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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Quoting Hurricanes101:
and here come the impatient crowd, 94L hasnt developed yet so it looks like crap and now wont lol

geez
Here read this mans blog.Please come back and tell me your thoughts.It's opened to the whole blog actually.Would really like to see you all's opinion.

Link
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Quoting Dakster:


Just what we need, a heat pump (turbo) with nitrous...

This ought to be fun to watch.

That things going to redline real soon too....And when it does, look out!
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96L goes to 60-70%. 94L stays the same.
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Invest 94L should stay the same or be down to 70 imo I think it will enter the caribbean.meanwhile 96L should be up to 40 or 50 looks good.
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1626. Dakster
Quoting thunderbug91:

...or Nitrous seems more like it


Just what we need, a heat pump (turbo) with nitrous...

This ought to be fun to watch.
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1625. bappit
Quoting thunderbug91:

...or Nitrous seems more like it

You need an engine capable of burning that rocket fuel. The high TCHP's matter only to storms that are already churning the top layer of the ocean. If the system is not strong (like everything currently out in the Atlantic) then having a deep layer of warm water does not matter.
Member Since: May 18, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 5951
1624. JLPR2
Quoting Matt74:
It looks terrible


Your avatar... where in San Juan was it? I got as picture of some very similar palm trees but they were in Rio Grande. :)
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Quoting weatherh98:


Was thinking rocket fuel

...or Nitrous seems more like it
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Quoting LargoFl:
...without all the color adding etc..there's nothing there, yes a low , yes there is spin, yes there are wispy clouds..but right now i just do not see 80%, a day or ttwo from now..in warmer waters, with storm clouds beginning to wrap around it..ok Then 80%,maybe even 90%..not trying to argue..for me..i just dont see the danger..not right now anyway, i remember this morning how we all were so anxious, OMG..LOOK at this...tonight i'm saying..what happened, nothing there lol

Old saying, 'If we don't hang together, surely we will all hang seperatly' the components of 94L can't hang together, and are hanging seperatly.
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and here come the impatient crowd, 94L hasnt developed yet so it looks like crap and now wont lol

geez
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1620. VR46L
Quoting spathy:


Thats it in a nutshell. Thats why I am asking so many questions. Its odd for me to do that though this far out. BUT the setup has my ears and eyes perked for some reason.
I have dismissed more storms like this than I have digits and appendages. I truly fear a weak non mountainous/island track. And if the next front is anything like the one to my North ATM God help me if its there at the worst time.


Thanks Spathy LOL .. I can understand your concern but it still has a long time for anyone will really know but there are folk who will try to help you out . :)
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1619. bappit
Quoting FutureWx6221:


Look, I'm sorry to have offended you, and I'm certainly not insulting your skills as a forecaster. I was offering up an opinion of mine, which was made based on observing this:



Unfortunately, it shows no strong winds or evidence of a circulation.

I too saw 95L's satellite presentation and wondered to myself if it would become a named system. Then I thought, "Hey, this is still attached to a front, the NHC will never name this."

The final fact that lead to my bold statement was the amount of model support 94L has compared to 95L.

Either way, I was expressing my opinion, and I am open to hearing your counterargument on 95L's behalf.

The front is still north of 95L. There was a prefrontal trough that pushed through SE Tx yesterday. The dewpoint in Brownsville is still up at 75. Houston dewpoint is around 63.

Pretty unbelievable to say that 95L is attached to a front.
Member Since: May 18, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 5951
Quoting unknowncomic:
You mean this one?
Wow... even Miss Cleo loved 50W... lol

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



You're putting this in your blog, right???
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 21484
Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:


Nice graphics.
Don't tell me you do that with MS Paint.
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94L looks like a hot a** mess right now.I still think it'll eventually be named.
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You don't see the danger because you don't live in the Antilles.
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1614. Matt74
Quoting LargoFl:
There is nothing there but a few clouds with a lil spin..LOOK at it...should be around 30-40% NOT 80%..not yet anyway.............
It looks terrible
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Bust
Member Since: October 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 5929
Quoting HoustonTxGal:
And if there is not enough systems to talk about... there looks to be another system lining up to exit Africa




There's a nice view of the wave activity over Central Africa here.
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Quoting washingtonian115:
I hope 94L pulls no Charley in the Gulf.Went from a 2 to a 4.

And Charley did that in 2-3 hours....
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1607. LargoFl
...without all the color adding etc..there's nothing there, yes a low , yes there is spin, yes there are wispy clouds..but right now i just do not see 80%, a day or ttwo from now..in warmer waters, with storm clouds beginning to wrap around it..ok Then 80%,maybe even 90%..not trying to argue..for me..i just dont see the danger..not right now anyway, i remember this morning how we all were so anxious, OMG..LOOK at this...tonight i'm saying..what happened, nothing there lol
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Quoting cat6band:



You should practice your own words....


Look, I'm sorry to have offended you, and I'm certainly not insulting your skills as a forecaster. I was offering up an opinion of mine, which was made based on observing this:



Unfortunately, it shows no strong winds or evidence of a circulation.

I too saw 95L's satellite presentation and wondered to myself if it would become a named system. Then I thought, "Hey, this is still attached to a front, the NHC will never name this."

The final fact that lead to my bold statement was the amount of model support 94L has compared to 95L.

Either way, I was expressing my opinion, and I am open to hearing your counterargument on 95L's behalf.
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Look at the Atlantic wide view at the NHC IR shortwave in motion. I think you'll see how it's been organizing better all day. It's interesting to put the various satellites in motion, they all have different perspectives.
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Quoting thunderbug91:


There is dynamite in the waters!


Was thinking rocket fuel
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Quoting zoomiami:


Baha -- I don't like that sweet spot, unless you plan on dragging it out to sea.

Very unscientific but: I think what many people are seeing is a pattern setting up in the models, that "could" lead to a FL/gulf coast storm. Although the models are certainly not set in stone, they do perform better than even 3 years ago.

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.....
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 21484
Quoting StormJunkie:

Excellent post as always nrti.  Would you mind explaining that scale though?  I'm used to seeing either depths or temps to a certain depths.  Is that kilo joules per cm?  Can that be right?  I must have something messed up in that.


Believe it is kj per square cm. Here it is in depth


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Love the dog fights, will it or won't it lol. Seen this situation on here too many times to even say yay or nay. I don't like crow so I'm going to stay on the sideline
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Quoting zoomiami:


Baha -- I don't like that sweet spot, unless you plan on dragging it out to sea.

Very unscientific but: I think what many people are seeing is a pattern setting up in the models, that "could" lead to a FL/gulf coast storm. Although the models are certainly not set in stone, they do perform better than even 3 years ago.

I've been talking about the pattern for a while... the two I keep seeing in the GFS long range, since about the beginning of August, are

1) along the N side of the Antilles, more or less closer to the US coast, with landfall over or N of the Carolinas and
2) some kind of FL crossing.

I think that as long as this high pressure system in the ATL remains as strong as it has been, there is an increased chance for a storm to hit the CONUS from FL to Maine, and coastal Canada is still very much in the mix. I'm not saying 94L will be "the one", or even that the landfall will be catastrophic, but the pattern is definitely there.

Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 21484
1598. LargoFl
Quoting Clearwater1:
Yes, and when if comes down to it and it get's closer in, the tvn And as you may know Largo, whenever Tampa is in the first cross hairs of the forecast, it means we don't get hit. But, sadly, they spent a lot of money sprucing up Tampa for the RNC, and did not leave a lot in the budget for the force field shield. Foolish politicians.
LOL..you have a point there
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Current Shear


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where getting consistant rain fall amost everyday here in central florida, if pre-Issac hit florida, theres going to be a quite bit of flooding. Next 2 weeks looks wet reguardless
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There is dynamite in the waters!
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Quoting MAweatherboy1:

I disagree. Irene definitely looks like a possible analogue to 94L, but no two storms are ever the same. Just because Irene did it doesn't mean 94L will or has to. It could of course, but right now I don't see significant development in the Caribbean.
irene and 94L are nearly IDENTICAL. irene was a naked swirl at one point with no convection AT ALL. it got over warmer waters and it started flaring up. eventually this will develop once it passes west of 50W longitude
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And if there is not enough systems to talk about... there looks to be another system lining up to exit Africa


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Thank you LargoFl. Appreciate your reply. Was here for Bertha, Fran, Bonnie & Floyd. When to bed the night before Floyd and it was to turn into Florida. Got up a 3 to go to work and the weather guy said I was wrong, gonna hit Wilmington NC. Still had to go to work, but sure had a hard time getting home! Major flooding.
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Quoting FutureWx6221:
I think it will. look time is the key, we have to wait and see.
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Quoting FutureWx6221:


You know, it's refreshing to find someone so receptive to another belief on here. That merits some sort of commendation.
Quoting FutureWx6221:


You know, it's refreshing to find someone so receptive to another belief on here. That merits some sort of commendation.



You should practice your own words....
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1588. bappit
Quoting CybrTeddy:


I don't think you're getting the point, Irene as an invest was even more pathetic looking and this was due to dry air intrusion. 94L is virtually identical in size that Irene was at this time and is facing similar conditions and developed not even two days later. You're putting too much into the water vapor images and need to look ahead a bit.

The vorticity is there and it will keep spinning for a long time. I just don't see it taking off tonight.
Member Since: May 18, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 5951
Quoting CybrTeddy:


I don't think you're getting the point, Irene as an invest was even more pathetic looking and this was due to dry air intrusion. 94L is virtually identical in size that Irene was at this time and is facing similar conditions and developed not even two days later. You're putting too much into the water vapor images and need to look ahead a bit.

I disagree. Irene definitely looks like a possible analogue to 94L, but no two storms are ever the same. Just because Irene did it doesn't mean 94L will or has to. It could of course, but right now I don't see significant development in the Caribbean short term.
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:as I said 90% at 8pm and TD9 at 11pm


The system is certainly there structurally. But convectionwise, the system is not likely to ramp up enough in the next four hours to require a renumber.
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Quoting FutureWx6221:
Just so we're clear, the most important thing in TC development in the closed surface low. It is much easier for a well defined storm to fire off the necessary convection for a renumber than it is for a frontal low or a blob fueled by convergence to work its way down to the surface.

This applies directly to a current situation we face. There is absolutely no chance that 95L receives a renumber before 94L. In fact, in my mind there is very little chance 95L ever gets a renumber.

That being said, 94L needs to be kept steady at 80%. There has been no decrease in organization to merit a drop in percentage. Also, I think the NHC needs to add in their TWO that an increase in convection will lead to a renumber and that this could happen at any time.

I am on board 100% with those who believe convection will begin to fire heavily soon. The storm is wrapping itself up slowly, but steadily.



That's a pretty " BOLD" statement....
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Once convection is generated, dry air won't be a huge problem. At least, not without wind shear.


well then 94L sould have no problems cause shear is very low
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Quoting MAweatherboy1:
Convection has waned some again, DMIN may have something to do with that but dry air is probably more to blame.



I really think the NHC should go down to 70% at 8PM, at least to acknowledge that this thing is not organizing as fast as expected... It's been code red for a long time now, longer than most code reds... Obviously they've been too aggressive. The thing is I don't think its chances to develop have come down, they were just put too high in the first place. Go ahead and bash me now :)
Doesn't seem to make sense at this point... it's best chance before the Antilles is actually in the next 36 or so hours... so reducing chances seems pointless.
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 21484

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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.