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 TropicalWeatherGrl88:


That is weird, I can see the site but when I try to watch models, the screen is just white...
Are you trying to watch loops, or just view the individual images?
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95L not looking much like a closed circulation at this point...

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60hr:

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Can someone explain the legend on the FIM products? The map and legend make no sense. Cat 3 on the map, 45 knots on the legend.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
I'm using my school iPad, which is a black 32gb wi-fi only model (3rd gen). Back home I have a white 3rd gen model too but with 64gb and a wi-fi/4g connectivity.


Lucky.... our school system doesn't even have laptops because they don't even know what the heck to spend on.

That's another story though.
Member Since: September 2, 2006 Posts: 110 Comments: 6814
Quoting Stormchaser2007:
18z guidance is tightly clustered on Hispaniola.

The slightest of poleward nudges it appears since the 12z dynamic guidance was predominantly south of Hispañola.
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1275. Patrap
Quoting CosmicEvents:
Pat....is that you in that picture?


Im in the passenger seat, that Guy driving is Gro..
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Quoting RitaEvac:
This means the low is farther up the coast and farther out into the Gulf than expected



The last frame or two seems to show some nice rotation starting up.
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1273. Grothar
Quoting Thewatchcontinues:
is this graphic where 94l will be in a few days ?


No, it is just the FIM experimental models. It is where they "think" it might be.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 63 Comments: 23682
Time: 21:37:00Z
Coordinates: 24.65N 95.5833W
Acft. Static Air Press: 785.8 mb (~ 23.20 inHg)
Acft. Geopotential Hgt: 2,191 meters (~ 7,188 feet)
Extrap. Sfc. Press: 1011.5 mb (~ 29.87 inHg)
D-value: -
Flt. Lvl. Wind (30s): From 176° at 26 knots (From the S at ~ 29.9 mph)
Air Temp: 14.3°C (~ 57.7°F)
Dew Pt: 11.5°C (~ 52.7°F)
Peak (10s) Flt. Lvl. Wind: 28 knots (~ 32.2 mph)
SFMR Peak (10s) Sfc. Wind: 2 knots* (~ 2.3 mph*)
SFMR Rain Rate: 2 mm/hr* (~ 0.08 in/hr*)
(*) Denotes suspect data
Member Since: September 2, 2006 Posts: 110 Comments: 6814
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Oh wow, that's really odd. I can see his website just fine on mine. :/


That is weird, I can see the site but when I try to watch models, the screen is just white...
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Quoting SFLWeatherman:
Q.Will 94L go to FL
A.yes
B.NO
Q.IF it go to FL it will be what
A.TD
B.TS
C.Hurricane


A
B

Just a guess, obviously.
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Quoting Patrap:
Looks Like FIM takes it right to Folly Beach over Presslord's Boat dock.


Lmao, he better get his boat and start sailing north
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Quoting Patrap:
Right turn Clyde ?

Pat....is that you in that picture?
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94L is up 5kt and down 1mb
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HPC day 7 at FL
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Quoting Grothar:



Is that a new strom path behind 94L?
and IF that were to happen it'll be Irene 2.0
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Quoting Grothar:
Just heard on the TV that the NHC is having a computer problem and have not updated their models since 8 AM this morning. Did I miss this on here? So I guess like Yogi Berra once said, "what we've been looking at isn't even there."

Just got home. Do you want to give me the rundown or shall I torture you with more open-ended questions? :)
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
I'm using my school iPad, which is a black 32gb wi-fi only model (3rd gen). Back home I have a white 3rd gen model too but with 64gb and a wi-fi/4g connectivity.




sweet
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Quoting SFLWeatherman:
Q.Will 94L go to FL
A.yes
B.NO
Q.IF it go to FL it will be what
A.TD
B.TS
C.Hurricane

B no
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Quoting SFLWeatherman:
Tropical Storm Fay
August 18-23, 2008
i remeber that well 18inches of rain!!
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1258. Patrap
Looks Like FIM takes it right to Folly Beach over Presslord's Boat dock.
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Quoting Maineweatherguy20023:




http://fim.noaa.gov/FIMscp/from_jet/fim/244/20120 82012/wind_10m_f228.png







Interesting turnaround there!


Floyd, anyone?
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1256. CJ5
Quoting Thewatchcontinues:
is this graphic where 94l will be in a few days ?


no, just one of many long range models.
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Q.Will 94L go to FL
A.yes
B.NO
Q.IF it go to FL it will be what
A.TD
B.TS
C.Hurricane
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Little stronger than previous runs:
42hrs
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Quoting WxGeekVA:


le wild 6 hour old ASCAT appears! Elongated, but a 40kt wind barb and a handful of 30kts. Better organized now too IMO.


umm that is very old that was from late last night
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Quoting TropicalWeatherGrl88:


Thanks what website do you use to see these models because Allan Huffman doesn't work on mine.
Oh wow, that's really odd. I can see his website just fine on mine. :/
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18z guidance is tightly clustered on Hispaniola.

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Quoting Tazmanian:



hi 09 what Ipad do you have i got the ipad 3
I'm using my school iPad, which is a black 32gb wi-fi only model (3rd gen). Back home I have a white 3rd gen model too but with 64gb and a wi-fi/4g connectivity.
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AL, 94, 2012082018, , BEST, 0, 156N, 467W, 30, 1009

AL, 96, 2012082018, , BEST, 0, 123N, 274W, 25, 1010, DB

AL, 95, 2012082018, , BEST, 0, 235N, 965W, 20, 1008, DB,
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1247. Grothar
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 63 Comments: 23682
1245. etxwx
Reading about typhoons in the Pacific certainly serves as a reminder why we hope all storms go harmlessly out to sea.

Typhoon brings flashfloods, landslides to Philippines
8/21/12 Bangkok Post - Typhoon Tembin brought heavy rains to the northern Philippines on Monday, triggering landslides and flashfloods just weeks after a series of deadly storms and monsoon rains, the government said. The storm, which was upgraded from a tropical storm, was moving slowly northwards off the northern tip of the main Philippine island of Luzon while battering the mountainous region with powerful downpours.

The heavy rain caused landslides that damaged eight major highways, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said in a statement. There were no immediate reports of casualties. Tembin, packing maximum winds of 130 kilometres per hour with gusts of up to 160 kph, was expected to remain off the northern tip of Luzon for more than a day, the council added.

Local communities were warned to monitor the levels of rivers and streams in their area and prepare for evacuations in case they begin to rise. Storms and flooding from torrential rains have left at least 170 people dead this month. An average of 20 tropical storms or typhoons hit the Philippines each year.
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1244. Patrap
RGB Air Mass Product

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http://fim.noaa.gov/FIMscp/from_jet/fim/244/20120 82012/wind_10m_f228.png







Interesting turnaround there! Also note additional storm in N Atlantic
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
LOL, I'm on an iPad too.

This should work though: http://raleighwx.americanwx.com/models/ukmet/12zu kmet500mbHGHTPMSLtropical120.gif


Thanks what website do you use to see these models because Allan Huffman doesn't work on mine.
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1241. CJ5
Quoting Thewatchcontinues:
our local mets here in miami just said as of 5:20 pm that 94l will stay well well south of florida and 96 should stay out in the atlantic away from florida and i think they get their information from the nhc here in miami so it looks safe for florida


On 94l, that is a little optimistic considering the early models. I would not consider that good reporting.
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1240. Grothar
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 63 Comments: 23682
1239. Levi32
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Oh come on, we just went through this a year ago. Exactly. Lol.


I'm trying to remember lol. I'm pretty sure the UKMET had Irene north of the islands, yes?
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1238. Patrap

GOES-West / GOES-East RAMSDIS Online

We've changed some of the products to include a 2 week archive to allow you to create custom loops for any timeframe. Please click the "2 Wk Archive" link to access this feature for both the GOES-East and GOES-West 1 km Visible over Colorado and the 4 km Visible, IR2, IR3, and IR4.


; )
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Quoting RitaEvac:
He's back

Roger Clemens signs with Sugar Land Skeeters


The Sugar Land Skeeters? LOL.

How inappropriate.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
LOL, I'm on an iPad too.

This should work though: http://raleighwx.americanwx.com/models/ukmet/12zu kmet500mbHGHTPMSLtropical120.gif



hi 09 what Ipad do you have i got the ipad 3
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A few weeks ago there was a fairly large eddy east of where 95L is, if it is where I think it is. If it can maintain LLC and pass over this eddy, what then?
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Anyone else having issues with getting on the sfwmd.gov website?
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:
94L needs to take advantage of the monsoon trof to its south to be able to really modify the dry air that is entrained in it in order to develop any sort of impressive convection.

RAMMB/CIRA Experimental cloud temps (which I am not allowed to post) from around 20z showed there was a rather strong area of stable air just to the west of the circulation, which might be able to work into the large cyclonic envelope at some point during the next 12 hours.

This absolutely needs a productive diurnal phase to be anything more than a minimal tropical storm when it reaches the islands.




...look how HUGE it is compared to the leeward islands.. WOW!
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Quoting Patrap:
30% for 95L is warranted for the circ in the Gulf,Due East of Brownsville.





I don't know if it's just me but I am seeing 2 circulations, one of course as you mentioned east of Brownsville and another SSW of that. Anyone else seeing this?
Member Since: September 2, 2006 Posts: 110 Comments: 6814
1231. SLU
Quoting WxGeekVA:


le wild 6 hour old ASCAT appears! Elongated, but a 40kt wind barb and a handful of 30kts. Better organized now too IMO.


thats from last night and these winds were located near the blob SW of 94L last night.
Member Since: July 13, 2006 Posts: 12 Comments: 4731

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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.