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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They say if 94L develops,which it appears to be doing HH will be going out.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting AtHomeInTX:
hmmm...

PRELIMINARY EXTENDED FORECAST DISCUSSION
NWS HYDROMETEOROLOGICAL PREDICTION CENTER COLLEGE PARK MD
342 AM EDT TUE AUG 21 2012

VALID 12Z SAT AUG 25 2012 - 12Z TUE AUG 28 2012

MODELS ARE IN FAIRLY GOOD LONGWAVE AGREEMENT THIS
CYCLE...PERPETUATING A MEAN TROUGH OVER THE NORTHWEST THROUGH A
SERIES OF QUICK MOVING SHORTWAVE TROUGHS...AND A BROAD SOMEWHAT
COMPLICATED TROUGH ALONG THE EAST COAST THAT BECOMES MORE OF JUST
A WEAKNESS IN AN UPPER HIGH OVER THE GULF OF MEXICO. THE
SHORTWAVE PATTERN AGREEMENT IS NOT QUITE AS GOOD HOWEVER...WITH
THE INCREASING SOLUTION SPREAD AND POOR RUN-TO-RUN CONTINUITY
JUSTIFYING BELOW AVERAGE CONFIDENCE IN THE SPECIFICS FROM DAY
5/SUN ONWARD. REGARDING REGIONAL DIFFERENCES AND
PREFERENCES...STARTING WITH DAY 5 THE 00Z GFS MOVES TOWARD THE
SLOW EDGE OF THE GUIDANCE WITH A SIGNIFICANT UPPER LOW MOVING INTO
THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST...AND THUS IS LESS PREFERRED COMPARED TO THE
00Z ECMWF WHICH HAS THE BULK OF DETERMINISTIC AND ENSEMBLE MEMBER
SUPPORT. ADDITIONALLY...THE GFS BECOMES QUESTIONABLY FAST WITH A
SHORTWAVE TROUGH CROSSING THE PLAINS ON DAY 5 AND THUS IS NOT
PREFERRED COMPARED TO THE BETTER SUPPORTED ECMWF SOLUTION. FOR
DAYS 6-7/MON-TUE...GENERALLY PREFER THE ECMWF ENSEMBLE MEAN
BLENDED SLIGHTLY WITH THE OPERATIONAL ECMWF FOR AMPLITUDE. THIS
APPROACH IS ALSO USED FOR THE TRACK OF TD NINE CURRENTLY NEARING
THE CARIBBEAN SEA...WHICH WAS COORDINATED WITH THE NHC YESTERDAY
AFTERNOON TO REACH SOUTHERN FLORIDA BY DAY 6/MON.


mmmmmm NWS is already calling it TD9. Interesting mmmmmm
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Has anyone thought we could be in a 1,2 punch with 94L and 96L? 94L is 100% and 96L is 50%.
Visually and structurally they both look very well.

95L could become a rain-maker for the Gulf coast states. Which would bring many of them much needed rain.
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Quoting Levi32:


The latest ATCF line in the file still has it at 30kt winds, but maybe they'll make the jump to 35kt before 5am. You never know.


I've seen them do that a number of times, except in this case there is no hurricane hunter information or an up-to-date ocean-scat sampling of the winds, so it's going to be a 30 kt depression until RECON flies in later in the morning and determines what we have.
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3077. Levi32
0z ECMWF ensembles clustered around Florida.

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26698
hmmm...

PRELIMINARY EXTENDED FORECAST DISCUSSION
NWS HYDROMETEOROLOGICAL PREDICTION CENTER COLLEGE PARK MD
342 AM EDT TUE AUG 21 2012

VALID 12Z SAT AUG 25 2012 - 12Z TUE AUG 28 2012

MODELS ARE IN FAIRLY GOOD LONGWAVE AGREEMENT THIS
CYCLE...PERPETUATING A MEAN TROUGH OVER THE NORTHWEST THROUGH A
SERIES OF QUICK MOVING SHORTWAVE TROUGHS...AND A BROAD SOMEWHAT
COMPLICATED TROUGH ALONG THE EAST COAST THAT BECOMES MORE OF JUST
A WEAKNESS IN AN UPPER HIGH OVER THE GULF OF MEXICO. THE
SHORTWAVE PATTERN AGREEMENT IS NOT QUITE AS GOOD HOWEVER...WITH
THE INCREASING SOLUTION SPREAD AND POOR RUN-TO-RUN CONTINUITY
JUSTIFYING BELOW AVERAGE CONFIDENCE IN THE SPECIFICS FROM DAY
5/SUN ONWARD. REGARDING REGIONAL DIFFERENCES AND
PREFERENCES...STARTING WITH DAY 5 THE 00Z GFS MOVES TOWARD THE
SLOW EDGE OF THE GUIDANCE WITH A SIGNIFICANT UPPER LOW MOVING INTO
THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST...AND THUS IS LESS PREFERRED COMPARED TO THE
00Z ECMWF WHICH HAS THE BULK OF DETERMINISTIC AND ENSEMBLE MEMBER
SUPPORT. ADDITIONALLY...THE GFS BECOMES QUESTIONABLY FAST WITH A
SHORTWAVE TROUGH CROSSING THE PLAINS ON DAY 5 AND THUS IS NOT
PREFERRED COMPARED TO THE BETTER SUPPORTED ECMWF SOLUTION. FOR
DAYS 6-7/MON-TUE...GENERALLY PREFER THE ECMWF ENSEMBLE MEAN
BLENDED SLIGHTLY WITH THE OPERATIONAL ECMWF FOR AMPLITUDE. THIS
APPROACH IS ALSO USED FOR THE TRACK OF TD NINE CURRENTLY NEARING
THE CARIBBEAN SEA...WHICH WAS COORDINATED WITH THE NHC YESTERDAY
AFTERNOON TO REACH SOUTHERN FLORIDA BY DAY 6/MON.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Hoping for 2 specific things to be analyzed by the NHC in their first discussion.

1) TUTT cell to the east of the Bahamas possibly affecting TD9 on its way towards land areas.

2) The blocking area of high pressure left behind in Canada after the current eastern US trough pushes eastward into the NW Atlantic - mentioned by Levi yesterday and something I think will play the biggest part in the synoptic pattern here.
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Quoting tropicfreak:


I think but Levi said it was a TD.
oh okay i was wondering how do u know if it is a storm
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Quoting Levi32:


The latest ATCF line in the file still has it at 30kt winds, but maybe they'll make the jump to 35kt before 5am. You never know.


This looks stronger than a TD.



But Ernesto taught us that looks can be deceiving.

If you look really closely you can see a little white dot.... this is firing up some really cold cloud tops, likely due to DMAX which is really helping TD 9.
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3072. Levi32
Quoting tropicfreak:


I think but Levi said it was a TD.


The latest ATCF line in the file still has it at 30kt winds, but maybe they'll make the jump to 35kt before 5am. You never know.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26698
Quoting tropicfreak:


You copied and pasted from the earlier comment didn't you? ;)


busted...
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I think we have 2 HH tomorrow and i think early.
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Quoting AtHomeInTX:


You have to pick the animated gif. then right click and click on copy image location. Then open the image box above the comment box and paste. Hope that helps. :)


You copied and pasted from the earlier comment didn't you? ;)
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Levi u thinking 11am it will be a TS?
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Quoting bigwes6844:
is dat how u can tell if it is a TS?


I think but Levi said it was a TD.
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Quoting tropicfreak:
Hi there, Isaac!

BEGIN
NHC_ATCF
invest_RENUMBER_al942012_al092012.ren
FSTDA
R
U
040
010
0000
201208210753
NONE
NOTIFY=ATRP
END
is dat how u can tell if it is a TS?
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If Isaac keeps that whole envelope hes in ,he could be 400-500 miles across and might get all the islands.Will have to wait and see how much he condenses.
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Quoting Levi32:


TD 9, not Isaac.


Whoops! Sorry!
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Quoting PRweathercenter:
How did you do that, i never can either


You have to pick the animated gif. then right click and click on copy image location. Then open the image box above the comment box and paste. Hope that helps. :)
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3062. Levi32
Quoting KoritheMan:


Yes, but I would like to see what's going on under that convection before classification.


That would be nice, but at least not long after we'll get a shot at the maximum winds to see if it needs upgrading to a TS at 11am.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26698
Quoting AtHomeInTX:


You have to pick the animated gif. then right click and click on copy image location. Then open the image box above the comment box and paste. Hope that helps. :)
Quoting PRweathercenter:
How did you do that, i never can either
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3060. Levi32
Quoting tropicfreak:
Hi there, Isaac!

BEGIN
NHC_ATCF
invest_RENUMBER_al942012_al092012.ren
FSTDA
R
U
040
010
0000
201208210753
NONE
NOTIFY=ATRP
END


TD 9, not Isaac.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26698
Quoting Levi32:


Real in situ data is invaluable always.


Yes, but I would like to see what's going on under that convection before classification.
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Quoting tropicfreak:
At this rate of organization the islands may be in for a shocker!
You might be right look at earl back in 2010. He was moving 20 mph, he didnt organize quickly until he got close and over the islands
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Quoting Levi32:


Not really lol. The only use it ever has is a gauge for the potential for intensification of a TC, like one of the statistical intensity models.
Thanks
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Folks we are less than an hour away from either TD 9 or TS Isaac. So get those F5s ready! LOL
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94L is officially renumbered from ATC file directory...looks like the NHC will initiate advisories on Tropical Depression 9 at the top of the hour (09z).


ftp://ftp.nhc.noaa.gov/atcf/tcweb/invest_RENUMBER _al942012_al092012.ren
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And there you have it.
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Quoting tropicfreak:
COC tucking itself underneath all that convection.



Thanks to AtHome for instructing me how to paste these loops :)
How did you do that, i never can either
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Hi there, TD 9!

BEGIN
NHC_ATCF
invest_RENUMBER_al942012_al092012.ren
FSTDA
R
U
040
010
0000
201208210753
NONE
NOTIFY=ATRP
END
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
At this rate of organization the islands may be in for a shocker!
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Quoting mcluvincane:


Talk about turning on a dime, amazing how it came together right at the 50w mark


Which I believe Levi mentioned twice in his tidbits Monday morning.
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Quoting StormJunkie:
Better with each frame...



It's really getting its act together!!
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3048. Levi32
Quoting HurricaneHunterJoe:


Yup for sure.
Levi is the NAM good model after cyclogenesis?


Not really lol. The only use it ever has is a gauge for the potential for intensification of a TC, like one of the statistical intensity models.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26698
Quoting Levi32:


Could use one. I wish I was one of those people who could stay up all night with nothing but caffeine. I'm going to have to sleep soon though so I can function in the morning (Alaskan morning).
ok kool i forgot u in alaska. is it like 1207 there? and i had me a red bull because i know it was gonna be a long night
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Quoting HurricaneHunterJoe:
I heard the NAM Model was quite good after cyclogenesis. Anyone have a yes or no on that idea?


Someone was seriously joshing you. Please put it back in the closest until fall/winter! Thanks! :)
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3045. Levi32
Quoting KoritheMan:


But if it gets classified at 5, what good does that to us? lol


Real in situ data is invaluable always.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26698
Quoting StormJunkie:
Better with each frame...



I really do not like the looks of that.... ugh!
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3043. Levi32
Quoting tropicfreak:


How do you convert pressure from inches to MB?


Multiply inches of mercury by 33.864.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26698
Quoting Levi32:
Buoy 41040 at 14.5N, 53W will be going through the deep convection on 94L's western side during the next several hours.



But if it gets classified at 5, what good does that to us? lol
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Quoting Levi32:
Amazing how fast those big empty swirls can turn into tropical cyclones, isn't it.


Yup for sure.
Levi is the NAM good model after cyclogenesis?
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3040. Levi32
Quoting bigwes6844:
hey levi man. its nice of u to join us late night bloggers. care for a cup of joe?


Could use one. I wish I was one of those people who could stay up all night with nothing but caffeine. I'm going to have to sleep soon though so I can function in the morning (Alaskan morning).
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26698
Better with each frame...

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Quoting Levi32:
Buoy 41040 at 14.5N, 53W will be going through the deep convection on 94L's western side during the next several hours.



How do you convert pressure from inches to MB?
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Blog update if anyone wants to read.
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3036. Levi32
Buoy 41040 at 14.5N, 53W will be going through the deep convection on 94L's western side during the next several hours.

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26698
Quoting HurricaneHunterJoe:
I heard the NAM Model was quite good after cyclogenesis. Anyone have a yes or no on that idea?


I'm not sure, but it's certainly had a good track record the last couple seasons in picking up on homegrown mischief (stealing your term here, Levi :P) well before the global models.
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Quoting Levi32:
Amazing how fast those big empty swirls can turn into tropical cyclones, isn't it.
hey levi man. its nice of u to join us late night bloggers. care for a cup of joe?
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Quoting Levi32:
Amazing how fast those big empty swirls can turn into tropical cyclones, isn't it.


Talk about turning on a dime, amazing how it came together right at the 50w mark
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I heard the NAM Model was quite good after cyclogenesis. Anyone have a yes or no on that idea?
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Quoting tropicfreak:


Look on the previous page and there is a post about SHIPS reporting winds up to 48 mph I think.
Wow your right!! i believe this folks can be named isaac
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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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