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


Yes
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Quoting palmasdelrio:
Taz you're the only one who answers my questions. Does a stronger storm change the tracking more north?




not all ways
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Quoting floridaboy14:
you dont have it weaking over hispanola cody? COME ON MAN!

I do. Between the two points.
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Quoting Tazmanian:
there the nhc fixed it




Fixed what?
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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 up the state.

ockquote> Thanks for the help ST2K. We have always been in Bay and Holmes Counties and are trying to advise her on proper preparations for her new area. Used to she just left PC Beach and drove up to our house, which is north of I-10. She needs her own plan now - that works for her new area. ...and Mom would prefer it was put in place sooner rather than later, lol!
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Taz you're the only one who answers my questions. Does a stronger storm change the tracking more north?
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
My forecast for this morning.

you dont have it weaking over hispanola cody? COME ON MAN!
Member Since: July 25, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 1102
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
My forecast for this morning.


Codycaster
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3472. 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.
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Good Morning Everyone!

Looks like my forecast for yesterday with a slow increase in convection as the storm approaches warmer water has materialized.

Currently, the northeast shear is evident on satellite along with some dry air entraining in the eastern quadrant of the storm. I'd expect steady-state to slow intensification through the day today.

Overnight tonight into early tomorrow, as the storm approaches the islands it should slow a bit and see enhanced convection both due to frictional convergence from the islands. This should allow the depression/storm to become a strong tropical storm with ~60mph winds. Beyond that, a lot of the intensity forecast depends on whether it passes to the south of Puerto Rico or not, which is uncertain to me at this point.
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Quoting Relix:
I honestly think this thing is going to go over me here in PR. Heh
Definitely you will get some rain, at least...

Quoting TropicsGirl:
Model runs are definitely not looking good for FL - these storms that come up from the south towards the penninsula are especially dangerous; they can make the whole southern half of FL very vulnerable. I'm hoping for a close brush to the east keeping the dirty side of the storm offshore. I really hope the South FL TV mets get their act together today - this storm needs to be monitored closely by everyone in FL - especially the keys.
Thank you so much for that sentiment of keeping the dirty side over the Bahamas instead....

[ironic tone off]

How about a close brush to the east of the entire Bahamian archipelago? Would make you and me both happy...

Quoting MoltenIce:
Pardon my absence.

About Tembin, what's up with its core?

I kept thinking it was going through an EWRC... it hasn't done so as yet???

Quoting islandblow:
Carib: "I HOPE THE GFS IS RIGHT ON 94L! The N Leewards want rain!!!!! Islands from antigua to anguilla... not guadeloupe nor dominica cause they have already HAD ENOUGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!"

Yes you want rain, but are you prepared to weather 60 mph winds to get it? But I suppose with most of the winds expected to be in the southern quadrant of TD9 it seems Dominica-Guadeloupe will be getting the brunt. So you may be lucky...less winds with rain. Here in Dominica we are saturated, last night we had more than enough, so preparing for bad things on Wednesday.
You guys already got somewhat of a bad blow from TD 7, right? I'm hoping the rain earlier this week doesn't cause too much treefall under TS winds... and glad it's not hurricane winds.
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22735
Quoting FLWeatherFreak91:
I's say so lol. BTW, I traveled to Maine last month for the first time and stayed near Round Pond, visiting pemaquid point, louds island, and Damariscotta. I'd have to say it's one of the most beautiful places I've ever been

We go up to that area every summer... So glad we wolnt have a Irene carnage repeat... So sad I wolnt have anything to track...
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My forecast for this morning.

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there the nhc fixed it


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Quoting HondosGirl:
Hey Atmos. My daughter just moved to Orlando last week. Not familiar with that area during a hurricane. Is that area strongly affected or are they far enough inland that the effects are smaller? TIA


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.
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96L models:

Ensemble:
http://icons-ak.wunderground.com/data/images/at20 1296_ensmodel.gif
Intensity:
http://icons-ak.wunderground.com/data/images/at20 1296_model_intensity.gif
Satellite:
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Hey Wmwannabe, Haiti of course, will catch the worst of it even if it's a brush by from the east (i.e. west side of the storm), but if it takes the more likely track over Cuba, and catches the east side or even closer to the eye, we know what will happen there.
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Quoting StormTracker2K:


Doc posted a bolg about this last week with a .02% chance of this happening well it appears as those chances have drastically increases!


to 55
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3462. MahFL
Quoting AussieStorm:

Nope. nothing has changed except 94L is now TD9. 96L is 50% and 95L is still at 30%.


96L went upto 60 %.
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Quoting AussieStorm:

Why???
Please explain the mistake.




they give the storm there worng color code
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Quoting SLU:
Latest mircowave pass confirms by southward readjustment idea. Center actually located at 14.5n 52w.


Waiting on new maps, but steering probably still has a southerly component for at least a few more hours.
Member Since: January 25, 2012 Posts: 33 Comments: 1520
Quoting Chicklit:
TD #9 @ 8:00 AM AST Tue Aug 21
Location: 15.1°N 51.8°W
Moving: W at 20 mph
Min pressure: 1007 mb
Max sustained: 35 mph

The GOM blob (95L) is at 60% now but unfortunately for Texas I think that is forecast to go west...

(at 2 a.m. the TD was est. at 15.2N, 51.2W)



no its not 95L is 30% and 96L is 60%



the nhc gave the worng color
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Quoting TampaBayStormChaser:
Yesterday we had 50 mph winds here in St. Petersburg from a line of storms...The EURO this morning is showing much higher winds for our area with future Isaac...If the EURO verifies that would be a disaster for the Tampa Bay Area. The EURO appears to show a significant hurricane moving up the west coast of Florida.
Again, the path will likely change. Initially, Hurricanes Ivan, Charley, and Dennis were forecasted to be near Tampa in the 5 day outlook but they all ended up hitting elsewhere and giving minimal effects to Tampa..
In any case, the path of this storm needs to be watched very closely and residents in Florida should make sure that their hurricane kits are ready (if you have not already done so at the beginning of the season, like you are supposed to).


Doc posted a blog about this last week with a .02% chance of this happening well it appears as those chances have drastically increases!
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Quoting jcpoulard:
BIG MISTAKE FROM the NHC with this TWO ->


Why???
Please explain the mistake.
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Quoting Maineweatherguy20023:

WOW lastnight was sooooo dry...

NHC S of islands...

FL threat for now. I know it is unpredictable but up here in ME im not worried. Is that safe to say??
I's say so lol. BTW, I traveled to Maine last month for the first time and stayed near Round Pond, visiting pemaquid point, louds island, and Damariscotta. I'd have to say it's one of the most beautiful places I've ever been
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TD #9 @ 8:00 AM AST Tue Aug 21
Location: 15.1°N 51.8°W
Moving: W at 20 mph
Min pressure: 1007 mb
Max sustained: 35 mph

The GOM blob (95L) is at 60% now but unfortunately for Texas I think that is forecast to go west...

(at 2 a.m. the TD was est. at 15.2N, 51.2W)
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What effect if any could a stronger tropical storm/hurricane have on the track. I'm in PR and as of now the track is a little south of the island and not a direct hit. TIA.
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Good Morning. The Blog will go at warp speed this morning but jut noting three important points as to pre-Issac, First, still going at 20 mph but assuming it slows down after entering the Caribbean, it could really stack up nicely, and with very warm SST's, it could make a run at major status prior to impact with Cuba. Two, very disheartening to see the current "miss" with the mountains of Hispanola which could weaken it somewhat. Thirdly, PR and Hispanola are going to face a hard time with this one being on the dirty NE quadrant as the storm passes those islands. The potential for a real dangerous storm for the Greater Antilles and parts thereafter after the brush with Cuba.
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3452. ncstorm
Quoting StormTracker2K:


Shifted a little east on the 0z run and shifted back west on the 06z run either way both runs have the center going right up the spine of FL. The trick is does it go west and stay in the Gulf, come up over FL, or ride up the east coast of FL. The Carolina's look to be protected in the near term due to this bubble of high pressure across the north Bahamas.



all that you're saying is over at least 5 days out..highs move out, troughs move in..storms intensify..no one is protected right now from the gulf coast to the east coast..its going to come down to a lot of variables in how this storm tracks and how strong it gets..basically timing is the key my friend..
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Could 96L become our first true Cape Verde hurricane? It doesn't appear to have the same convectional problems as TD9 had.
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Quoting StormTracker2K:
Anybody that lives across Coastal FL get an evacuation route in order just in case evacuations are ordered this weekend. Also hit the stores and buy hurricane supplies if you have not done so because if you wait until Friday then it will be "mayham" across C & S FL. All the mets here in Orlando are very worried and I know people on here will say what they want or even post a track going near Bermuda when the consensus is FL. Get ready folks as this could be a BIG ONE!!


Euro destroyes the RNC!


GFS hammers eastern FL very hard.


Keep in mind even a big strong storm in the right place on the east coast would kick up a very large sure over tampa...
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3449. SLU
microwave pass
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Quoting jcpoulard:
BIG MISTAKE FROM the NHC with this TWO ->



Why?

Other than being generous with #2, I don't really see anything obviously wrong.
Member Since: January 25, 2012 Posts: 33 Comments: 1520
The great structure on microwave imagery continues:

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Thanks I went throu Ivan in 2004 and it was awesome! I have some really good footage of Katrina in mobile bay also. I look forward to the action.
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3444. SLU
Latest mircowave pass confirms by southward readjustment idea. Center actually located at 14.5n 52w.
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Quoting weatherh98:


Jokecasting
Codycasting
Harrisoncasting
Levicasting
Patrapcasting
Grothercasting


All types of casting you see:)

that makes no sense sorry to say you are one confused soul
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12719
BIG MISTAKE FROM the NHC with this TWO ->

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Quoting AussieStorm:

opps. my bad. Thanks Taz for keeping us all up-to-date.

Cheers Mate.



welcome
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
The NHC is too far south, especially with with the intensity depicted.



My guess is the NHC is doing this out of respect to the ECMWF and it's 4D-Var approach to intialization and the strength of the ridging it is seeing in the satellite data it's ingesting. Also they're probably subjectively taking into account the northward bias in many models when fairly strong ridging is in place.
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Quoting Fishinnfever05:
What are te chances this track shifts west into Alabama?
Possible. Keep your eye on it.
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I'm very uncomfortable with the GFS sticking with this FL track... not only does it put us on the dirty side of the storm which would be traversing yet another sweet spot, but also holds the potential for as slightly eastward veering placing parts of the Bahamas in the eyewall...

This not a particularly happy scenario...

Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22735
ooops






look what the nhc did
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Quoting HondosGirl:
Hey Atmos. My daughter just moved to Orlando last week. Not familiar with that area during a hurricane. Is that area strongly affected or are they far enough inland that the effects are smaller? TIA


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.

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Quoting Tazmanian:




96L is now up too 60% at the 8am two

opps. my bad. Thanks Taz for keeping us all up-to-date.

Cheers Mate.
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Lol thanks guys.Going back to the school later.it was fun helping the parents and decorating the classroom.We're almost done.Perhaps T.S Isaac when I come home later this evening.Have a nice day :).
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Quoting Maineweatherguy20023:

With 95 or 96???



with 96L
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Quoting Maineweatherguy20023:

With 95 or 96???

96L could be TD10 tomorrow.
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Quoting AussieStorm:

Nope. nothing has changed except 94L is now TD9. 96L is 50% and 95L is still at 30%.




96L is now up too 60% at the 8am two
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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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