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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2331. Gorty
Quoting gustavcane:
As long as this 94L moves at a fast clip at 23mph, this storm will never get its act together unless it slows down its forward speed to at least 6 to 12mph IMO.


Yeah idk why they been moving so fast this year.
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94L's circulation is getting a bit smaller I notice the bands are coming closer to the center
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12157
2329. Grothar
Quoting ProgressivePulse:


Dodging some adversity this run.


It has taken a dip to the Southwest as well. Slight, but a dip. Too bad you don't have a link to a site that could show that.
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Here's my guess.
img src="Image and video hosting by TinyPic">
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Quoting Gorty:


Like 2009, practically dead, but maybe 2-5 more storms from late Sept. through the end of the season.

2009 was actually fairly active from Sept-Nov, it was just June-August that was dead.
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As long as this 94L moves at a fast clip at 23mph, this storm will never get its act together unless it slows down its forward speed to at least 6 to 12mph IMO.
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2324. Gorty
Another scary wave gonna be heading off of Africa... but we already seen what the dry air does to them when they exit the coast lol.
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2323. Grothar
Quoting Dakster:


Exactly how is that interesting?


It was a Spock moment. I could have said "fascinating"
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2322. Dakster
Quoting ProgressivePulse:


Looking closely at JSL tonight, 94L is pulling in a few minions (Consolidating) lingering to the E & SE. 11am tomorrow at the latest.


It has time to form before the rule is 'valid' -- so if it forms soon then it won't invalidate his thinking... Just wondering if it can get its act together soon enough. (not wishcasting... just saying)
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
How does that rule go again, isn't it if a system doesn't form by the time it reaches the dead zone it has to wait until 75 west to form?


no I don't think that is it and I don't think John Hope rule applies to every storm and I don't think it applies to this one too
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12157
2320. DDR
94L's circulation is so large winds here in Trinidad are NNE already.
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Quoting stormchaser19:


The system needs to have at least 65 mph winds, to survive the topography of hispanola...Hurricane David entered in the island as a cat.5 and get out as a weak cat.1 that is a example of how destructive is this terrain




you're right...but remember that the speed at which the storm moves, the size and how well it's organized also play a role ... not just the category status...
I might have gone a little high there but I don't think it can weaken much ...who knows..and how strong it gets before hitting the island

thanks for your feedback anyway...
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2318. Grothar
Quoting Dakster:


Ok so you got me into being able to kind of read French and German. Any tricks for the Asian languages?


Yes, most Asian languages do not have tenses. Just learn the particles, words before the verb, and it is a breeze. They are easier than you think.
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Quoting Grothar:
Interesting




Dodging some adversity this run.
Member Since: August 19, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 5450
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2315. Gorty
Quoting pottery:

It's pretty active right now.
"less activity" than what ?


Like 2009, practically dead, but maybe 2-5 more storms from late Sept. through the end of the season.

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2314. hydrus
I wonder just how fast 94 will strengthen when it moves over the Caribbean Sea.
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Quoting Dakster:
If it doesn't form soon, the John Hope Rule may apply...

Comments?


Looking closely at JSL tonight, 94L is pulling in a few minions (Consolidating) lingering to the E & SE. 11am tomorrow at the latest.
Member Since: August 19, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 5450

Quoting pottery:

That's a weird one....
It was a sort of rough night for me and part of what shaped me.  Honestly the aftermath was rougher (in a good way - they are amazing community builder) for me than the actual storm.  The adrenaline kicked in and carried me right through those 12hrs when it made landfall. 

Now as for him, I can imagine it was down right terrifying.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16872
2311. Dakster
Quoting Grothar:
Interesting




Exactly how is that interesting?
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2309. yqt1001
Quoting RTSplayer:


They'll be alright.

When they have mandatory evacuations, it really is mandatory.


Nope, both Taiwan and PRC have had awful casualties from flooding. Although Vicente didn't do much harm, the last MH strength typhoon to hit Taiwan killed 150. Although it moved much slower, Tembin will likely be considerably stronger and larger.
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2308. Dakster
Quoting GTcooliebai:
How does that rule go again, isn't it if a system doesn't form by the time it reaches the dead zone it has to wait until 75 west to form?


Close enough...
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94L please bring me rain :) I know I can't get more from you :(
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2306. Grothar
Interesting


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2305. DDR
Hello pottery
Quoting DDR:
94L moving wsw now?
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
Okay help me understand this chart, does the blue represent troughs and upper level lows, red represent ridges, and what does the pink represent?


Believe pink is just separating higher pressure from lower pressure. The main thing to look at is the center of the ridges (red) and center of troughs (blue).
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2303. pottery
Quoting Gorty:
If El Nino wont really be getting going until sometime in Sept. then I can see way less activity in the ATL by late Sept.

It's pretty active right now.
"less activity" than what ?
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24390
just look at 94L its building convection and D-MAX ha not even started yet D-MAX starts at 12 which is in about nearly 2 hours from now and peaks at sunrise which should be around 5/6am can wait to see what happens during D-MAX convections should explode like a nuke
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12157
Quoting Dakster:
If it doesn't form soon, the John Hope Rule may apply...

Comments?
How does that rule go again, isn't it if a system doesn't form by the time it reaches the dead zone it has to wait until 75 west to form?
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Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:
I'd posted this 4 hours ago...

LATEST UPDATE ON 94L...significant northward shift now bringing the storm through the major Caribbean Islands...

Gordon is out of the picture since it's post-tropical...

Note: Wind intensity could be more or less 5 mph... it obviously can't be accurate


94L Summary:

Some latest runs take 94L a little northward taking the storm over the Leeward Islands, near PR and Hispaniola or very close to. Just like with Irene (It really didn't happened though) if the storm goes through the high mountains of the island, the storm could die or significantly weaken depending on its intensity and movement, now the storm is moving at a pretty fast pace but it's expected to slow down within the next days.... the passage over this area is critical because it determines what can the storm do after.

If Isaac does not weaken as much it could re-intensify faster since it's better organized and move now towards the north and completely miss the GOM...meaning heading towards the US East coast in response to the big through over Canada at the time...doubt that it could just make a sharp turn out to sea w/o any impact on the coast...

OR If Isaac weakens considerably it would take more time to organize and intensify here 95L could pull it towards the Gulf and eventually threaten the people living in the gulf states. Tamaulipas, Mexico is also included in the threat..

FOR NOW a more likely scenario is that the storm could directly make an impact on Florida as a Cat 1-2 hurricane...

IT ALL DEPENDS HOW STRONG THE STORM LEAVES THE HIGH TERRAIN OF HISPANIOLA IF IT CROSSES THROUGH.
A southern/northern track could mane Isaac a dangerous hurricane for either MX/GOM and US East coast

Here is my graphic,


iI'll take any comments from anyone interested

for larger pic... Link


The system needs to have at least 65 mph winds, to survive the topography of hispanola...Hurricane David entered in the island as a cat.5 and get out as a weak cat.1 that is a example of how destructive is this terrain


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2299. Dakster
Quoting Grothar:


Just remember, simple everyday words are basically similar to German. Words of emotion, feeling, abstract though and words ending in tion have French cognates.


Ok so you got me into being able to kind of read French and German. Any tricks for the Asian languages?
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Quoting HurricaneHunterJoe:


Typhoon Tembin forecast to hit Taiwan as a possible Cat4 and the PRC as a Cat3 or 4.Could be very very bad for both. I gotta go look and see how many times The China's have been hit this year. Anybody know off the top of their head?


They'll be alright.

When they have mandatory evacuations, it really is mandatory.
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2297. DDR
94L moving wsw now?
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2296. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting Grothar:


Skye, does this strike you as a unusually large system? The Field seems to be expanding, perhaps preventing consolidation. Any thoughts?


Dr Masters brought this up this afternoon in a comment, about looking at it on the Central Atlantic view instead of the floater. I think it fully sunk in with this OSCAT pass earlier. Look how big the center area of weak winds is..& an OSCAT swath is huge only a little over 1/2 the storm fits in there. It looks like it's trying to pull alot of moisture & energy from behind it enlarging it.
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2295. pottery
Quoting StormJunkie:

Still sort of weird to think that a few days later I was on the ground in the middle of the night looking up and seeing stars through the eye wall that almost took his plane down. 

That's a weird one....
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24390
2294. Gorty
If El Nino wont really be getting going until sometime in Sept. then I can see way less activity in the ATL by late Sept.
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TS coming to WPB
Monday
Mostly cloudy with thunderstorms. High of 91F. Windy. Winds from the SE at 30 to 35 mph. Chance of rain 80% with rainfall amounts near 1.8 in. possible.
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2292. Dakster
If it doesn't form soon, the John Hope Rule may apply...

Comments?
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Quoting pottery:

Yes, St. Croix is a 'first choice' for obvious reasons. No personal documents needed to leave the airport etc .
But Barbados is sometimes used, depending on how far south the system is.

Dr. Masters flew out of Barbados when he went into Hugo, for instance.
Still sort of weird to think that a few days later I was on the ground in the middle of the night looking up and seeing stars through the eye wall that almost took his plane down. 
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16872
2290. yqt1001
Quoting HurricaneHunterJoe:


Typhoon Tembin forecast to hit Taiwan as a possible Cat4 and the PRC as a Cat3 or 4.Could be very very bad for both. I gotta go look and see how many times The China's have been hit this year. Anybody know off the top of their head?


5 typhoons:
Vicente, Saola, Damrey Haikui and Kai-tak

Can't say off the top of my head how many tropical storms though.
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2289. Grothar
Quoting Dakster:


Yes. I would imagine so... But it is something to be very proud of. Although going to Canada this year, I found it almost easy to read French. It is closer to English than I thought.



Just remember, simple everyday words are basically similar to German. Words of emotion, feeling, abstract though and words ending in tion have French cognates.
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This is why GOMEX has to be watched when fronts

stall out.....Link
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lookinag at 94L/TD9 satelite it continues to get better orgainised and developing convection every hour just gets better and better I'd say Advisorys start either 2am or 5am thats my final word on that for now
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12157
2285. Gorty
Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:


betcha that tomorrow when I get up I'll find TD 9


Luckily we have all this dry air and even some shear, these things can get going quickly if we didnt have those inhibiting factors.
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Typhoon Tembin forecast to hit Taiwan as a possible Cat4 and the PRC as a Cat3 or 4.Could be very very bad for both. I gotta go look and see how many times The China's have been hit this year. Anybody know off the top of their head?
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Quoting Gorty:


It's gotten better organized... even more thundersotrms by the center. But yeah, not enough to call it a TD. I can see sometime tomorrow we will have a TD.
Possible, or it could be longer...honestly, the second it gets a significant burst of convection, which could be an hr from now or 24hrs from now...It will get its renumber.  And possibly a renumber even without it if it gets much closer to the islands.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16872
Quoting MississippiWx:


I see that as a bigger possibility now than I did earlier. I'm just not liking the 500mb pattern being shown by the GFS now. Looks to be a very iffy pattern whether a large enough weakness will exist to the north to pull 94L (Isaac) all the way up the East Coast. I think the 18z GFS is very plausible. I've been saying East Coast the whole time, so I'm going to stick with it for now. However, my cone splits the difference and gives both possibilities a chance.

500mb pattern for Day 8:

Okay help me understand this chart, does the blue represent troughs and upper level lows, red represent ridges, and what does the pink represent?
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Quoting TXHuRRicanE:


everything goes to FL on this blog..



Of course everything goes to Florida.


Seriously though, thank God not everything comes to Florida.


I'm a little concerned that my area( Tampa Bay) may run out of time soon( sort of like oil) and the worst case scenario hurricane will finally hit and this area will never be the same. It has been so long that eventually the weather patterns will line up for us to get the big strike. No, don't worry
I'm not saying our little disturbance in the Atlantic will be one to hit us( there's obviously no way to know at this point).
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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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