Wildfire smoke shrouds Denver; climate change expected to increase Western fires

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:16 PM GMT on June 13, 2012

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Colorado's third largest fire in recorded history, the High Park Fire, shrouded Denver and Fort Collins in acrid smoke Tuesday, causing an increase in emergency room visits related to smoke inhalation. The fire, currently burning fifteen miles west of Fort Collins, Colorado, covered over 43,000 acres (68 square miles) as of Tuesday. Firefighters reported that it was only 10% contained, and was exhibiting "extreme" behavior. A lightning strike triggered the fire on Saturday. While fire fighters try to control the southern edge of the fire, the northern perimeter is burning out of control. Six hundred eighty people and 100 fire engines are working on the ground to contain the blaze, along with air support from air tankers and helicopters. The fire has killed one person, burned 100 structures, and cost $1.6 million to fight so far. An air pollution action day has been declared for Wednesday all along the Front Range of the Rockies, from Denver to Fort Collins, due to smoke from the fire. Air pollution levels from smoke will be unhealthy for sensitive groups.


Figure 1. Fire burns in trees behind homes in the High Park wildfire near Fort Collins, Colorado, on Monday, June 11, 2012. (AP Photo)

Beetles, climate change, and Colorado fires
According to the Denver Post, the High Park Fire is burning in an area where 70% of the trees that have been killed by mountain pine beetles; the insects have devastated forests in western North America in recent years. As our climate change blogger, Dr. Ricky Rood explains, the pine beetle is killed (controlled) by temperatures less than -40°F. This is at the edge of the coldest temperatures normally seen in the U.S., and these cold extremes have largely disappeared since 1990. In Colorado, the lack of -40°F temperatures in winter has allowed the beetles to produce two broods of young per year, instead of one. The beetles are also attacking the pine trees up to a month earlier than the historic norm.


Figure 2. The historical mountain pine beetle (MPB) univoltine life cycle (above calendar arrows and linked by black arrows) and the observed MPB bivoltine life cycle (below calendar arrows and linked by red arrows). Univoltine means one brood per year, and bivoltine means two broods per year. Calendar arrow colors represent monthly temperature regimes: blue for less than 0°C, yellow for 0°-4.99°C, orange for 5°-9.99°C, and red for 10°C and higher. From Mitton and Ferrenberg, "Mountain Pine Beetle Develops an Unprecedented Summer Generation in Response to Climate Warming". This figure appeared in Dr. Ricky Rood's blog, "A Hot Day's Night: The Beetles".

A letter from the field in Colorado
Our climate change blogger, Dr. Ricky Rood, is in Boulder, Colorado this summer, and had this report on the fire Tuesday:

Saturday morning Iz and I were driving along 95th Street to Longmont to the Fairgrounds. We saw the initial plume; Iz said, "Looks like a volcano." At that time it was Colorado clear, with blue skies. The plume got to the top of its ascent and kicked off a little convection that looked like cauliflower. For the next few hours you could see the fire grow by the trunk of the plume getting thicker. It mostly blew to the east, with an occasional white cloud topping. It seemed to double in size every couple of hours.

By Sunday, the smoke was spreading all over the state. We had a couple of cool days with a northerly component in the wind. It filled up the sky, here, with haze - most of the day could not see Long's Peak. Part of the day couldn't see the foothills, say Flagstaff Mountain, which is about 8 miles away. Even with the wind moving around to the south, it's remained hazy. Today it has smelt of campfire-like smoke most of the day. Woke up sneezing. There is fine dust drawn to my computer screen and key board, which is at this point simply dirty. The dogs seem a little crazy.

It's not as acrid as the much closer Fourmile Fire a couple of years ago, but for some reason, it's the most dramatic fire I have experienced, perhaps because of the explosive nature of it. Tankers and helicopters fly over all day; they must stage from somewhere south of here. The tanks on them look hopelessly small compared with the fire, but they say, today, they finally made progress. The drought or drought potential is currently stunning, and we expect a lot of fire this year. Water only flowed in our irrigation ditch for four days before we lost priority.

There is a very nice figure in a local magazine, YS, that shows the percentage of snow pack compared with normal. We are South Platte - mid-May at 19 % normal, and not the worst in the state. Really, a nice little article in YS about how to predict a drought. Last year was nearly record wet. Right now this is setting up to be worse than the 2002 drought, which the article says was a 300 year drought. If true, then we had two 300 year droughts 10 years apart--some of our readers should be able to work on that as an attribution problem. The largest fire in Colorado history, the Hayman, was during the 2002 drought.


New Mexico's massive Whitewater Baldy Complex fire continues
The largest wildfire in New Mexico recorded history, the Whitewater Baldy Complex, continues to burn in the Gila National Forest. The lightning-sparked fire began nearly a month ago on May 15th, is 37% contained, and has devoured almost 280,000 acres (438 square miles.) Though fire weather advisories are not in effect in the region, the humidity is extremely low--humidity values of 6% were reported yesterday afternoon in Reserve, New Mexico, inside the burned area. Afternoon winds are expected to remain moderately strong, around 15 mph, over the next few days, as firefighters focus on keeping the southern edge of the fire from spreading. The fire has cost $22.6 million to fight so far.


Figure 3. The Whitewater Baldy Complex fire seen on our wundermap with the fire layer turned on. The red region outlined in yellow is the active fire perimeter.


Western U.S. wildfires expected to increase due to climate change
Expect a large increase in fires over much of the globe late this century due to climate change, says research published this month in the Journal Ecosphere. Using fire models driven by output from sixteen climate models used in the 2007 IPCC report, the researchers, led by Max Moritz of UC Berkeley, found that 38% of the planet should see increases in fire activity over the next 30 years. This figure increases to 62% by the end of the century. However, in many regions where precipitation is expected to increase--particularly in the tropics--there should be decreased fire activity. The scientists predicted that 8% of Earth will see decreases in fire probability over the next 30 years, and 20% will see decreases by the end of the century. The models do not agree on how fire danger will change for a large portion of the planet--54% for the period 2010 - 2039, and 18% for the period 2070 - 2099. Six key factors were found to control fire probabilities in the models. Most important was how much vegetation there was (NPP, Net Primary Productivity). Three other factors, about half as important, were precipitation of driest month, mean temperature of warmest month, and the difference between summer and winter temperature. Two other minor factors were mean temperature of wettest month, and annual precipitation. The authors found that future fire occurrence appears to primarily be a function of available moisture in many areas, and that the expected global increase in temperature of 3.5°C used in the models will not become the single dominant control on global wildfire. In the U.S., the regions most at risk of increased fires are the tundra regions of northern Alaska, and the West, with Arizona and Colorado at particularly high risk.


Figure 4. Predicted fractional change in fire probability for the period 2010 - 2039 (top) and 2070 - 2099 (bottom) for the average of sixteen climate models used for the 2007 IPCC report. For the 2010 - 2039 period, the models agree that 8% of Earth will see decreases in fire probability, 38% will see increases, and the models are too uncertain to tell for the other 54%. For the 2070 - 2099 period, the models agree that 20% of Earth will see decreases in fire probability, 62% will see increases, and the models are too uncertain to tell for the other 18%. Image credit: Climate change and disruptions to global fire activity, Moritz et al., 2012, from the journal Ecosphere.

Rare tornado hits Venice, Italy
A tornado hit Sant'Erasmo island in the lagoon surrounding Venice on Tuesday, ripping the roofs off of at least 12 buildings. No injuries were reported. The Capital Weather Gang has more videos and information on the event. Tornadoes are not unheard of in Venice; a strong one hit the city in 1970, killing 30 people.


Video 1. A waterspout/tornado in the Venice Lagoon on June 12, 2012.

The Atlantic is quiet
There are no threat areas to discuss in the Atlantic today. The NOGAPS and GFS models are predicting formation of a broad area of low pressure in the Western Caribbean early next week, and we will have to watch this area for development. The waters offshore of North Carolina may be another region to watch, over the next few days, along the edge of a cold front that has moved off the U.S. East Coast.

I'll have a new post Thursday or Friday.

Jeff Masters and Angela Fritz

Smokin' Hot Sun (BisonDoc)
Evening sky above the High Park Fire
Smokin' Hot Sun
Fire on the Mountain (BisonDoc)
This is the High Park Fire in Larimer County, Colorado on Day 2. The fire, first reported Saturday morning, June 9th, grew to 20,000 acres by late Sunday. More than 2,600 evacuation orders have been issued. View is looking west across Fort Collins toward the foothills above Horsetooth Reservoir.
Fire on the Mountain
Smokey Monday Sunset (MikePic)
The smoke has been nasty all along the front range, but made for a nice sunset.
Smokey Monday Sunset
High Park Wildfire (apphotos)
Fire burns through trees on the High Park wildfire near Fort Collins, Colo., on Monday, June 11, 2012. The wildfire is burning out of control in northern Colorado, while an unchecked blaze choked a small community in southern New Mexico as authorities in both regions battled fires Monday. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
High Park Wildfire

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Quoting ILwthrfan:

Slowly???  That CDO sure looks centered.  This is the most impressive it has looked throughout it's entire lifespan.  It wouldn't surprise me if it's intensity forecast is upped just a bit.  

Dvorak numbers have it at 65 mph. JTWC has to be the most conservative organization I know.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32249
ABC islands are in a small zone of cold upwelling water. Thats one explanation.

But that wouldn't explain the fact that almost everyday for a about half a year there are big thunderstorms just 50km away from me on the mainland Venezuela.

My guess is that the hot mainland sucks moisture away from us, small islands.
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Trinidad and Tobago Seems to be getting quite a bit of rain...

ACTIVE INTER-TROPICAL CONVERGENCE ZONE OVER
TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO


Over the past few hours both Trinidad and Tobago
have been experiencing periods of rain and
showers, some of which have been moderate to
heavy. The Meteorological Office at Piarco
measured near 25mm of rainfall over the last
three (3) hours and a similar amount was recorded
at the Meteorological office in Tobago. This
rainfall activity is due to the presence of an
active Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ).

Intermittent rain as well as frequent showers,
some heavy and/or thundery, is forecast this
morning with a gradual improvement by late
afternoon.


The possibility of localized street and flash
flooding as well as landslides/landslips is
likely in the vicinity of prolonged rainfall or
heavy downpours and gusty winds in excess of 45
kph can accompany moderate to heavy showers or
thundershowers. Noting the amount of rainfall
that has occurred, and the forecast for the
continuation of this rainfall activity, rivers of
moderate carrying capacity can become bankful.


Citizens are advised to be vigilant and cautious
as they conduct their activities. Be alert to any
electrical discharges from thundercloud activity
and adopt measures which would preserve life and
property.


WE WISH TO UNDERSCORE THAT AT THIS TIME TRINIDAD
AND TOBAGO IS NOT UNDER ANY TROPICAL STORM
THREAT, WATCH OR WARNING.
The Trinidad and Tobago Meteorological Services
is closely monitoring this weather situation and
will issue another bulletin if the situation
warrants.
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 8130

Quoting MAweatherboy1:
A little early to know for sure, but it looks like Guchol will pass close to Japan



It continues to organize, slowly but steadily

Slowly???  That CDO sure looks centered.  This is the most impressive it has looked throughout it's entire lifespan.  It wouldn't surprise me if it's intensity forecast is upped just a bit.  
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two lows off the east coast!!

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I'm surprised hypuweather has not said anything about this feature off of the coast.Normally they love talking about storms that are going to effect the east coast.
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Quoting nigel20:

Why is that dry in the ABC islands relative to the rest of the Caribbean?


Chavez is stealing our rain.
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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 173 Comments: 54268
Quoting AtHomeInTX:


Lol. Don't feel bad. My family thinks I was switched at birth or something because I don't eat it either. :)
Explains alot :) I am not a fan either, South Texas may have a chance at showers next week due to easterly wave from Austin's NWS : ...SEA BREEZE CONVECTION MAY DEVELOP INTO EASTERN
SECTIONS AS THE GULF FLOW BECOMES PERPENDICULAR TO THE TEXAS
COAST. A DISTURBANCE TRACKING WEST OVER THE NORTH CENTRAL GULF
COAST ON SUNDAY WILL LIKELY DISRUPT SOUTHEAST FLOW ALONG THE TEXAS
COAST SUNDAY AFTERNOON AND PREVENT A SEA BREEZE OCCURRENCE. MONDAY
AFTERNOON HOWEVER...A MORE FAVORABLE ENVIRONMENT WILL EXIST FOR A
SEA BREEZE MOVING INTO OUR EASTERN CWA. THE DISTURBANCE/EASTERLY
WAVE FEATURE WILL PUSH INLAND ALONG THE TEXAS COAST TUESDAY WITH
BETTER CHANCES FOR SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS FURTHER WEST ALONG
THE I-35 CORRIDOR TUESDAY AFTERNOON AND EVEN FURTHER WEST NEXT
WEDNESDAY AS THE BROAD UPPER LOW SETTLES OVER SOUTH TEXAS
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Quoting weatherh98:


No it's a species

Oh, your talking about Caimans, but we have American crocodiles!
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 8130
Quoting nigel20:

What about the Cayman islands?


No it's a species
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Quoting AtHomeInTX:


Lol. Don't feel bad. My family thinks I was switched at birth or something because I don't eat it either. :)


Hahaha I'm not alone In the deep south
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Quoting weatherh98:


Caymans?

What about the Cayman islands?
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 8130
Quoting weatherh98:
Me saying this may lead some of you to believe I don't live in Louisiana but I do and I HATE SEAFOOD


Lol. Don't feel bad. My family thinks I was switched at birth or something because I don't eat it either. :)
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 245
Moohning les-q.
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Quoting LargoFl:
...................check this out..caught in Canada..a BLUE LOBSTER


That's a baaddddd mutation
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311. MAweatherboy1 8:17 PM GMT on June 13, 2012

Thank you for the updates..my son is stationed in Okinawa.
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Quoting Patrap:
Holding its own heading into peak Heating..Dusk should be interesting if it makes the Shore waters.


I don't see how it can't spin up - all the way up.
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Quoting nigel20:

We don't alligators in Jamaica, but we have American Crocodiles...


Caymans?
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Wow that low of Delaware/Virginia just popped up fast, although it looks like a Nor'easter more than a Tropical storm
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Quoting LargoFl:
..........................Welcome to Florida! keep your hands OUT of the water..alligator bit an airboat captains hand off today..in florida ALL freshwater ponds and lakes Could have an alligator in it..if its not there today..it may be there tomorrow, since they travel from lake to lake at night.

We don't alligators in Jamaica, but we have American Crocodiles...
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 8130
Quoting washingtonian115:
I went to red lobster yesterday and got the seafood alfredo.It was really good to.
I love sea food specially shrimps.Anyways now on topic could we have an invest of the feature near the Carolinas?
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Quoting Patrap:
,,choot um, choot um Liz!!!...
Tree shaka
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312. JLPR2
Quoting washingtonian115:
I hope not.Or else I'll be the freak case like Violet off of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 1970's version of course.


Ha!
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A little early to know for sure, but it looks like Guchol will pass close to Japan



It continues to organize, slowly but steadily

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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

What? No, seafood is disgusting.
Me saying this may lead some of you to believe I don't live in Louisiana but I do and I HATE SEAFOOD
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,,choot um, choot um Liz!!!...
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

What? No, seafood is disgusting.
I went to red lobster yesterday and got the seafood alfredo.It was really good to.
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..........................Welcome to Florida! keep your hands OUT of the water..alligator bit an airboat captains hand off today..in florida ALL freshwater ponds and lakes Could have an alligator in it..if its not there today..it may be there tomorrow, since they travel from lake to lake at night.
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Extensive discussion today

MARINE WEATHER DISCUSSION
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
305 PM EDT WED JUN 13 2012
Link

GULF OF MEXICO...

THE 12 UTC RUN OF THE GFS HINTS AGAIN THAT A WEAK LOW DEVELOPS
ALONG THE FRONT IN THE NE PART OF THE GULF EARLY ON THU...AND
MOVES IT TO THE NW GULF BY MON. THE OTHER MODELS...AND EVEN THE
00 UTC ECMWF FROM LAST NIGHT DO NOT SUGGEST THAT THIS FEATURE
WILL FORM. ALTHOUGH CANNOT RULE OUT THE POSSIBLY OF A WEAK LOW
FORMING ON THE TAIL END OF THE FRONT UNDER A SOMEWHAT PERTURBED
UPPER LEVEL NW FLOW. WILL FOLLOW CONSENSUS AND NOT DEPICT THIS
FEATURE ON THE MANUEL FORECAST PROGS AND ON THE TEXT FORECAST
PACKAGE.

CARIBBEAN SEA AND TROPICAL N ATLC W OF 55W...


A WEAK 1009 MB LOW IS
ANALYZED IN THE FAR SW CARIBBEAN AT 11N81W WHICH IS ALONG THE
MONSOON TROUGH. THE LATEST MODELS AGAIN SHOW THE TROPICAL WAVE
IN THE CARIBBEAN TO SLOW ITS WESTWARD IN RESPONSE TO THE TROUGH
AND COLD FRONT THAT MOVE S OVER FL AND AND WRN ATLC TONIGHT
THROUGH FRI. THE WAVE APPEARS TO HAVE ALREADY BEGUN TO SOME
OF MORE NW TURN...BUT ITS RELATED ENERGY IS EXPECTED TO MOVE
INLAND THE YUCATAN PENINSULA THU NIGHT AND FRI.

THE MONSOON TROUGH EXTENDING INTO THE SW CARIBBEAN FROM THE E
PACIFIC WILL GRADUALLY LIFT NORTHWARD FRI AND SAT WITH THE 1009
MB LOW MOVING TO A PSN NEAR 15N86W BY MON. THE DETERMINISTIC
MODELS...FOR THE MOST PART SLOWLY TRACK THE LOW TO THE NW...
THROUGH MON...EXCEPT THE GFS TAKES IT INLAND HONDURAS MON
WHILE ITS ENSEMBLE FORECAST KEEPS IT OFFSHORE. BASED ON
MODEL CONSENSUS...AND GFS ENSEMBLE WILL KEEP THE LOW JUST
OFFSHORE THE NE COAST OF HONDURAS BY MON. THE HPC/NHC AFTERNOON
CONFERENCE CALL AGREED ON SUCH A SCENARIO. RIGHT NOW IT DOES NOT
APPEAR THE LOW WILL HAVE LARGE IMPACTS ON WINDS AND SEAS...BUT
WILL HAVE TO CLOSELY MONITOR FUTURE MODEL TRENDS FOR ANY
FORESEEABLE CHANGES IN ASSOCIATED WINDS AND SEAS COMPARED
TO WHAT IS CURRENTLY BEING OBSERVED NOW IN THAT PORTION OF
THE SEA. WILL KEEP A VERY CLOSE EYE ON SATELLITE IMAGERY
AS WELL TO WATCH FOR ANY POSSIBLE ORGANIZATION OF THIS FEATURE.

SOUTHWEST NORTH ATLC S OF 31N W OF 55W...

(Here it discusses the Atlantic low)
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 245
Quoting Hurricanes305:


Lol, an Avatar lobster.
lolol,man i love lobster with butter sauce hmmmm
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

What? No, seafood is disgusting.

No sea food in general or excluding fish?
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 8130
Quoting JLPR2:


Maybe you'll turn blue too. :P
I hope not.Or else I'll be the freak case like Violet off of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 1970's version of course.
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Quoting washingtonian115:
Mmm looks delicious enough to eat.

What? No, seafood is disgusting.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32249
Quoting LargoFl:
...................check this out..caught in Canada..a BLUE LOBSTER


Lol, an Avatar lobster.
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Quoting MoeWest:
Curacao shield in action


Why is that dry in the ABC islands relative to the rest of the Caribbean?
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 8130
299. JLPR2
Quoting washingtonian115:
Mmm looks delicious enough to eat.


Maybe you'll turn blue too. :P
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Quoting washingtonian115:


Can anybody see the image?.

nope
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Quoting MAweatherboy1:

Hey Nigel... I think that's a big part of it because it's in a favorable environment so nothing else is really hurting it... However unlike 93E this one should end up developing, maybe just a little slower than we thought as convection slowly gets better organized.

I thinks so too...Thanks MA!
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 11 Comments: 8130
Published on Jun 11, 2012 by Sheilaaliens

http://sheilaaliens.net/?p=810 "Young and old residents of the Chinese metropolis of Wuhan were advised to stay indoors on Monday after a thick haze blanketed the city of nine million people, official media said." physorg.com

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Quoting LargoFl:
...................check this out..caught in Canada..a BLUE LOBSTER
Mmm looks delicious enough to eat.
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Quoting nigel20:

Hey MA...is it because it's a relatively large disturbance?

Hey Nigel... I think that's a big part of it because it's in a favorable environment so nothing else is really hurting it... However unlike 93E this one should end up developing, maybe just a little slower than we thought as convection slowly gets better organized.
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...................check this out..caught in Canada..a BLUE LOBSTER
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Can anybody see the image?.
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well thats a mess off the East coast..

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290. JLPR2
Quoting Neapolitan:
NWS says Mayaguez reached at least 99 today.

For what it's worth, parts of South America are pretty toasty today, as well. For instance, Cordoba, Argentina, is at 91 degrees now. It is, of course, winter there, when the average high is in the mid 60s.


Eeek! Temperatures in PR are at August levels in June, I don't want to imagine August & September.
But Cordoba, Argentina reaching 91F during winter is way more impressive.
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right I reviewed 94E's floater rgb loop for sure the circulation is getting much better and for sure it is now moving N
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12138
I agree that El nino will develop late in the year.Like around September.
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Quoting VAstorms:


So, are we in an el Niño or not?

No, the latest Climate Prediction Center update put us at 0.1 °C which is down .1 °C from last weeks.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32249
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Quoting bohonkweatherman:
If El Nino develops I think it will be late in the year before it does?


Yep
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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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