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 Tribucanes:
Washingtonian my daughter is 3. :) Good times.
Mine is also a she.I brought her one of those dress play necklaces and she refused to take it off until I tricked her.Lol.She seems to be not forgetting that.
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Quoting allancalderini:
Just came to say that I will not be in here as I had been beacause tomorrow I start my junior year.wish me luck please I am so nervous and excited at the same time.


High School or College?
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It would make me VERY happy to have ten or more years of "boring" hurricane seasons!
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Washingtonian my daughter is 3. :) Good times.
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i think the ecw and gfs have been drinking too many beer
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My three year old is sitting beside me and talking my ear off.A bunch of non sense.Lol.
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Just came to say that I will not be in here as I had been beacause tomorrow I start my junior year.wish me luck please I am so nervous and excited at the same time.
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Quoting kmanislander:


This is not the frist time I have said this. I do believe this season will have an early end.

I'm easy with that.
But I'm getting concerned with the rainfall petering out too early, leaving us with a long DrySeason...
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Quoting kmanislander:


La Nina ?. That would be a surprise. At best neutral but more likely a weak El Nino.


I think they put La Nina and El Nino backwards... It happens! I myself have done it before!
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I don't know what's coming, but our local met said we could be "ankle deep in water" next week. Sent me back to the blog to see what's going on. The speculation of something in the GOM next week is a little unnerving. But we haven't had significant rain in months, so a weak wave with lots of rain would be nice.
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Quoting kmanislander:


La Nina ?. That would be a surprise. At best neutral but more likely a weak El Nino.

You have any thoughts on the ITCZ being so far south as it crosses the sea to SA ?
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Season is just in a temporary lull. NHC didn't up their forecast for nothing. Plenty of conditions out there that suggest we'll see 7-11 more named storms. SAL will be lessening and waves entering father south. Steering currents still conducive for landfalling storms. Multiple or more homegrowns certainly not out of the question. kmanislander you may well be right, not saying your not. Just saying imo way too early to tell what the rest of August and September will bring. I hope your right though. As much as I am awed by the big landfalling disasters, I'd just as well not. Majors becoming fishies is just fine by me.
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Quoting pottery:

Well, that should wake the blog up !

:):))


This is not the frist time I have said this. I do believe this season will have an early end.
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Sorry Levi.I have to disagree with you on this season being a El nino hurricane season since day one :).Even though i would agree that trade winds have been above average in the caribbean a sure sign of El nino.Everything else seems about average except for vertical instability which was also a problem in 2011 which was a La nina year.
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Quoting pcola57:


I personally believe we in this basin are still transitioning from El Nion to La Nina right now so I am inclined we should and probably be more active in a few days,,in your part of the world and in the GOM..JMO.. :)


La Nina ?. That would be a surprise. At best neutral but more likely a weak El Nino.
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Quoting kmanislander:


A very detailed and well reasoned response. I would say this about 2011. There were several systems but all weak and inconsequential. 13 of the systems were cyclones of little potency.

This month had Ernesto that managed to get fired up right at the end. TD7 was a damp squib and 93L is a blip on the map. Two weeks remain in the month and cyclogenesis for anything other than 93L is at least several days away.


Thanks! I do agree with your comment that we could be facing a seasonal shutdown in October. This is typical of El Nino years, but I do suspect that we could have some sort of event like Ida in 2009.
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Quoting pottery:

Well, that should wake the blog up !

:):))


That would wake up Rincon... and the surfing season.... counting the days...

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Quoting seer2012:
Another thing I have been observing is the moisture flow off of India and S.E. Asia.The tw's in Africa right now were massive surges of moisture that originated there about a week ago.Speaking of a shifting, the exit point off of India looks to be moving further south also and looks to be weakening(less moisture).The tw developement in Africa the next 2 weeks may not be what everyone is expecting for this time of year.

You think it will be substantially less?
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Quoting CybrTeddy:


Hey Kman! Well, I wouldn't say 3rd year.. as 2010 was quite active and had some very impressive hurricanes. But, I'm going to have to disagree that we're in for an inactive August. True, vertical instability is low in the MDR - but shear is about average for what we usually get. Throughout the tropical Atlantic, shear is quite about average.


You're opinion though on the vertical instability is quite accurate though. We are running very below average, but 2011 was also and yet it still managed to crank out quite a few named storms. This is probably thanks to the drought Africa has been facing over the last few months, causing massive SAL outbreaks. Another factor is that the African wave belt seems to be cranking out waves at a much higher latitude - causing storms to suck in dry air (93L)


However, it appears we are actually in for at least two named storms this month and perhaps more. The GFS and ECMWF both agree now that 93L will become a tropical cyclone, while no real threat to land. The operational and ensemble runs have both been showing also a portion of TD7's moisture splitting off into the GOMEX and merging with perhaps a frontal low and causing increased moisture, possibly even a tropical depression or weak tropical storm.

The Euro and the GFS are now both saying that there is a possibility of our long-track Cape Verde hurricane developing late this week. After that, the GFS has been constantly showing wave after wave of storms developing - while past 240 hours should be disregarded for forecasting they do provide an insight as to whether we're in for an active period or not. I suspect that the GFS is right and that we could be seeing an interesting amount of activity for an El Nino year.

Finally, we have the ENSO factor, looking closely into the El Nino anomalies you will see that while in the Central Pacific, anomalies continue to warm - the 1 2 region of the ENSO has collapsed completely back into the cool range. This is similar in some ways to a Modoki El Nino.




A very detailed and well reasoned response. I would say this about 2011. There were several systems but mostly weak and inconsequential other than a handful of hurricanes. 13 of the systems were cyclones of little potency.

This month had Ernesto that managed to get fired up right at the end. TD7 was a damp squib and 93L is a blip on the map. Two weeks remain in the month and cyclogenesis for anything other than 93L is at least several days away.
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Another thing I have been observing is the moisture flow off of India and S.E. Asia.The tw's in Africa right now were massive surges of moisture that originated there about a week ago.Speaking of a shifting, the exit point off of India looks to be moving further south also and looks to be weakening(less moisture).The tw developement in Africa the next 2 weeks may not be what everyone is expecting for this time of year.
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916. etxwx
Close call here...happy ending.

Senior German climber rescued alive after trapped for one week in glacier
VIENNA, Aug. 14 (Xinhua) -- A 70-year-old German alpinist was trapped in an ice crevasse for about a week at the Tyrolean Schrankogel in southwestern Austria before being rescued by emergency services personnel on Tuesday.

The man was only slightly injured in the accident, though suffered from hypothermia and exhaustion, an Alpine police officer told the APA.
He was then airlifted by helicopter to the University Hospital of Innsbruck.

By his own account the German set off on his trek about a week ago from the Westfalenhaus in the Stubaier Alps, where at an altitude of about 3000 meters he fell into the 20-meter deep crevasse.

He tried to cross a bridge made of snow, which then gave way. His cries for help were eventually heard by other alpinists, and emergency services were contacted shortly after midday on Tuesday.

"He was very lucky to survive," the Alpine police officer said.
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There is no delay between the current El Nino and its effects on the Atlantic. This has been an El Nino-shaped season from Day 1. There is no lag.
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Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:


And the big wave caused massive floodings in Nigeria that caused 28 deaths.

Link


Also there are at least,at last count they said, 20 more missing..this is a bad news storm..
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Quoting kmanislander:


93L will likely be a weak and somewhat far removed system of no interest to anyone other than perhaps shipping. The models have been blowing hot and cold between major hurricanes and nothing in the MDR.

The GOM is a possibility but even there we are looking at a week out. Conditions are unusually quiet and dry air seems to be everywhere.

This looks to be a season that may shut down early around the first 10 days of October.

Well, that should wake the blog up !

:):))
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Just so you know, that lightning count is within 20 minutes time ;)

Those positive stroke totals is what scares me, positive stroke lightning is freaky and I've seen the damage it does first hand.
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Ya Pcola57, Jeff hinted at Gulf formation with his post yesterday or the day before. Didn't start looking there until I read his post on it. Seems things are coming to that possibility. Still too early to tell, but I think the next two days will be interesting to watch in the area. I've gone with the Central Gulf because there has been a ULL/MLL trying to form there for 50+hours and the area of the Central Gulf is very stagnant for currents. Same energy keeps sitting there with a little spin visible over the last 48. I am very much a ROOKIE when it comes to this though. Love the study of it though, quite a bit like golf. Always more to learn and very humbling game and study.
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Reading about the wrath of hurricanes in the past, it is very scary to me who lives in Evac C just N of Tarpon Springs in Tampa Bay, appx 1.2 mi from the GOM. I remember the scare from Charley, and Jeanne got us but good (out of my home for 11 months while it was repaired) ans it came from the east. But, fingers crossed always helps, right?
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:


we only got till sept 16
after which the effects of el nino
however weak or strong
will begin to catch up


I tend to agree with you, unless something drastic happens to forestall that process
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Quoting Tribucanes:
We will imo see another system before another week passes kmanislander. I think seeing two named storms before the next seven days pass is not out of the question. 93L will probably make it to named status and I'm really feeling something developing in the Gulf over the next week.


93L will likely be a weak and somewhat far removed system of no interest to anyone other than perhaps shipping. The models have been blowing hot and cold between major hurricanes and nothing in the MDR.

The GOM is a possibility but even there we are looking at a week out. Conditions are unusually quiet and dry air seems to be everywhere.

This looks to be a season that may shut down early around the first 10 days of October.
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Quoting kmanislander:
Good evening

With ex TD7 exiting stage left and nothing of consequence on the horizon August is starting to look like a relatively quiet month in the tropics. At the midway point in the month the next system is at least a week away and possibly more.

This is the third year in a row of dry air in the MDR,high shear values and lower than climo vertical instability. With El Nino knocking on the door will the season really be more active than previously forecast or less so ??.



Hey Kman! Well, I wouldn't say 3rd year.. as 2010 was quite active and had some very impressive hurricanes. But, I'm going to have to disagree that we're in for an inactive August. True, vertical instability is low in the MDR - but shear is about average for what we usually get. Throughout the tropical Atlantic, shear is quite about average.


You're opinion though on the vertical instability is quite accurate though. We are running very below average, but 2011 was also and yet it still managed to crank out quite a few named storms. This is probably thanks to the drought Africa has been facing over the last few months, causing massive SAL outbreaks. Another factor is that the African wave belt seems to be cranking out waves at a much higher latitude - causing storms to suck in dry air (93L)


However, it appears we are actually in for at least two named storms this month and perhaps more. The GFS and ECMWF both agree now that 93L will become a tropical cyclone, while no real threat to land. The operational and ensemble runs have both been showing also a portion of TD7's moisture splitting off into the GOMEX and merging with perhaps a frontal low and causing increased moisture, possibly even a tropical depression or weak tropical storm.

The Euro and the GFS are now both saying that there is a possibility of our long-track Cape Verde hurricane developing late this week. After that, the GFS has been constantly showing wave after wave of storms developing - while past 240 hours should be disregarded for forecasting they do provide an insight as to whether we're in for an active period or not. I suspect that the GFS is right and that we could be seeing an interesting amount of activity for an El Nino year.

Finally, we have the ENSO factor, looking closely into the El Nino anomalies you will see that while in the Central Pacific, anomalies continue to warm - the 1 2 region of the ENSO has collapsed completely back into the cool range. This is similar in some ways to a Modoki El Nino.


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Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:


And the big wave caused massive floodings in Nigeria that caused 28 deaths.

Link

That is a monster.

Doc seems to think it's too high to affect Tampa.
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Quoting kmanislander:
Good evening

With ex TD7 exiting stage left and nothing of consequence on the horizon August is starting to look like a relatively quiet month in the tropics. At the midway point in the month the next system is at least a week away and possibly more.

This is the third year in a row of dry air in the MDR,high shear values and lower than climo vertical instability. With El Nino knocking on the door will the season really be more active than previously forecast or less so ??.



I personally believe we in this basin are still transitioning from El Nion to La Nina right now so I am inclined we should and probably be more active in a few days,,in your part of the world and in the GOM..JMO.. :)
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Quoting kmanislander:
Good evening

With ex TD7 exiting stage left and nothing of consequence on the horizon August is starting to look like a relatively quiet month in the tropics. At the midway point in the month the next system is at least a week away and possibly more.

This is the third year in a row of dry air in the MDR,high shear values and lower than climo vertical instability. With El Nino knocking on the door will the season really be more active than previously forecast or less so ??.



we only got till sept 16
after which the effects of el nino
however weak or strong
will begin to catch up
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We will imo see another system before another week passes kmanislander. I think seeing two named storms before the next seven days pass is not out of the question. 93L will probably make it to named status and I'm really feeling something developing in the Gulf over the next week.
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Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:


And the big wave caused massive floodings in Nigeria that caused 28 deaths.

Link

With many more missing...
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Quoting Chicklit:
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... JM



omg...look what's headed to the Republican National Convention...

(
it's a joke, Son)


"It's a joke, Son" isn't a condom for political debate spawning. Don't do it, we've been there already today.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 614
North USA v. South USA debate in the chat...
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32721
Quoting washingtonian115:
That fat wave has a low with it.We'll well i'll see how it fairs when it comes off.


And the big wave caused massive floodings in Nigeria that caused 28 deaths.

Link
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Quoting Tribucanes:
Been saying for a couple days now that the Central Gulf is priming for some formation. Still think that energy has been getting backed into the Central Gulf area. Energy there hasn't been pushed in any direction and something is slowly trying to manifest. Thought maybe we'd see some convection in the area today. While there was none today, over the next 48/72, I think that many well change.


Thats what Dr. Masters said except not in the central GOM..just GOM generally speaking..
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Quoting seer2012:
The same thing seems to be happening in the Indian Ocean.Been seeing a gradual shift south yet when getting to Africa it jumps back up.There appears though that a subtle shift south in Africa may be beginning????

Not sure.
Would be fun to hear from Dr. Masters on this.

It's very peculiar, to me.
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Quoting aspectre:
Still no 15August12amGMT ATCF report, BUT TropicalWaveSeven had a spin
centered at ~15.0n83.5w for 14August6pmGMT, and at ~14.1n85.2w for 15August12amGMT

Can't trust those maps for weak systems. They are produced by a technique that assumes the data represents a tropical cyclone. For instance, the surface winds are derived by projecting mid level winds to the surface. I'm not sure the mid level representation is accurate either for systems that are not tropical cyclones. Maybe, maybe not.
Member Since: May 18, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 6147
Good evening

With ex TD7 exiting stage left and nothing of consequence on the horizon August is starting to look like a relatively quiet month in the tropics. At the midway point in the month the next system is at least a week away and possibly more.

This is the third year in a row of dry air in the MDR,high shear values and lower than climo vertical instability. With El Nino knocking on the door will the season really be more active than previously forecast or less so ??.

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Quoting CaicosRetiredSailor:
That fat wave has a low with it.We'll see well i'll see how it fairs when it comes off.
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Quoting Abacosurf:
MJO has really gone capput....much weaker than before forecast


Worth nothing that even though MJO is a beneficiary to development of cyclones for a moist environment - it becomes less of a factor once we approach the heart of the season like we are now. Ernesto, Florence, and TD7 all developed in a downward MJO phase.
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Quoting Tribucanes:
Been saying for a couple days now that the Central Gulf is priming for some formation. Still think that energy has been getting backed into the Central Gulf area. Energy there hasn't been pushed in any direction and something is slowly trying to manifest. Thought maybe we'd see some convection in the area today. While there was none today, over the next 48/72, I think that many well change.


Frankly i agree, the GOM is ready to go....im not sure where development will occur still leaning toward the BOC or near the Yucatin..lots of moisture flaring there recently!! Definitely a moist environment!!
Member Since: May 31, 2011 Posts: 57 Comments: 572
Quoting pottery:
Over Africa, the ITCZ is running between 18n-20n, which is 'normal'.
Strange to see the strong dip toward the equator across the Atl.
The same thing seems to be happening in the Indian Ocean.Been seeing a gradual shift south yet when getting to Africa it jumps back up.There appears though that a subtle shift south in Africa may be beginning????
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Been saying for a couple days now that the Central Gulf is priming for some formation. Still think that energy has been getting backed into the Central Gulf area. Energy there hasn't been pushed in any direction and something is slowly trying to manifest. Thought maybe we'd see some convection in the area today. While there was none today, over the next 48/72, I think that many well change.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

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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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