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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1731. LargoFl
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
Why are so many of you guys forgetting that 94L has a much better organized circulation than 96L? All it needs is a good burst and it's 09L. 96L will take a while to organize a good circulation. Also, while I haven't been able to check surface charts, it seems 96L hasn't detached from the monsoon trof yet.
my guess is, like the other storms before it..it will race across at 25 mph and two weeks from now...we will be sitting here...talking pro and con..about IT..lol..what a season this is huh
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Interesting Stormjunkie they drop the mb 3.5 as they drop the wind 2mph.
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94L has been moving a bit S of due W today.



Here's my forecast from earlier. You can change that first 30 to a 35 due to the latest ATCF update but my thoughts haven't changed.

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1728. JLPR2
Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
Why are so many of you guys forgetting that 94L has a much better organized circulation than 96L? All it needs is a good burst and it's 09L. 96L will take a while to organize a good circulation. Also, while I haven't been able to check surface charts, it seems 96L hasn't detached from the monsoon trof yet.


That is very true, the ASCAT pass indicates 96L circulation isn't organized at all.

Though the convection it has developed should change that soon.
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1727. scott39
Quoting washingtonian115:
You gave a good laugh for being so arrogant.Have a nice evening :).
If you could have heard me say it with love....your impression of arrogance would have just melted away :) Hope you have a nice evening too.
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 6871
Quoting MAweatherboy1:

Really they should have used "would" instead since convection is all it needs... I just think the 90% is a bit too aggressive because we've been at this stage for a while now and nothing's happened.

There's only one 50W.
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Quoting ProgressivePulse:


It will be rather easy to tell when it will be called. It will be the nearest 11 or 5 "after" significant convection has formed at the center.
If the diurnal maximum proves to be helpful convectively, we should have 09L by sunrise.
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1724. Levi32
18z GFS ensembles clustered around Florida:

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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 !


They only are waiting a burst of convection to Declare
Member Since: June 20, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 2159
AL, 94, 2012082018, 156N, 467W, 30, 1009, DB
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11319
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 !


It will be rather easy to tell when it will be called. It will be the nearest 11 or 5 "after" significant convection has formed at the center.
Member Since: August 19, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 5451
1720. LargoFl
Quoting JohnsIslandJoe:


100 MPH winds hitting SC? Ughh! Since I live in Charleston I'm pulling for a hard right out into the open Atlantic. These storms are amazing to watch but miserable to live thru.
indeed and if it does go your way..stay safe up there
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1719. SLU
Some very strong language on 94L and 96L from the NHC.
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Quoting MAweatherboy1:

Really they should have uses "would" instead since convection is all it needs... I just think the 90% is a bit too aggressive because we've been at this stage for a while now and nothing's happened.

Well, consider the *reverse* centrifugal effect... 94L has his arms and one leg out so fast right now that when one arm and one leg (his companion llcs) drop out he will spin up just like an ice dancer, fast and furious.

Apparently the NHC DOES know the exact future center.
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1717. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54623
If wunderkidcayman got a percentage right, you know the NHC is down with a severe case of liberalism. ;)
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Why are so many of you guys forgetting that 94L has a much better organized circulation than 96L? All it needs is a good burst and it's 09L. 96L will take a while to organize a good circulation. Also, while I haven't been able to check surface charts, it seems 96L hasn't detached from the monsoon trof yet.
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Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11319

Forming as we speak 15n 49w mayn't have to wait Stormpetrol.
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Thoughts:

94L: Will become Isaac on Tuesday, and strengthen into a moderate TS (50-60mph) before hitting Hispaniola. Mountains will weaken it slightly to a minimal TS. Will turn N and hit GA or SC as a minimal hurricane.

95L: Won't develop, may bring rain to the gulf coast.

96L: Too early to tell, but I think this will become Joyce.

Africa Wave: May try to become Kirk in the next week.
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1711. JLPR2
Here is 96L's ascat pass, ATCF has it at 12n, but by the looks of this the LLC is developing at 10n.

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Hurrican Ike is the storm that helped me come to realization that these storms are unpredictable. All day the prediction that it would turn to the north,east of fla.of course, that never happened.no turn to the north,until galveston.
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Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:
18Z GFDL


HOUR:114.0 LONG: -77.94 LAT: 21.79 MIN PRESS (hPa): 1002.13 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 42.28
HOUR:120.0 LONG: -78.73 LAT: 22.97 MIN PRESS (hPa): 1000.74 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 42.77
HOUR:126.0 LONG: -79.47 LAT: 24.09 MIN PRESS (hPa): 998.71 MAX SURF WIND (KNOTS): 40.85
Smack dab in the middle of the straits after a trek over the mountains it looks like, no?
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Quoting allancalderini:
Will 94L be consider a cape verde or 96L will be the first one?


Cape Verde-type hurricanes typically develop from tropical waves which form in the African savanna during the wet season, then move into the African steppes. The disturbances move off the western coast of Africa and become tropical storms or tropical cyclones within 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) of the Cape Verde Islands, usually between July to September. However, Cape Verde hurricanes have formed as early as June or as late as October. An average of two form per hurricane season.[1]Link
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1707. scott39
Quoting HoustonTxGal:
Is there really a need to be nasty?


Sorry if I offended you....it really was not meant to be mean spirited.
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 6871
Quoting LargoFl:
I dont know where this IS in texas, but this is a second warning for that area there............
BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE AMARILLO TX
634 PM CDT MON AUG 20 2012

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN AMARILLO HAS ISSUED A

* SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING FOR...
DEAF SMITH COUNTY IN THE PANHANDLE OF TEXAS
OLDHAM COUNTY IN THE PANHANDLE OF TEXAS

* UNTIL 730 PM CDT

* AT 632 PM CDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE METEOROLOGISTS HAVE
DETECTED A LINE OF SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS CAPABLE OF PRODUCING
QUARTER SIZE HAIL...AND DESTRUCTIVE WINDS IN EXCESS OF 70 MPH.
THESE STORMS WERE LOCATED ALONG A LINE EXTENDING FROM 12 MILES WEST
OF ADRIAN TO 7 MILES NORTHWEST OF BOOTLEG...OR ALONG A LINE
EXTENDING FROM 25 MILES WEST OF VEGA TO 29 MILES WEST OF
HEREFORD...MOVING EAST AT 35 MPH.

* LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE...
ADRIAN...
HEREFORD...
BOOTLEG...
WILDORADO...
VEGA...
SIMMS...
DAWN...
BOYS RANCH...

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

TO REPORT SEVERE WEATHER...PLEASE CALL THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
AT 8 0 6 3 3 5 1 1 2 1.
9 hours and 600 miles from my house, LOL
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Quoting Thewatchcontinues:
I BELIVE IT WILL BE 78% AT 8PM


I believe it is 100% chance ur a troll
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Quoting LargoFl:
...they should have highlighted the word.."COULD"

Really they should have used "would" instead since convection is all it needs... I just think the 90% is a bit too aggressive because we've been at this stage for a while now and nothing's happened.
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Make no mistake 94L is well defined system that ate the area of low pressure ahead of it, lacking a little convection yes, but the structure is that of a TD/TS, this is potentially a very dangerous system IMO.
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1702. marmark
Quoting Thewatchcontinues:
not worried at all here in florida these storms seem to always either fizzle out or hook way east out to sea or go well south
not always...
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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 !

TD at 11 PM
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1700. scott39
94L is going to a beast for the W side of Fl. and possibly the N Gulf Coast. I think Dr. Masters can tell the future, after he wondered about a Tampa strike around the same time of the RNC. Lol
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1699. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54623
Quoting BahaHurican:
BTW, that sweet spot brought most of the weekend rain we had last month.. remember how heavily it poured?

I'm not wanting anything potent getting into that potential.....


I certainly remember that rain -- my beautiful lawn is the results.

We share a lot of the same weather from these storms and setup -- so we'll just keep an eye out.
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Quoting allancalderini:
Will 94L be consider a cape verde or 96L will be the first one?

Florence was the first one actually

and 94L is past 40W, so it would not be considered a Cape Verde storm
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Quoting spathy:


But the area South of the islands is enough room /before it crosses Cuba. Not that that is the eventual track,but its not ruled out yet.

Just think clear path,late strengthening and a far South front.

I dont want that, I am of the age that I cant lift the plywood without causing great harm to my back.

I am not freaking out, I am just watching and venting.
I hear ya spathy, and no worries.  Anything is possible at this point, I just think that the guidance takes it too close to the Islands unless it goes N.

Thanks nrti, I'll look around and see if I can figure out what a kj is.  The 26c depth map makes a lot more sense to me though :)
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1694. LargoFl
Quoting MAweatherboy1:
This sentence from the TWO pretty much hits the nail on the head:

WHILE SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS REMAIN
SOMEWHAT LIMITED NEAR THE CENTER...ANY SIGNIFICANT INCREASE IN
THUNDERSTORM ACTIVITY COULD RESULT IN THE FORMATION OF A TROPICAL
DEPRESSION TONIGHT OR TOMORROW.

IMO 90% is a little too aggressive, but we'll see.
...they should have highlighted the word.."COULD"
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Will 94L be consider a cape verde or 96L will be the first one?
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Quoting Thrawst:
For the fun of it... and everyone else apparently making it, I thought I'd give my own projection for 94L.
Just because I live in the Bahamas does not mean I want it to come to me, it's just how I perceive the pattern, and the pattern looks like it could come close to my home. :(

While not specifically shown, in order to create this, I had to think of intensities.
Landfall intensity @ Haiti - 65mph
Landfall intensity @ Andros - 70 mph
Landfall intensity @ South Carolina - 100 mph





100 MPH winds hitting SC? Ughh! Since I live in Charleston I'm pulling for a hard right out into the open Atlantic. These storms are amazing to watch but miserable to live thru.
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I wish the NHC gave forecast cones and intensities on invests.
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1690. JLPR2
Quoting Matt74:
It was at the Wyndham Rio resort. It's about 30 miles outside of San Juan. We went back in June. Very beautiful down there. Can't wait to go back. Where abouts do you live in PR if you don't mind me asking?


Ah yes! They are the same palm trees then. :) I live in northern Carolina,PR almost San Juan.

Here is the picture, I was there in June too.
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1689. HarryMc
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 !


How about a Whoopie Pie and split that in half? Good call... I read that earlier and you were right.
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Is there really a need to be nasty?

Quoting scott39:
You bone heads who think you know more than the NHC, gave a good laugh for this evening!

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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:
Doesn't look like a mess to me. Just needs more convection.

It already has a closed low-level circulation. So painstakingly close to TD status, yet so far...
Also, it's ginormous, so I put the big image instead of the floater.
Icommented earlier today about the LLC looking like a little steam engine giving off puffs of clouds as smoke, blowing off in the wind... anything that tips this system to the point where it can produce more clouds than are blowing off is going to jumpstart it as a TD.

Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22357
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 !



na you get a 48hr bannd for being right LOL



this kinding
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Quoting scott39:
You bone heads who think you know more than the NHC, gave a good laugh for this evening!
You gave a good laugh for being so arrogant.Have a nice evening :).
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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 !
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94.twc.biggest.threat.f.the.yr.
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1682. bappit
Urk.

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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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