Three Atlantic threat areas may develop; a record fire season for the U.S.

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:43 PM GMT on August 20, 2012

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A large tropical wave (Invest 94L) located about 1100 miles east of the Lesser Antilles Islands is headed west at 20 - 25 mph, and is showing increasing organization today. The storm is under light wind shear of 5 - 10 knots, and is over waters of 27°C. A large area of dry air lies just to the north of 94L, as seen on the latest Saharan Air Layer (SAL) analysis and water vapor satellite loops. This dry air is interfering with development, and this morning's visible satellite loop shows that 94L's heavy thunderstorm activity is sparse. However, the satellite loops do show that 94L has now separated from the clumps of heavy thunderstorms to its south, and a pretty well-defined surface circulation has developed. Heavy thunderstorms are now attempting to fire up around this circulation center, but are being hampered by dry air. The center of 94L was about 80 miles to the north of buoy 41041 at 10 am Monday morning, and the buoy recorded SW winds of 10 mph, confirming that 94L probably does have a closed surface circulation. The disturbance will have to build and maintain more heavy thunderstorms than it has now to be considered a tropical depression, though. The first hurricane hunter mission into 94L is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.


Figure 1. Morning satellite image of Invest 94L.

Forecast for 94L
The latest 8 am EDT run of the SHIPS model predicts that wind shear will be low, 5 - 10 knots, for the next five days. Ocean temperatures will warm from 27°C this morning to 28.5°C by Wednesday morning, and the total heat content of the ocean will increase sharply during that period, as well. The main impediment to development will be dry air to the north, and the SHIPS model predicts the amount of dry air will change little over the next five days. I expect that 94L will continue to struggle with dry air through Wednesday, when it will probably have had enough time to moisten the surrounding atmosphere and protect itself against the dry air. The models have shown increasing unity in taking 94L through the Lesser Antilles on Wednesday, and I expect the storm will be a tropical depression or weak tropical storm with 40 - 50 mph winds at that time. In their 8 am EDT Tropical Weather Outlook, NHC gave 94L a 80% chance of developing into a tropical depression by Wednesday morning. None of the reliable models predict that 94L will reach hurricane strength over the next five days, and it is unlikely that 94L will be able to organize quickly enough to become anything stronger than a 60 mph tropical storm before reaching the Lesser Antilles, given the storm's current struggles with dry air, and the lack of model support for intensification. However, once 94L enters the Eastern Caribbean, wind shear will be low, oceanic heat content high, and the storm should have had enough time to moisten the atmosphere to allow steady strengthening to occur. The main factor that might prevent intensification into a hurricane late this week would be a close pass by the island of Hispaniola. Our top models for long-range 4 - 5 days forecasts all show a path for 94L very close to the island.

Will 94L hit the U.S. mainland?
This storm is a long-range threat to the U.S., as historically, 16% of storms in 94L's location have gone on to hit the U.S., with North Carolina the preferred target (10% chance.) A trough of low pressure capable of pulling 94L to the north enters Western Canada Thursday night, and the exact timing and amplitude of this trough will determine the ultimate landfall location of 94L. The long range 7 - 14 day runs of the GFS model over the past three day have all predicted an eventual landfall for 94L in the U.S., though these long-range runs are notoriously unreliable. The predicted landfall locations have ranged from New England to Texas--which isn't much help. The past three runs beginning on Sunday afternoon have all taken 94L over Florida during the August 27 - 29 time frame, which I'm sure is making organizers of the Republican National Convention uncomfortable, since the convention is in Tampa August 27 - 30. However, 94L could miss Florida completely, as the average error in model forecasts going out 7 days is in excess of 500 miles. We can't rule out a North Carolina landfall, but the pattern we've seen so far this year is for landfalls in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, so a more southwards path for 94L into the Yucatan is definitely a possibility. Also, we have that huge drought region in the Midwest, which tends to create its own high pressure bubble, which reduces the odds of storms making the turn and hitting the Central or Western Gulf Coast. If 94L makes it to the Western Caribbean, I see the two most likely options as a landfall in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula (and then westwards into Mexico south of the Texas border), or recurvature into the Florida Gulf Coast.


Figure 2. MODIS satellite image of Hurricane Gordon taken on Sunday August 19, 2012, at 11:55 am EDT. At the time, Gordon was a Category 2 hurricane with 100 mph winds. Image credit: NASA.

Gordon hits the Azores
The eye of Hurricane Gordon passed over Santa Maria Island in the eastern Azores Islands near 1:30 am EDT this morning. Gordon was a Category 1 hurricane with 75 - 80 mph winds at landfall. Winds at the Santa Maria airport reached a sustained 49 mph at 3 am EDT, but the airport did not report winds during passage of the eyewall at 1:30 am. Reuters reported that Gordon caused only minor flooding and power outages. The hurricane is being sheared apart by strong upper-level winds, and the extratropical remnants of Gordon will not bring any strong winds or significant rain to Europe.

Disturbance 95L in the Gulf near the Texas/Mexico border
A region of disturbed weather (Invest 95L) has developed in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast, just northeast of Tampico, Mexico. The disturbance is due to a trough of low pressure and its associated cold front which moved off the coast over the weekend, but has been fortified via moisture from Tropical Storm Helene, which made landfall Saturday near Tampico. If 95L were to develop into a tropical storm, it would receive a new name. In their 8 am EDT Tropical Weather Outlook, NHC gave 95L a 30% chance of developing into a tropical cyclone by Wednesday morning. An Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft is scheduled to investigate 95L this afternoon. Winds at Tampico this morning were light out of the northeast, which implies that no surface circulation is forming at this time. Radar out of Altamira, Mexico does show some banding to the precipitation echoes, though, which may be indicative of something trying to spin up. The computer models show that 95L should move little over the next few days.


Figure 3. Radar out of Altamira, Mexico at 9:45 am EDT August 20, 2012, shows some banding to the precipitation echoes in association with 95L.

Disturbance 96L off the coast of Africa
The tropical Atlantic is very busy this third week of August, and this is the week of the year that we typically see a major ramp-up of tropical storm activity in the Atlantic. A new tropical wave that emerged from the coast of Africa Sunday (Invest 96L) is headed west at 15 - 20 mph. This disturbance has a modest amount of spin and heavy thunderstorm activity, and is under a moderate 10 - 20 knots of wind shear. In their 8 am EDT Tropical Weather Outlook, NHC gave 96L a 20% chance of developing into a tropical cyclone by Wednesday morning. This disturbance does not have much model support for development.


Figure 4. The new Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite (S-NPP) carries an instrument so sensitive to low light levels that it can detect wildfires in the middle of the night. On August 17, 2012, the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on Suomi-NPP acquired this image of the wildfires blazing in Idaho. The images were created with data from the instrument’s "day-night band," which sensed the fire in the visible portion of the spectrum. The Halstead Fire, centered about 18 miles northwest of Stanley, was sparked by lightning on July 27, and is burning in an area with large numbers of trees killed by the mountain pine beetle. As of Sunday afternoon, the fire had burned 92,000 acres was only 5% contained, according to InciWeb. The fire prompted the evacuation of the town of Featherville on Saturday night. Red flag warnings for adverse fire weather were posted in the region yesterday, and temperatures reached the low 90s with 16% humidity and winds of 10 mph. Image credit: NASA.

A record fire season in the U.S.
Massive fires continue to burn in Nevada, Idaho and California, and fires that are currently active in the Western U.S. have consumed over 1.3 million acres of land--an area approximately the size of Delaware. Thanks to widespread drought and unusually high temperatures over the past month, 3 million acres have gone up in flames since mid-July, and the fire season of 2012 now ranks in first place for the most acreage burned at this point in the year. According to the Interagency Fire Center, 6.8 million acres have burned as of August 19 this year, beating the previous record set just last year (6.5 million acres for the year-to-date period.) The Interagency Fire Center shows year-to-date records just for the past ten years. The 2012 fire season is well ahead of the pace of 2006, which was the worst fire year in the U.S. for total acreage burned in a year (records began in 1960). In 2006, 9.9 million acres burned, and 6.4 million acres had burned by August 19. With drought conditions far more widespread this year compared to 2006, and the latest forecasts calling for little drought relief over the coming two months, 2012 is likely to surpass 2006 as the worst fire year in U.S. history before the end of the year.


Figure 5. Comparison of drought conditions between the previous record fire year in the contiguous U.S. (2006) with 2012. Drought is much more widespread in 2012 compared to 2006, and 2012 will likely finish ahead of 2006 for the most acreage burned since record keeping began in 1960. Image credit: U.S. Drought Monitor.

Global warming expected to increase fire activity in the Western U.S.
As I blogged about in June, the severe fire seasons of 2012 and 2011 fit the pattern of what we expect to see more of with global warming. Hotter heat waves dry out vegetation more readily, resulting in increased probability of more acreage burned. A study published in the Journal Ecosphere in June 2012 used fire models driven by the output from sixteen climate models used in the 2007 IPCC report and found that while 8% of the planet should see decreases in fire activity over the next 30 years, 38% should see increases. By the end of the century, 20% of the globe should see decreased fire activity, and 62% increased fire activity. 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.

Jeff Masters

hugh blanket of smoke (got2dogs)
blew in about an hr after my last upload here - I thought I was done for the nite, but this smoke was incredible! made for some awesome light - sooooo eerie!
hugh blanket of smoke
Smoke! What smoke ?? (saltydawgg)
12th Ave road South looking north. Nampa Idaho full of smoke from 7 fires at last count with more dry lightning on the way.
Smoke! What smoke ??
Temecula Fire (photoandy)
This is just two hours after ignition! It quickly became a PYROCUMULUS...
Temecula Fire

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Quoting txwcc:


I would keep up with each update with the NHC, at 5AM, 11AM, 5PM, and 11PM respectively.

If you begin to get within the cone or very close to it, then I would begin getting concerned. I would make preparations then.



Go earlier... less crowds more goods. besides you should get your kit together early...
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Quoting MahFL:
TD9 motion is W not WSW, thats an optical illusion due to the shear.


TD9 is moving WSW-S of due W there is no illusion and there is not enough shear to create any illusions

but anyway we will have to wait till HH flys in
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12716
Just found this from Hurricane Fran of 1996... guess I'm not as far inland as I thought I would be. I'll be screwed if a Category 4-5 ever hit directly in Myrtle Beach in future.

Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 8074
MAJOR?
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Gotta go to school
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Quoting SFLWeatherman:
TWC have it on me!!!


With 20 mph winds...
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Quoting StormTracker2K:


People made that mistake of evacuating to Orlando in 04. We had no power for 3 weeks in fact it was eary coming into work and no light across Dwontown orlando as over 880,000 in C FL where in the black. FL is flat and swampy so weaking will not be an issue as it moves inland or ride up the state.

Yeah... freaky experience to get into the greater Orlando area a day or two after Charley and find the entire area in almost complete darkness, especially when you really are supposed to be in S Florida a couple hundred miles away...

And then Orlando got Frances AND Jeanne....
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22725
Quoting AussieStorm:


Maybe a whole block will get a new tent. woooooossssssshhhhhhhhhh
There was an storm over St. Louis right after Cardinals game one day this summer. A huge tent crashed into the fans and 100 of them were hurt and couple were killed...
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 8074
Quoting AussieStorm:
What the Models are saying for TD09

GFDL 126hrs....





NOGAPS 144hrs....



HWRF 126hrs...



GFS 150hrs....



CMC 144hrs....



ECMWF 240hrs...


We have a storm on our hands...!! Any chance of a gulf storm??
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Quoting AussieStorm:


Maybe a whole block will get a new tent. woooooossssssshhhhhhhhhh


And the hurricane will say 'I un-built this'.
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:
Banding structure of the depression is impressive.


If it can sustain convection, it shouldn't have any trouble becoming a tropical storm.



looks like its trying too drag 96L a long with it
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
My forecast for this morning.



If I'm pushed one way or the other...I'd lean towards your solution being a little more likely than the NHC's initial track. A strong tropical storm or intensifying hurricane moving through the NE-ern Caribbean is going to find it pretty tough to follow the NHC/ECMWF solutions that far SW.

This assumes the intensity forecast is reasonable, and since the cyclone is still in its earliest development stages, I won't speculate further yet.
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3519. MahFL
TD9 motion is W not WSW, thats an optical illusion due to the shear.
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
My forecast from two night ago that I thought I threw away, is right with NHC... weird.



you should stick to this one
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12716
TWC have it on me!!!
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Quoting intampa:
lots and lots of HUGE TENTS in downtown tampa set up for the convention next week. i mean big tents... wonder what will happen with all that.


Maybe a whole block will get a new tent. woooooossssssshhhhhhhhhh
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Banding structure of the depression is impressive.


If it can sustain convection, it shouldn't have any trouble becoming a tropical storm.
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My forecast from two night ago that I thought I threw away, is right with NHC... weird.

Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 8074
Quoting weatherh98:


Welcome to the blog and yes I would watch it.

Welcome! Anyone from Cape Hatteras to Grand Cayman should watch it... Large uncertainty.
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3511. ncstorm
from Bryan Norcross on Facebook

A quick morning update. Tropical Depression #9 developed overnight, more or less on schedule, and looks pretty healthy this morning. We'll know more when Hurricane Hunters investigate this afternoon. All forecasts continue to show a threat to Florida as early as the weekend or more likely early next week. Most of the possible tracks at this point are over the water south of Hispaniola, although a track over the tall mountains can't be ruled out. If the system misses Hispaniola the big question becomes when the turn to the north comes, and how much the Cuban land mass can disrupt it. There is no obvious reason why it wouldn't strengthen into a hurricane by late in the week, unless it get too close to Hispaniola. The models are mixed on strengthening, but now the European model is showing a hurricane in the vicinity of Florida next week. The angle of the turn north makes a tremendous difference in where exactly the biggest effects are. Folks in the Florida Keys need to be vigilant... with possible early action require in a few days. Beyond that, the odds currently favor a higher threat to the west coast of Florida than the east, but it's too soon to be sure and tracks can change with developing systems. It would appear that a track toward the Florida east coast would mean the system went over the mountains of Hispaniola or Cuba, where a track closer to the west coast would include a track over the flatter, western part of Cuba, which often has less effect and means a stronger storm. Included in the reasonable tracks is a threat to the Tampa Bay area next week when the Republican Convention is planned. Tricky business.
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 16222
Quoting AussieStorm:


You mean like this?? LOL





yep but they fixed it now
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Quoting Chiggy:
TD9 moving WSW - clearly seen in sat images. Lot of the 00Z and 06Z models runs initializes it north of 15N and moving WNW BUT current movement in WSW as seen in the steering maps.
I like the idea of 00Z EURO more than GFS and others...
00Z EURO @ 240hrs..



and that is the reason why I said I'm expecting the forecastne to shift S and W
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12716
Quoting Gramma1948:
Hi All, new to the blog. Been watching for a while. I'm in Myrtle Beach, SC should I be concerned with the new TD?


Welcome to the blog and yes I would watch it.
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Quoting Gramma1948:
Hi All, new to the blog. Been watching for a while. I'm in Myrtle Beach, SC should I be concerned with the new TD?
Too early, but keep tracking of this storm! This can be a huge threat from Florida to SE USA
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 8074
3505. MahFL
Quoting intampa:
lots and lots of HUGE TENTS in downtown tampa set up for the convention next week. i mean big tents... wonder what will happen with all that.


Woosh ! is what will happen.....
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I said since yesterday 96L would be a depression by tonight. Maybe I'll be right for once :)
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What the Models are saying for TD09

GFDL 126hrs....





NOGAPS 144hrs....



HWRF 126hrs...



GFS 150hrs....



CMC 144hrs....



ECMWF 240hrs...

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From WPTV NEWS
Tropical Depression #9 forms in the Atlantic and may impact South Florida early next week
Link
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3501. WxLogic
Good Morning
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This is my video blog for Tuesday Link
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Quoting weatherh98:


Yes


Not necessarily.

That's a total misconception and over-generalization.
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Quoting atmosweather:


Orlando is 50 miles inland from the east coast of Florida (the Space Coast) and around 100 miles away from the closest point on the west coast (north of Tampa/St. Petersburg). Fortunately for Orlando to get any significant and dangerous tropical impacts, a tropical system pretty much has to take one of 2 tracks, a Frances/Jeanne type scenario, since storms do not often cross directly west to east over the state.

Tracks similar to hurricanes Charley or Wilma are more likely to occur from landfalling tropical cyclones in Florida, but Orlando would be between 100 and 200 miles away and inland from the closest landfall point in that scenario, creating much less of a risk to the area.

The reason Hurricane Charley produced so much damage in the Orlando area crossing 150 miles of land before arriving was because the storm was of rare strength at landfall (high end Category 4) and moved very quickly across the state, making him able to maintain 80-90 mph winds all the way into central Florida. This scenario is unlikely to unfold like that again, so other than under rare circumstances such as those were, Orlando is not usually going to be under threat from any dangerous tropical conditions unless a storm directly moves over the area.
Thanks for your response Atmos. Sounds like Orlando experiences similar conditions to what we experience here, north of I-10 in the Panhandle (but with a lot more people in the mix!) This gives me a better idea of how to get her prepared
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Quoting oakland:
The Tampa area is watching closely since the RNC convention starts on Monday. Yes they know it's a week out but there are concerns the emergency management's worst nightmare could be reality.
Yes Oakland. Just listening to the radio while @ work, and we had some damage from 50 MPH winds in downtown Tampa from a storm last night. A big sign fell on Davis Island, and some type of covering over a walkway to the entrance to the convention hall was damaged. We hope for the best, and we prepare for the worst.
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Quoting BahaHurican:
Central Cuba is relatively flat. A track over the eastern end of the island would do the storm the most damage because of the mountainous terrain. But that's not what's currently expected.

the euro track is the worst. it shows a much weaker weakness across the east coast which results in it going over western cuba which is the flattest part and then into the boiling Gulf of Mexico
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I see that I woke up to TD 9 as expected...
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 8074
3492. intampa
lots and lots of HUGE TENTS in downtown tampa set up for the convention next week. i mean big tents... wonder what will happen with all that.
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Quoting Tazmanian:




they give the storm there worng color code


You mean like this?? LOL

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Quoting tkdaime:
If Isaac goes over Cuba it won't hurt it much a lot of flat terrain there. Heard this in the weather channel
Central Cuba is relatively flat. A track over the eastern end of the island would do the storm the most damage because of the mountainous terrain. But that's not what's currently expected.

Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22725
Quoting palmasdelrio:
Taz you're the only one who answers my questions. Does a stronger storm change the tracking more north?


I'm sorry I'll answer next time as well. Either way you are in good hands with Taz as that guy knows his stuff.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
My forecast for this morning.

TA - why so far east?
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3487. Chiggy
TD9 moving WSW - clearly seen in sat images. Lot of the 00Z and 06Z models runs initializes it north of 15N and moving WNW BUT current movement in WSW as seen in the steering maps.
I like the idea of 00Z EURO more than GFS and others...
00Z EURO @ 240hrs..

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WOW CMC is now at FL
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Quoting StormTracker2K:


I see a nice shift to the west you made.Outliner but better. That i can agree with. Have a great day a school TA13


-___-
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
My forecast for this morning.

Could happen but I think Hispaniola will disrupt it a little bit.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

I do. Between the two points.
lol ok. i have almost the exact same track as the euro.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
My forecast for this morning.



I see a nice shift to the west you made.Outliner but better. That i can agree with. Have a great day a school TA13
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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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