Spring 2012: most extreme season in U.S. history

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:08 PM GMT on June 08, 2012

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Spring 2012 in the contiguous U.S. demolished the old records for hottest spring and most extreme season of any kind, said NOAA's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) on Thursday. With the warmest March, third warmest April, and second warmest May, the March - April - May spring season was 5.2°F above average--the largest temperature departure from average of any season on record for the contiguous United States. What's truly remarkable is the margin the old record was broken by--spring 2012 temperatures were a full 1°F above the previous most extreme season, the winter of 1999 - 2000. All-time seasonal temperature records are very difficult to break, and are usually broken by only a tenth of a degree. To see the old record crushed by a full degree is a stunning and unparalleled event in U.S. meteorological history.


Figure 1. Temperature rankings for spring 2012 in the Contiguous U.S. Thirty-one states were record warm for the 3-month period, and an additional eleven states had top-ten warmth. Spring 2012 beat the previous record for hottest spring on record, set in 1910, by an remarkable 2°F. Image credit: NOAA/NCDC.

U.S. heat over the past 12 months: a one in half-a-million event
The U.S. record for hottest 12-month period fell for the second straight month in May. The June 2011 - May 2012 temperatures smashed the previous record by a startling 0.4°F, which is a huge margin to break a record by for a 1-year period. The past twelve months have featured America's 2nd warmest summer, 4th warmest winter, and warmest spring on record. Thirty-two states were record warm for the 12-month period, and an additional ten states were top ten warm. Each of the 12 months from June 2011 through May 2012 ranked among the warmest third of their historical distribution for the first time in the 1895-present record. According to NCDC, the odds of this occurring randomly during any particular month are 1 in 531,441. Thus, we should only see one more 12-month period so warm between now and 46,298 AD--assuming the climate is staying the same as during the past 118 years. The unusual warmth was due, in part, to a La Niña event in the Pacific that altered jet stream patterns, keeping the polar jet stream much farther to the north than usual. However, it is highly unlikely that the extremity of the heat during the past 12 months could have occurred without a warming climate. Some critics have claimed that recent record warm temperatures measured in the U.S. are due to poor siting of a number of measurement stations. Even if true (and the best science we have says that these stations were actually reporting temperatures that were too cool), there is no way that measurement errors can account for the huge margin by which U.S. temperature records have been crushed during the past 12-month, 5-month, and 3-month periods.




Figure 2. Three of the top ten warmest 12-month periods in the contiguous U.S. since 1895 have occurred since April 2011. Image credit: NOAA/NCDC.




Figure 3. The average temperature during January - May 2012 was the warmest on record: 5°F above the 20th century average for the period, and 1.3°F above the previous record set in 2000. January - May temperatures have been rising at about 1.8°F per century since 1895. Image credit: NOAA/NCDC.

Second warmest May, warmest year-to-date period on record
May 2012 was the second warmest May in the contiguous U.S. since record keeping began in 1895. Twenty-six states had a top-ten warmest May, and no states had a top-ten coolest May. The January - May 2012 period was the warmest January - May period since record keeping began in 1895, with temperatures 5°F above the 20th century average for the period. This broke the previous record set in 2000 by an unusually large margin--1.3°F.



Figure 4. NOAA's U.S. Climate Extremes Index (CEI) for spring (March - April - May) shows that 2012 had the most extreme spring on record, with 44% of the contiguous U.S. experiencing top-10% extreme weather.

Most extreme spring and January - May period on record
NOAA's U.S. Climate Extremes Index (CEI), which tracks the percentage area of the contiguous U.S. experiencing top-10% and bottom-10% extremes in temperature, precipitation, and drought, was 44% during the spring March - April - May period. This is more than twice the average value, and spring 2012 was the most extreme season of any kind in U.S. history. A list of the top five most extreme seasons since 1910, as computed using the CEI, show that two of the three most extreme seasons in U.S. history occurred in the past 12 months:

Spring 2012: 44%
Winter 1979: 42%
Summer 2011: 39%
Fall 1985: 39%
Spring 1934: 38%

Remarkably, 81% of the contiguous U.S. had maximum temperatures that were in the warmest 10% historically during spring 2012, and 71% of the U.S. of the U.S. had warm minimum temperatures in the top 10%. The percentage area of the U.S. experiencing top-10% drought conditions during spring was 18%, which was the 19th greatest since 1910. Extremes in 1-day spring heavy precipitation events were the 8th largest on record. The year-to-date January - May period was also the most extreme such period in U.S. history, with a CEI of 43%. Climate change theory predicts that, in general, the climate should warm, wet areas should get wetter, and dry areas should get drier. The spring 2012 Climate Extremes Index reflects this pattern.

Have a great weekend, everyone, and I'll be back Monday with a new post. None of the computer models is predicting tropical cyclone formation in the Atlantic through June 15.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting LargoFl:
thank you for sharing this


You are welcome and thank you for all the "heads up" to every one!
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Looks like if shear drops to a conducive range in the GOM then we'd have Tropical Storm Chris!




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here are the 1800's hurricanes..must have been a bad time for the USA back then.......Link
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 5 Comments: 50683
Quoting GTcooliebai:
Estimated return period in years for major hurricanes passing
within 50 nautical miles of various locations on the U.S. Coast





wow you can really see where the hot spots are
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 5 Comments: 50683
Estimated return period in years for major hurricanes passing
within 50 nautical miles of various locations on the U.S. Coast





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looks like tampa bay area got hit quite alot in the 1800's,but this 1846 hurricane intrigues me..if this happened today..geez...........IV. In October, a major hurricane, likely a Category 5, moved through the Caribbean Sea. This Great Havana Hurricane struck western Cuba on 10 October. It hit the Florida Keys on 11 October, destroying the old Key West lighthouse and Fort Zachary Taylor. The hurricane then headed northward, and on 13 October hit Tampa Bay as a major hurricane. As it approached, it sucked the water out of the bay, causing the Manatee River to be so low that people walked horses across it. The hurricane moved across Florida, and remained inland over Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina. It moved up the Chesapeake Bay, causing extensive damage through Virginia, Maryland, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania. It caused around 163 deaths and damage throughout the areas it affected.
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 5 Comments: 50683
Hi....just looking at those SST's explains why storms that pass over the "toe" of LA's boot get ramped up and a loop current that sometimes resides there kicks them over to the eastern MISS coast....jmo
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Quoting icmoore:
My husband and I after being married now for 39 years and having lived and mostly raised two sons in a house in central NE FL decided that we were comfortable, although the house was bigger and getting harder to keep up with, combined with the fact that I wasn't ready to say I'll just stay there until they cart me off :), added to my love and desire to be close to the beach started us looking last July and we found an excellent deal 1 block from Gulf Blvd in Madeira Beach. We downsized to a 750 SF cottage with the Boca Ciega Bay surrounding our tiny neighborhood that sits behind the Church By The Sea which was built around 1948 and the fishermen would say look for the light at the Church By the Sea and you will find safe harbour. Looking out my back door I see the lit cross and we hear the hourly bells. The hurricane of 1848, I think, was the one that created John's Pass just up the street before the causeway, with interesting pirate history :) "Late in the summer of 1848, Levique and Silva sailed to New Orleans to sell a cargo of Green Turtle. Sailing home after bacchanal celebration in the Big Easy, they encountered a horrific storm, and decided to wait it out in a “hurricane hole” in some sheltered area along the coast. The hurricane had knocked down trees, rearranging the shoreline, and obliterated former landmarks.
John Levique searched for an entrance into Boca Ciega Bay. He was probably looking for Blind Pass, or even Pass-a-Grille, but instead he found a more northerly opening where there had not been one previously. Levach awakened a bleary-eyed Silva, and together they navigated through the new pass on the morning of September 27, 1848. Since that time, so the legend goes, the inlet between Treasure Island and Madeira Beach has been called “John’s Pass” in honor of it’s discovery, and maiden passage by John Levique."
Madeira Beach's motto is 3 miles long and about a smile :) wide with 60 something % of it being water. We moved here Dec 18, 2011. I am in discovery mode here about the weather and appreciate all that you do! I already experienced one thing that you never see inland and that was sea fog moving in in the middle of the day, wow :)
Sorry to admin and all who don't like my rambling on :)

thank you for sharing this
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 5 Comments: 50683
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:



It's steaming on the western coast of central America.
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My husband and I after being married now for 39 years and having lived and mostly raised two sons in a house in central NE FL decided that we were comfortable, although the house was bigger and getting harder to keep up with, combined with the fact that I wasn't ready to say I'll just stay there until they cart me off :), added to my love and desire to be close to the beach started us looking last July and we found an excellent deal 1 block from Gulf Blvd in Madeira Beach. We downsized to a 750 SF cottage with the Boca Ciega Bay surrounding our tiny neighborhood that sits behind the Church By The Sea which was built around 1948 and the fishermen would say look for the light at the Church By the Sea and you will find safe harbour. Looking out my back door I see the lit cross and we hear the hourly bells. The hurricane of 1848, I think, was the one that created John's Pass just up the street before the causeway, with interesting pirate history :) "Late in the summer of 1848, Levique and Silva sailed to New Orleans to sell a cargo of Green Turtle. Sailing home after bacchanal celebration in the Big Easy, they encountered a horrific storm, and decided to wait it out in a “hurricane hole” in some sheltered area along the coast. The hurricane had knocked down trees, rearranging the shoreline, and obliterated former landmarks.
John Levique searched for an entrance into Boca Ciega Bay. He was probably looking for Blind Pass, or even Pass-a-Grille, but instead he found a more northerly opening where there had not been one previously. Levach awakened a bleary-eyed Silva, and together they navigated through the new pass on the morning of September 27, 1848. Since that time, so the legend goes, the inlet between Treasure Island and Madeira Beach has been called “John’s Pass” in honor of it’s discovery, and maiden passage by John Levique."
Madeira Beach's motto is 3 miles long and about a smile :) wide with 60 something % of it being water. We moved here Dec 18, 2011. I am in discovery mode here about the weather and appreciate all that you do! I already experienced one thing that you never see inland and that was sea fog moving in in the middle of the day, wow :)
Sorry to admin and all who don't like my rambling on :)

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A total of five corporations own all major networks, all radio stations, and all the major newspapers. No wonder you hear virtually nothing ever on these mediums about GW. Out of sight out of mind. And with the economy, Iran, two other wars, GW is not forefront on people's minds. And that's exactly how the corporations want it to stay.
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Quoting LargoFl:
yes all over in the mid 80's,bath water it is


Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 192 Comments: 59122
OMG..Imagine this..the WHOLE Manatee river got sucked OUT into the bay..geez........................................I n 1846, a major storm hit the Tampa Bay area and it was reported that the Manatee River was sucked out into the bay. The water level was so low that you could ride a horse across the river. In 1848 another major storm hit the Tampa Bay area and destroyed Fort Brooke. Amazingly, there was no loss of life in these storms. However, the population of the entire area was only a few hundred in the mid 1800s.
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 5 Comments: 50683
Quoting Levi32:
Good afternoon.

Blog update:

Tropical Tidbit for Friday, June 8th, with Video


Thank you, Levi, and good to hear from you. Good luck in Physics future Dr. Hawking.
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Quoting Dodabear:


Wow! the gulf looks like rocket fuel!
yes all over in the mid 80's,bath water it is
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 5 Comments: 50683
Big western US cooldown on the way... Does this mean anything for the tropics?

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Quoting Drakoen25:


Where in Florida are you, ma'am?
I don't live in Florida I live in D.C.
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Quoting Jedkins01:


Yeah what you say is exactly what I'm talking about, people almost do believe as if there is magic protecting the Tampa Bay area, the problem with that is that the Tampa Bay is governed by the laws of physics just like every other corner of the Earth. The Tampa Bay area isn't run by a Disney movie lol, just because happily ever after feels to be the case around Tampa Bay regarding hurricanes does not mean it is. One day the fairy tail endings to hurricane tracks will end unfortunately. Since I call this place home and will probably still live around here if possible after college, its likely I will see it in my life time given the big gap of no impact for so long.


I've had the pleasure of knowing some old timers here and remember one's retelling of the 1921 Tampa Bay Hurricane. A good family friend's parents had a small farm on Longboat Key at the time and he was born that night. I don't remember all te details, but after taking his wife to the hospital in their small boat, his father was unable to return to his farm because there was not enough water left in the bay to float the boat.
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I can't find that chart. I'll come across it eventually I guess.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 34212
I hear ya Jedkins but shouldn't climate change be a discussion also on how to implement real changes on a realistic level? I'm getting at we need governments to REALLY act. We the people can only do so much. Climate change has to be about more than people talking about what they're doing about it and how they feel. Levels of C02 are heading in the wrong direction and quickly. Most everyone says climate change, and global warming are major disasters waiting to happen. Problem is everyone in America is so fractured. There's no real organized group with hundreds of thousands of backers taking on climate change. The opposite is true, Heartland and the likes of are organized and giving out misinformation at a startling rate. If ten million Americans got behind a political GW platform and influenced elections like back before Prohibition was passed we'd see some real action. Dealing with global warming and climate change are bad for corporations, and corporations own our politicians. The supreme court of America almost always rules Corporation over individual, corporations over government, government over individual. Check it out it's almost across the board. If we don't really act, the climate change conversation will be mute, and millions if not billion of us will be too.
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Quoting Levi32:
Good afternoon.

Blog update:

Tropical Tidbit for Friday, June 8th, with Video
thanks levi good to see ya
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 192 Comments: 59122
Quoting GeorgiaStormz:


do you always make that face :P

lol

Yep. It just makes my posts look/sound less serious.
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Quoting LargoFl:


Wow! the gulf looks like rocket fuel!
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Many hurricanes have come close to Tampa Bay but have stayed far enough away to spare the area from severe damage. The Labor Day storm of 1935 struck the Florida Keys as a Category 5 (156 mph and above) but just missed Tampa Bay. Still, it caused a storm surge of 5.3 feet.

An October 1946 hurricane hit Bradenton but lost intensity as it made landfall, so damage was light.

In September 1950 Hurricane Easy moved on a slow path west of Tampa but pushed a storm surge of 6.5 feet into Tampa Bay. Water washed away roads and homes close to the waterfront along the Pinellas beaches. The storm came to a standstill west of Tarpon Springs and then intensified dramatically, with winds up to 125 mph. Easy made a small loop just off the coast before making landfall near Cedar Key. The storm then made another loop, reentered the Gulf of Mexico, and came ashore again near Homosassa Springs. In northern Citrus County, the storm dropped a record 38 inches of rain.

In September 1960, Hurricane Donna passed well east of Tampa, producing wind gusts of 120 mph in Manatee County and 150 mph in Polk County.

In October 1968, Hurricane Gladys made landfall between Bayport and Crystal River. Hurricane-force winds were reported from Pinellas to Citrus counties. A storm surge of 6 to 7 feet produced extensive damage.

In 1985, Hurricane Elena provided a perfect example of how chaotic storms can be. Elena was moving directly toward Citrus when it stopped, turned around, and headed directly for Biloxi, Miss. Still, high seas eroded Tampa Bay area beaches. Eight-foot waves caused two barges in Tampa Bay to break free from their moorings and slam into the Gandy Bridge and streets flooded in low-lying areas of Tampa, such as Davis Islands.
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Link

We were freediving offshore on Utila yesterday....

water temperatures at the surface were as high as 32.6 degrees Celsius.
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Quoting washingtonian115:
Storms traveling in the Gulf and caribbean this year will sure be happy.
lol they love that hot water, i tried looking for that iso thing, cant find it either
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 5 Comments: 50683
Quoting nigel20:

This is definitely one of the most beautiful storm I've ever seen!


Too bad it didn't look even near that good in real life. HDR and extensive post-production software can do wonders. Looks like at least one graduated filter too...

But man is there some serious weather headed my way. Looks like I'm moving the grill tonight...
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Probable analogs are Arlene from 2005 & Bill from 2003 IMO in terms of track and intensity for this system being portrayed by the ECMWF and the GFS.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 24976
Quoting LargoFl:
Storms traveling in the Gulf and caribbean this year will sure be happy.
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 19261
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Does anybody know what website you can find that hurricane activity chart on? It shows the current year's activity and the previous year, 2005, and where a normal year would be.

Was going back through the blogs (I know I posted it several times). I found one of my quotes :P



do you always make that face :P

lol
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Good afternoon.

Blog update:

Tropical Tidbit for Friday, June 8th, with Video
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 5 Comments: 50683
Does anybody know what website you can find that hurricane activity chart on? It shows the current year's activity and the previous year, 2005, and where a normal year would be.

Was going back through the blogs (I know I posted it several times). I found one of my quotes :P

Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13 on November 30, 2011:

Something tells me that next season will have a lot of landfalls, if not on the USA, just on land areas. It may not be as active as this year or last, but I think it will be more destructive. I think we'll see a pre-season system, and we'll have more hurricanes and major hurricanes than normal.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 34212
Quoting Fla55Native:
In reply to Jedkins01, I am a 59(not 60 yet) year old native of Sarasota, and have met many people who truly believe that we are somehow, maybe magically protected from hurricanes here in Sarasota. I have seen numerous storms that have done quite a bit of damage and can remember vividly the houses that just disappeared during these storms. The whole south end of Siesta Key was under water from a hhurricane that missed us.I, for one, do not think it can't happen here and others would be wise to think likewise.


Yeah what you say is exactly what I'm talking about, people almost do believe as if there is magic protecting the Tampa Bay area, the problem with that is that the Tampa Bay is governed by the laws of physics just like every other corner of the Earth. The Tampa Bay area isn't run by a Disney movie lol, just because happily ever after feels to be the case around Tampa Bay regarding hurricanes does not mean it is. One day the fairy tail endings to hurricane tracks will end unfortunately. Since I call this place home and will probably still live around here if possible after college, its likely I will see it in my life time given the big gap of no impact for so long.


We have had a lot of near misses though that still have brought plenty of severe weather. Hurricane Frances and Jeanne ripped up this area with roughly 6 to 12 inches of rain for each storm and many hours of 50 to 70 mph wind gusts. There were a ton of power outages and tree damage. Because the wind lasted so long there was also some scattered structural damage, mobile homes got ripped up pretty bad around the area as well.


I remember doing absolutely nothing but standing out in those storms, only coming in to eat, probably only slept a few hours in a couple days but I felt wide awake haha.
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Quoting GeorgiaStormz:
Where did Levi get the analog dates for the forecasted pattern, that is very interesting. Arlene seems like the best analog.

Also, he seemed quite reluctant to go in depth into the specific model forecast, he just mentioned the general lowering of pressures with some ensembles showing possible development.
Is that typical of Levi or is that just because he isnt quite impressed by the consensus or forecasts enough yet?

It's because it is still a long way out.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 34212
Where did Levi get the analog dates for the forecasted pattern, that is very interesting. Arlene seems like the best analog.

Also, he seemed quite reluctant to go in depth into the specific model forecast, he just mentioned the general lowering of pressures with some ensembles showing possible development.
Is that typical of Levi or is that just because he isnt quite impressed by the consensus or forecasts enough yet?
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
Do you remember Hurricane Donna?


Very well, it was on my birthday in 1960. My parents obviously cancelled my party, which was disappointing, but at 8 years old the hurricane was actually a lot of fun. Sorry to those it harmed, but to a youngster whose family endured unharmed, I had fun and was only scared when I saw the fear on my parents faces. We lit candles and all sat together and listened to the storm. That's what I remember most. The noise was incredible. It was shrieking and howling at the same time. Our house shook and looked like it was breathing. The ceiling would bow upward when it was intense. The damage on the keys was extensive.
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Quoting JrWeathermanFL:
Could an analoge of possible Chris be Barry on 07?
By looking at the models a landfall between the panhandle to the west coast of Florida is possible.So I'm going to say Cindy and Charley are good analogs.(hey they both start with C and I'm not just saying that because Chris starts with C.)
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 19261
Quoting Tribucanes:
Tom? All things are full of weariness......how does that contradict science? It's the Second Law of Thermodynamics which it's supported by. Seems this supports science. What about that contradicts science? If your reading the wording "there is nothing new under the sun" and taking it to mean no new science can come forth, then you are misunderstanding the meaning of "there is nothing new under the sun" It's speaking about humans in general, not new inventions, or new science.



You are correct here, but the problem is that you are attributing the study of climate change to world deception, world deception is very real and that is what is nothing new under the sun, but it doesn't have anything to do with climate change. Climate change is just about people concerned and for good reason about what man has done to the environment and how it has and will affect the climate of the future.
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 9026
Quoting BaltimoreBrian:
Hi Taz ^_^

Just kidding!



hi BaltimoreBrian



LOL
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Could an analoge of possible Chris be Barry on 07?
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Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:


Good afternoon Nigel. That is correct as PR is now going thru a dry spell with those warm temperatures and that has raised the fire danger.

Hey Tropics...it has been hot and dry in Jamaica as well...especially in Kingston and Montego Bay
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Hi Taz ^_^

Just kidding!
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Quoting Jedkins01:


It's so far out I don't really make predictions at this point yet lol, I just keep track of things but I'll leave it at that for now.


fair enough!
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Quoting Fla55Native:
In reply to Jedkins01, I am a 59(not 60 yet) year old native of Sarasota, and have met many people who truly believe that we are somehow, maybe magically protected from hurricanes here in Sarasota. I have seen numerous storms that have done quite a bit of damage and can remember vividly the houses that just disappeared during these storms. The whole south end of Siesta Key was under water from a hhurricane that missed us.I, for one, do not think it can't happen here and others would be wise to think likewise.
Do you remember Hurricane Donna?
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Quoting BaltimoreBrian:
Jedkins how likely do you think Chris will form in the GOMEX next weekend or the week after?


It's so far out I don't really make predictions at this point yet lol, I just keep track of things but I'll leave it at that for now.
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 9026
Quoting LargoFl:


everywhere is above 26C except in the bend.
Maybe it will warm some more ,considering it has been cloudy and rainy for a few days.
Do you have any idea what the depth of the 26C isotherm is, i dont have a link for that anymore and cant find it by googling it.
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Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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