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 wunderkidcayman:


yes

with a little WSW movement


Thanks. Getting ready for what is to come our way.
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I Suppose I am late with this one but the Mississippi has been closed at Memphis due to low water levels.

"11-mile stretch of Mississippi River closed."


http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM 5hCF-Io5UXRM6mLuFeu7FaeDk4DXg?docId=1f0e860115c645 7e8f091e65fc22b75e

Seems that the quiet season is coming to an end! Well it was probably just the calms before the storms?
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1179. sar2401
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."


Wouldn't matter, since so many people here just make up their own models anyway. :)
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1178. Patrap
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1177. GetReal


Pics and Recon seem to indicate that 95L may be located a little further NE of where NHC thought it would be. It looks like the center is approx 75 to 100 miles ESE of Brownsville. IMO
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Quoting JeffMasters:
94L is attempting to develop a very large circulation. Take a look at a zoomed-out Central Atlantic loop of the circulation, there's a huge area of heavy thunderstorms to the SE that 94L is trying to wrap in. If it succeeds, this storm will bring heavy weather to a wide swath of the islands Wed and Thu. This may also slow down development, since it takes time to spin up a big chunk of the atmosphere.

Recon into 95L hasn't put out a vortex report yet. They're finding a lot of west winds, but no winds anywhere above 25 mph. Not a TD yet.

Jeff Masters
Looking at the Total Precip. imagery, I think we can all echo Dr. Master's observations. Something potentially big is afoot here.




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Quoting GetReal:


Well we have a pretty good spin associated with 95L, but no 30+ mph surface winds....


I really am not trying to be difficult here and am very interested in becoming more adept at this. I REALLY have a hard time identifying spin in forming or disorganized systems and this graphic is no exception.

How do you differ between mid level and low level and (here is the really bad part) where are you seeing any spin at all. It is like it is just a big blob.....(all apologies to Grothar....
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If 94L develops in the next 24 hours, which it likely will, then TS watches and warnings may have to go up for ALL of the Leeward and Lesser Antillies. This just shows how huge this thing is. I shudder to even think what it would look like as a hurricane!
Member Since: September 2, 2006 Posts: 110 Comments: 6878
1172. Levi32
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
It isn't often that this is said, but I believe that the UKMET has the absolute best handle on 94L for the time being.


It insists that 94L will manage to lift north of PR and Hispaniola, which would not be good news for those farther west.

I think the UKMET has had the best handle on the intensity of 94L from the beginning out of all the models, and since intensity is the largest factor in determining 94L's future track, it will be interesting to see how the UKMET does on track as well.
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
94L really does look good on the Central Atlantic Visible Loop and the environment ahead of it looks favorable for gradual intensification, not seeing an increase in wind shear anytime soon and once it gets away from this patch of dry Saharan air it has the green light.
50W, baby...

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The last couple of images from the 95L floater in RGB show a circulation in the Low/mid cloud near Patrap's radar blob "further east". Tiny ACE tho..

Link
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1168. DDR
Looks like a big rain event for the islands like the Doc said,we'll take it,condition are on the el nino side now.
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Quoting Thrawst:
Will keep saying this... Have seen worse looking TS's than 94L


that is true I have seen worse looking TD's and TS's than how 94L look myself
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12716
Link
bouy data near 95L
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Quoting jascott1967:


And then you die and get minused.

A man dies ...
only a few circles in the water prove that he was ever there.
And even they quickly disappear.
And when they're gone, he's forgotten, without a trace, as if he'd never even existed.
And that's all


Well, well....Aren't you just a little ray of sunshine?!
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It isn't often that this is said, but I believe that the UKMET has the absolute best handle on 94L for the time being.
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1162. Patrap
Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:
11-mile stretch of Mississippi River closed


That situation is getting worse and worse here downriver as well, as the Saltwater wedge is creeping up the Miss River...towards some Water Intakes.
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Quoting Grothar:


I appreciate that. The older one gets, the less plusses they get.


And then you die and get minused.

A man dies ...
only a few circles in the water prove that he was ever there.
And even they quickly disappear.
And when they're gone, he's forgotten, without a trace, as if he'd never even existed.
And that's all
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1160. GetReal
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Quoting Levi32:
Recon may yet find some kind of a circulation with 95L, but likely elongated and embedded within the frontal boundary. We have westerlies and easterlies now.



The circulation has actually tightened up looking at radar. See post 1046.
Member Since: September 2, 2006 Posts: 110 Comments: 6878
1157. 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."
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Quoting Thrawst:
Will keep saying this... Have seen worse looking TS's than 94L

*Cough* Jose 2011
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*Please note that these are unofficial and should not be taken seriously. Positive feedback is gladly accepted. Anything else, keep it to yourself.*
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

It has reached 48W. That is the beginning of the sweet spot.


That's what I was thinking.
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Quoting WxGeekVA:
Meanwhile, in my area...



Was looking at it earlier... think I may get jipped down here in Richmond. Sigh gotta love the Richmond split
Member Since: September 2, 2006 Posts: 110 Comments: 6878
Quoting Thrawst:
Baha, what are your thoughts on this potential problem for us? :s
I would LOVE

1) Out to sea track [normal in 8/10 cases, doesn't seem to be happening here].
2) Fast tracking storm just south of the Antilles, cross over Cuba near Havana and up the spine of FL... [GFS has been showing something similar, hope it works out]
3) Tracks into /through the Bahamas after crossing the NE corner of the Caribbean. How much of the Bahamas gets affected depends on how quickly that trough moves in and lifts out. Worst case scenario is the trough brings it up the archipelago then takes it to GA coastline. [NOT what I want to see :o(] Alternative is a cut across track into FL like some rather historical hurricanes of the past [can think of three or 4 of them, right off the cuff]

Mostly right now I'm just watching. Like the pple in PR, I did go out and double-check my shutters last week, just in case... lol But not much else we can do here until we get it closer to the Antilles and can get HHers into it.

Quoting bohonkweatherman:
I had northerly winds on Sunday also, front is in the northeastern counties of south Central Texas currently. THIS AFTERNOON A WEAK FRONTAL BOUNDARY HAS MOVED SOUTHWARD INTO
OUR NE COUNTIES SWITCHING SFC WINDS TO THE N AND LOWERING DEWPOINTS
INTO THE MID 50S ACROSS LEE AND FAYETTE COUNTIES. THIS BOUNDARY
WILL STALL AND BECOME DIFFUSE OVERNIGHT. LOWS TONIGHT WILL RANGE
FROM THE UPPER 60S EAST TO MID 70S ALONG THE RIO GRANDE.

Hey, bo... did u get any rain at all as this front made its way to the Gulf?
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1150. Patrap
One of the weirder obs I saw as well as K's Eyewall creeped up to my Locale from Grand Isle..was the High, and I mean High up near the Canopy was this lightening..

And I said out loud to myself, man this a different beast.

I was never so right in my whole life.

And it was at that point I said, well you may have made a really bad mistake Patrick.



Geophenomena
Hurricane Katrina hits hard
Ice's electric sidekick






This satellite image of Hurricane Katrina, created by combining radar and radiometer data together from the moment when the storm made landfall, shows the hurricane’s increased precipitation as it grew to a Category-5 storm.

Little white spikes mark where the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission’s Lightning Imaging Sensor detected flashes of lightning. Note that the detected lightning occurs in the outer spiral bands of the hurricane, and not at the center.

That difference may be because the clouds forming Katrina’s eye lacked precipitation-sized ice, a conclusion that requires further research. In the meantime, a new study has shed light on the role of ice in the occurrence of lightning.

Image by Dennis Boccippio, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center.
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Quoting presslord:


Thou Shalt Not Make Fun of George Noory

He is the source of all science worth knowing...
if you see the skunk apes here in FL migrating toward the coast you know there is a storm brewing.
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Behold the season of Hurricanes.
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1147. sar2401
Quoting Patrap:

I wunder how much,if any ACE one can squeeze outta dis ?



Not much. Those rainbow floaters always make storms look like they have more convection than they really do. Take a look at the radars by comparison. You'd think most of te Gulf coast was getting ponded when the only real activity is in Florida. I tells ya, Pat, it's just a big blob. :)
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Quoting ProgressivePulse:
We'll call him "Speck" for now. Could be an interesting morning tomorrow.




It has reached 48W. That is the beginning of the sweet spot.
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Quoting txwcc:

Holy crap did that circulation improve!


maybe at mid level
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1144. Thrawst
Will keep saying this... Have seen worse looking TS's than 94L
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We'll call him "Speck" for now. Could be an interesting morning tomorrow.



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quick note 94L just took a jog WSW on last image on RGB loop I am waiting for more images to come in so I can confirm this jog.
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Quoting floridaT:
listening to late night talk shows on am radio are we?


Thou Shalt Not Make Fun of George Noory

He is the source of all science worth knowing...
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1139. GetReal


Well we have a pretty good spin associated with 95L, but no 30+ mph surface winds....
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Quoting Patrap:
Nothing concerns me more than a Low Lat,Big CV Cranker slowly organizing.

Its like watching a Bad Horror flick in slow Motion in Bad seats.


Looking forward to the G-4 Sniffs and some consensus downstream.




Pat, I'm planning my surf weekend already

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Part of the short-term issues with 94L will depend on how much it can consolidate and organize if it heads towards the Northern Antilles/PR. There is Tutt/ULL cell (at the moment) draped from Hispanola to the North of PR which is also causing some SW sheer in that region. Will be interesting to see how much it can get it's act together before reaching that area in a few days.

ULL

Link

SW Sheer

Link
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In the last frame or two here, either the center jogs southward into that small cluster of storms, or the storms expand a little and cover the center:



Who knows, maybe getting that center covered is all it needs.
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1135. Patrap
Over on GLP they talking about 94L being a Mayan Precursor..but I never go there to engage in dat kinda stuff.

Never.

Well, hardly..

Okay 8-10 times a day "maybe".
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Quoting islandgirls:
Good afternoon all. Is there the possibility of decrease in forward speed before 94L reaches the islands?


yes

with a little WSW movement
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12716
Quoting aspectre:
1066 presslord: I'm really disappointed the "Grand Master Jeff" thing hasn't caught on

Frankly sounds like your trying to insult the dude


I can assure you...he knows that is most certainly not the case...
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Quoting Grothar:


There are times that dry air to the North of a system call actually assist in the westward movement of a storm, depending on its outflow. Dry air is not always an impediment. A lot of people do not know that.


Thanks for the info, I did not know that.
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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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