The odds of a hurricane spoiling the Republican National Convention in Tampa

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:48 PM GMT on August 14, 2012

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On September 25, 1848, the Great Gale of 1848, the most violent hurricane in Tampa's history, roared ashore as a Category 3 or 4 hurricane with 115 - 135 mph winds. Major R. D. S. Wade weathered the storm in Fort Brooke, in what is now downtown Tampa. Here is what he wrote this to his commanding officer in Washington D.C.: "The waters rose to an unprecedented height, and the waves swept away the wharves and all the buildings that were near the Bay or river." A 15-foot storm surge was observed at Fort Brooke, and the peninsula where St. Petersburg lies in Pinellas County was inundated "at the waist" and "the bays met," making St. Petersburg an island. After the hurricane, "Tampa was a scene of devastation. Magnificent old oaks were toppled by the hurricane's winds. At Fort Brooke the barracks, horse shed, and other structures were gone. The pine forest north of the garrison was filled with wreckage and debris. The hurricane's powerful surge had shifted sand all along the coast and reshaped many of the keys near Tampa Bay. Navigation routes were filled in and closed, making charts of the area produced before 1848 almost useless after the hurricane. In terms of intensity and destruction, the 1848 storm remains perhaps the greatest in Tampa's history" (Barnes, 1999.)


Figure 1. Pencil sketch of the Captains' Quarters, drawn by one of the officers stationed at Fort Brooke in 1845. Fort Brooke was one of the largest military establishments in the United States at the time. Image Credit: The Tampa Bay History Center.

Fort Brooke today
Fort Brooke is the current site of the Tampa Bay Convention Center, which hosts the Republican National Convention on August 27 - 30 this year. The convention center is in Evacuation Zone A, which is evacuated for Category 1 hurricanes. The Tampa Bay Times Forum and two major convention hotels--the Tampa Marriott Waterside and the Embassy Suites--are in Evacuation Zone B, which is evacuated for Category 2 hurricanes. In a worst-case Category 4 hurricane, the Convention Center could be immersed in 20 feet of water. Clearly, even a Category 1 hurricane would be enough to spoil the convention. So, what are the odds of a mass evacuation order being issued for Tampa Bay during the convention?


Figure 2. Predicted height above ground of the water from a worst-case Category 4 hurricane in the Tampa Bay region, as computed using NOAA's SLOSH storm surge model. The Tampa Bay convention center would go under 20 feet of water, and St. Petersburg would become an island, as occurred during the 1848 hurricane.


Figure 3. Perhaps the most spectacular hurricane image ever captured: view of Hurricane Elena on September 1, 1985, as seen from the Space Shuttle Discovery. At the time, Elena was a Category 3 hurricane with 125 mph winds, located just 80 miles offshore from Tampa Bay, Florida. The hurricane prompted the largest mass evacuation in Tampa Bay history.

Two mass evacuations in Tampa in the past 25 years
Two hurricanes have prompted mass evacuations of more than 300,000 people from the Tampa Bay area over the past 25 years. The first was Hurricane Elena of 1985, a Category 3 hurricane that stalled 80 miles offshore for two days on Labor Day weekend, bringing a 6 - 7 foot storm surge, wind gusts of 80 mph, and torrential rains. On August 13, 2004, another mass evacuation was ordered for Hurricane Charley. Thanks to a late track shift, Charley missed Tampa Bay, and instead hit well to the south in Port Charlotte as a Category 4 storm with 150 mph winds. More limited evacuations of low-lying areas and mobile homes in the 4-county Tampa Bay region were ordered for three other hurricanes in the past fifteen years--Hurricane Georges of 1998, Hurricane Frances of 2004, and Hurricane Jeanne of 2004. Other historical storms which would likely trigger mass evacuations were they occur today include:

The 1921 hurricane. One of only two major hurricanes to hit Tampa, this Category 3 storm brought a storm tide of 10.5 feet.

Hurricane Easy of 1950. The hurricane parked itself over the west coast of Florida, drenching residents with record-breaking rains, and brought a 6.5 ft storm surge to Tampa Bay.


Figure 4. Damage to Bayshore Boulevard after the 1921 Tampa Bay hurricane. The road leads to the Tampa Bay Convention Center from the south.


Figure 5. Track of the Tampa Bay Hurricane of 1921, one of only two major hurricanes ever to hit the city. This Category 3 storm with 115 mph winds brought a storm tide of 10.5 feet to Tampa Bay.


Figure 6. A near miss: just a slight deviation in the path of Hurricane Charley of 2004 would have brought the Category 4 hurricane into Tampa Bay.

Tampa Bay's vulnerability to hurricanes
Tampa Bay doesn't get hit very often by hurricanes. The last time it suffered a direct hit by any hurricane was 1946, when a Category 1 storm came up through the bay. The Tampa Bay Hurricane of October 25, 1921 was a the last major hurricane to make landfall in the Tampa Bay Region. At that time, there were 160,000 residents in the 4-county region, most of whom lived in communities on high ground. Today there are 2.75 million residents in the region, most of whom live along the coast and low-lying areas or in manufactured housing. About 1/3 of the 4-county Tampa Bay region lies within a flood plain. Over 800,000 people live in evacuation zones for a Category 1 hurricane, and 2 million people live in evacuation zones for a Category 5 hurricane, according to the 2010 Statewide Regional Evacuation Study for the Tampa Bay Region. Given that only 46% of the people in the evacuation zones for a Category 1 hurricane evacuated when Category 4 Hurricane Charley threatened the region, the potential for hundreds or thousands of people to die when the next major hurricane hits the region is high. In the long run, I expect a multi-billion dollar sea wall will be built to protect Tampa Bay from storm surges, since sea level rise will make storm surge damages increasingly problematic. A 2007 study by Tufts University titled, Florida and Climate Change, found that a 2.25 foot increase in sea level--which many sea level rise scientists expect will happen by the end of the century--would put 152,000 people in Pinellas County (where St. Petersburg is located) at risk of inundation.

The hurricane forecast for the Republican National Convention
Given that there have been two mass evacuations of Tampa during the past 25 years during the peak three-month period of hurricane season--August, September, and October--history suggests that the odds of a mass evacuation order being given during the 4-day period that the Republican National Convention is in town are probably around 0.2%. Any tropical waves which might develop into hurricanes that could hit Tampa during the convention would have to come off the coast of Africa next week. Looking at the latest 16-day forecast from the GFS, all of the tropical waves coming off of Africa next week are predicted to exit too far north to make the long crossing of the Atlantic and threaten the Gulf Coast. While something could develop in the Gulf of Mexico from the remains of an old cold front, it is rare for such storms to grow strong enough to deserve mass evacuations. So far, early signs point to a hurricane-free Republican National Convention at the end of August.

References
Barnes, J., 1999, Florida’s Hurricane History. The University of North Carolina Press.

Weisberg, R.H, and L. Zheng, 2006, "Hurricane storm surge simulations for Tampa Bay", Estuaries and Coasts Vol 29, No. 6A, pp 899-913.

History of Pasco County: The 1921 Hurricane

The 2010 Statewide Regional Evacuation Study for the Tampa Bay Region

The Tampa Bay Catastrophic Plan for a Category 5 $250 billion hurricane

Jeff Masters

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Quoting GTcooliebai:
12z Experimental FIM at 168 hrs. 850 mb. wind:



Well, that's interesting! FIM. Isn't that a new model or one that is being tested or something? How accurate is it? GFS looks pretty boring, but it does show some development in the GOMEX 126 Hrs in the 18Z Run.

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00z GFS at 114 hrs. 500 mb heights PMSL:

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1034. Grothar
Quoting angelafritz:


Jeff's blog on TWC? Yep. They're working on getting the blog on weather.com soon. We're all looking forward to it!

Things here will remain the same, though, of course. :)


I've been waiting for some of the staff to do a blog on the NAO and its possible affect on this season's storms and its correlation to El Nino. It would be a good study. I have always thought there is much more of a causal relationship than is currently believed. If you could mention it, they might be interested.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26402
angela... it seems that dry air has been the name of the game for like 3 years now... what gives?
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1032. angelafritz (Admin)
Alright guys, keep it real. I'm out.
That's so awesome, thanks for the update.
Member Since: April 18, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 2437
Quoting Tribucanes:
Totally agree Canehunter. Would not be surprised to be back between 60-80 inches of snow this year here north of Madison. If this projects, tornado season will be back with a fury next year and flooding too. I'd much rather have a record warm winter again and not have a near record tornado season next year.


Let's hope not. I drove tru a town that was leveled by an F4 a year before and it look like if I went to a city dump. The devastation caused by tornadoes is horrible and I can only hope that we do not have an active 2013 season.
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12z Experimental FIM at 168 hrs. 850 mb. wind:

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1028. angelafritz (Admin)
Quoting Tribucanes:
Angela do you have any new information about the blog crossover and whether it's still happening?


Jeff's blog on TWC? Yep. They're working on getting the blog on weather.com soon. We're all looking forward to it!

Things here will remain the same, though, of course. :)
Angela do you have any new information about the blog crossover and whether it's still happening?
Member Since: April 18, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 2437
Quoting angelafritz:


Actually I get this question a lot and my tools are the same as your tools.


Thanks...
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Totally agree Canehunter. Would not be surprised to be back between 60-80 inches of snow this year here north of Madison. If this projects, tornado season will be back with a fury next year and flooding too. I'd much rather have a record warm winter again and not have a near record tornado season next year.
Member Since: April 18, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 2437
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1023. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting tropicfreak:
Won't be too long before we can start talking about TD 8. Despite the waning convection which probably has to do with DMIN, 93L still has a very nice structure.



much to do about nothing
worry for shipping
maybe azores
other than that not much
gale centre maybe
some rain
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 173 Comments: 54251
1022. angelafritz (Admin)
Quoting sunlinepr:
Hi Angela:

I imagine that you have as an Atmospheric Scientist many research, forecasting tools available that we the ordinary user do not have access to....

What's your pasion as a scientist and what tools do you use?

It's my curiosity...


Actually I get this question a lot and my tools are the same as your tools.

Coming to Wunderground I started to use Wundermap more. It's especially nice for tracking global TCs. Plus we have 10 days of the ECMWF deterministic run there, which you can't get anywhere else.

My other most-used sources of info are:
NESDIS
CIMSS
FSU Multi Model
FSU Cyclone Phase Evolution

And of course NHC. I have about 50 tropical bookmarks but I never use them all on one day.

And someone here introduced me to the LSU Earthscan Lab. They have some pretty nice animations.

There is very little information that I have access to that's proprietary. I do still have access to research journals through my alma mater, which is nice when I need to look up a paper.

It's all about finding the things you need in a form that you like. Data is data.
Quoting Tribucanes:
I loved my winter in SC Wisconsin last year. Warmest ever with almost record low snowfall. We received less than 40 inches of snow, which was living the dream up here. Prior three years to that, we got buried. Over 100 inches two seasons ago. Had to dig out from a couple monster blizzards. One left a nine foot high by twenty yard drift that blocked the highway I live on. Farm vehicles that remove the huge drifts wouldn't touch it. Two looked at it and left. I had to shovel it off. Been out in the middle of multiple blizzards here though, quite the amazing experience.


There's a good chance to have a 2009 repeat this year. 1972 - 1973 is a good analog to what is going on this year. Moderate to strong el niño preceded by two la niña. I guess we are about to see. Last winter was awesome for my tropical plant collection. I even got to grow two avocado trees to be strong enough to be planted. If this winter is warm enough they might make it to the point in which i will have homegrown avocados in Mississippi.
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Great to have you here Angela. When Jeff or you come on it's fun to get a perspective from the experts. When either of you comes on it also seems to boost the energy and happiness of the blog too. Thanks.
Member Since: April 18, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 2437
Won't be too long before we can start talking about TD 8. Despite the waning convection which probably has to do with DMIN, 93L still has a very nice structure.

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Quoting angelafritz:


I took three years in high school and then promptly forgot it all. Some people have a brain for second (and third, fourth...) languages. I definitely do not.


I'm with you Angela. I took two years of Spanish, then forgot 95% of it lol
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I loved my winter in SC Wisconsin last year. Warmest ever with almost record low snowfall. We received less than 40 inches of snow, which was living the dream up here. Prior three years to that, we got buried. Over 100 inches two seasons ago. Had to dig out from a couple monster blizzards. One left a nine foot high by twenty yard drift that blocked the highway I live on. Farm vehicles that remove the huge drifts wouldn't touch it. Two looked at it and left. I had to shovel it off. Been out in the middle of multiple blizzards here though, quite the amazing experience.
Member Since: April 18, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 2437
Hi Angela:

I imagine that you have as an Atmospheric Scientist many research, forecasting tools available that we the ordinary user do not have access to....

What's your pasion as a scientist and what tools do you use?

It's my curiosity...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1015. angelafritz (Admin)
I haven't seen any discussion this year on the dry air, beyond the fact that it's been mitigating wave development. There are papers out there that link African drought to fewer hurricanes, but it's a chicken or egg problem. Are there fewer hurricanes because of the drought? Or is there a drought because there are fewer rainy waves?
Quoting Tribucanes:
What's your prognostication Angela on the remainder of the season? Dry air going to be an inhibitor for the foreseeable future or will it break giving more southern waves off of Africa a chance to be long track monsters?

Not Angela but rest of season should be dead with all the factors weighed in with el nino
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1013. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting Grothar:


Sorry. I thought at your age you need additional rest. You haven't been posting much. Have any good color shots of the feature currently over Africa. No black and white please. Reminds me too much of the Twilight Zone.


has not been much to post about
unless you want some colour images of dry air


new full disk
is in
about 20 mins or so
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 173 Comments: 54251
Well, since SAL is a party pooper this hurricane season I figure I post a link for the 2012 - 2013 winter outlook. It seems that this will be a cold one for the southeast, so expect food prices to go up due to failed crops if this pans out. And we are in trouble already because of the drought.

Link
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Quoting Grothar:


Some really cold cloud tops with that!

Looks beautiful.... lets see when it reaches the water....
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Slim to none? So just crush my prognostication from earlier, thanks Angela. No really, now I won't repeat it anymore. :)
Member Since: April 18, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 2437
What's your prognostication Angela on the remainder of the season? Dry air going to be an inhibitor for the foreseeable future or will it break giving more southern waves off of Africa a chance to be long track monsters?
Member Since: April 18, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 2437
1008. angelafritz (Admin)
Quoting xtremeweathertracker:


Angela what are your thoughts on the possible Gulf of Mexico development..if any??


Slim to none, it seems.
1007. Grothar
Quoting sunlinepr:


Some really cold cloud tops with that!
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26402
1006. Grothar
Quoting angelafritz:
Dry air seems to be the name of the game this year in the Atlantic, huh.


Is there any scientific cause of the unusual dry air in the Atlantic this year? It really has not been addressed anywhere.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26402
Quoting angelafritz:


I took three years in high school and then promptly forgot it all. Some people have a brain for second (and third, fourth...) languages. I definitely do not.


Angela what are your thoughts on the possible Gulf of Mexico development..if any??
Member Since: May 31, 2011 Posts: 57 Comments: 572
1004. angelafritz (Admin)
Quoting Grothar:


Angela, I hope you don't mind a personal question. Do you speak German?


I took three years in high school and then promptly forgot it all. Some people have a brain for second (and third, fourth...) languages. I definitely do not.
1003. Grothar
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:


i was sayin good nite to kman and pottery gro
iam here for awhile yet
waiting on next full disk
and the two



Sorry. I thought at your age you need additional rest. You haven't been posting much. Have any good color shots of the feature currently over Africa. No black and white please. Reminds me too much of the Twilight Zone.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26402
I just noticed this blog entry so I thought I'd read a bit and add my thoughts...
#822 ends with this, "But oddly enough, in spite of the risk over the years, no major presidential year nominating convention has so far ever been canceled or directly impacted by a tropical cyclone, to my knowledge, in spite of the fact that they always happen during hurricane season."

Could the reason be that there's already enough Hot Air and already to many Blow Hards in town that any self respecting Hurricane wouldn't dare attempt to upstage a convention?
Very Possibly!
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1001. angelafritz (Admin)
Dry air seems to be the name of the game this year in the Atlantic, huh.
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Quoting angelafritz:


That rover is a cute little guy. Im a sucker for science.


Angela, I hope you don't mind a personal question. Do you speak German?
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26402
Let's all...

DO a SCIENCE!

: )
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Good evening! I am enjoying reading the blog tonight but I caution those of you giving up on the season already. It is early!! Patience goes a long way.

Watch for:
1) "homegrown" storms. The GOMEX is a boiling pot and it is unreasonable to think majors can't spin up quickly. Ex. Katrina

2) Very strong Cape Verde storms. These will get dangerously close to the East coast before recurving due to troughing. Timing could affect these storms and bad timing could result in a landfall.

---The Caribbean is probably closed for business. But depends on the where the "homegrowns" begin to brew. I don't foresee a major affecting the islands, though.

--"Homegrowns" will brew at the tail end of stalled fronts, which will start occurring quite frequently. Watch the GOMEX this weekend for the first example. These fronts have been unusually strong for August and dipping further South.

--Get your eyes off the ITCZ issues.....instead pay attention to fronts, troughing, and the strength and placement of storms as they emerge off the African coast.

--The MJO is returning.

--Until a storm actually forms, use the models as hints. That is all!

The show is about to begin!
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996. angelafritz (Admin)
Quoting CaicosRetiredSailor:
Aha....
I saw Angela fraternizing with a Martian:


SarcasticRover
@SarcasticRover
I appreciate NASA trying to cover all bases, but I can't imagine under what circumstances I'll ever use these Encarta CDs.
1 hour ago via Twitter for Mac



Angela Fritz
@angelafritz
@SarcasticRover I LOVED Encarta! ...In 1996.
44 minutes ago via Twitter for iPhone


: )


That rover is a cute little guy. Im a sucker for science.
.
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Interesting infographic and story from mashable asking if a hurricane could take down the internet.


Link
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Quoting Tazmanian:





Your point is? We seen that all ready


My point being that we are not in an El Nino period yet....we are still ENSO neutral. I am sorry if this was posted previously, and I just took up space on the server......
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Quoting Grothar:



Nite KEEP


i was sayin good nite to kman and pottery gro
iam here for awhile yet
waiting on next full disk
and the two

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 173 Comments: 54251
Quoting Levi32:


The historical burst of storms in May and June is likely the reason. Their forecast for activity during the peak of the season didn't change.
just curious. ive noticed the 3.4 and 4 regions have warmed some but the 1+2 region has been cooling off a bit. this a sign of a modoki?
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Quoting Sangria:
EL NIÑO/SOUTHERN OSCILLATION (ENSO)
DIAGNOSTIC DISCUSSION
issued by
CLIMATE PREDICTION CENTER/NCEP
and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society
9 August 2012


ENSO Alert System Status: El Niño Watch


Synopsis: El Niño conditions are likely to develop during August or September 2012.

ENSO-neutral conditions continued during July 2012 despite above-average sea surface temperatures (SST) across the eastern Pacific Ocean (Fig. 1). Reflecting this warmth, most of the weekly Niño index values remained near or greater than +0.5oC (Fig. 2). The oceanic heat content anomalies (average temperature in the upper 300m of the ocean) also remained elevated during the month (Fig. 3), consistent with a large region of above-average temperatures at depth across the equatorial Pacific (Fig. 4). Although sub-surface and surface temperatures were above average, many aspects of the tropical atmosphere were inconsistent with El Niño conditions. Upper-level and low-level trade winds were near average along the equator, while tropical convection remained enhanced over Indonesia (Fig. 5). However, convection increased near and just west of the International Date Line, which may eventually reflect a progression towards El Niño. The lack of a clear atmospheric response to the positive oceanic anomalies indicates ongoing ENSO-neutral conditions.

Nearly all of the dynamical models favor the onset of El Niño beginning in July - September 2012 (Fig. 6). As in previous months, several statistical models predict ENSO-neutral conditions through the remainder of the year, but the average statistical forecast of Niño-3.4 increased compared to last month. Supported by model forecasts and the continued warmth across the Pacific Ocean, there is increased confidence for a weak-to-moderate El Niño during the Northern Hemisphere fall and winter 2012-13. El Niño conditions are likely to develop during August or September 2012 (see CPC/IRI consensus forecast).

This discussion is a consolidated effort of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA's National Weather Service, and their funded institutions. Oceanic and atmospheric conditions are updated weekly on the Climate Prediction Center web site (El Niño/La Niña Current Conditions and Expert Discussions). Forecasts for the evolution of El Niño/La Niña are updated monthly in the Forecast Forum section of CPC's Climate Diagnostics Bulletin. The next ENSO Diagnostics Discussion is scheduled for 6 September 2012. To receive an e-mail notification when the monthly ENSO Diagnostic Discussions are released, please send an e-mail message to: ncep.list.enso-update@noaa.gov.





Your point is? We seen that all ready
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Aha....
I saw Angela fraternizing with a Martian:


SarcasticRover
@SarcasticRover
I appreciate NASA trying to cover all bases, but I can't imagine under what circumstances I'll ever use these Encarta CDs.
1 hour ago via Twitter for Mac



Angela Fritz
@angelafritz
@SarcasticRover I LOVED Encarta! ...In 1996.
44 minutes ago via Twitter for iPhone


: )
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
etxwx, thanks, I really like all the worldly info you provide.
Member Since: April 18, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 2437
EL NIÑO/SOUTHERN OSCILLATION (ENSO)
DIAGNOSTIC DISCUSSION
issued by
CLIMATE PREDICTION CENTER/NCEP
and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society
9 August 2012


ENSO Alert System Status: El Niño Watch


Synopsis: El Niño conditions are likely to develop during August or September 2012.

ENSO-neutral conditions continued during July 2012 despite above-average sea surface temperatures (SST) across the eastern Pacific Ocean (Fig. 1). Reflecting this warmth, most of the weekly Niño index values remained near or greater than +0.5oC (Fig. 2). The oceanic heat content anomalies (average temperature in the upper 300m of the ocean) also remained elevated during the month (Fig. 3), consistent with a large region of above-average temperatures at depth across the equatorial Pacific (Fig. 4). Although sub-surface and surface temperatures were above average, many aspects of the tropical atmosphere were inconsistent with El Niño conditions. Upper-level and low-level trade winds were near average along the equator, while tropical convection remained enhanced over Indonesia (Fig. 5). However, convection increased near and just west of the International Date Line, which may eventually reflect a progression towards El Niño. The lack of a clear atmospheric response to the positive oceanic anomalies indicates ongoing ENSO-neutral conditions.

Nearly all of the dynamical models favor the onset of El Niño beginning in July - September 2012 (Fig. 6). As in previous months, several statistical models predict ENSO-neutral conditions through the remainder of the year, but the average statistical forecast of Niño-3.4 increased compared to last month. Supported by model forecasts and the continued warmth across the Pacific Ocean, there is increased confidence for a weak-to-moderate El Niño during the Northern Hemisphere fall and winter 2012-13. El Niño conditions are likely to develop during August or September 2012 (see CPC/IRI consensus forecast).

This discussion is a consolidated effort of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA's National Weather Service, and their funded institutions. Oceanic and atmospheric conditions are updated weekly on the Climate Prediction Center web site (El Niño/La Niña Current Conditions and Expert Discussions). Forecasts for the evolution of El Niño/La Niña are updated monthly in the Forecast Forum section of CPC's Climate Diagnostics Bulletin. The next ENSO Diagnostics Discussion is scheduled for 6 September 2012. To receive an e-mail notification when the monthly ENSO Diagnostic Discussions are released, please send an e-mail message to: ncep.list.enso-update@noaa.gov.
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Quoting Tribucanes:
Dragod66, congrats, see you had your first doppelganger in chat today.


come to weather chat... ill tell ya all about it lol
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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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