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 presslord:


Thank ya sir!!! You just gonna ignore my Rob Fowler comment?!


I have to, well, until someone names their local rock band after me !!
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This typhoon just spells DOOM for Taiwan. This could be a Category 5 soon...

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978. VR46L
Quoting Chiggy:
96L just emerging in to the ATL wide-view on SSD looks better in both the structure and convection....


Yep thats probably the one that everyone will be watching in a couple of days time 94L is only making the conditions better for it JMO .. and maybe why the models are struggling so much.



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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

That looks like a deep trough. I don't understand why the models are so far west..


Because it stays fairly weak.
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well boomers stopped here and not a drop of rain, looks like everything is going northward not eastward as is usual
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36972
Quoting psetas23:
I said it would hit florida or at least go into the gulf about 3 days ago and everybody said I was crazy


I get dat at least 4-7 times a week in wu-mail.

Take it as a Badge of Courage and wisdom.

I do.

: )
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Let's not forget we got a Category 4 typhoon in W. Pacific.

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Quoting hurricanehanna:

I saw winds from all directions...just my simplistic interpretation. Waiting on the final data from the Hurricane Hunters. Winds were very minimal.
what were the winds?
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Quoting Grothar:
Just like I said two days, right over Hispaniola. Oh, I'm not supposed to say that.



Gro- I thought we talked about your scary posting....

I see the tropics are heating up... So which invest gets named first?
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ESL by LSU archived Katrina Data


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Quoting justsouthofnola:
if all the moisture is headed north east in gom.... how come 95L wouldnt follow?


seems to me that it would follow all that moisture right into Florida.
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Quoting MAweatherboy1:
Here's my forecast guys. Sorry if the numbers are hard to read, I've never made one of these before.

Good Job, now I'm going to go do one.
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Quoting Chucktown:


What's up Press? Yea, I noticed that too. NOthing to worry about. I would be more worried about the deep tropical moisture that will be feeding across our area over the next 24 hours. It looks like a heavy rain event setting up for us, especially along the coast.


Thank ya sir!!! You just gonna ignore my Rob Fowler comment?!
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Quoting Tropicalupdate:
Does it have a closed center?

I saw winds from all directions...just my simplistic interpretation. Waiting on the final data from the Hurricane Hunters. Winds were very minimal.
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I said it would hit florida or at least go into the gulf about 3 days ago and everybody said I was crazy
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Quoting jascott1967:


I just went about 4 pages back and only found one person that "bashed" Levi and some slight but courteous disgreements with his analysis. Am I missing some or were they removed?

I know I disagreed with him once this year and was attacked by about 7 bloggers, even though I started my post with a "I respect Levi, he's usually always right".

It's like a witch hunt anytime someone doesn't agree 100% with Levi. Normally I wouldn't care but someone said the "Gulf people" are bashing him. I guess I'm not fond of the generalization especially when I can't find the evidence "Gulf people" are "bashing" him.
Frankly, I don't much care for the "fawning" tone of many bloggers when they compliment others, like Levi, on good comments. Nor do I care for the pejorative tone of those who bash bloggers with whom they disagree. I've never thought Levi was better than other bloggers, so I've never treated him that way. IMO he's just "one of us", just as capable of successes and failures as anybody else in this blog. I plus his posts if I feel like it; if I don't, I don't. Same as anybody else in the blog.

OTOH, I don't see why he should have to plus other posts just because a few bloggers feel hurt if he doesn't. IMO, he's not here to plus or minus people he likes or doesn't like; he's here because he's fascinated by tropical wx and is a part of this community. Unlike many who have fallen along the wayside, he's stuck around. Certainly he's come a long way from the kid who started out some years ago, but at heart he's remained himself; IMO, he hasn't changed much in that aspect. He's always been pretty confident in his forecasts; he's always been pretty cool about the you-say-I-say flow of this blog; he's never been "buddy-buddy" with much of anybody in the wise-cracking way many of us favor.

Let the man be.

In a way this is not really a defense of Levi so much as it is a comment on the actions of other bloggers. Every time somebody becomes popular on this blog, a few others whose motive I will not attempt to attribute here begin to tear at and knit-pick at that blogger. I've been disgusted and embarrassed in the past at the way the blog has become polarized based on the immature whining of a few. It was annoying to come into the blog this morning and find a couple of bloggers complaining because Levi doesn't plus other bloggers' posts. My God! the man is posting on his spare time, trying to study, work and build a reputation as a wx aficionado of note; he has to find time to validate you as well???

Grow up. Let the man be. Call him wrong when he's wrong. But stop this other foolishness. It's petty. It's mean. It looks bad on you. And in the end, it lessens the blog.

Geez.
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Quoting Charmeck:


I just noticed that also - what is that low pressue sitting off the coast???????


Never mind...it's gone now. It was a deep low pressure right of the SC coast when I posted and now it shows nothing. Must have been some kind of glitch.
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Quoting Grothar:
Just like I said two days, right over Hispaniola. Oh, I'm not supposed to say that.



Hopefully this doesn't sneak N of the islands on a B-line, playing chicken with the trough.
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Just like there are no amateur astronauts, there are no such things as amateur Met's.


I'm going with the Dr. Pepper today as the Fresca isn't getting it done on a Monday.


See the Peppa'

Be the Peppa'



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Quoting kwgirl:
That's because we have the same kind of weather every year at this time.


I think GOM temps were about 85F at highest for Katrina: am I remembering that correctly? We've got higher than that now plus higher air temps in many places I think, also.
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Quoting hurricanehanna:
looks like 95L may have a closed center
Does it have a closed center?
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if all the moisture is headed north east in gom.... how come 95L wouldnt follow?
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Quoting kwgirl:
My eyes aren't that good anymore. Did you notice that placing your cursor on the named storm highlights it's track on the map? But I still can't tell where the keys are.Nice but ridiculous. Now if just the track showed and the others disappeared for a minute, then I think it would be useful.
Mine started to go down hill at 40..Its a bummer because I had better than 20 20.
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Here's my forecast guys. Sorry if the numbers are hard to read, I've never made one of these before.

Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 82 Comments: 7625
Quoting GTcooliebai:
Was it Elena, maybe Keith?
cant remember that far back for a name, but it scared me, and it was only a TS..so i respect tropical winds now for sure
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36972
Quoting Chiggy:

My point here was that it's very hard to get storms hit the Tampa area!


A direct hit is not needed. A brush close enough to push the bay inland is all that is needed for serious problems.
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954. JLPR2
Hiya everyone! XD

I see 94L's circulation is looking sharp, also I see no sign of the swirly TW that was ahead of the invest, I guess it got sucked up by 94L.

All it needs is convection to strengthen into TD 9 and if this doesn't help it in the convection department, then I don't know what will.

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Quoting kwgirl:
Jealousy


That and younger blogger who are not respectful of others. Levi takes his time to put out HIS thoughts, and the reasons why. Most people here like to read his posts, and appreciate that.

For those who don't, don't read them. And personal attacks will create bans, especially if enough people tag them.
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Quoting presslord:


Chucktown...What's that little swirlyque thingy off our coast?!


What's up Press? Yea, I noticed that too. NOthing to worry about. I would be more worried about the deep tropical moisture that will be feeding across our area over the next 24 hours. It looks like a heavy rain event setting up for us, especially along the coast.
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96L just emerging in to the ATL wide-view on SSD looks better in both the structure and convection....
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Quoting Grothar:


I'm not giving out my forecasts anymore. You can can bashed for that.
LMAO...yes your right of course, wife is asking me would we leave, i said no, unless it was like andrew or katrina..otherwise we stay
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36972
Quoting Levi32:
There's still that interesting weak mid-level trough northeast of Puerto Rico (notice the height falls there) that is out ahead of 94L guiding it towards the Bermuda Ridge. Without proper soundings from that area going into the models, it could still potentially cause some slight wobbles in short-term track.


That looks like a deep trough. I don't understand why the models are so far west..
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Quoting LargoFl:
funny some time in the late 80's a tropical storm was crossing the state, i was driving back from Orlando..went under the overpass..came out the other side..i was in the left lane..the wind hit me so hard it pushed me sideways into the right lane..i pulled over shaking so hard i thought i'd have a heart attack..so surprising it was
Was it Elena, maybe Keith?
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911. Chicklit 7:57 PM GMT on August 20, 2012 +0
Quoting aussiecold:
..largo fl


well i found this...and the Last one to hit Tampa was 1846..flooded the city with storm surge..BUT..the very Lasy hurricane to hit tampa bay was..1921.............The last hurricane to hit Tampa Bay roared through in October 1921, causing widespread damage and a storm surge of 10.5 feet. The center of the storm came ashore in northern Pinellas County, near Tarpon Springs. In Tampa, water swept across DeSoto Park and over the seawall along Bayshore Boulevard. There were numerous reports of debris high in treetops the next day.
Action: Quote | Ignore User

Go to Dr Masters's blogs off two weeks and you will see ,i thought same than you just right before ,if your user id means to live in Largo ,i live in St Pete and for sure im older than you areso i do know about Tampa area very well .thanks

Aussie, here's Dr. Master's August 14th blog about Tampa hurricane history. Link
Action: Quote | Ignore User

Thank You!!!


Tampa Bay doesn't get hit very often by hurricanes. The last time it suffered a direct hit by any hurricane was 1946,
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Quoting NICycloneChaser:


Starting to look very well organised, wouldn't suprise me if it was close to TS-equivalent strength. Just needs to fire some convection, then I think it'll earn a name.

Really? Exposed CoC, not much convection, very large system which will take some time to get organized. Far from being a TS.....
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Quoting Grothar:
Just like I said two days, right over Hispaniola. Oh, I'm not supposed to say that.




Maybe you need to see the Tidbit. LOL Just playing Gro!
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Some invest wobble, but they don't fall down.


Kinda like those, weeble's me tink's.
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
but we can easily be scraped by storms and get high winds. Most folks that come on here said Donna was the last storm that brought sustained hurricane force winds to the area, I actually had a wind gust of 81 mph here in Largo during Jeanne. Here is a link of Tampa's history with Tropical Systems. Link
funny some time in the late 80's a tropical storm was crossing the state, i was driving back from Orlando..went under the overpass..came out the other side..i was in the left lane..the wind hit me so hard it pushed me sideways into the right lane..i pulled over shaking so hard i thought i'd have a heart attack..so surprising it was
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36972
Quoting Chicklit:
Okay, would you please take the Levi-stuff to WUmail? The kid's got an ego the size of Alask?a.
He doesn't need all your back and forth over this. lol Give it a rest.


Well, you just put yourself in the fray by saying his ego is as big as Alaska
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Quoting yoboi:


north winds in swla today......


Not a cold front or anything but a frontal boundary has pushed down into the gulf coast, which is why we're getting northerly winds and flow and elongated high convective blow up stretched over the entire GOM
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looks like 95L may have a closed center
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
May get a bump up to 90% at 8 pm EDT.



Starting to look very well organised, wouldn't suprise me if it was close to TS-equivalent strength. Just needs to fire some convection, then I think it'll earn a name.
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These amateur cones of uncertainty that starts out with 94L moving WNW are wrong to begin with... 94L clearly moving WEST and for some time to come.
Also, eastern ATL is still very dry and just like Ernesto,and TD7 this will also take long time to develop in to a substantial system.
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Quoting LargoFl:
..GRO..no chance this turns into a Katrina like storm huh


I'm not giving out my forecasts anymore. You can can bashed for that.
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Quoting CarolinaHurricanes87:


I respectfully disagree. The NHC did that with Debby... of course, Levi was on the same page as the NHC with that forecast and he got criticized for that, too. He gets criticized whether he goes exactly with the NHC or not. As someone said earlier, it really comes down to Levi being really good at what he does... if that weren't the case, he wouldn't receive as much attention (both positive AND negative).


Hey, I have nothing against Levi. He is well respected blogger in my book and I listen to his tidbits as another source of guidance along with the models and NHC when something tropical threatens my area of the SE US.
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Time to go make my forecast I guess, I'll be back in a bit with it.
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Sorry, double post
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There's still that interesting weak mid-level trough northeast of Puerto Rico (notice the height falls there) that is out ahead of 94L guiding it towards the Bermuda Ridge. Without proper soundings from that area going into the models, it could still potentially cause some slight wobbles in short-term track.

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Quoting LargoFl:
..GRO..no chance this turns into a Katrina like storm huh


That's starting to aproach silliness. Most of that blob has been there for days, 95L is just adding a little more moisture. There are no models that develop this invest into anything but maybe a tropical depression. There are no environmental conditions to suggest this is going to be another Katrina. It's going to bring some rain to the southeast and Florida, but that's already been happening.
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
Look, folks... Levi is not the only one making forecast. I made these two forecasts and I didn't get bashed for them. Why is Levi being bashed for more educated forecast and not me for posting such a stupid forecast?



..folks let it go
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 36972

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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.