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 MAweatherboy1:
6z GFS 264 hours... The pressure says 990mb but it looks a good deal stronger



If the gfs is showing that many isobars then we are gonna have a monster to deal with.
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Good chance of tornadoes today

Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 79 Comments: 7303
6z GFS 264 hours... The pressure says 990mb but it looks a good deal stronger

Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 79 Comments: 7303
Derived from (NHC) ATCF data for TropicalStormCarlotta for 14Jun6amGMT:
8.5n90.7w, 8.8n91.5w, 9.0n92.2w have been re-evaluated&altered
8.4n90.7w, 8.7n91.6w, 9.2n92.4w, 9.9n93.0w are now the most recent positions

Its vector had changed from WNWest at 10.8mph(17.3km/h) to NWest at 10.6mph(17km/h)
MaxSusWinds had increased from 30knots(34.5mph)55.6km/h to 35knots(40.3mph)64.8km/h
And minimum pressure had decreased from 1006millibars to 1003millibars

For those who like to visually track TS.Carlotta's path...
ZLO is Manzanillo :: ACA is Acapulco,Guerrero :: PNO is Pinotepa,Oaxca :: TAP is Tapachula

The WNWesternmost dot on the kinked line is where Invest94E became TropicalDepression3E
The next dot NWest on the connected line-segment is where TD3E became TropicalStormCarlotta

The NWesternmost line-segment is a straightline-projection
through TS.Carlotta's 2 most recent positions to the coastline.
On 14Jun6amGMT, TS.Carlotta was headed toward passing between Copala and Marquelia in ~2days4hours from now

Copy&paste zlo, aca, pno, tap, mgsj, sal, 8.1n90.0w- 8.4n90.7w- 8.7n91.6w- 9.2n92.4w, 9.2n92.4w-9.9n93.0w, 9.2n92.4w-16.534n98.883w into the GreatCircleMapper for more information.
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Quoting Slamguitar:
We have Carlotta!

...DEPRESSION STRENGTHENS INTO TROPICAL STORM CARLOTTA SOUTH OF MEXICO...EXPECTED TO BECOME A HURRICANE BY FRIDAY...

2:00 AM PDT Thu Jun 14
Location: 10.3°N 93.3°W
Moving: NW at 10 mph
Min pressure: 1003 mb
Max sustained: 40 mph

Close shave coming up for Mexico

Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 79 Comments: 7303
Quoting Patrap:

Wish there was some way to get an ASCAT of the Mobile Low. The spin has been consistent, even if invisible when convection isn't firing. Do you think it will be
able to transition to warm-core once it's fully over water?
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We have Carlotta!

...DEPRESSION STRENGTHENS INTO TROPICAL STORM CARLOTTA SOUTH OF MEXICO...EXPECTED TO BECOME A HURRICANE BY FRIDAY...

2:00 AM PDT Thu Jun 14
Location: 10.3°N 93.3°W
Moving: NW at 10 mph
Min pressure: 1003 mb
Max sustained: 40 mph
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Kudos to Norcross on TWC for mentioning the

Positive MJO coming up next week for the Carib.

and S.Gulf and also favorable Upper Level winds

for same area..Don't recall seeing this before

on that network..
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826. sotv
Impressive waterspout hits Venice yesterday. No injuries reported but some damage to outer islands

<>a href="" target="_blank">YouTube

Other videoes of it on Youtube as well
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744 OCF: The Southern California question regarding the original topic: for how much longer will there be mixed pine/oak forests at the resort levels (4500-7500 feet elevation) of the San Bernardino Mountains? What I'm afraid of is that it could all burn off at any moment, and once it burns off it may never grow back in quite the same way - that it may all become chaparral or live oak scrub forest, like the lower elevations of the same mountains.

See alotta pine/conifer stands dying off up there. And a lot of helicopter-lumbering to pull those dead conifers outta there in hopes of preventing the infestation from spreading faster than it already is.
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708 VAbeachhurricanes: Bugs are insane here too, it was that dang warm winter nothing froze to death.

Nailed it. Freezes are the main form of insect population control in the TemperateZones and Poleward. And if the weather stays warm enough that the plants don't die back (or hibernate), ya get a BIG heapin' mess of pests come lateSpring and Summer, especially after rains.
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401 tornadodude: Would you consider $1,200 for a 10 day storm chase tour across the Great Plains a good deal? This includes all gas, hotels, and some snacks. Also included is a copy of the DVD from the chase trip.

Me? No. BUT there are a LOT of adventure tourism folks out there who would. And they would consider your tour price to be dirt cheap.
Sounds like great way to fund your storm-chasing... and make more than a few bucks profit if you can set it up right. eg Raise your prices once you've had enough customers go through the experience that their recommendations would generate more tourists-than-you-can-handle heading your way.

Definitely set up a website advertizing your tour. And definitely target the German tourist market.
Many like heading toward the extreme purely for the sake of experiencing the extreme. Go out to DeathValley during its hottest days, and ya can't get away from 'em.
I think the Japanese would be somewhat the same: just less into the gung ho, and more into the awe. ie Less into DeathValley and more into MonumentValley.
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Have a good night everyone...I'm off to bed!
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 9 Comments: 7477
Looks like the low in the eastern seaboard will not develop into nothing with that amount of shear near it. good night all.
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000
ABPZ20 KNHC 140554
TWOEP

TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
1100 PM PDT WED JUN 13 2012

FOR THE EASTERN NORTH PACIFIC...EAST OF 140 DEGREES WEST LONGITUDE..

THE NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER IS ISSUING ADVISORIES ON NEWLY FORMED
TROPICAL DEPRESSION THREE-E...LOCATED ABOUT 470 MILES
SOUTH-SOUTHEAST OF PUERTO ANGEL MEXICO.

A BROAD TROUGH OF LOW PRESSURE HAS REMAINED NEARLY STATIONARY
SEVERAL HUNDRED MILES SOUTHWEST OF ACAPULCO MEXICO. THE ASSOCIATED
SHOWER ACTIVITY HAS DECREASED AND SIGNIFICANT DEVELOPMENT OF THIS
DISTURBANCE IS NOT EXPECTED DUE TO UNFAVORABLE UPPER-LEVEL WINDS.
THIS SYSTEM HAS A LOW CHANCE...NEAR 0 PERCENT...OF BECOMING A
TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS.


ELSEWHERE...TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION IS NOT EXPECTED DURING THE
NEXT 48 HOURS.

$$
FORECASTER STEWART
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 9 Comments: 7477
CMC it disappears after this. lol

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...TROPICAL DEPRESSION GETTING BETTER ORGANIZED SOUTH OF MEXICO...EXPECTED TO BECOME A TROPICAL STORM LATER TODAY...
11:00 PM PDT Wed Jun 13
Location: 9.8°N 92.9°W
Moving: NW at 9 mph
Min pressure: 1003 mb
Max sustained: 35 mph
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 9 Comments: 7477
810 nigel20: Hey aspectre...how are you doing?

Slow, hadda catch up with the times: "Invest94E" up in 807 turned out to be TD3E
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
throw the run out the window and awaut for a future run 12 z would be best to look at that will be noon tomorrow


Sounds like good advice. :)
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I got this one out late...

Tropical Atlantic update on my blog hot of press. Newly-formed Eastern Pacific 3-E is close enough to the Atlantic that I had to give it quiet a discussion on my latest update this early morning.

Enjoy the read (if you're still awake this late night)....and feel free to post questions or comments you may have....
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Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 415 Comments: 125715
NOGAPS seems right in line with the GFS looks like a huge circulation that doesn't start to come together until it's in the BOC/GOM.

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Quoting aspectre:
Invest95E is heading West at 14.7mph(23.7km/h) :: Invest94E is heading WNWest at 8.3mph(13.3km/h)

ZLO is Manzanillo,Mexico :: ACA is Acapulco,Mexico :: TAP is Tapachula,Mexico

Copy&paste 11.0n101.0w-11.0n102.2w, 11.0n102.2w-11.0n103.5w, 11.0n103.5w-11.0n104.7w, 11.0n104.7w-11.1n106.0w, zlo, aca, tap, mgsj, sal, 7.8n89.2w-8.1n90.0w, 8.1n90.0w-8.5n90.7w, 8.5n90.7w-8.8n91.5w, 8.8n91.5w-9.0n92.2w into the GreatCircleMapper for more info

Hey aspectre...how are you doing?
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 9 Comments: 7477
Quoting AtHomeInTX:


Lol. I just saw that was hoping someone else could explain it. :)
throw the run out the window and awaut for a future run 12 z would be best to look at that will be noon tomorrow
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Might get recon heading west Friday afternoon.




000
NOUS42 KNHC 131330
WEATHER RECONNAISSANCE FLIGHTS
CARCAH, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER, MIAMI, FL.
0930 AM EDT WED JUN 132012
SUBJECT: TROPICAL CYCLONE PLAN OF THE DAY (TCPOD)
VALID 14/1100Z TO 15/1100Z JUN 2012
TCPOD NUMBER.....12-026

I. ATLANTIC REQUIREMENTS
1. NEGATIVE RECONNAISSANCE REQUIREMENTS.
2. OUTLOOK FOR SUCCEEDING DAY.....NEGATIVE.

II. PACIFIC REQUIREMENTS
1. NEGATIVE RECONNAISSANCE REQUIREMENTS.
2. SUCCEEDING DAY OUTLOOK: FIX OF A POSSIBLE DEVELOPING
HURRICANE AT 15/1800Z NEAR 13.5N 95.5W
JWP

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Invest95E headed West at 14.7mph(23.7km/h) :: TD3E headed WNWest at 8.3mph(13.3km/h)

ZLO is Manzanillo,Mexico :: ACA is Acapulco,Mexico :: TAP is Tapachula,Mexico

Copy&paste 11.0n101.0w-11.0n102.2w, 11.0n102.2w-11.0n103.5w, 11.0n103.5w-11.0n104.7w, 11.0n104.7w-11.1n106.0w, zlo, aca, tap, mgsj, sal, 7.8n89.2w-8.1n90.0w, 8.1n90.0w-8.5n90.7w, 8.5n90.7w-8.8n91.5w, 8.8n91.5w-9.0n92.2w into the GreatCircleMapper for more info
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Quoting Slamguitar:
03E is looking a little bit more organized, probably Carlotta next update.

I was just looking at it and thinking the same thing!
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 9 Comments: 7477
03E is looking a little bit more organized, probably Carlotta next update.
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
Just chillin man, watching some baseball. How's the weather in Jamaica?

It's pretty hot and dry in the days, but the MJO should be in our region soon, so I'm hoping that we'll get some rain!
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 9 Comments: 7477
Quoting nigel20:

Hey GT....what's up?
Just chillin man, watching some baseball. How's the weather in Jamaica?
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
Hi Nigel!

Hey GT....what's up?
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 9 Comments: 7477
Quoting cheaterwon:
The latest GFS run don't seem likely to me as it keeps a hurricane stationary with a weakness in the high pressure to its north east with a bunch of little lows shooting off from it to the North East until it dissipates on the cost of Mexico while never moving more than 100 miles. Am I reading that right are does what it showing make meteorological sense?
Link

Hmm....strange
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Quoting sunlinepr:

Is there any relief in the forecast for Puerto Rico?
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 9 Comments: 7477
Quoting nigel20:
Good evening everyone!
Hi Nigel!
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Quoting cheaterwon:
The latest GFS run don't seem likely to me as it keeps a hurricane stationary with a weakness in the high pressure to its north east with a bunch of little lows shooting off from it to the North East until it dissipates on the cost of Mexico while never moving more than 100 miles. Am I reading that right are does what it showing make meteorological sense?


Lol. I just saw that was hoping someone else could explain it. :)
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Quoting cheaterwon:
The latest GFS run don't seem likely to me as it keeps a hurricane stationary with a weakness in the high pressure to its north east with a bunch of little lows shooting off from it to the North East until it dissipates on the cost of Mexico while never moving more than 100 miles. Am I reading that right are does what it showing make meteorological sense?
You know what if that trough is strong and deep enough it could lift this system off to the NE. Also it is possible that the trough out runs the system keeping it trap down there in the BOC until it runs into Mexico. Of course this is just one of the many future runs of the GFS on this potential system. A lot can and will change. Just some of the scenarios I thought I would point out. :)
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Good evening everyone!
Member Since: November 6, 2010 Posts: 9 Comments: 7477
The latest GFS run don't seem likely to me as it keeps a hurricane stationary with a weakness in the high pressure to its north east with a bunch of little lows shooting off from it to the North East until it dissipates on the cost of Mexico while never moving more than 100 miles. Am I reading that right are does what it showing make meteorological sense?
Link
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GOM is still maintaining a decent level of moisture unlike most of May when our two storms formed.
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TD3E look to be located now at 10.1N 94.5W
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 9598
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Quoting CybrTeddy:

I don't see anything that doesn't indicate abnormally high shear for mid-June.


And also, check out this anti-cyclone over the extreme SW Caribbean. I'm willing to bet as the system we see on the models begins to ramp up, that anticyclone will aid in the intensification process as portrayed on the models.
With that type of shear the system near the Northeast coast will not form into anything I don`t even think it will reach invest status.
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T.C.F.W.
R.I. FLAG FLAG
03E/TS/C/CX
MARK
10.10N/93.93W
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
it was a shallow quake thats why hopefully not a foreshock


Well that one is a long ways from the San Andreas, so that is a good thing.
30-40 miles good....
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00z GFS is pretty similar in strength to last nights 00z run so far.
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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.