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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1481. LargoFl
SPECIAL WEATHER STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MELBOURNE FL
643 PM EDT MON AUG 20 2012

FLZ059-202330-
ST. LUCIE-
643 PM EDT MON AUG 20 2012

...A SIGNIFICANT WEATHER ADVISORY IS IN EFFECT FOR STRONG WIND GUSTS
BETWEEN 45 AND 55 MPH OVER EASTERN ST. LUCIE COUNTY...

* UNTIL 730 PM EDT.

AT 639 PM EDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED A
LINE OF STORMS CAPABLE OF PRODUCING STRONG WIND GUSTS FROM 6 MILES
SOUTHWEST OF SAINT LUCIE VILLAGE TO 8 MILES SOUTHWEST OF PORT SAINT
LUCIE...MOVING NORTHEAST AT 15 MPH.

LOCATIONS IN THE PATH OF THE STORM WHICH MAY EXPERIENCE STRONG WINDS
INCLUDE INDIAN RIVER ESTATES...PORT SAINT LUCIE RIVER PARK...QUEENS
COVE AND SAINT LUCIE WEST.

THE PRIMARY THREAT WILL BE CLOUD TO GROUND LIGHTNING STRIKES AND
GUSTY WINDS OF 45 TO 55 MPH...WHICH CAN CAUSE UNSECURED OBJECTS TO
BLOW AROUND...SNAP TREE LIMBS OR CAUSE POWER OUTAGES. HEAVY RAINFALL
WILL TEMPORARILY REDUCE VISIBILITY. SEEK SHELTER INDOORS UNTIL THE
STORM PASSES.

LAT...LON 2726 8021 2728 8023 2726 8023 2726 8028
2721 8028 2721 8046 2726 8043 2749 8052
2756 8035 2756 8031 2746 8028 2742 8026
2740 8026 2733 8021 2727 8019
TIME...MOT...LOC 2243Z 230DEG 13KT 2747 8041 2732 8035
2721 8042

$$
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Why are statistical models said to be better than dynamical models?
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1478. LargoFl
Quoting Tazmanian:
pooor tamp FL
LOL not gonna happen,shields are polished and up, this storm goes elsewhere, besides that, on sat image it doesnt look like anything but a lil spin, we got more rain and wind sitting in the gulf right now then that storm has
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1476. JLPR2
I must say 96L is not getting enough love. :P
I expect its chances to increase at 8pm, 94L might stay at 80%, but it has a chance at getting upped to 90%, 95L should stay at 30%. IMO

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96L looks better then 94L
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So i went back a few pages and saw a plus problem was going on.Lol.if it makes anyone feel better why won't the WU-Admin make it anonymous again like before?.Problem solved...
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94

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1472. scott39
Quoting icmoore:


I hope you're wrong..
Me too.
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1471. LargoFl
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Quoting MississippiWx:


How about Miss Cleo, the psychic? She could answer all of our forecast questions.




Miss Cleo lived in Fort Lauderdale at the time so it would be '64
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1469. Patrap
MSLP,FRONTS and ZOOM are active

Gulf Of Mexico - Funktop Color Infrared Loop


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pooor tamp FL
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Quoting washingtonian115:
I'm not to sure what the models are seeing that we aren't.There may be a weakness that may pull 94L up north and send it through the Bahamas to the east coast.Util 94L develops we really won't have a good solution on potential track.Worth noting is that 94L is more north than Irene from last year.
Actually, pretty much every model has the basic cone from Appalachicola to off the OBX.  So I would say there is a pretty good consensus on general track...The specifics are what will have to be worked out in the coming days.  Just my thinking right now though.  Hard to argues with that much agreement between the models.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 15472
Quoting avthunder:
Don't let them bother you. There will always be someone with something to criticize. Most of us on here appreciate folks like you offering your thoughts and expertise. I know i don't have the skill set to post what you do.


Absolutely. I enjoy the posts and blogs several of you "youngsters" do. Very impressive.

Learn all you can, make predictions based on that knowledge, defend your position against honest critique, listen to wisdom, and learn from your errors. That is a wonderful educational model.. Oh, and just walk away from detractors.
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1465. scott39
Whoever needs to get thier refills on Zanax...prozac...Zoloft and somas.... please go do that now. 2012 hurricane season is heating up and we cant have people flaking out on here.
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1464. Grothar
Quoting MississippiWx:


How about Miss Cleo, the psychic? She could answer all of our forecast questions.





I knew you were going to post that! :)
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 63 Comments: 23724
Quoting ProgressivePulse:


Appreciate the link MH09, I couldn't get there at work and not at home now either.


Noticing a growing population moving just N of the islands.


Quoting ProgressivePulse:


Appreciate the link MH09, I couldn't get there at work and not at home now either.


Noticing a growing population moving just N of the islands.




Looks like we are going to ride a storm on thursday here in PR. Hope doesnt get stronger than 50 mph TS...
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1461. icmoore
Quoting scott39:
I dont think 94L will recurve out to sea or hit the East Coast. This is a West Coast Fl. storm or a N Gulf Coast storm. IMHO


I hope you're wrong..
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Quoting MississippiWx:


Afternoon, dear.

I posted my thoughts on yesterday's blog. I found the dates that much up best with the 500mb forecast pattern at 8-10 days and matched them up with storms that were occurring at that time. Most, if not all, went up the East Coast from FL to New England. Past pattern recognition supports an East Coast threat somewhere. However, educated people know that subtle differences make huge implications on eventual track. Thus, the reason you said a Gulf storm is still possible. I say the same thing, although I say it is not probable at this point.
I'm not to sure what the models are seeing that we aren't.There may be a weakness that may pull 94L up north and send it through the Bahamas to the east coast.Util 94L develops we really won't have a good solution on potential track.Worth noting is that 94L is more north than Irene from last year.
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1459. GetReal
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1458. LargoFl
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1457. Patrap



Quoting WxGeekVA:
Hour 192: Tampa getting hit....



7 years shy of K by 12 Hours.

Go Fig'ya ?

We've seen that 2 times in 24 Hours now.

That run earlier by half a day.

I'll just offer dat cuz it popped in my skull.

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Quoting Patrap:


Quoting Thrawst:


Hey look, I'm in the eye :D
NOT funny...

;o)

Quoting Jedkins01:
Remember, don't panic over a major hurricane landfall in Florida already, it's not even a depression, its currently less intense than the complex of storms headed into the west coast of Florida tonight for that matter lol. A lot can still change and probably will change before all is said and done.

I wonder how many times I will have to stress this over the next few days? lol
Jed, it won't make any difference... pple will freak out anyway....

ohnoes....lol

Quoting Jwd41190:
Does anyone thing 94L has a chance of hitting Charleston, SC instead of the Outerbank of NC?
A few wx model runs have... do they count? lol

Seriously, pretty much anything north of Belize is still well within the realm of possibility at some point... stay tuned.
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 20733

Quoting ProgressivePulse:


I am still not sold on this not squeaking N of the islands.
Me either pulse at all...Just saying that if it does that then it is not on the GFS track, and if sneaks past them to the N, then having the mountains to the S will be less of an impact.  At that point I would be concerned for the folks in the Bahamas, the E coast of Fl, all the way up to the OBX because someone could get a really nasty system.  Of course, I am sure some will say it could thread the needle of the straits, but I don't see that happening. 

So for now, I am rooting for the GFS...Because it basically takes it on a trek that almost no tropical cyclone can strengthen in.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 15472
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
The 18z TVCN and 18z GFS look like a pair of twins.


Similar to NHC track
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1452. scott39
Quoting randyb103:

1402. scott39 10:24 PM GMT on August 20, 2012 Hide this comment.
I dont think 94L will recurve out to sea or hit the East Coast. This is a West Coast Fl. storm or a N Gulf Coast storm. IMHO

That's right, your IMHO... But Puhleeze... why take such an attitude. No scientific reasoning.
No attitude...just my Opinion.... just like the other 12 billion on here:)
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1451. Patrap
Brownsville
NEXRAD Radar

Storm Relative Mean Radial Velocity 0.5° Elevation
Range 124 NMI





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Hour 192: Tampa getting hit....

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1449. Grothar
Quoting gordydunnot:
Somebody forgot to tell that to hurricane Cleo, it was a TS when it came off Cuba. That would be a very costly storm today.


Which Cleo, 58 or 64?
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 63 Comments: 23724
Quoting caneswatch:



He said it was fake, calm down Taz, no need for that.


yes I did say that however I do kinda agree with Taz it does look very simmlar
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 9565
Quoting washingtonian115:
If 94L continues to go west like the models indicates it will have problems with the trade winds and land interaction.


Well true... I was mainly stating if the center could avoid the death traps like Hispanola and Cuba. Then it would have the chance to take a more northerly component.
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1446. GetReal
Quoting Patrap:
Notice the Trof/Front Line fade,..and dat lil un spinning truck off Neast.










Little spin has moved further out into open water....
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Quoting caneswatch:



He said it was fake, calm down Taz, no need for that.




some of you guys need too chill out dudes i re move my post you guys need too re move the quotes of my post that i re moved


and chill
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1444. Grothar
Quoting ProgressivePulse:
I am absolutely no "wishcaster" but looking at model trends, I think 94L has FL written all over it, whatever it ends up being.


You're way off. Haven't you looked at the latest GFS.

Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 63 Comments: 23724
Im currently updating my graphic for 94L... SIGNIFICANT CHANGES based on the current patters steering 94L...
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1442. will40
Quoting Tazmanian:



i re move the post




ty Taz
Member Since: September 19, 2005 Posts: 2 Comments: 4066
Watch 131 Years of Global Warming in 26 Seconds

Link
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Quoting washingtonian115:
Good afternoon MSWX.I actually think a east coast threat to a Gulf threat is possible with this storm.All depends on timing.I'm still going with a east coast threat and have since the beginning.Not because of other bloggers opinions :).


Afternoon, dear.

I posted my thoughts on yesterday's blog. I found the dates that much up best with the 500mb forecast pattern at 8-10 days and matched them up with storms that were occurring at that time. Most, if not all, went up the East Coast from FL to New England. Past pattern recognition supports an East Coast threat somewhere. However, educated people know that subtle differences make huge implications on eventual track. Thus, the reason you said a Gulf storm is still possible. I say the same thing, although I say it is not probable at this point.
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Quoting StormJunkie:

Slightly left on this one, but most notable is that it takes it along the most brutal course possible over almost all of PR/DR and Cuba.  It will be a flooding TD or TS if it takes that course, not a nightmare major.  Honestly, I think at this point that course is one of the best we can hope for.


I am still not sold on this not squeaking N of the islands.
Member Since: August 19, 2005 Posts: 5 Comments: 4863
Somebody forgot to tell that to hurricane Cleo, it was a TS when it came off Cuba. That would be a very costly storm today.
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1437. Patrap
One can see in the Rainbow still that lil Bubble along those convective Tops East of Brownsville




Brownsville
NEXRAD Radar

Base Reflectivity 0.50 Elevation
Range 248 NMI


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Quoting Tazmanian:




re move that now plzs or evere one is going too think it is real


PLZS DO NOT POST FALES INFO



take it down NOW



He said it was fake, calm down Taz, no need for that.
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Quoting CybrTeddy:


May I have a link?
18z TVCN is further down the blog. 18z GFS http://raleighwx.americanwx.com/models/18zgfs.html
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Quoting tropicfreak:


Same here unfortunately... if it goes to the north or follows the greater Antillies, then it may have no choice but to go NW then NNW along the periphery. I just do not see the ridge really building in forcing it west towards Florida, and the gulf.
If 94L continues to go west like the models indicates it will have problems with the trade winds and land interaction.
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IMHO I'm currently seeing some similarities in tracking that resemble the track of Hurricane Frances of 2004 right now. If it makes it into the Carribbean south of Puerto Rico, I would say its more of a Hurrine Charley track.
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1432. Grothar
Quoting ProgressivePulse:


Humm, wonder why I can't get there.


You can't get there from here.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 63 Comments: 23724
Quoting Patrap:
Notice the Trof/Front Line fade,..and dat lil un spinning truck off Neast.






Looks like that circulation to the SW isn't as evident on radar as the Brownsville circulation is. Looks like the northern circulation wins this...
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About JeffMasters

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