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 AtHomeInTX:
Winding up now.

And avoiding the mountainous terrain.
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2880. msphar
Looks like the circle reversal got fixed! Now where is the center to that monster and more importantly where thru the isoand chain will it go ??
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Quoting KoritheMan:
I know Cleverbot says Kirk will be the big one this year, but come on... Kirk? After Isaac, this name sorely lacks anything remotely dangerous in presentation. Leslie? Oscar? We can do better.
Kirk meaning and name origin:

Kirk \k(i)-rk\ as a boy's name is pronounced kerk. It is of Old Norse and Old German origin, and the meaning of Kirk is "church". In Scotland, "kirk" is used as a word meaning "church".





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Winding up now.

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Quoting KoritheMan:


Nah.
u know how they are at the NHC so thats y i ask
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Quoting bigwes6844:
anybody thinking that they held off and maybe jump it to a TS at 5am?


Nah.
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anybody thinking that they held off and maybe jump it to a TS at 5am?
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just reliezed that timing of this..when im down in florida the GFS is showing at least TS conditions where im gonna be and the air port im leaving outta..not good but i always wanted to be in a storm.. irene doesnt count last year even tho i was in the eye.
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2873. SLU
21/0545 UTC 10.6N 28.6W T1.0/1.0 96L -- Atlantic
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Quoting msphar:
Ok couple of questions:

Where is the center for this 100 percenter ?

Why are the two orange circles reversed ?

I know its late, just confused
NHC was oversleeping when they did the maps. I know what you talking about. The color page has 50 for the gulf and 30 for the invest 96l storm. But actually its the other way around. 50% for invest 96L and gulf 95L storm 30%
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Quoting Grothar:



Hey, Alex!!! Where you been hiding.
Just lurking seems like there will be some sleepless nights on here tracking 94L/TD9/Isaac.
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2870. SLU
21/0545 UTC 15.1N 50.3W T1.5/1.5 94L -- Atlantic
21/0545 UTC 24.1N 96.1W TOO WEAK 95L -- Atlantic

Almost official. Notice the continued southward component. Now at 15.1n.
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Quoting ProgressivePulse:


Too many memories I wish not to re-stoke unless I absolutely have to. One, Two punches are just wrong.
yeah dont wanna see a 2004 for u guys again. that would be horrible
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OFF TOPIC: and maybe? shouldent say this but o well. met michael phelps again today for the second time in past 10 or so months and.. he stiffed me both times haha. told him congrads n everything gave him vip for being him and still not a dime haha..done with the off topic rant now
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2867. Grothar
Nite everyone. Got to get up early and go to Home Depot. Play nicey nice.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 63 Comments: 23723
2866. msphar
Ok couple of questions:

Where is the center for this 100 percenter ?

Why are the two orange circles reversed ?

I know its late, just confused
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Quoting stormchaser19:
Finally CMC is showing a possible scenario



I don't like the looks of that.
Member Since: September 2, 2006 Posts: 110 Comments: 6814
2864. Grothar
Quoting alexhurricane1991:
This could be another potential threat down the road



Hey, Alex!!! Where you been hiding.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 63 Comments: 23723
Finally CMC is showing a possible scenario

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Quoting ProgressivePulse:


Too many memories I wish not to re-stoke unless I absolutely have to. One, Two punches are just wrong.


Don't make me...



...bring out the trollface.

Yes, nature is saying to you, Ryan: "Me troll you. Me troll you."
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Quoting Grothar:
Now this is 96L not 94L





Looks a little more shaky.
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2859. Grothar
Quoting ProgressivePulse:


Gro, I couldn't have done it without your early morning posting of all the pertinent info I could ever need to formulate my own forecast. Your a "Champ"

Night Gro ;-b


Nite.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 63 Comments: 23723
Quoting StormJunkie:
So I went back and found the first blog titled "Katrina a threat to NO"

1179 posts (roughly)

And since you made me go back and look at that y'all have to suffer with me damn it!  I miss the man...




Ahhh good ole' leftyy! Haha back in the early 2005 'blogging' season (basically Dennis/Emily onwards) there would be more of us talking in his blog than in this one.

Have been out most of the day, but judging by earlier microwave passes and surface obs 94L is a very well organized tropical system with a classic developing structure and a closed surface low pressure center, huge moisture envelope and a couple of spiral bands taking shape. Now looking at the last 6-12 hrs of infrared imagery it appears we have enough persistent deep convection firing over the mid level center for the NHC to designate this as a tropical depression at either 5AM or 11AM this morning.
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2857. Grothar
Now this is 96L not 94L



Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 63 Comments: 23723
Quoting bigwes6844:
man ukmet not playing! another florida stom possible? WOW!


Too many memories I wish not to re-stoke unless I absolutely have to. One, Two punches are just wrong.
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Looks to be struggling a bit more than the GFS showed.

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Will the storm get destroyed riding through the Greater Antilles?

At least destroyed enough to land as a tropical storm only rite (at it's next destination).
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Quoting Grothar:
Hey, don't forget little Invest 96L



Thank you Gro for giving it attention. Don't want to piss it off like we did with Gordon, well for Gordon we could care less because it was over open waters and it was weaker when it got to the Azores. Still though..
Member Since: September 2, 2006 Posts: 110 Comments: 6814
how do i post a loop either radar or IR for example
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Quoting ProgressivePulse:
96L pulling up the rears.


man ukmet not playing! another florida stom possible? WOW!
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:
ok I see three situation that 94L/TD9 could take

#1 travels through the Eastern and Central caribbean, lifts up, gets wrecked by Haiti, Jamaica, and Eastern cuba. pops out N of cuba in the Bahamas, moves towards Fl and landfall on US E coast.

intensity- TS through the E caribbean, Cat 1 before hitting the islands, weakening back to moderate TS N of cuba in the Bahamas area , becomes a hurricane near Fl and landfalls in US E coast as moderate-strong Cat 2.

#2 travels through the Eastern Caribbean and through the the Central caribbean, hit Jamaica comes out S of cuba. crosses central cuba, skirts Fl E coast and landfall in GA.

intensity- Ts through out the Caribbean, weakens to TD over Cuba, come back out regains TS, looses it again in central cuba, and regains it N of cuba again, skirts Fl as strong TS, becomes a cat 1 and landfall in GA.

#3 travels through the Eastern Caribbean and through the Central caribbean, passes S of jamaica, moves WNW-NW towards the Cayman Islands, then towards Wtern Cuba, passes over Wtern Cuba and landfalls in S Fl.

Intensity- steady strengthening throught it time in the Caribbean, becomes a strong Cat2 in the NW caribbean, maybe Cat 3 into cuba and S Fl.


TWO is out and we have 100% on 94L and TD9 at 5am



I agree WKC, I think scenario 1 is looking more and more likely... this thing looks like it wants to take off. A stronger storm would take a more northerly track so I am sticking with option 1.
Member Since: September 2, 2006 Posts: 110 Comments: 6814
Quoting Grothar:
Hey, don't forget little Invest 96L

This could be another potential threat down the road
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Quoting Grothar:
I have to hand it to you guys and gals on here tonight. You really called this one good. Good maps, good models and good scenarios.


Gro, I couldn't have done it without your early morning posting of all the pertinent info I could ever need to formulate my own forecast. Your a "Champ"

Night Gro ;-b
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2847. Grothar
Hey, don't forget little Invest 96L

Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 63 Comments: 23723
Quoting ProgressivePulse:
96L pulling up the rears.


Look like we may have twins to track.
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I know Cleverbot says Kirk will be the big one this year, but come on... Kirk? After Isaac, this name sorely lacks anything remotely dangerous in presentation. Leslie? Oscar? We can do better.
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Caught a lot of crap for this one too back in Left's day...It may have been seen even more than my gripes about Lyda Ann Thomas.


From this blog
- Masters in 05
Quoting StormJunkie:
Not having the levies would have been a blessing. The water could have drained a little better. If this track holds just to the W of NO this is what happens because she should be a 4 or 5.




THIS COULD HAPPEN



A major part of the Lefty years!
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It's runnin

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96L pulling up the rears.


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Quoting Grothar:
I have to hand it to you guys and gals on here tonight. You really called this one good. Good maps, good models and good scenarios.
How the saying goes, "we only learn from the best of them of all."
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future 97L?
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Quoting tropicfreak:


That has a, "I wanna become a monster" look.


Don't encourage it.
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lo
Quoting uncwhurricane85:


settle down jodi foster!



lmfao! yah and Hannibal wanted to eat my liver....lmfao
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Well, I'm off, though dunno if sleep will come that easy....

later all.
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ok I see three situation that 94L/TD9 could take

#1 travels through the Eastern and Central caribbean, lifts up, gets wrecked by Haiti, Jamaica, and Eastern cuba. pops out N of cuba in the Bahamas, moves towards Fl and landfall on US E coast.

intensity- TS through the E caribbean, Cat 1 before hitting the islands, weakening back to moderate TS N of cuba in the Bahamas area , becomes a hurricane near Fl and landfalls in US E coast as moderate-strong Cat 2.

#2 travels through the Eastern Caribbean and through the the Central caribbean, hit Jamaica comes out S of cuba. crosses central cuba, skirts Fl E coast and landfall in GA.

intensity- Ts through out the Caribbean, weakens to TD over Cuba, come back out regains TS, looses it again in central cuba, and regains it N of cuba again, skirts Fl as strong TS, becomes a cat 1 and landfall in GA.

#3 travels through the Eastern Caribbean and through the Central caribbean, passes S of jamaica, moves WNW-NW towards the Cayman Islands, then towards Wtern Cuba, passes over Wtern Cuba and landfalls in S Fl.

Intensity- steady strengthening throught it time in the Caribbean, becomes a strong Cat2 in the NW caribbean, maybe Cat 3 into cuba and S Fl.


TWO is out and we have 100% on 94L and TD9 at 5am

Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 9560
LOL....Cannot fool the Wisest of the Wise. I will check, LOL
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2834. Grothar
I have to hand it to you guys and gals on here tonight. You really called this one good. Good maps, good models and good scenarios.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 63 Comments: 23723
Quoting KoritheMan:


And on this list, to boot. It has never been a particularly impressive one, barring 1988.

Come on list, I know you have it in you. You can squeeze out some fame and fortune!
Yeah if Joyce form we will surpass the time when it was used in 2006 the last was Isaac and I think this is the only list in the Atlantic that haven`t used the P letter onward.
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Quoting odinslightning:
all day at work I kept getting these feelings that came from outside of me (i.e.--holy spirit, guardian angel, or wtf ever....) that this thing is gonna make a Eastern Seaboard Florida landfall, pull off of the mainland, hit water, gain strength as it heads for the Outer Banks (due to the SST's being so high along the east. seaboard) and make a run for NYC.......


settle down jodi foster!
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About JeffMasters

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.