonight at 7 pm EDT. It's worth checking out; there have been some interesting presentations and some dull ones. Interspersed with the presentations are panel discussions with some slick Google Earth graphics; last night's discussions were led by Heidi Cullen of Climate Central, who is a rarity--a very personable and well-spoken scientist, and someone you'll be seeing on TV much more in coming years. The Climate Reality Project showed one excellent video tracking the history of industry-funded denial of science that began with the tobacco industry, something I've discussed as well in post called The Manufactured Doubt Industry and the hacked email controversy. Also shown were two cute 15 - 30 second comedy videos. But while the Climate Reality Project's 24-hour blitz has already gotten 3 million people to tune in, its documentary-style tone and Powerpoint lectures will not be engaging enough to keep most visitors around for more than a few minutes. Ph.D. oceanographer Randy Olson, who left a tenure-track professorship to become a Hollywood film maker, has written an excellent book called Don't be Such a Scientist, about the failure of scientists to communicate in way that will engage people (I thought so highly of the book that I bought 20 copies of the book to give away to students at the University of Michigan's Department of Atmospheric Science this year.) In the latest post in his blog, The Benshi, Olson outlines how the climate community has failed in the main way needed to engage an audience: create a likable voice through the effective telling of stories, which is a less literal means of communication and is less cerebral and thus reaches a mass audience. Future efforts at communication by the climate science community really need to work on using the telling of stories by likable voices in order to get their message across, and I highly recommend that all climate scientists who do public outreach read Olson's book "Don't be Such a Scientist."
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