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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3231. tkdaime
How large is td 9 now
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3230. trey33
Quoting floridaT:
let me be the first too say the herbet box lol,



aaaaggghhh!!!!! :)
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Quoting Autistic2:
Think I will test the generator today
just got put on my to do list
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Quoting Hurricanes305:


Dry air being pulled out of the way and allowing room to breathe to the north and could be why its developing a CDO right over the center. One thing the is frighting is the Structure is absolutely excellent. I can see the reason behind the so called "bullish" forecast by Steward and the NHC.


Remember that even though TD9 looks like a strengthening system on satellite imagery, there is still some NE-erly speed shear present over him that is blowing the deep convection onto the SW side of the circulation. It also doesn't help that the low level flow is once again very fast and will prevent any rapid organization of TD 9 until it can align its surface center under the mid level circulation.

But overall, TD 9 has an impressive structure and a generally favorable upper air environment ahead of it.
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good morning. lots to chat about today. woke to frequent lighting approaching from the sw here in naples. let me be the first too say the herbet box lol,
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3226. LargoFl
.............7-day forecast for the Tampa Bay area..of course this can change towards the last few days..depending on you know who
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36620
I know, I know, It AINT ISSAC until NHC says it's Issac.

Sure does look like Issac!
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3224. LargoFl
Quoting Autistic2:
Think I will test the generator today
good idea
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36620
3223. LargoFl
Quoting trey33:


Yeah that's what I thought. Have a friend coming in and wanted to take her around downtown to show her all the festivities, but not if it's like last night. Wait and see I guess.

Should be an interesting day......... :)
yeah that was a BAD storm last night..I lost power for over a half hour
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36620
3222. ryang
RECON for TD 9 will certainly be interesting this afternoon.
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Think I will test the generator today
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Quoting VR46L:
Looks like TD 9 is making his move and getting his groove on..

Navy Sat Image


That graphic makes me want to put caracas at the end of each spiral arm. Must need coffee.
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3219. LargoFl
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
The NHC sure isn't playing with 09L. If intense convection can manage to continue to develop and start to develop banding features, we should be dealing with an intensifying 45kt/50kt cyclone nearing the Lesser Antilles tonight.
yes this one is going to be one interesting storm to follow, ALOT of guessing is going to be coming in the next day or so
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36620
3218. trey33
Quoting LargoFl:
well so far local mets are putting us at 80% rain..guess the trough moves over central florida today..so far no rain but the overcast is moving in i just saw outside, my guess is this evening, thunderstorms moving in from the gulf


Yeah that's what I thought. Have a friend coming in and wanted to take her around downtown to show her all the festivities, but not if it's like last night. Wait and see I guess.

Should be an interesting day......... :)
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Quoting tkdaime:
How big will Isaac become will it be bigger than ike in 08


About the size between Hurricane Alex and Hurricane Irene. Leaning more toward Irene but bigger.
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The NHC sure isn't playing with 09L. If intense convection can manage to continue to develop and start to develop banding features, we should be dealing with an intensifying 45kt/50kt cyclone nearing the Lesser Antilles tonight.
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The problem I see right now is if it intensifies and stays just south of the islands, they will then be getting the worst of the winds, etc.
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Quoting LargoFl:


Like to GFS path until the exit from Cuba which I think well be slightly earlier leaving more room over water to develop more before slamming into Florida. Very early satellite picture suggest convection is bellowing RIGHT OVER the center which is a really bad thing so early in the game.
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3213. LargoFl
Quoting tkdaime:
How big will Isaac become will it be bigger than ike in 08
time will tell
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36620
3212. LargoFl
Quoting trey33:
Good morning Largo
Any idea what weather in our area will be like around 6pm? Do you think the rain will push south by then?
well so far local mets are putting us at 80% rain..guess the trough moves over central florida today..so far no rain but the overcast is moving in i just saw outside, my guess is this evening, thunderstorms moving in from the gulf
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36620
Quoting VR46L:
Looks like TD 9 is making his move and getting his groove on..

Navy Sat Image



Oh, heck! Now, that's rapid.
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Quoting SLU:


This could also be a logical explanation as to why the winds at the buoy just ahead of the system have not backed towards the west yet but instead have veered back to the north-northeast.
I tend to agree with your observations and some intense thunderstorms are firing around that location now. He is definitely getting much better organized and I expect he will be named some time this morning.
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3209. tkdaime
How big will Isaac become will it be bigger than ike in 08
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3208. VR46L
Looks like TD 9 is making his move and getting his groove on..

Navy Sat Image

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Quoting sunlinepr:
Notice that yesterday, Dry Air and SAL was a factor, constantly affecting it and not letting the core consolidate....

That is no longer the situation... the ULL is now sucking most of that DA and SAL, mixint it.... leaving a more favorable condition to consolidate its core....



Dry air being pulled out of the way and allowing room to breathe to the north and could be why its developing a CDO right over the center. One thing the is frighting is the Structure is absolutely excellent. I can see the reason behind the so called "bullish" forecast by Steward and the NHC.
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Quoting atmosweather:


Disclaimer: *The blog comments you are about to see this week will contain strong language, disturbing graphic content and a plethora of full-frontal guessing and trolling*

:)


Yep TD 9 even brought me out of lurking early
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well goodnight everyone! ill see what td 9 have in store when i wake up. see yall later!

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3204. bappit
A new day dawns:

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Good morning. Looks like it's going to be a very busy week.
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Quoting Thewatchcontinues:
every year when these storms are 5 to 6 days out they say they will hit florida but then the tracks always change further south and west and by 2 days out its passed florida and going into the gulf so florida dont worry this track will change many more times and miss florida


Very true. When they are pointed at you 5 days out it's a good thing. What you don't want is for it to be pointed away from you and curve in.
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LOOKING AT THE SAT PRESENTAION WE HAVE A TROPICAL STORM ISAAC. THE SYSTEM IS MOVING SLIGHTLT SOUTH OF WEST
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3200. trey33
Good morning Largo
Any idea what weather in our area will be like around 6pm? Do you think the rain will push south by then?
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3199. LargoFl
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36620
3198. LargoFl
Quoting Thewatchcontinues:
every year when these storms are 5 to 6 days out they say they will hit florida but then the tracks always change further south and west and by 2 days out its passed florida and going into the gulf so florida dont worry this track will change many more times and miss florida
yes im hoping so
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36620
This morning's new microwave imagery depicts a very impressive cyclone with numerous banding features and a well defined and vigorous central core. TD 9 is certainly starting it's life in better health than any other easterly wave this season. We will have to see how it responds to its environment to know whether this is a foreshadowing of a powerful system down the road.

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A track over Haiti's southern peninsula over Eastern Cuba as a Cat.2 weakens due to land interaction to a minimal Cat.1 HOWEVER once it emerges over the South Bahamas to the SE of S. Florida. Where their is moist air in addition to TD9's large convection, Low shear, VERY warm SSTs. RI should ensue. a Possible Cat 3-4 Nearing South Florida. But thats my Forecast. Anyway you slice it this seem very ominous.
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Well I'm onna sleep one more hour.... busy day to make preparations....
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9690
3194. LargoFl
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36620
Good morning guys. Amazing how much better this thing looks than last night:



Looks like this one's the real deal.
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3190. SLU
This system has certainly been moving WSW overnight. This has a huge bearing on the future intensity because it would be able to avoid land interaction thus end up stronger by the time it gets to the US.
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3188. LargoFl
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36620
Notice that yesterday, Dry Air and SAL was a factor, constantly affecting it and not letting the core consolidate....

That is no longer the situation... the ULL is now sucking most of that DA and SAL, mixint it.... leaving a more favorable condition to consolidate its core....

Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9690
3186. SLU
The center is definitely south of the NHC's estimated position.
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3185. LargoFl
its funny..yesterday i asked a foolish question..could this storm, become a Katrina?..everyone laughed...today im asking again..could it become a cat 4 or higher..in the gulf?
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36620
Quoting sunlinepr:


Dry to its ENE is being mixed out once dry air inside the CDO is mixed out it could gradually to rapidly intensify regardless of size.
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Large circulation's are generally harder to disrupt. Land interaction might not affect this storm as much as it would effect a smaller storm. Just something to keep in mind.
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Morning all, I see we have TD9. ECMWF really bombs it out in the Caribbean. I will be back at 12pm with a full update.
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Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9690

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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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