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 HurricaneDean07:

Here. We. Go!
Just like that the tropics are active. I hope this isn't aimed at populated areas. Certain areas of Mexico are proned to flooding and mudslides.
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Quoting Stormchaser121:

They dont scare me really...


Some of them scare me NEIGHBOR! Lol. Like you said no telling where anything that does form will go. But it's definitely time to keep an eye out for sure.




Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 254
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Quoting ilovehurricanes12:
new update on TROPICAL DEPRESSION THREE-E at 2am!!

Should get upgraded to Carlotta.
Member Since: October 3, 2010 Posts: 40 Comments: 4129
Quoting GTcooliebai:
I wonder if the terrain over that part of Mexico is flat enough to allow the circulation to survive the passage and emerge back over the BOC?

The remnants of Carlotta should aid in convergence and formation probability, and if the circulation does survive, it could change the WHOLE entire ball game in the Gulf.
Member Since: October 3, 2010 Posts: 40 Comments: 4129
Quoting hydrus:
Could be serious trouble for Mexico. Might even add to the system that should materialize in the gulf.
I wonder if the terrain over that part of Mexico is flat enough to allow the circulation to survive the passage and emerge back over the BOC?
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Goodnight Everyone.
Link To my blog, fresh off the press, and updated.
Member Since: October 3, 2010 Posts: 40 Comments: 4129
Quoting GTcooliebai:
Sorry pcola57 didn't realize you posted the same chart. I guess you beat me to it. LOL


It's all good GT..we both just trying to help inform :)
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
T.C.F.W.
R.I. FLAG ON
03E/TS/C/CX
MARK
10.10N/93.93W

Here. We. Go!
Member Since: October 3, 2010 Posts: 40 Comments: 4129
Could be serious trouble for Mexico. Might even add to the system that should materialize in the gulf.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 22718
T.C.F.W.
R.I. FLAG ON
03E/TS/C/CX
MARK
10.10N/93.93W
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56141
Sorry pcola57 didn't realize you posted the same chart. I guess you beat me to it. LOL
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
HWRF brings TD 3-E up to a 115 mph Cat. 3 Hurricane:


Oi. Talk about a Doom-cast. Hwrf's 18z deserves a Double-facepalm. Where'd wxgeekVA go?
Member Since: October 3, 2010 Posts: 40 Comments: 4129
LOL, Keeper. Perfect!
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Quoting RitaEvac:


It all boils down to one thing, a GOM storm is imminent according to models, where it is, is a mystery


I have one word to say about all these tropical shenanigans.

SUSPENSE.

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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

We've not had a roach problem but boy, the flies and ants are horrible.


You are about 10 miles from me
Member Since: April 26, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 3222
HWRF brings TD 3-E up to a 115 mph Cat. 3 Hurricane:

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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56141
Quoting K8eCane:
I keep my house sprayed and sprayed and bombed but i have never seen as many roaches, flies and ants in my front yard. I cant figure it out. Ive looked everywhere for something dead and there is nothing. I hope they arent upset because of a storm coming

We've not had a roach problem but boy, the flies and ants are horrible.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32863
Quoting K8eCane:



Wilmington NC
Thats not good I thought you might be in Florida or on the Gulf .
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Quoting gulfbreeze:
Where are you?



Wilmington NC
Member Since: April 26, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 3222


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Quoting K8eCane:
I keep my house sprayed and sprayed and bombed but i have never seen as many roaches, flies and ants in my front yard. I cant figure it out. Ive looked everywhere for something dead and there is nothing. I hope they arent upset because of a storm coming
Where are you?
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Quoting K8eCane:
I keep my house sprayed and sprayed and bombed but i have never seen as many roaches, flies and ants in my front yard. I cant figure it out. Ive looked everywhere for something dead and there is nothing. I hope they arent upset because of a storm coming


Bugs are insane here too, it was that dang warm winter nothing froze to death.
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TROPICAL DEPRESSION THREE-E DISCUSSION NUMBER 1
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL EP032012
800 PM PDT WED JUN 13 2012

SHOWER AND THUNDERSTORM ACTIVITY ASSOCIATED WITH THE AREA OF
DISTURBED WEATHER LOCATED SEVERAL HUNDRED MILES SOUTH-SOUTHWEST OF
GUATEMALA HAS ACQUIRED ENOUGH ORGANIZATION FOR THE SYSTEM TO BE
CLASSIFIED AS A TROPICAL DEPRESSION. DVORAK INTENSITY ESTIMATES
FROM BOTH SAB AND TAFB SUPPORT AN INITIAL INTENSITY OF 30 KT.
SINCE THE SYSTEM IS STILL IN ITS FORMATIVE STAGE...THE INITIAL
MOTION ESTIMATE IS A SOMEWHAT UNCERTAIN 305/8 KT. THE CYCLONE IS
SITUATED ON THE SOUTHWESTERN PERIPHERY OF A MID- TO UPPER-LEVEL
RIDGE THAT EXTENDS INTO THE NORTHWESTERN CARIBBEAN SEA AND EASTERN
GULF OF MEXICO. THE DEPRESSION IS FORECAST TO MOVE NORTHWESTWARD
AROUND THE WESTERN SIDE OF THE RIDGE DURING THE NEXT COUPLE OF
DAYS. THE TRACK GUIDANCE IS IN RELATIVELY GOOD AGREEMENT...AND ALL
OF THE MODELS SHOW THE CYCLONE APPROACHING THE SOUTHERN COAST OF
MEXICO IN ABOUT 48-60 HOURS. THE OFFICIAL FORECAST FOLLOWS THIS
SCENARIO AND LIES NEAR THE MIDDLE OF THE GUIDANE ENVELOPE...
BETWEEN THE TYPICALLY RELIABLE GFS AND ECMWF MODELS.

THE CYCLONE IS EXPECTED TO REMAIN IN A LOW-SHEAR ENVIRONMENT AND
OVER WARM WATERS DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS. MOST OF THE INTENSITY
GUIDANCE CALLS FOR STEADY STRENGTHENING...WITH THE HWRF BEING THE
MOST AGGRESSIVE. EVEN THE GLOBAL MODELS SHOW SIGNIFICANT DEEPENING
OF THE SYSTEM DURING THE NEXT DAY OR TWO. AS A RESULT...THE NHC
FORECAST CALLS FOR STEADY STRENGTHENING AND BRINGS THE CYCLONE TO
HURRICANE STRENGTH IN A COUPLE OF DAYS. SINCE THE CIRCULATION IS
RELATIVELY SMALL AND THE SHEAR IS EXPECTED TO REMAIN LIGHT...RAPID
INTENSIFICATION IS A REALISTIC POSSIBILITY DURING THE NEXT 48
HOURS. THEREFORE...THE NHC FORECAST IS HIGHER THAN THE INTENSITY
CONSENSUS...LEANING TOWARD THE SHIPS AND HWRF SOLUTIONS.

THE TRACK AND INTENSITY FORECAST HAS REQUIRED THE ISSUANCE OF A
HURRICANE WATCH FOR A PORTION OF THE SOUTHERN COAST OF MEXICO.
USERS ARE REMINDED NOT TO FOCUS ON THE EXACT FORECAST TRACK AS
TYPICAL NHC FORECAST ERRORS AT 48 AND 72 HOURS ARE 80-110 N MI.


FORECAST POSITIONS AND MAX WINDS

INIT 14/0300Z 9.4N 92.4W 30 KT 35 MPH
12H 14/1200Z 10.3N 93.2W 35 KT 40 MPH
24H 15/0000Z 11.9N 94.3W 45 KT 50 MPH
36H 15/1200Z 13.5N 95.4W 55 KT 65 MPH
48H 16/0000Z 15.0N 96.2W 65 KT 75 MPH
72H 17/0000Z 17.2N 97.5W 30 KT 35 MPH...INLAND
96H 18/0000Z...DISSIPATED

$$
FORECASTER BROWN/BERG
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32863
Just created New BLOG
Atlantic coming alive: June Activity / Eastern Pacific: Firing up the Engine

Feel free to share your ideas and opinions...
Member Since: October 3, 2010 Posts: 40 Comments: 4129
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:




models are meant to be used for guidance purposes only and donot depict final outcome to any one single event things can and will change.
Well this model is showing a lot of rain for FL. So it looks like the models aren't in agreement just yet on the track of the supposed tropical system in the W. Carib.
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I keep my house sprayed and sprayed and bombed but i have never seen as many roaches, flies and ants in my front yard. I cant figure it out. Ive looked everywhere for something dead and there is nothing. I hope they arent upset because of a storm coming
Member Since: April 26, 2006 Posts: 5 Comments: 3222
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Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32863
Quoting Chucktown:


N.S.S.
i put up disclaimer only for the purpose of people thinking they are safe no ones safe till we see it then it will show us where its going
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56141
HURRICANE WATCH ISSUED
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TROPICAL DEPRESSION THREE-E FORECAST/ADVISORY NUMBER 1
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL EP032012
0300 UTC THU JUN 14 2012

CHANGES IN WATCHES AND WARNINGS WITH THIS ADVISORY...

THE GOVERNMENT OF MEXICO HAS ISSUED A HURRICANE WATCH FOR THE
SOUTHERN COAST OF MEXICO FROM BARRA DE TONALA WESTWARD TO PUNTA
MALDONADO.

SUMMARY OF WATCHES AND WARNINGS IN EFFECT...

A HURRICANE WATCH IS IN EFFECT FOR...
* BARRA DE TONALA TO PUNTA MALDONADO

A HURRICANE WATCH MEANS THAT HURRICANE CONDITIONS ARE POSSIBLE
WITHIN THE WATCH AREA. A WATCH IS TYPICALLY ISSUED 48 HOURS
BEFORE THE ANTICIPATED FIRST OCCURRENCE OF TROPICAL-STORM-FORCE
WINDS...CONDITIONS THAT MAKE OUTSIDE PREPARATIONS DIFFICULT OR
DANGEROUS.

TROPICAL DEPRESSION CENTER LOCATED NEAR 9.4N 92.4W AT 14/0300Z
POSITION ACCURATE WITHIN 30 NM

PRESENT MOVEMENT TOWARD THE NORTHWEST OR 305 DEGREES AT 8 KT

ESTIMATED MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE 1004 MB
MAX SUSTAINED WINDS 30 KT WITH GUSTS TO 40 KT.
WINDS AND SEAS VARY GREATLY IN EACH QUADRANT. RADII IN NAUTICAL
MILES ARE THE LARGEST RADII EXPECTED ANYWHERE IN THAT QUADRANT.

REPEAT...CENTER LOCATED NEAR 9.4N 92.4W AT 14/0300Z
AT 14/0000Z CENTER WAS LOCATED NEAR 9.0N 92.2W

FORECAST VALID 14/1200Z 10.3N 93.2W
MAX WIND 35 KT...GUSTS 45 KT.
34 KT... 50NE 0SE 0SW 50NW.

FORECAST VALID 15/0000Z 11.9N 94.3W
MAX WIND 45 KT...GUSTS 55 KT.
34 KT... 60NE 40SE 0SW 60NW.

FORECAST VALID 15/1200Z 13.5N 95.4W
MAX WIND 55 KT...GUSTS 65 KT.
50 KT... 30NE 20SE 0SW 30NW.
34 KT... 70NE 60SE 30SW 70NW.

FORECAST VALID 16/0000Z 15.0N 96.2W
MAX WIND 65 KT...GUSTS 80 KT.
50 KT... 40NE 30SE 20SW 40NW.
34 KT... 80NE 70SE 50SW 80NW.

FORECAST VALID 17/0000Z 17.2N 97.5W...INLAND
MAX WIND 30 KT...GUSTS 40 KT.

EXTENDED OUTLOOK. NOTE...ERRORS FOR TRACK HAVE AVERAGED NEAR 200 NM
ON DAY 4 AND 250 NM ON DAY 5...AND FOR INTENSITY NEAR 20 KT EACH DAY

OUTLOOK VALID 18/0000Z...DISSIPATED

REQUEST FOR 3 HOURLY SHIP REPORTS WITHIN 300 MILES OF 9.4N 92.4W

NEXT ADVISORY AT 14/0900Z

$$
FORECASTER BROWN/BERG
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32863
Another drier weather pattern will be returning to Florida this weekend into next week, models have been trending drier and drier, what the heck? We just got into a wetter pattern how could drought weather be returning again? A cold front followed by deep layered high pressure? This is supposed to be June not March...

Hopefully the models will back off this solution as time heads on...
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:




models are meant to be used for guidance purposes only and donot depict final outcome to any one single event things can and will change.


N.S.S.
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This was a real shower SE of the NWS site, saw the low base cumulus and was wondering earlier what they were up to....


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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:




models are meant to be used for guidance purposes only and donot depict final outcome to any one single event things can and will change.


It all boils down to one thing, a GOM storm is imminent according to models, where it is, is a mystery
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Well yeah, of course they won't. You've only ever been through a Category 1.

Wait until Category 3 and higher.


I don't think the heavy stuff is going to come down in quite a while now.
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Quoting Chucktown:


Not if that strong trough is present like the GFS is showing, the storm will be whisked NE and make landfall somewhere between New Orleans and the FL panhandle.




models are meant to be used for guidance purposes only and donot depict final outcome to any one single event things can and will change.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56141
No upgrade to TD 3E yet
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Quoting Stormchaser121:

They dont scare me really...

Well yeah, of course they won't. You've only ever been through a Category 1.

Wait until Category 3 and higher.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32863
Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:


Thats what popcorn is for, a troll in here is like throwing a wasp in a room of kids. Everyone freaks out and over reacts causing some to get stung while they should just ignore it. Alas most of the the time the over reaction is more fun to watch.
Agree I was just stating of what I see I really love this blog;) you people make me laugh a lot when all of you fight with trolls.
Member Since: October 15, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 4467
Quoting nofailsafe:


The mental image of that just puts a wicked grin on my face.


As I was typing it, I had one as well. Just watching them cower, run away and scream.
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Quoting aislinnpaps:


Not much of one. Blew up over night. If you ever go through a real one, a serious one, you won't be wishing for another.

They dont scare me really...
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Quoting Stormchaser121:

One...Humberto 2007


Not much of one. Blew up over night. If you ever go through a real one, a serious one, you won't be wishing for another.
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Quoting aislinnpaps:


Have you ever been through a hurricane?

One...Humberto 2007
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Quoting nofailsafe:


I suppose if anything did happen it could just Don out and then there'd be a lot of people all upset over something but nothing in particular.


But isn't that the norm a good part of the time?
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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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