Arctic sea ice bottoms out near all-time low; August was Earth's 4th - 8th warmest

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 6:11 PM GMT on September 17, 2011

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Arctic sea ice extent hit its minimum on September 9 this year, falling to its second lowest value since satellite measurements began in 1979, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center . More than one third (35%) of the Arctic sea ice was missing this summer, compared to the 1979 - 2000 average. This is an area about the size of the Mediterranean Sea. The 2011 sea ice minimum was very close to the all-time record low set in 2007; in fact, the University of Bremen rated the 2011 loss the greatest on record. For the fourth consecutive year, and fourth time in recorded history, ice-free navigation was possible in the Arctic along the coast of Canada (the Northwest Passage), and along the coast of Russia (the Northeast Passage.) Mariners have been attempting to sail these waters since 1497.

While the record low sea ice year of 2007 was marked by a very unusual 1-in-20 year combination of weather conditions that favored ice loss (including clearer skies, favorable wind patterns, and warm temperatures), 2011's weather patterns were much closer to average. The fact we pretty much tied the record for most sea ice loss this year despite this rather ordinary weather is a result of the fact that large amounts of thicker, multi-year ice has melted or been flushed out of the Arctic since 2007. As a result of the loss of this old, thick ice, both 2010 and now 2011 set new records for the lowest volume of sea ice in the Arctic, according the University of Washington PIOMAS model. Given the very thin ice now covering most of the Arctic, we can expect truly dramatic sea ice loss the next time 1-in-10 year or 1-in-20 year warmth and sunshine invades the Arctic. We are definitely on pace to see the Arctic virtually sea ice-free in summer by 2030, as predicted by several leading Arctic sea ice scientists. I expect we'll see more than half of the Arctic ice gone and the North Pole liquid instead of solid by the summer of 2020, and probably sooner.


Figure 1. Arctic sea ice extent in 2011 (blue line) compared to the record low year of 2007 (dashed green line) and average (thick grey line.) Image credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center .

When was the last time the Arctic was this ice-free?
We can be sure the Northwest Passage was never open for ice-free navigation--particularly ice-free navigation for multiple years in a row--between 1900 and 2000, as we have detailed ice edge records from ships (Walsh and Chapman, 2001). It is very unlikely the Passage was open between 1497 and 1900, since this spanned a cold period in the northern latitudes known as "The Little Ice Age". Ships periodically attempted the Passage and were foiled during this period, and the native Inuit people have no historical tales of the Passage being navigable at any time in the past.

The Northwest passage may have been open multiple years in a row for ice-free navigation at some period during the Medieval Warm Period, between 1000 and 1300 AD. A better candidate was the period 6,000 - 8,500 years ago, when the Earth's orbital variations brought more sunlight to the Arctic in summer than at present. Funder and Kjaer (2007) found extensive systems of wave generated beach ridges along the North Greenland coast that suggested the Arctic Ocean was ice-free in the summer for over 1,000 years during that period. Prior to that, the next likely time was during the last inter-glacial period, 120,000 years ago. Arctic temperatures then were 2 - 3°C higher than present-day temperatures, and sea levels were 4-6 meters higher.

However, it is possible that the recent summer low-ice conditions in the Arctic are unprecedented for the past 800,000 years, according to a 2011 press release by Project CLAMER, a European group dedicated to climate change and European marine ecosystem research. They found that a tiny species of plankton called Neodenticula seminae that went extinct in the North Atlantic 800,000 years ago has become a resident of the Atlantic again, having drifted from the Pacific through the Arctic Ocean thanks to dramatically reduced polar ice. The 1999 discovery represents "the first evidence of a trans-Arctic migration in modern times" related to plankton, according to the UK-based Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science, whose researchers warn that "such a geographical shift could transform the biodiversity and functioning of the Arctic and North Atlantic marine ecosystems."

It is possible we'll have a better idea of historical ice-free conditions in the Arctic in the next few years. A new technique that examines organic compounds left behind in Arctic sediments by diatoms that live in sea ice give hope that a detailed record of sea ice extent extending back to the end of the Ice Age 12,000 years ago may be possible (Belt et al., 2007). The researchers are studying sediments along the Northwest Passage in hopes of being able to determine when the Passage was open during the past 12,000 years.

References
Belt, S.T., G. Masse, S.J. Rowland, M. Poulin, C. Michel, and B. LeBlanc, "A novel chemical fossil of palaeo sea ice: IP25", Organic Geochemistry, Volume 38, Issue 1, January 2007, Pages 16-27.

Funder, S. and K.H. Kjaer, 2007, "A sea-ice free Arctic Ocean?", Geophys. Res. Abstr. 9 (2007), p. 07815.

Walsh, J.E and W.L.Chapman, 2001, "Twentieth-century sea ice variations from observational data", Annals of Glaciology, 33, Number 1, January 2001 , pp. 444-448.

August 2011: Earth's 4th - 8th warmest on record
August 2011 was the globe's 8th warmest August on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies rated August the 4th warmest on record. Land temperatures during August were the 2nd warmest on record, and ocean temperatures were the 12th warmest on record. Ocean temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean's Main Development Region (MDR) for hurricanes, from the coast of Africa to the coast of Central America between 10°N and 20°N latitude, were 0.8°C above average, the 4rd warmest August on record. Global satellite-measured temperatures for the lowest 8 km of the atmosphere were the 6th or 3rd warmest in the 34-year record, according to Remote Sensing Systems and the University of Alabama Huntsville (UAH). For more details on global extremes during August, see the details from weather historian Christopher C. Burt.


Figure 2. Departure of temperature from average for August 2011. Image credit: National Climatic Data Center (NCDC).

Maria hits Newfoundland
Hurricane Maria hit Newfoundland, Canada yesterday afternoon near 3:30 pm local time as a Category 1 hurricane with 75 mph winds. However, the hurricane's strongest winds were over water, and the storm brought very little in the way of strong winds or heavy rain to the island. Cape Race at the southeast tip of Newfoundland saw sustained winds of 41 mph, gusting to 54 mph at 3:30 pm Friday as the center of the storm passed. Winds in the capital of St. John's peaked at 37 mph, gusting to 46 mph, at 10:30 am local time. Maria's strike makes this Newfoundland's second consecutive year with a hurricane strike, something that has never occurred since hurricane record keeping began in 1851. Last year, Hurricane Igor killed one person on Newfoundland, and damage exceeded $100 million, making Igor the most damaging tropical cyclone in Newfoundland history.


Figure 3. Satellite image of Hurricane Maria taken at 12:15 pm EDT September 16, 2011. At the time, Maria was a Category 1 hurricane with 75 mph winds. Image credit: NOAA Environmental Visualization Lab.

Invest 97L
For the first day since August 18, we don't have a named storm in the Atlantic. However, we have a new area to watch. A tropical wave that moved off the coast of Africa Friday and is now 300 miles south of the Cape Verde Islands is moving west at 10 - 15 mph. The wave has developed a modest amount of heavy thunderstorm activity and spin, and has been designated Invest 97L by NHC. Wind shear as diagnosed by the SHIPS model is light, 5 - 10 knots, and is predicted to stay light to moderate through Tuesday morning. Ocean temperatures are 27.5°C, one degree above the threshold typically needed for a tropical storm to spin up. Water vapor satellite images show 97L is embedded in a moist environment.

Most of the models develop 97L into a tropical depression by Tuesday; NHC gave the disturbance a 20% chance of developing into a tropical depression by Monday in their 2 pm Tropical Weather Outlook. 97L should head west or west-northwest towards the Lesser Antilles over the next six days, and could arrive in the islands as early as Friday--though most of the models predict a later arrival. It is likely 97L will encounter the usual troubles storms this year have had with wind shear and dry air on the long trek across the Atlantic.

I'll have a new post on Monday, when I'll discuss the long-range hurricane outlook for the rest of September.

Jeff Masters

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we might have some action starting to fire up near 35w

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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Think we got something going on in the Bahamas...Several reliable models have been hinting at development from this:



Well...it is interesting actually...because you have a surface trough over the Bahamas...

I can't say yet where the surface trough came from because I haven't analyzed my collected data for September yet. But this surface trough has support from divergence due to a cut-off upper trough to the northwest...as well as an outlfow channel streaming southeastward into the massive cut-off upper low currently over Puerto Rico....
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125. txjac
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


OMG, you just made it make sense to me. The wave over Western Africa and 97L would combine, potentially forming a system. Meanwhile, the wave over the Central Atlantic would continue west/west-northwest, potentially developing. That would also explain the two systems the models had in their runs.



I love to see that happen ...learning from each other ...great thing!
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124. txjac
Quoting bohonkweatherman:
I Wish it would rain at my house, low 90s and thunder for hours but Zero rain here, story of 2011, lots of wind and thunder but No rain


Really am praying for you boho ...you seem to have been greatly affected by the drought.

Happy that I am getting something here ...the fire this past week was at the Bush Park was only about three miles from where I live. It was getting to the point that I was afraid to leave my home in the morning to go to work.

Unfortunately it is having a hard time soaking in. I am getting puddles where it runs off the roof that arent being absorbed
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Incoming disturbance from Mexico has ran into the area south of San Antonio and has flared up. Seems to be flaring up west of Houston slightly as well, but probably just the afternoon heating. Hope that moves on in later today and get a flare up over the Houston/Galveston area, but afternoon heating will be gone by then
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122. JLPR2
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


OMG, you just made it make sense to me. The wave over Western Africa and 97L would combine, potentially forming a system. Meanwhile, the wave over the Central Atlantic would continue west/west-northwest, potentially developing. That would also explain the two systems the models had in their runs.


Yeah, 97L is going to get eaten just like it did to the low that was in its position when it exited Africa.
Ha!
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8459
Quoting JLPR2:
I see what's going to happen to 97L.



Convection from the wave inland is reaching the coast and you can see the wave pulling the lower level clouds to the west, indicating a strong LLC inland, that will probably help by disrupting 97L's LLC and opening it up on the east, meanwhile it should also pull the invest towards the wave.


OMG, you just made it make sense to me. The wave over Western Africa and 97L would combine, potentially forming a system. Meanwhile, the wave over the Central Atlantic would continue west/west-northwest, potentially developing. That would also explain the two systems the models had in their runs.
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Quoting bohonkweatherman:
I Wish it would rain at my house, low 90s and thunder for hours but Zero rain here, story of 2011, lots of wind and thunder but No rain


Usually about when you give up, it'll rain
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
People aren't leaving because of the Global Warming posts, they've dealt with those for years. They are leaving because people get way too out of hand and start disrespecting one another. If you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all.

Words to live by. Debate should be encouraged, Insults, should carry a community stigma, no matter your stance.
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Quoting RitaEvac:
My GOD, rain over TX. Please change the pattern into a more moisture fed setup for these events
I Wish it would rain at my house, low 90s and thunder for hours but Zero rain here, story of 2011, lots of wind and thunder but No rain
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Just having the clouds helps out tremendous on the drought, keeps the sun from baking the soil/vegetaion, slows down the process
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Quoting RitaEvac:


No, not in Galveston county yet


It's raining here in west u and it's actually coming down with some vigor.
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115. JLPR2
I see what's going to happen to 97L.



Convection from the wave inland is reaching the coast and you can see the wave pulling the lower level clouds to the west, indicating a strong LLC inland, that will probably help by disrupting 97L's LLC and opening it up on the east, meanwhile it should also pull the invest towards the wave.
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8459
Quoting txjac:


Rita ...are you getting any of this?


No, not in Galveston county yet
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113. txjac
Quoting RitaEvac:
My GOD, rain over TX. Please change the pattern into a more moisture fed setup for these events


Rita ...are you getting any of this?
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My GOD, rain over TX. Please change the pattern into a more moisture fed setup for these events
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Quoting NCHurricane2009:


I don't think Levi has left...right?


From what I understand, Levi still has his blog and is posting there; he's just not posting on this main blog.
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Yeesh, the rain just won't stop.
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109. txjac
Quoting JLPR2:


I wish I could send all of these clouds your way and have a complete week of sunny skies.


I just started drizzling here again ...I'm so happy I could cry ...it's been depressing without the rain.
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GOES-13 Low Cloud Imagery

..click image for loop


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107. JLPR2
Quoting txjac:


Sorry to see that coming at you. Stay safe and dry! I hope for the best for you

In my neck of the woods (well, this is Houston so I say concrete!) its clouding up again so maybe I will get a bit more drizzle


I wish I could send all of these clouds your way and have a complete week of sunny skies.
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8459
Think we got something going on in the Bahamas...Several reliable models have been hinting at development from this:

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104. txjac
Quoting JLPR2:
Lots of rain on their way to the islands.



Sorry to see that coming at you. Stay safe and dry! I hope for the best for you

In my neck of the woods (well, this is Houston so I say concrete!) its clouding up again so maybe I will get a bit more drizzle
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103. JLPR2
Lots of rain on their way to the islands.

Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8459
Quoting Patrap:


Last Viz for 97L,

...note the convection blow up to the North.

Storm Relative 1km Geostationary Visible Imagery




RAMMB AL972011 - INVEST



97L has some work to do....the swirl I see in that vis image is well removed from that convective blow up....
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People aren't leaving because of the Global Warming posts, they've dealt with those for years. They are leaving because people get way too out of hand and start disrespecting one another. If you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all.
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Quoting WoodyFL:


Yes, even parts of the Gulfsteam go near the Arctic areas near Scandinavia which moderates their coastal climates. It is of a wonder how much food chains would be changed. There is so much we do not know.


Only one way to find out for sure. Take care of the planet to the best of your ability and then see how it plays out.
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Last Viz for 97L,

...note the convection blow up to the North.

Storm Relative 1km Geostationary Visible Imagery




RAMMB AL972011 - INVEST

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Quoting pottery:

Bound to affect it.
But keep in mind that the cold water will sink below the surface.
There will obviously be some mixing as it happens.
But the immediate result will be a colder UK and beyond, as we know that the Gulf Stream regulates their climate pretty well right now.


Yes, even parts of the Gulfsteam go near the Arctic areas near Scandinavia which moderates their coastal climates. It is of a wonder how much food chains would be changed. There is so much we do not know.
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Quoting NCHurricane2009:


I don't think Levi has left...right?


I do not believe so. If I read correctly he would post only for active storms. I would hope otherwise. Levi was of good importance here. Grothar would help me with my English on the private email place.
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The warming trend continues. That is one scary anomaly map. Antarctica is very warm as well and that is new. Sea ice rebound a little but look at 2010 it did the same before dropping even more. 2011 will set a record seasonal minimum in the end. It already set a record minimum for a date earlier in the month.
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Quoting hurricane23:


The wave enhances local circulations by increasing the forced upward vertical motion, increasing the low-level vorticity at the genesis location, and by modulating vertical shear.


But what exactly is the Kelvin wave's structure?

It sounds like a rise in upper-level pressrue woudl indeed force more upward motion due to outflow of upper-level pressure. That too would lead to lower surface pressure and increase the low-level vorticity, right?
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Quoting WoodyFL:


That could be a new field of science. It would be of interest to know how large input of cold water would interfere with the Gulfstream and others.

Bound to affect it.
But keep in mind that the cold water will sink below the surface.
There will obviously be some mixing as it happens.
But the immediate result will be a colder UK and beyond, as we know that the Gulf Stream regulates their climate pretty well right now.
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Quoting WoodyFL:
I post not so much on here but I have become aware many people have left. Levi was very good to share his knowledge. Grothar was simply a kind and true gentleman. I am not so much sure they will return. I hope they do.


Levi hasn't left, he just won't post on the main blog unless there is an active storm in the Atlantic.

Understandable..
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91. Skyepony (Mod)
I think the droughts going on the world over are a major player in the lack of instability.. Great example was a few weeks ago~ AR had a haboob, front pushed that across a dry TX & into the gulf..on WV it was a bottom of the chart dry where a few people were like what does that cooler mean.. on the SAL map the dust with it was extreme SAL shaded but it was obviously coming from the Southwest not Africa.. Look what the instability chart did for the gulf..


Extreme drought has been on going all summer out west with Haboobs & dust drifting over the GOM, just hadn't had the front to show the concentrated effects.

Looking at the world wide extreme droughts there are several. We've got large areas like China, Russia, Horn of Africa & many others loosing alot of top soil to the wind right now.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 156 Comments: 36054
Quoting WoodyFL:
I post not so much on here but I have become aware many people have left. Levi was very good to share his knowledge. Grothar was simply a kind and true gentleman. I am not so much sure they will return. I hope they do.


I don't think Levi has left...right?
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Quoting NCHurricane2009:


Is a Kelvin wave a rise in upper-level atmospheric pressure?


The wave enhances local circulations by increasing the forced upward vertical motion, increasing the low-level vorticity at the genesis location, and by modulating vertical shear.
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Quoting hurricane23:


12z European


If Euro is right, then no threat to Caribbean.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
I figured since Levi won't be on the main blog any longer unless there is a storm, I would post some of the things he posts on facebook:

"The 10-15 day GFS runs are back to looking fishy in the Caribbean with storms developing and moving north. Potential catalysts are showing up now in the central Atlantic as well which may come west and throw themselves into this pattern if they don't recurve too early. The MJO is coming back too as the upper trough evolves over New England in 8-12 days. September may go out fighting."
Can you tell me what happen to him? Mail?
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kind of a loop Roke's doing

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I post not so much on here but I have become aware many people have left. Levi was very good to share his knowledge. Grothar was simply a kind and true gentleman. I am not so much sure they will return. I hope they do.
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This afternoon's discussion from the San Juan NWS. More rain in the forecast,what we dont need.


AREA FORECAST DISCUSSION
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE SAN JUAN PR
252 PM AST SAT SEP 17 2011

.SYNOPSIS...A TUTT LOW WILL CONTINUE TO LINGER ACROSS
THE LOCAL AREA FOR THE REST OF TODAY AND INTO TOMORROW MORNING...IT
WILL THEN LIFT NORTH ON SUNDAY THROUGH MONDAY. ITS LOW TO MID
LEVEL REFLECTIONS WILL CONTINUE MOVING WEST ACROSS THE LOCAL
ISLANDS TODAY THROUGH TONIGHT OR EARLY SUNDAY...THEN SLOWLY MOVE
AWAY FROM THE LOCAL AREA LATER SUNDAY THROUGH MONDAY AND TUESDAY.


&&

.DISCUSSION...THE INCREASE IN MOISTURE AND INSTABILITY HELPED
DEVELOP THUNDERSTORMS IN THE INTERIOR...WESTERN...NORTH CENTRAL...AND
NORTHWESTERN SECTIONS OF PUERTO RICO WITH A SOUTHEAST WIND. THE
CENTER OF THE TUTT LOW SEEMS TO BE RIGHT OVER THE AREA AND MODELS
ARE SUGGESTING THAT THE TUTT WILL LINGER OVER THE AREA UNTIL EARLY
SUNDAY. AT THAT TIME...THE TUTT SHOULD START LIFTING AND MOVING
NORTH.

FORECAST SOUNDINGS SUGGEST THAT PW VALUES AND INSTABILITY WILL
INCREASE ON SUNDAY...GIVING US A BETTER CHANCE OF THUNDERSTORMS
ACROSS THE AREA...ESPECIALLY ACROSS THE NORTHWEST QUADRANT OF
PUERTO RICO. HOWEVER...THE FORECAST SOUNDINGS ALSO SUGGEST THAT
THE UPPER LEVEL JET CURRENTLY OVER THE AREA WILL WEAKEN AND WE
WILL BE LEFT WITH A MUCH LIGHTER WIND ALOFT FROM THE WEST. THE U.S.
VIRGIN ISLANDS AND ACROSS THE LOCAL WATERS...EXPECT SCATTERED SHOWERS
AND AN ISOLATED THUNDERSTORM OR TWO...BUT THE LOCAL EFFECTS OF
PUERTO RICO MAY HAVE A LOT TO DO WITH THE DEVELOPMENT OF
THUNDERSTORMS.


&&

.AVIATION...TSTMS LIKELY AT JMZ LATER TODAY WITH MVFR/IFR CIGS.
ELSEWHERE...CHANCES FOR TSRA INCREASE TONIGHT ACROSS LEEWARDS AND
USVI TERMINALS WITH MORE WIDESPREAD CONVECTION TOMORROW LIKELY
AFFECTING JSJ/JBQ...USVI AND LEEWARD ISLANDS TERMINALS.

&&

.PRELIMINARY POINT TEMPS/POPS...
SJU 87 76 87 76 / 50 50 50 50
STT 86 77 88 78 / 40 60 60 50




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Quoting hurricane23:


In terms of the caribbean the ensembles and occasionally the operational models have been showing a large area of cyclonic flow with light wind shear. Kinda reminds me more of Oct than Sep. Overall that environment is ripe for a TC to form. Also it seems like another Kelvin wave will be in the area in the extended range, which should assist with formations.


Is a Kelvin wave a rise in upper-level atmospheric pressure?
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Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:
Sep 17 activity

2005
Hurricanes Ophelia, Rita and Philippe

2006
Hurricanes Gordon, helene

2007
TS ingrid

2008 & 2009
Nothing

2010
Hurricanes Igor, Julia and Karl

2011
Nothing


Well, 2008 was an analogue after all, lol..
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Sep 17 activity

2005
Hurricanes Ophelia, Rita and Philippe

2006
Hurricanes Gordon, helene

2007
TS ingrid

2008 & 2009
Nothing

2010
Hurricanes Igor, Julia and Karl

2011
Nothing
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Quoting Tazmanian:





we better watch out for Oscar next year


I don't think that naming list has ever gone to Oscar...that naming list always gets "bad luck..."

1982,1988,1994, Cold AMO....

2000: Favorable Warm AMO...but a La Nina was fading away and upper troughs sheared a lot of tropical cyclones....and they weren't naming subtropical cyclones because if they had...the last storm would have been Subtrpoical Storm Oscar....

2006: Favorable warm AMO...but El Nino kicked in...

2012?
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Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:
Does anyone has the 12z ECMWF?


12z European
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
It's not going to take much to change that, since the Heat across the US is already being replaced by colder air, which means the Heat has to build up elsewhere and it should be over the MDR and the Caribbean, the GOM is in question though.


In terms of the caribbean the ensembles and occasionally the operational models have been showing a large area of cyclonic flow with light wind shear. Kinda reminds me more of Oct than Sep. Overall that environment is ripe for a TC to form. Also it seems like another Kelvin wave will be in the area in the extended range, which should assist with formations.
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Does anyone has the 12z ECMWF?
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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.