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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No change with 96L.

AL, 96, 2012082100, , BEST, 0, 103N, 269W, 25, 1010, DB,
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Once the convection finishes wrapping around--introducing ISAAC.
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Quoting StormJunkie:

The one positive is that it should be moving pretty fast.  Come on, we need those mountains to do us a favor!  Please?

C'mon, wind shear! Take down that monster anticyclone!
sigh If only it was that simple.
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1828. pottery
Howdy, MLC.
Long time !
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24402
Quoting thunderbug91:

Is this an anticyclone over 94L?

A nicely developed one, yes.
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Quoting TomTaylor:
Only 5 out of 20 of the 18z GFS Ensembles show a sub 1004mb storm at 120 hrs. Good news for the greater Antilles, as well as Florida and the SE US.



Care to say what intensity after 120 lol
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

A big & wet TS is the least Haiti needs right now. I don't think any track scenario is good news at this point :/
Unless it completely dissipates before reaching the Caribbean.
The one positive is that it should be moving pretty fast.  Come on, we need those mountains to do us a favor!  Please?
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16874
Quoting thunderbug91:

Is this an anticyclone over 94L?

No, thats a pumpkin.



;) JK its an anticyclone
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:


hmm WSW track like I said

15.2N 48.7W seems correct to me


That is a lot of west and a little south. Not what I would call WSW by any means.
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Quoting TomTaylor:
Only 5 out of 20 of the 18z GFS Ensembles show a sub 1004mb storm at 120 hrs. Good news for the greater Antilles, as well as Florida and the SE US.

Very interesting. Is the resolution of the ensembles the same as the operational GFS?
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:


I remember Fay 'cause I had jury duty that day. They let us all go.
you see? Weak tropical cyclones helping people get out of boring situations everywhere.
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Quoting TomTaylor:
Only 5 out of 20 of the 18z GFS Ensembles show a sub 1004mb storm at 120 hrs. Good news for the greater Antilles, as well as Florida and the SE US.


A big & wet TS is the least Haiti needs right now. I don't think any track scenario is good news at this point :/
Unless it completely dissipates before reaching the Caribbean.
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At 168hrs 12 of 20 GFS Ensemble members have a sub 1004mb system. Basically we can expect this storm to remain a weak to moderate tropical storm until it exits the Caribbean and clears the greater Antilles in around 6 or 7 days.

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1818. pottery
Quoting SLU:


Always factor in the northward bias of computer models in the EATL.

94L was supposed to be of interest to migrating birds and shipping interest. Now it's headed for the US mainland.

Good post.
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24402

Is this an anticyclone over 94L?
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1816. scott39
Expect a Major in the GOM.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
It is. Can't complain unless the power goes out, I don't mind a tropical cyclone as long as it doesn't result in several days of living like village people.

Well woooppsss, all I remember from Fay was very minor wind/rain. Might be because I slept through it though LOL.


I remember Fay 'cause I had jury duty that day. They let us all go.
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11283
Just to reemphasize I mentioned hurricane Cleo earlier because at the time it came off Cuba it was suppose to be nothing but TS as it passed between the Bahamas and Fl. At 11pm they put up hurricane warnings just in case we got hurricane force gust. Before the news was done our power went out and there wasn't any power for another two weeks. I saw bill boards who's steel supports were rotated 45 degrees. Back then we couldn't fly anywhere near Cuba but Miami did have radar. My point being these systems can do just about anything track wise,strength wise. Hispaniola does a good job on 90% of them though at a great cost to them. So here's to hopping it doesn't follow Cleo's lead.
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Whoever it was that said a few days ago, that Gordon would top out at 110mph and have us asking why... WHY?
Unfortunately, good job ;)
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Ahh yes that little ..... name was Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas  and here is another little tidbit I missed at the time.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16874
No changes on 96L

AL, 96, 2012082100, , BEST, 0, 103N, 269W, 25, 1010
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Quoting ProgressivePulse:


I know right, it's almost exciting. They are a fact of life here and most coastal areas. We just choose to live there.
I know alot people along Texas and La. Coast that don't live there any more due to Hurricane experiences, some friends and some relatives.
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1809. hahaguy
Quoting StormJunkie:

Nah, technically you were right in regards to the last classified major.  I'm still just a little pissed about that whole situation.  What was that damn mayors name that got those folks on Bolivar killed?

Quoting StormJunkie:

Nah, technically you were right in regards to the last classified major.  I'm still just a little pissed about that whole situation.  What was that damn mayors name that got those folks on Bolivar killed?

I was talking about FL.
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Quoting StormJunkie:

Welcome to the blog...You join a high quality list of Chucktonians here including presslord, chucktown, nash28, myself and a few other I'm sure I'm leaving out.


Rescue Guy waves hello!!
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Quoting washingtonian115:
2006(Ernesto),2007(Berry),2008(Fay),2009(Cluadette ),2010(Bonnie)...
Emphasis on "decent" lol. I remember Bonnie perfectly, skipped class that day for nothing. Major damage to the neighborhood though: leaves all over the place with the occasional branch...or two.
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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.




Was there a wrong turn at Albuquerque?



In other words, no one knows where it's going even if it does develop. Robust circulation coming along, but moving way too fast to get to maturity. Rinse, repeat. The Bermuda High is stationary. The current trough on the East Coast is lifting out without much impediment to the western periphery of the high. 2nd trough? Hhhmmm, okay, maybe so; but, still a bit early to be too deep. BH probably will not budge much and that'll mean a bit more western path. New England? I doubt it. FL? NC? Good chance if the western Canadian trough is deep enough. I wouldn't hold my breath.

Hey! It's got to develop first. Too fast, too much dry air in the present.
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Only 5 out of 20 of the 18z GFS Ensembles show a sub 1004mb storm at 120 hrs. Good news for the greater Antilles, as well as Florida and the SE US.

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Quoting JLPR2:


Keep in mind, the models initiated it at 12n there and clearly it is at 10n. I will wait until the location is adjusted and we get new models to then give an opinion. :P

I just don't like 96L. :P
It can be a major for all I care, as long as it stays away from me/dies before reaching me.
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Quoting washingtonian115:
2006(Ernesto),2007(Berry),2008(Fay),2009(Cluadette ),2010(Bonnie)...

not even strong enough to knock over my trash cans in broward county.
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Quoting hahaguy:
Woops,I must be of my game today lol.
Nah, technically you were right in regards to the last classified major.  I'm still just a little pissed about that whole situation.  What was that damn mayors name that got those folks on Bolivar killed?
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16874
Quoting Grothar:


I wasn't kidding about the shields Gro.
Member Since: August 19, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 5450
Quoting Grothar:


Gee, who would have guessed.?


Yes...we know...you have nailed 94L's track...so far!
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11283
Quoting ProgressivePulse:


I know right, it's almost exciting. They are a fact of life here and most coastal areas. We just choose to live there.
It is. Can't complain unless the power goes out, I don't mind a tropical cyclone as long as it doesn't result in several days of living like village people.

Quoting hahaguy:


I don't want another Fay lol. We had record flooding here.
Well woooppsss, all I remember from Fay was very minor wind/rain. Might be because I slept through it though LOL.
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
Off Topic.....Phyllis Diller passed away today. She was a very funny lady.


Yes, I have her Housekeeping Hints book.
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1797. Grothar
I may declare a blob before 11PM


Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26527
If convection increases the NHC may declare 94L a TD for the 5AM advisory. If not then they'll likely wait for recon.
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Quoting SLU:
20/1145 UTC 15.7N 44.8W TOO WEAK 94L

20/1745 UTC 15.6N 46.7W T1.0/1.0 94L

20/2345 UTC 15.2N 48.7W T1.0/1.0 94L


hmm WSW track like I said

15.2N 48.7W seems correct to me
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12166
1794. SLU
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

Eh. I don't think it'll be much of a threat. Reminds me of Fiona for some reason


Always factor in the northward bias of computer models in the EATL.

94L was supposed to be of interest to migrating birds and shipping interest. Now it's headed for the US mainland.
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Quoting washingtonian115:
2006(Ernesto),2007(Berry),2008(Fay),2009(Cluadette ),2010(Bonnie)...

Beryl & Debby from this year too...FL has gotten a lot of TS's. No hurricanes though.
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1792. scott39
The jet stream(steering) will be different with 94L compared to Ernesto and Helene. 94L will not being headed to the Yucatan. There will be a break long enough for 94 L to turn somewhere around SW FL. No matter how strong 94L is then, it will still have plenty of time in the GOM to become a major threat IMO.
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

Eh. I don't think it'll be much of a threat. Reminds me of Fiona for some reason




96L is not going too go out too seas


94L is not going out too sea
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115244
1790. LargoFl
Quoting unknowncomic:
Loved her. Made a lot of people laugh. Had a good long life. RIP Phyllis.
yes indeed..RIP she had a long illustrious life and made so many laugh
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Quoting SouthDadeFish:
Don't be fooled by the lack of convection. Microwave imagery reveals 94L has a great low level structure:




Our reality post of the day. Keep it at the top.
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So will there be TD 9 at 11 EDT?
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1787. JLPR2
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

Eh. I don't think it'll be much of a threat. Reminds me of Fiona for some reason


Keep in mind, the models initiated it at 12n there and clearly it is at 10n. I will wait until the location is adjusted and we get new models to then give an opinion. :P
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8735
Quoting Grothar:


Colored spaghetti my favorite!
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Haven't received a decent cyclone in years.
2006(Ernesto),2007(Berry),2008(Fay),2009(Cluadette ),2010(Bonnie)...
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Derived from (NHC) ATCF data for TropicalStoryGordon for 20August6pmGMT
MinimumPressure increased from 990millibars to 996millibars
MaxSusWinds decreased from 60knots(69mph)111km/h to 45knots(52mph)83km/h
Vector changed from 60.3*ENEast@16.8mph(30.4km/h) to 58.2*ENEast@22.2mph(35.7km/h)

PDL-SaoMiguel :: SMA-SantaMaria :: SCQ-Santiago de Compostela

The westernmost dot is Gordon's final position as a Hurricane
The westernmost dot on the longest line is where H.Gordon became a TropicalStorm, and its most recent position

The longest line is a straightline projection through TS.Gordon's 2 most recent positions to a coastline
20Aug.~5:20amGMT: H.Gordon made passage ~1.4miles(2.25kilometres)NNWest of SantaMaria at its closest approach^
20Aug.6amGMT: H.Gordon had been headed for passage over Isla de Ons^ (bottom,nearSCQdumbbell)
20Aug.12pmGMT: TS.Gordon had been headed for passage over south Muros (top,nearSCQdumbbell)
20Aug.6pmGMT: TS.Gordon was heading for passage 1.8miles(3kilometres)NNEast of Carino,Spain in ~1day4hours from now (when this was posted)

Copy&paste pdl, sma, 42.368n8.946w-42.738n9.087w, scq, 37.1n25.0w-37.9n23.2w, 37.9n23.2w-38.9n21.1w, 37.9n23.2w-43.794n7.918w, 43.769n7.905w-43.794n7.918w into the GreatCircleMapper for a larger map and other information
The previous mapping for comparison
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1783. Grothar
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
Models shifted back to the west...



Gee, who would have guessed.?
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26527
Quoting Tazmanian:




for being right you get a cookie

white choc chip

Quoting stormpetrol:
I think TA13 and myself called 94L at 90% first, DO we get the cookie and split it in half :), now look for TD status at 11 pm tonite, if not at 5 am tomorrow !


no I don't think so Bobo I called 90% at 8pm from 2pm today and TD 9 at 11pm from 12 noon today
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12166
1781. hahaguy
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Don't act like you wouldn't welcome a Fay repeat for the sake of a few days of no work/school with power. ;) Whether 94L will be a Fay or a Charley, is left to be seen -- if it even is something in the first place.


I don't want another Fay lol. We had record flooding here.
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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.