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 aislinnpaps:
Off to teach, I'll try to check in and lurk at lunch (Can't sign in at school or they will ban the site). It'll be an interesting day. Have to admit I'd rather be watching weather than teaching for the next week or so. *G* Everyone have a great Tuesday!
teach tropical weather
Member Since: September 2, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1043
3380. MahFL
I wonder how the high price of gasoline will affect peoples willingness to evacuate, especially if they have to drive to AL or MS.
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Quoting allancalderini:
Looks like wunderkidcayman is not that wrong after all.You should all should give him a little more of respect.


Wish casting with skill
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3378. icmoore
Quoting aspiring2012:


Doesn't it just have to pass by Tampa Bay, and push water into it from the side to have the catastrophic surge issue? Lots of tracks push it by there.


Yeah and most all of the Pinellas county beaches suffered massive erosion from Debby sitting there for days.
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Quoting islander101010:
both.euro.and.gfs.say.no.rnc
It will be interesting to see how long the organizers of the convention wait to either call it off or let it go... I imagine most of the visitors will be arriving in Tampa today through Fri, so unless the republicans want all the supporters here while the convention is moved to atlanta or somewhere, they should make a call in the next couple of days.
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Quoting AussieStorm:

I don't think he'd be happy to get what he'll be getting.


well I hope it ain't a cat 4 cause I can not deal with that right now
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3374. SLU
Quoting yonzabam:


I don't think there's been any northward movement for more than a day. If this keeps up, the models will have to go more south. That'll make it a Gulf storm.


You are right. TD 9 has been heading on a totally different bearing compared to the models. If it stays further south, the likelihood of a stronger storm in the Gulf is higher since it will avoid land interaction.
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Quoting FLWeatherFreak91:
Yep. Even Debby flooded us.


Even though the current tracks aren't finalized, (and this could be a bust, like Ernesto) I wish you and all the Florida bloggers the best.
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Quoting txwcc:


ST2K. I give you loads of credit bud. You have consistently calling for a more southern track of TD9 and I truly think that's what is going to happen. I really think that future Isaac will stay west of the Florida Straits and threats Tampa and Orlando from the southwest.

Also, I give you props for not being afraid of having a different opinion than Levi and having a storm track of your own. Well done, Sir!!


It just didn't make any sense especailly when the Euro and GFS are in incredible agreement. Someone even said the track was based on scientific obs which I was like wow are you serious!
Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
3371. ncstorm
Good Morning Everyone..TD 9 is here I see.. I hope those in the islands are prepared for this storm..US, you are next...I suggest keeping that coffee pot on and brewing constantly..its going to be a long week..
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 14478
3369. LargoFl
Quoting txwcc:


ST2K. I give you loads of credit bud. You have consistently calling for a more southern track of TD9 and I truly think that's what is going to happen. I really think that future Isaac will stay west of the Florida Straits and threats Tampa and Orlando from the southwest.

Also, I give you props for not being afraid of having a different opinion than Levi and having a storm track of your own. Well done, Sir!!
guys..its interesting to note..the NWS is saying for EAST central florida residents to prepare and watch future warnings, i do note..nothing on the WEST central florida update this morning about any warnings for this storm...im thinking the NWS IS thinking about the GFS track up the coast of East florida at this time..stormtracker may be correct in his warnings..we'll see as the days go by..but..for ALL florida..NOW is the time to prepare, get your supplies etc..and wait this thing out ok
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36915
Quoting StormTracker2K:


Not trying to scare people but when the local mets here in Orlando are telling people to go out and get ready for this weekend then it's time to take this serious!


To be honest that means absolutely nothing, other than they are smart for reminding people to have hurricane plans in place. Whether they or another group of mets are telling their viewers to do this does not impact where TD9 is tracking whatsoever.
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Quoting aspiring2012:


Doesn't it just have to pass by Tampa Bay, and push water into it from the side to have the catastrophic surge issue? Lots of tracks push it by there.
Yep. Even Debby flooded us.
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OTHER THAN SOME MODEST NORTHEASTERLY VERTICAL WIND SHEAR FOR THE
NEXT 24 HOURS OR SO...ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED TO BE
QUITE FAVORABLE FOR INTENSIFICATION TO OCCUR. DURING DAYS 2-3...THE
VERTICAL SHEAR IS FORECAST TO BE THE WEAKEST AND WATER TEMPERATURES
THE WARMEST...AND THAT IS WHEN THE MOST SIGNIFICANT STRENGTHENING
SHOULD OCCUR.

This is what we were talking about yesterday as the 50W fairydust factor....

I t'ink I gone need two pot uh coffee today...
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3365. MahFL
Quoting StormTracker2K:


Nothing rude about bold so get your morning coffe and calm down


Yes there is, there are unwritten rules of a blog, not using caps and bold are two of them.
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Quoting allancalderini:
Looks like wunderkidcayman is not that wrong after all.You should all should give him a little more of respect.


thnak you
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Quoting allancalderini:
Looks like wunderkidcayman is not that wrong after all.You should all should give him a little more of respect.

I don't think he'd be happy to get what he'll be getting.
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3362. icmoore
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 goin 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.


Are you trying to ruin my morning? :)
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
The NHC is too far south, especially with with the intensity depicted.



Not when there is a ridge to it's north. It looks it wants to hit FL then stall out over N FL before getting kicked NE up the US ocast.

Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
Quoting FLWeatherFreak91:
You know the NHC doesn't have to follow models, right?

They may not have to, but they do.
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Quoting LargoFl:
one good thing in these tracks..i see NO track..coming directly INTO..tampa bay ..so far huh


Doesn't it just have to pass by Tampa Bay, and push water into it from the side to have the catastrophic surge issue? Lots of tracks push it by there.
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both.euro.and.gfs.say.no.rnc
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3355. LargoFl
Quoting AussieStorm:
My wife's niece just email me some photo's of the flooding in the Philippines.

US Embassy.



Flooding in Manila.
wow this pic COULD be in Florida next weekend
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36915
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
The NHC is too far south, especially with with the intensity depicted.

You know the NHC doesn't have to follow models, right?
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Whoa... Much improved since 2 a. m. this morning...





But still absolutely HUGE...

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Quoting Waltanater:
How about "KoritheMan" for the K name. Personally, I like Kirk better.

I think Leslie will be another big one. The name sounds ominous, lol
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Quoting SLU:
The strong mid-level circulation seems to be located near 14.5n 52.2w. We could see the LLC relocate there if the convection keep firing over the mid-level center.



I don't think there's been any northward movement for more than a day. If this keeps up, the models will have to go more south. That'll make it a Gulf storm.
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The NHC is too far south, especially with with the intensity depicted.

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Td ahould be name Isaac at the 8am update or 11am.
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Quoting MahFL:


Quit with the bold text, it's rude.


Nothing rude about bold so get your morning coffe and calm down
Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
3346. LargoFl
one good thing in these tracks..i see NO track..coming directly INTO..tampa bay ..so far huh
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36915
Quoting MahFL:


Quit with the bold text, it's rude.


He just want's to get noticed.
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3344. gugi182
Go Home T.D your not welcome here in PR!!!!!! don't want you either in the mainland U.S.A. leave us alone
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Looks like wunderkidcayman is not that wrong after all.You should all should give him a little more of respect.
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My wife's niece just email me some photo's of the flooding in the Philippines.

US Embassy.



Flooding in Manila.
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Quoting AussieStorm:

Oh jeez. that at 3am here, I'll keep my GE running overnight and check it in the morning. They may still be up in the air when I wake up.
I think they will definitely find at least a TS when they get there.
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Quoting LargoFl:
morning ST..this may be the one we all fear huh


Not trying to scare people but when the local mets here in Orlando are telling people to go out and get ready for this weekend then it's time to take this serious!
Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
3339. LargoFl
Quoting StormTracker2K:


Hey Largo I told you those storms were rolling your way last evening. Today will be much worse so get ready!
yep i lost power for over a half hour last night, they had damage on the beaches and in clearwater last night, looks to be worse today..gee
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36915
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


Depends on which part of Cuba and how big and/or strong the system is. According to the 5 a.m. Discussion, TD9 (?Isaac?) will slow down in the Caribbean which would prosibly allow for strengthening before it goes over said land mass as forecast. Though I read somebody's comment that a weaker system would have a better chance to reform so not sure what will happen. Guess we'd better stay tuned.
Member Since: July 11, 2006 Posts: 14 Comments: 11176
Quoting AussieStorm:

Oh jeez. that at 3am here, I'll keep my GE running overnight and check it in the morning. They may still be up in the air when I wake up.


More than likely
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3336. MahFL
Quoting StormTracker2K:
A very dangerous pattern for FL as many on here have been saying all season. Hard to believe that this could be the 3rd strike on FL so far this season and it's not even the peak.


Quit with the bold text, it's rude.
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3335. LargoFl
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.
morning ST..this may be the one we all fear huh
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36915
Morning everybody. I see we are well underway with TD 9, watches and warnings, 5-day cone and everything...
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it appears the euro might get this one. it keeps it relatively a tropical storm for some time and then BOOM major into the panhandle. reminds me of dennis...
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we may have a cat3 or 4 coming not good not good at all!!
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About

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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