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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2181. hydrus
94 says gimme some dat Caribbean soup.
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2180. Matt74
Quoting weatherh98:
wah la
will Gordon loop back around and hit Florida too? What about 96L? Straight B line for Florida also? lol
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Tropical Storm Forms East Of The Leeward Islands...Tropical Storm Warnings Issued...

Summary Of 700 Pm Ast...2300 Utc...Information
----------------------------------------------
Location...14.9n 58.5w
About 190 Mi...305 Km E Of Dominica
About 215 Mi...345 Km Ese Of Guadeloupe
Maximum Sustained Winds...50 Mph...85 Km/H
Present Movement...W Or 280 Degrees At 22 Mph...35 Km/H
Minimum Central Pressure...1006 Mb...29.71 Inches

first advisory for irene. note the 14.9 latitude where it formed. i have a feeling 94L will avoid hispanola and get stronger faster and move over puerto rico instead, then into the bahamas, and eventually probably the carolinas based on steering flow

Member Since: July 25, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 1102
Quoting redwagon:







What Dean did.

That year had a mega ridge driving things West, At least during the time of Dean and Felix.
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Quoting Grothar:



pobresito


actually...its pobrecito
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Yes. Are you wanting a response? :P


No just wondering if you got it.
Member Since: September 2, 2006 Posts: 110 Comments: 6874
Quoting weatherh98:


im a put a baby alligator in your pants and see if you make another louisiana joke

That would be kinda awkward to see you do that.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31462
Quoting Grothar:
You guys want me to declare it a blob and see if it makes a difference? I see strong convection building in the center, so it shouldn't be long now.

Quoting Grothar:
You guys want me to declare it a blob and see if it makes a difference? I see strong convection building in the center, so it shouldn't be long now.



declaration of blobipendence please
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
No. I can see 70 mph storm at max before landfalling


that's close to hurricane anyway...
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2171. Grothar
Quoting weatherh98:


no hablo frances



pobrecito
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25369
Quoting Tazmanian:



He just did


Oh okay...well, Irene missed us in Florida so I guess I shouldn't be worried.
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Quoting Grothar:


That's voilà.


oui ça c'est vrai... Il ne parle pas bon français...comprends moi?
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2167. Grothar
You guys want me to declare it a blob and see if it makes a difference? I see strong convection building in the center, so it shouldn't be long now.

Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25369
2166. hydrus
The GFS has had consistent runs with Florida being a target..
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Quoting Levi32:


Data on something that close to the coast is always a good idea.

As for 94L, it has to cross 52.5W before it will technically be in range of the recon aircraft. First mission into it is tomorrow afternoon.

I've always wondered, why aren't they allowed to go east of 53W? Lack of gas?
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31462
Quoting Grothar:


That's voilà.


no hablo frances
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Quoting hurricaneben:


DON'T SAY THAT!!!



He just did
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Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:


you think Isaac is not gonna make it to hurricane before reaching Hispaniola??
I have it as a 85MPH before he does
No. I can see 70 mph storm at max before landfalling
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2160. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Quoting Skyepony:
Fresh Cloudsat of 96L



that has a nice convective structure too it
maybe that will be our dangerous one

1 out of every 5 always is
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Quoting bigeasystormcaster:

Definitely has at least a mid-level circulation but impossible to tell if this circulation has worked it's way all the way down to the surface until a HH investigates the storm I think tomorrow afternoon.
Not enough thunderstorms around the center to declare a TD. I think they will wait until the HH gets in there unles ther is an explosion of thunderstorms around the center and it tightens a little more.
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Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:
AL, 94, 2012082100, , BEST, 0, 153N, 488W, 30, 1009, LO
FINALLY IT SAYS LO

near TD... Irene part II


DON'T SAY THAT!!!
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Excuse his ignorance. He's from Louisiana.

*Hides from other people living in the state*


im a put a baby alligator in your pants and see if you make another louisiana joke
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Quoting ProgressivePulse:
Continues to become better defined.



"Better" convergence. Like to see that improve before I would call a renumber.



I would renumber it as I've seen system with worse organization being classified.
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Quoting opal92nwf:








What Dean did.
Member Since: August 4, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 3174
Quoting Bluestorm5:
I doubt 95L will reach red

Jim Cantore just openly dissed 95l on TWC. He was describing the "dagger" of dry air coming from the trough to the north.
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2153. Grothar
Quoting weatherh98:
wah la


That's voilà.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25369
Quoting Bluestorm5:
Going to be very close for 11 pm update...


The NHC has to advise the appropriate governments and put together the graphics and text products. This will not happen before 11:00p.m. est.
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10976
2151. Levi32
Quoting Hurricanes305:
I dont understand why the HH hunters investigate 95L as it is elongated and nowhere close to being a TC. Should of dispatched them to 94L as based on microwave imagery this has a close LLCOC.


Data on something that close to the coast is always a good idea.

As for 94L, it has to cross 52.5W before it will technically be in range of the recon aircraft. First mission into it is tomorrow afternoon.
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
My forecast from few hours ago:



you think Isaac is not gonna make it to hurricane before reaching Hispaniola??
I have it as a 85MPH before he does
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Quoting HurricaneHunterJoe:


Or Bing Crosby or David Crosby


What about crosby stills and nash?
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Quoting Skyepony:
GEOS-5 nails Haiti..

hmm not even close thats S of hispaniola looks like it lines up to S Jamaica so that below 17N hmm can link to all of them thanks
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 11026
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Excuse his ignorance. He's from Louisiana.

*Hides from other people living in the state*


watch it or Pat will throw Frozen cans of Fresca at you lol
Member Since: March 10, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 7367
Off topic for a second.
The last Presidential debate will be in Florida at Lynn University on Oct 22nd which is still within the Hurricane season. It would be amazing if the Republican National Convention, in Tampa, FL. and the Democratic National Convention, in Charlotte, N.C., and this last debate are all influenced by some type of tropical storm.
It is not out of the realm of possibility. Makes you wonder if this is some type of sign. Politics and Mother Nature, hmmm.
On topic.
94L has the naked swirl look, but a robust one at that. Dry air impeding development at present. As everyone has been saying, wait and see once there are signs of convection in the next day or so. Brownsville to the Carolinas in the window. Big Window, I know.
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Quoting FutureWx6221:
If 94L holds off for another day or so, we could have the opportunity to see the rare trifecta: 3 red crayons at once.




95L is done
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Quoting MississippiWx:


That would be "voila". Lol.

Excuse his ignorance. He's from Louisiana.

*Hides from other people living in the state*
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 31462
Quoting sunlinepr:
Last frame is an S....

S of Storm....


Definitely has at least a mid-level circulation but impossible to tell if this circulation has worked it's way all the way down to the surface until a HH investigates the storm I think tomorrow afternoon.
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Quoting FutureWx6221:
If 94L holds off for another day or so, we could have the opportunity to see the rare trifecta: 3 red crayons at once.
I doubt 95L will reach red
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Neil Young Like A Hurricane

Once I thought I saw you
In a crowded hazy bar,
Dancing on the light
From star to star.
Far across the moonbeam
I know that's who you are,
I saw your brown eyes
Turning once to fire.

You are like a hurricane
There's calm in your eye.
And I'm gettin' blown away
To somewhere safer
Where the feeling stays.
I want to love you but
I'm getting blown away.

I am just a dreamer,
But you are just a dream,
You could have been
Anyone to me.
Before that moment
You touched my lips
That perfect feeling
When time just slips
Away between us
On our foggy trip.

You are like a hurricane
There's calm in your eye.
And I'm gettin' blown away
To somewhere safer
Where the feeling stays.
I want to love you but
I'm getting blown away.

You are just a dreamer,
And I am just a dream.
You could have been
Anyone to me.
Before that moment
You touched my lips
That perfect feeling
When time just slips
Away between us
On our foggy trip.

You are like a hurricane
There's calm in your eye.
And I'm gettin' blown away
To somewhere safer
Where the feeling stays.
I want to love you but
I'm getting blown away.
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AL, 94, 2012082100, , BEST, 0, 153N, 488W, 30, 1009, LO
FINALLY IT SAYS LO

near TD... Irene part II
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Last frames of Gordon...

Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9695
My forecast from few hours ago:

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If 94L holds off for another day or so, we could have the opportunity to see the rare trifecta: 3 red crayons at once.
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I dont understand why the HH hunters investigate 95L as it is elongated and nowhere close to being a TC. Should of dispatched them to 94L as based on microwave imagery this has a close LLCOC.
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It almost looks like 94l has an ever so slight WSW drift.
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Quoting weatherh98:
wah la


That would be "voila". Lol.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10159
Quoting Skyepony:
GEOS-5 nails Haiti..


Ugh....I sure hope they catch a break
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OH MY GOD!!!

My boss' brother left for Tawian yesterday for a week to see his girlfriend...sad thing he does not know a major disaster coould happen
I hope he is reminded of this...
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About

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