March 2012: warmest in U.S. history

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:12 PM GMT on April 10, 2012

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Not only was March 2012 the warmest March in the U.S. since record keeping began in 1895, it was also the second most extreme month for warmth in U.S. history, said NOAA yesterday, in their monthly "State of the Climate" report. The average temperature of 51.1°F was 8.6 degrees above the 20th century average for March, and 0.5°F warmer than the previous warmest March in 1910. Of the more than 1,400 months that have passed since the U.S. weather records began in 1895, only one month--January 2006--had a larger departure from its average temperature than March 2012. A remarkable 25 states east of the Rockies had their warmest March on record, and an additional 15 states had a top-ten warmest March. Only four states were cooler than average, with Alaska being the coldest (tenth coldest March on record.)


Figure 1. Temperature rankings for March 2012 in the Contiguous U.S. Twenty five states set records for warmest March in the 118-year records (red colors.) Image credit: NOAA.

March 2012: most daily records broken of any month since July 1936
A wunderground analysis of weather records from NOAA's National Climatic Data Center temperature record database reveals that more daily high temperature records were broken in March in 2012 than for any month except July 1936, going back at least 100 years. Fully 11.3% of all daily high temperature records for the month of March in the U.S. are now held by the year 2012, for the 550 stations in NOAA's National Climatic Data Center database that have weather records extending back at least 100 years. The only month in U.S. history holding a higher percentage of daily temperatures records is July 1936. That month holds 14.4% of all the U.S. high temperature records for the month of July. That month occurred in the great Dust Bowl summer of 1936, the hottest summer in U.S. history.



Summer in March 2012: records not merely smashed, but obliterated
Among the 15,000 daily records for warmth set in March 2012 were 21 truly astonishing ones: cases where the low temperature for the day beat the previous high temperature for the day. It is quite rare for a weather station with a 50+ year period of record to break a daily temperature record by more than 10°F. During "Summer in March, 2012", beating daily records by 10° - 20°F was commonplace, and NOAA lists 44 cases where a daily record was broken by more than 22°F. Extraordinarily, four stations broke a record for the date by 30°F or more. Canada holds the most surreal record of this nature during the "Summer in March, 2012" heat wave: Western Head, Nova Scotia hit 29.2°C (85°F) on March 22, breaking their previous record for the date (10.6°C in 1969) by 18.6°C (33.5°F.) Canada also had several stations break their all-time warmest April temperature records in March.



Last 3 months and 12 months were the warmest on record
The previous 12-month period (April 2011 -March 2012), which includes the second hottest summer (June-August) and fourth warmest winter (December-February), was the warmest such period for the contiguous United States. The year-to-date period (January - March) was also the warmest on record. NOAA's U.S. Climate Extremes Index, an index that tracks the highest 10 percent and lowest 10 percent of extremes in temperature, precipitation, and drought, was 39 percent, nearly twice the long-term average and the highest value on record for the January - March period. The predominant factor was the large area experiencing extremes in warm daily maximum and minimum temperatures.

Analyzing the "Summer in March, 2012" heat wave
Dr. Martin Hoerling of NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder has posted a thorough analysis of the heat wave, which he calls, "Meteorological March Madness 2012". He explains that the event was probably a natural phenomenon, one that was predicted more than a month in advance by NOAA's long-range CFS model. A similar, though not as intense heat wave occurred in March 1910. However, he notes that the approximate 0.5 - 1°C warming in the Ohio Valley/Midwest U.S. in recent decades--due to human-caused emission of heat trapping gases like carbon dioxide--has significantly increased the odds of major heat waves occurring. He speculates that the odds of a 1-in-40 year heat wave in the Midwest may have increased by about 50% due to human-caused global warming, but that we really don't know how much global warming may have increased the odds of the March 2012 heat wave, saying "This issue of estimating reliable statistics of extreme, rare events continues to be a matter of active research." He estimates that human-caused global warming likely increased the intensity of the March 12 - 23, 2012 heat wave by about 5 - 10%, and concludes by saying, "The probability of heatwaves is growing as [human-caused] warming continues to progress. But there is always the randomness."

Jeff Masters

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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Hey MH09!
Heyyy! I see you guys are still going strong on Dr. Masters' blog. :P
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Quoting nigel20:

I think it should have been a cat 3...the NHC should facter in storm surge when they are rating hurricanes..remember also that storm surge is one of the most deadly and destructive part of an hurricane


They should have two or three scales

At least one for surge and a second for size imo
Member Since: June 17, 2011 Posts: 11 Comments: 6539
Quoting weatherh98:


Cat 5 mythical griffin cat 4 lion cat 3 tiger cat 2 puma cat 1 leopard ts house cat td maimed cat wave kitten...

Get it right btw we need more category's because there are two many big cats.
jk- where do you find a one legged cat?
...right where you left it!
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Quoting DavidHOUTX:
Nobody on here think Ike should have been a Cat 3? Ike had Cat 4-5 storm surge with it

I think it should have been a cat 3...the NHC should facter in storm surge when they are rating hurricanes..remember also that storm surge is one of the most deadly and destructive part of an hurricane
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Looks like an average, or slightly below average season is in store for 2012. Doubtful that we'll exceed more than 11-12 named cyclones.

Hey MH09!
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32277
Quoting DavidHOUTX:
Nobody on here think Ike should have been a Cat 3? Ike had Cat 4-5 storm surge with it


Yea it should be
Member Since: June 17, 2011 Posts: 11 Comments: 6539
Looks like an average, or slightly below average season is in store for 2012. Doubtful that we'll exceed more than 11-12 named cyclones.
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249. ncstorm 9:28 PM GMT on April 10, 2012 +0
Quoting MAweatherboy1:

It doesn't matter though. The storm didn't nearly meet expectations and it hurt the NHC's credibility a lot in the eyes of many.

I think TWC hurt themselves the most...they were forecasting the storm of the century for the NE! Forgot about all points between there. They were the ones who looked ridiculous.
Action: Quote | Ignore User
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 3 Comments: 2635



whats scary is the next time one comes a threating the area many people may not heed the warnings and use the past event as a reference for the current expected event
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Quoting DavidHOUTX:
Nobody on here think Ike should have been a Cat 3? Ike had Cat 4-5 storm surge with it

Yes, I believe Ike was a minimal Category 3 hurricane at landfall.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32277
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
imagine a cat 5 with 300+mph winds and a surge of 80 feet

I think that would be a cat 8
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

North Atlantic Oscillation, the difference in pressure at sea level between the Icelandic Low and the Azores High.

EDIT: A positive NAO typically correlates with a greater possibility of a storm hitting the USA because the two highs are stronger and weaknesses are harder to come by.


Thanks

Sincerely, an idiot :)
Member Since: June 17, 2011 Posts: 11 Comments: 6539
Quoting MTWX:
You guys do realize right now there are probably 100 lurkers sitting back laughing their butts off at this retirement arguement, just due to the fact that none of us have any actual affect on what WMO decides. All in all it's just a mute point...
But still fun... lol

If I'm performing for the masses, might as well enjoy it.... lol
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Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


As I understand the process the representative of the United States or the Bahamas would have to request retirement, and the NHC Facebook posting indicates they are not planning to. The report to the WMO from the Bahamas barely mentions Irene.

Also many posters are listing 56 deaths, the report to the WMO from NHC has 49.
Irene was much less of a big deal here than it could have been. Despite the trans-archipelagaic trip, Irene seriously impacted less than 30% of the population.
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Nobody on here think Ike should have been a Cat 3? Ike had Cat 4-5 storm surge with it
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
The GFS has really changed tunes with Thursday and is now showing parameters that are significantly more than sufficient for tornadoes. Dr. Forbes has already given a 5/10, which he states is a rare occurance this far out.


He may lift it to a 7/10 for anyway during the outbreak as we get closer that's still a high chances it's like you add only 50sq miles and its a hundred percent chance of a tornado, kinda mind boggling
Member Since: June 17, 2011 Posts: 11 Comments: 6539
Quoting MAweatherboy1:

It doesn't matter though. The storm didn't nearly meet expectations and it hurt the NHC's credibility a lot in the eyes of many.


I think TWC hurt themselves the most...they were forecasting the storm of the century for the NE! Forgot about all points between there. They were the ones who looked ridiculous.
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 15680
Quoting weatherh98:


What's nao?

North Atlantic Oscillation, the difference in pressure at sea level between the Icelandic Low and the Azores High.

EDIT: A positive NAO typically correlates with a greater possibility of a storm hitting the USA because the two highs are stronger and weaknesses are harder to come by.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32277
Quoting nigel20:

Yeah,imagine a cat2 or 3 hurricane in new york city with all those skyscrap...i would not want to be there
imagine a cat 5 with 300+mph winds and a surge of 80 feet
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Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:


As I understand the process the representative of the United States or the Bahamas would have to request retirement, and the NHC Facebook posting indicates they are not planning to. The report to the WMO from the Bahamas barely mentions Irene.

Also many posters are listing 56 deaths, the report to the WMO from NHC has 49.

I mention 56 because there were 7 indirect fatalities due to Irene.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32277
245. MTWX
You guys do realize right now there are probably 100 lurkers sitting back laughing their butts off at this retirement arguement, just due to the fact that none of us have any actual affect on what WMO decides. All in all it's just a mute point...
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Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:
The NAO has crossed once again into positive territory. And that for sure will once again cool the MDR waters.But the big question is,how will this factor be by July and August?



What's nao?
Member Since: June 17, 2011 Posts: 11 Comments: 6539
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

I'm not completely sure, but searching around, this is incorrect. It seems the Northeast was fine until Hurricane Irene caused major flooding, and then the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee came a week later.


the Northeast had a wet pattern that whole summer..they were constantly getting rain..I remembered watching GMA and they were always outside with umbrellas ..The pot was already filled with water, Irene just tipped it over..this article was back in May but I do remember them getting lots of rain before Irene came

Link
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 15680
The GFS has really changed tunes with Thursday and is now showing parameters that are significantly more than sufficient for tornadoes. Dr. Forbes has already given a 5/10, which he states is a rare occurance this far out.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32277
Quoting BahaHurican:
Having seen some images of Ft. Lauderdale downtown area post-Wilma, I agree.

Not to mention NOLA post-Katrina.


Katrina was The coolest thing to watch but it was ssoooooo dangerous.
Member Since: June 17, 2011 Posts: 11 Comments: 6539
The NAO has crossed once again into positive territory. And that for sure will once again cool the MDR waters.But the big question is,how will this factor be by July and August?

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Quoting BahaHurican:
Tiger. Cat 3 tiger.


Cat 5 mythical griffin cat 4 lion cat 3 tiger cat 2 puma cat 1 leopard ts house cat td maimed cat wave kitten...

Get it right btw we need more category's because there are two many big cats.
Member Since: June 17, 2011 Posts: 11 Comments: 6539
Quoting jeffs713:

Irene's biggest "claim to fame" is that it hit the northeast. Not that it was a ferocious storm, not that it killed hundreds, or drove impressive storm surges. It hit NYC. I happened to be on my honeymoon at the time (thank goodness - since I didn't want to hear the media beating it to death), but looking through news articles and such, the storm's damage was largely due to Irene's rains hitting already flooded or recently flooded areas. Other storm names that have been retired due to flooding (TS Allison) did not have already flooded/saturated areas to deal with. They wrought their destruction on their own. The 56 deaths were unfortunate, don't get me wrong... but iirc, most of them were due to trees falling and flooding.

Overall, I agree with whatever the WMO decides, but if the NHC isn't pursuing retirement, it is unlikely to be retired.


As I understand the process the representative of the United States or the Bahamas would have to request retirement, and the NHC Facebook posting indicates they are not planning to. The report to the WMO from the Bahamas barely mentions Irene.

Also many posters are listing 56 deaths, the report to the WMO from NHC has 49.
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Quoting nigel20:

Yeah,imagine a cat2 or 3 hurricane in new york city with all those skyscrap...i would not want to be there
Having seen some images of Ft. Lauderdale downtown area post-Wilma, I agree.

Not to mention NOLA post-Katrina.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Oh, but it does matter. Nobody predicted Irene to weaken like it did, and when the storm did indeed start to, the National Hurricane Center changed their forecast. Even then however, it was expected to finish its EWRC, which it never did. We cannot blame the National Hurricane Center because what Irene did was unpredictable.

We on this blog cannot because we know what it did was unexpected and unpredictable, but the general public doesn't know better and they think the NHC failed with its forecast.
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 83 Comments: 7838
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Watch Irene lose its eyewall due to dry air on the western quadrant.



It looked like It was literally about to come back...
Member Since: June 17, 2011 Posts: 11 Comments: 6539
Quoting jeffs713:

Here's a cookie.

Really though.... the NHC's forecast was off by a few miles while over water, and when a storm is skirting the coast at a very shallow angle, a few dozen miles can mean the difference between a cat 3 monster and a cat 1/TS kitten.
Tiger. Cat 3 tiger.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

It should have been a Category 3 hurricane at landfall. Everybody predicted that. On the way here to North Carolina however, it began an Eyewall Replacement Cycle which it was unable to complete due to dry air entrainment, and went eyewall-less. Had it finished the EWRC, we would have seen a major hurricane. To respond to the flooding part, it did cause historic flooding and significant damage, especially in New Jersey.

Yeah,imagine a cat2 or 3 hurricane in new york city with all those skyscrap...i would not want to be there
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Quoting MAweatherboy1:

It doesn't matter though. The storm didn't nearly meet expectations and hurt the NHC's credibility a lot in the eyes of many.

Oh, but it does matter. Nobody predicted Irene to weaken like it did, and when the storm did indeed start to, the National Hurricane Center changed their forecast. Even then however, it was expected to finish its EWRC, which it never did. We cannot blame the National Hurricane Center because what Irene did was unpredictable.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32277
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

I'm not completely sure, but searching around, this is incorrect. It seems the Northeast was fine until Hurricane Irene caused major flooding, and then the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee came a week later.



No he is right thee was a ton of flood warnings up even before i specifically remember it
Member Since: June 17, 2011 Posts: 11 Comments: 6539
Agree w/ Jeff on this. Even in the Car and Bahamas, damage could have been worse. The storm hit the NE corner of the Caribbean before it really got organized. It didn't hit Haiti from the worst possible angle, as was at first expected. When it did get organized, it hit a part of The Bahamas that is relatively undeveloped and underpopulated. By the time it got to the US its power had diminished, meaning it didn't do the kind of damage there that was possible.

And I also agree; if NHC isn't showing a big interest in Irene's retirement, chances for its retirement go way down.
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Watch Irene lose its eyewall due to dry air on the western quadrant.

Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32277
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

It should have been a Category 3 hurricane at landfall. Everybody predicted that. On the way here to North Carolina however, it began an Eyewall Replacement Cycle which it was unable to complete due to dry air entrainment, and went eyewall-less. Had it finished the EWRC, we would have seen a major hurricane. To respond to the flooding part, it did cause historic flooding and significant damage, especially in New Jersey.

It doesn't matter though. The storm didn't nearly meet expectations and it hurt the NHC's credibility a lot in the eyes of many.
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 83 Comments: 7838
Quoting jeffs713:

Here's a cookie.

Really though.... the NHC's forecast was off by a few miles while over water, and when a storm is skirting the coast at a very shallow angle, a few dozen miles can mean the difference between a cat 3 monster and a cat 1/TS kitten.


No seriously give me a cookie... That was the one storm who's path I literally drilled and you are completely right about that
Member Since: June 17, 2011 Posts: 11 Comments: 6539
Quoting ncstorm:


Irene didnt cause all the flooding..the grounds were already saturated and rivers were near flood levels..the NE had heavy rains before Irene got there..it wont be retired..


What?? Irene dumped about a foot of rain across the MTS of NH & VT in about 12 hours and Irene didn't cause that flooding. I mean come on!

U.S. authorities say massive flooding has affected parts of the country's northeast, one day after a weakening Hurricane Irene swept through the region.

U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Craig Fugate said Monday that flooding has reached "record" levels in the states of Vermont and New York. Rivers and creeks in both states burst their banks, producing torrents of water that swept away trees, cars and parts of historic bridges. Hundreds of residents fled to shelters.

Irene first hit the United States on Friday, making landfall in the state of North Carolina, before moving along the mid-Atlantic coast on Saturday and weakening into a tropical storm over New England on Sunday.

Authorities reported 33 storm-related deaths in 10 eastern states, mostly from falling frees, road accidents and raging floodwaters. Experts say the damage is likely to total billions of dollars. Fugate said it is too early to give an official estimate because federal, state and local authorities still are assessing the destruction.

Fugate said about 5 million homes and businesses on the East Coast remained without power Monday, down from 6 million the day before. Utilities say it will take days to restore electricity to many of those customers.

U.S. President Barack Obama said Monday it will "take time to recover from a storm of this magnitude." At a White House event, he said FEMA and other federal bodies will do "everything in their power" to help local and state authorities with recovery efforts.

Forecasters downgraded Irene to a post-tropical storm early Monday as it moved over eastern Canada. Authorities said strong winds and heavy rain from the storm knocked out power to about 250,000 homes and businesses in Quebec and Canada's Atlantic provinces. One man was missing after floodwaters swept away a car northeast of Montreal.

Irene's center passed over New York, but spared the city major damage. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday the city's airports have re-opened and a memorial to the September 11, 2001 terror attacks will open on schedule next month. But he also said about 1,000 people were in shelters and 38,000 people were without power.

City authorities ordered an unprecedented weather-related shutdown of New York's subway system on Saturday ahead of Irene's arrival, depriving millions of their main mode of transportation.

But local officials credited the closure with allowing them to re-open the subway system in time for Monday morning's rush hour. The New York Stock Exchange began its trading week on time. But flooding forced the suspension of trains connecting New York to its northern suburbs and halted most rail services in New Jersey

Before

After


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Quoting ncstorm:


Irene didnt cause all the flooding..the grounds were already saturated and rivers were near flood levels..the NE had heavy rains before Irene got there..it wont be retired..

I'm not completely sure, but searching around, this is incorrect. It seems the Northeast was fine until Hurricane Irene caused major flooding, and then the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee came a week later.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32277
Noting:-195. aspectre That NASA video.
I could not agree with you more on your comments on it.
I had allready clicked on the copy, during the first few seconds, ready to paste it to some people on their e-mails. Then it went all stupid and I decided not to burden them with watching it.
There used to be "think tanks," with people like the ones who contribute to this blog who were shown stuff like this before it was released.Their valued opinions were noted. Now they just assume we are all sponges to soak up their output!
Knocking religion is a sure way to get bad publicity? Remember when the Beatles said they were more popular than Christ!
Member Since: January 21, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2092
Quoting weatherh98:


Haha I predicted it better than they did

Here's a cookie.

Really though.... the NHC's forecast was off by a few miles while over water, and when a storm is skirting the coast at a very shallow angle, a few dozen miles can mean the difference between a cat 3 monster and a cat 1/TS kitten.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

I agree. That, and the $3 billion it caused across the Caribbean and Bahamas.

Agreed
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Quoting MAweatherboy1:

I honestly think the NHC is very embarassed by what happened with Irene. It was supposed to be a major hurricane at landfall, not a Cat. 1... It was supposed to cause historic flooding and storm surge all the way to New York City, and it didn't. The NHC intenisty forecasts were awful- there's no denying it. However, even though it could have been and was supposed to be worse it still caused major damage and deserves to be retired.

It should have been a Category 3 hurricane at landfall. Everybody predicted that. On the way here to North Carolina however, it began an Eyewall Replacement Cycle which it was unable to complete due to dry air entrainment, and went eyewall-less. Had it finished the EWRC, we would have seen a major hurricane. To respond to the flooding part, it did cause historic flooding and significant damage, especially in New Jersey.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32277
Quoting MAweatherboy1:

I honestly think the NHC is very embarassed by what happened with Irene. It was supposed to be a major hurricane at landfall, not a Cat. 1... It was supposed to cause historic flooding and storm surge all the way to New York City, and it didn't. The NHC intenisty forecasts were awful- there's no denying it. However, even though it could have been and was supposed to be worse it still caused major damage and deserves to be retired.


Haha I predicted it better than they did
Member Since: June 17, 2011 Posts: 11 Comments: 6539
219. MTWX
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

I agree. That, and the $3 billion it caused across the Caribbean and Bahamas.


Thing is, most people tend to forget that there is more out there to be hit than the US... Irene delt the Bahamas a heafty blow ( no pun intended).
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

The storm killed 56 people, caused $10.1 billion in damage, and was one of the most costly Northeast hurricanes on record, and you are saying that it doesn't deserve to be retired?

Irene's biggest "claim to fame" is that it hit the northeast. Not that it was a ferocious storm, not that it killed hundreds, or drove impressive storm surges. It hit NYC. I happened to be on my honeymoon at the time (thank goodness - since I didn't want to hear the media beating it to death), but looking through news articles and such, the storm's damage was largely due to Irene's rains hitting already flooded or recently flooded areas. Other storm names that have been retired due to flooding (TS Allison) did not have already flooded/saturated areas to deal with. They wrought their destruction on their own. The 56 deaths were unfortunate, don't get me wrong... but iirc, most of them were due to trees falling and flooding.

Overall, I agree with whatever the WMO decides, but if the NHC isn't pursuing retirement, it is unlikely to be retired.
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Lee definitely ought to stay I was playing outside when he came over albeit slowly...
Member Since: June 17, 2011 Posts: 11 Comments: 6539
Quoting weatherh98:


I'm pretty sure you post in your sleep hahaha JK but in all seriousness I think Irene ought to be retired. I can't believe the NHc isn't considering it.

I honestly think the NHC is very embarassed by what happened with Irene. It was supposed to be a major hurricane at landfall, not a Cat. 1... It was supposed to cause historic flooding and storm surge all the way to New York City, and it didn't. The NHC intenisty forecasts were awful- there's no denying it. However, even though it could have been and was supposed to be worse it still caused major damage and deserves to be retired.
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 83 Comments: 7838
215. MTWX
My vote is Irene is out and Lee is still in for another round...
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Quoting StormTracker2K:


I think Irene will be retired many because of all the flooding she caused across the NE US.


Irene didnt cause all the flooding..the grounds were already saturated and rivers were near flood levels..the NE had heavy rains before Irene got there..it wont be retired..
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 15680

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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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