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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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...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Continues to become better defined.



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

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Quoting tropicfreak:


Did you get my mail TAWX?

Yes. Are you wanting a response? :P
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

There's a first time for everything. Here's a base map and you can use paint to make it.


Fine, let me look at a few things and I'll make one.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10284
Quoting jascott1967:
Sometimes this blog could use Bill Cosby...


Or Bing Crosby or David Crosby
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Quoting sunlinepr:
Rarely you see three colors that is either orange or red...
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wah la
Member Since: June 17, 2011 Posts: 11 Comments: 6539
2124. Skyepony (Mod)
Fresh Cloudsat of 96L

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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Drew, where's your forecast track map?


Did you get my mail TAWX?
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Quoting Cballman82:
Very similar to Irene, could intensify at anytime, I would favor slightly north of west track close to the DR/E cuba then a rapid turn to the NW then N, with a track just west of Bahamas making landfall in SC as a hurricane, then Northeast near cape Cod as a tropical storm...definitely a considerable threat to the east coast, I don't think this goes into the Gulf


Hmmm....all if SE Fla is "just" west of the Bahamas. It's only 93 miles from Freeport to Fort Lauderdale.
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2120. Skyepony (Mod)
GEOS-5 nails Haiti..
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Quoting Thrawst:
I think it's too little too late... it should however become a TD at 5am, IMO.


It should be TS Issac by 5am tomorrow mourning.
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Going to be very close for 11 pm update...
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Quoting Thrawst:
I think it's too little too late... it should however become a TD at 5am, IMO.


sometimes we don't even get a renumber
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Quoting MississippiWx:


I've never made one.


I use this as my base map:

Link
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Very similar to Irene, could intensify at anytime, I would favor slightly north of west track close to the DR/E cuba then a rapid turn to the NW then N, with a track just west of Bahamas making landfall in SC as a hurricane, then Northeast near cape Cod as a tropical storm...definitely a considerable threat to the east coast, I don't think this goes into the Gulf
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2114. Thrawst
I think it's too little too late... it should however become a TD at 5am, IMO.
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Quoting presslord:
Do people bicker like this on sports blogs, too?

You should see us pulling hair seducing each others boyfriends on the pinterest blog! Then writing about it!
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Quoting MississippiWx:


I've never made one.

There's a first time for everything. Here's a base map and you can use paint to make it.
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I am giving it a 40% of renumber by 11 pm, but 75% by 5 am.
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Quoting ackee:
I know we all focus on 94L but 96L could also be a more intense storm further south and less land interaction mother nature has turn on the switch


Current setup pattern wise I see 96L following a similar path as 94L. As 94L might leave a weakness in the subtropical high. But its WAY too early to worry about that and we dont know exactly where 94L is going.
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Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9874
Here is a webcam on the East Coast of Taiwan at Hua-lien, closer to the landfall of TEMBIN.Link
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Quoting redwagon:

I probably wouldn't go that far, but, yes, I don't have anything that 'comes up'.
LMAO
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Last frame is an S....

S of Storm....

Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9874
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
Damn, this thing is looking good. Isaac really wants to be born soon.
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2024. congaline 1:23 AM GMT on August 21, 2012 +4
Wasn't it the Republicans little darling Pat Robertson who claimed that New Orleans was hit by Hurricane Katrina because of their sinfulness? What will he say if the Republican National Convention is washed out by Hurricane Isaac...kind of biblical. The name Isaac means "he laughs". Just sayin'...
Action: Quote | Ignore User
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poor ,very poor comment
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Quoting Grothar:


yes, but only on the plain.


not in the pyrenees
Member Since: June 17, 2011 Posts: 11 Comments: 6539
Quoting lovemamatus:
We need Avila BIG TIME to get the TD call at 10. Berg and Stewart dont have the stones to make the call.
If it was up to Avila he'd wait until SAB classified it as T3.5 before classifying it. Stewart all the way.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Drew, where's your forecast track map?


I've never made one.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10284
We need Avila BIG TIME to get the TD call at 10. Berg and Stewart dont have the stones to make the call.
Member Since: August 31, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 156
00Z / 18Z are in. Seem to be coming into somewhat of a consensus. Rare in a long term however, it's happened before. Could all be dead wrong however.

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Quoting presslord:
Do people bicker like this on sports blogs, too?


they cuss
Member Since: June 17, 2011 Posts: 11 Comments: 6539
Quoting presslord:
Do people bicker like this on sports blogs, too?


Uhhh, this is nothing compared to sports blogs. Lol.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10284
Quoting MississippiWx:


I've seen them renumber much later. The recent uptick in thunderstorm activity near the center is worth a second look for classification.

I hope the NHC isn't waiting for a luscious CDO to flourish in the stable thermodynamic environment 94L is embedded in. It's current convective state is as good as it's getting for now.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
94 is pushing hard for the 11:00 deadline

I stand by what I told wunderkid before, that whatever show it put on would not be enough for classification at this time.

I think I'll wake up to see TD9 though :)
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2093. Grothar
Quoting weatherh98:


head on

i hear gordon my atually bring the rain to spain!


yes, but only on the plain.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26814
Do people bicker like this on sports blogs, too?
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Quoting JLPR2:


It's something, but still not much. At least it seems to be a sign that maybe it will fire up some stronger convection later on as we head into D-max.


Once this gets that convection there will be no stopping it as shear thanks the a well-establish anticyclone, increasing SST. Dry air should neutralize RI until the NE Caribbean.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
If a renumber were to occur, it'll happen around 10p.m EDT.

Nice avatar by the way. ;)


Oh okay I figured that is what you meant. And thanks buddy! Long time season ticket holder, just showing some pride!
Member Since: August 8, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 49
Quoting windshear1993:
okay i dont know about yall but i think this future isaac will be a weak storm becuase one its gonna go over land and those mountains are gonna tear it up 96 on the other hand would probally be the one to watch


96L-Caster! JK LOL. We will see.
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2088. isuxn2
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Drew, where's your forecast track map?


ill make one!
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Quoting MississippiWx:


Oh great. Now you've done it.

Before this escalates, I would just like to point out that both parties suck. Both of them suck so much that I don't even want to vote in November. However, the constant foaming at the mouth for a hurricane to ruin the RNC is sickening to say the least.


Two thumbs up
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:


It would of been renumbered by now.


I've seen them renumber much later. The recent uptick in thunderstorm activity near the center is worth a second look for classification.

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 17 Comments: 10284
2084. ackee
I know we all focus on 94L but 96L could also be a more intense storm further south and less land interaction mother nature has turn on the switch
Member Since: July 15, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1375
2083. Grothar
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:


Nice image, Geoff
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26814
Quoting windshear1993:
okay i dont know about yall but i think this future isaac will be a weak storm becuase one its gonna go over land and those mountains are gonna tear it up 96 on the other hand would probally be the one to watch


who said its going to? you know something we dont
Member Since: June 17, 2011 Posts: 11 Comments: 6539
Drew, where's your forecast track map?
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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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