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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Oh lordy.
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Can't believe everyone is forgetting Cleo
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...If 95L develops in the Gulf, it's terrifying to think what it could become. I think all of these invests have a great potential to develop in the very near future... just not sure what the order will be, thinks tend to spin up in the Gulf rather quickly, and the other two still have dry air to fend off.
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Hey Levi....You said in your tidbit that this pattern is more west than Irene. Well if Irene passed directly over Abaco then isn't Florida (only 150 miles west) in play.
Keep in mind bashers that Levi's track is only 300 miles apart from the GFS at 6-7 days. That is rather miniscule IMO.
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Can someone post the 18z dyanamical suite if it's out? I'm on my phone atm.
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Quoting reedzone:


Just... Doesn't make sense.. You can see convection refiring as it's nearing 50W... Many similarities from a storm that formed about a year ago.


It's a good run until it brushes with Haiti, seems to go nuts after that. Reorganizing now.
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so the models are taking this closer to Washington then Tampa?

I wonder what those odds are?
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Rita Evac

WHO IS THAT ANCHOR? I want to marry her
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
Can't believe it... everybody forgetting Irene. Irene was this UGLY when it was an invest. Same location, same place, etc.


Same model runs ironically.
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Hey levi the euro model has 94L taking that north turn but further west because it keeps the system a weak TS
Member Since: July 25, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 1102
Quoting CybrTeddy:
DoH... Shows 4 areas of low pressure after a brush with Haiti.


Just... Doesn't make sense.. You can see convection refiring as it's nearing 50W... Many similarities from a storm that formed about a year ago.
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Quoting BahaHurican:
Some pple fell out of love with him because he doesn't plus posts...

[You had to be there...]


Such pettiness.

It's an internet blog, it's not like a plus or minus matters IRL.
Member Since: January 25, 2012 Posts: 33 Comments: 1520
Quoting ncstorm:


Cat 4..from the ships model


That would definitely sink all those ships....
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Quoting Bluestorm5:

Gulf is in his western edge of his cone, but he is still suggestion East Coaster.

Link


Meant "not all of us". Have edited.

I agree with Levi and Masters, the central Gulf should be OK for various reasons but mainly because of the drought in Central US as Masters noted.

Hopefully whoever gets 94L will only get some good rains and a little wind to cool things off.
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Got SW winds on the SE quad of the storm.
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Quoting RitaEvac:
Let's take another look....



Just waiting for Fox News to declare the GFDL a socialist model for taking 94L to the RNC...
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Quoting hurricanehanna:

I do remember TS Bonnie made landfall in FL the day before Hurricane Charlie in 2004. Not exactly both in the GOM, but two at once for the same state


they wernt in at the same time but it was close!
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By the way, I know it's not as cool as Google Earth, but you can post it on the blog: Feel free to check out my live-updating recon images. In addition to plots of different variables, I'm working on geographical displays similar to the Google Earth app.

Here are the current snapshots of the mission into 95L. I'm still working on bug fixes as this is the first real live test, and some things about the geographical plots may not work properly.

Full mission wind barbs..........................zoomed in with MSLP:


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Just spent an hour and thirty minutes watching WTVJ TV's (Miami) production documentary of Hurricane Andrew. I didn't even finish the whole thing! It is hosted by Bryan Norcross and basically describes Andrew as it happened. Excellent documentary. If you want to know what Hurricane Andrew really was like in a two hour nutshell, then watch it. It gives you a sick feeling in your stomach to see what south-Dade county went through. I will try to upload it on youtube some time, if our VCR to Digital adapter can be fixed. I'll post again where to find it if I can upload it.
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Quoting Dragod66:


dont think there have ever been two storms in the gulf at one time... i tried to find this out a while back but i cant find anything on it.


Not sure on that myself, but there is enough room, depending on size, especially if headed in different direction, pulling moisture out of diff. water-vapor pockets, etc.
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Quoting WalkingInTheSun:
Hmm, not liking the turbulence in the East Central GOM in recent sat images. Is there anything that shows likelihood of having TWO GOM storms by the weekend? lol.

I do remember TS Bonnie made landfall in FL the day before Hurricane Charlie in 2004. Not exactly both in the GOM, but two at once for the same state
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Quoting WxGeekVA:
Spent some time and made a side-by-side comparison of the invests which became Irene last year and 94L right now... Needless to say, it felt like deja-vu for a few seconds...



94L looks stronger Circulation wise
Irene looks stonger Convection wise
lol

but still don't see no "Deja-vu" here or not yep atleast


anyway really now I am gone Going to hit the shower
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Quoting WxGeekVA:
Spent some time and made a side-by-side comparison of the invests which became Irene last year and 94L right now... Needless to say, it felt like deja-vu for a few seconds...



great post geek!
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Quoting GetReal:


Levi and I go way back, and I consider him to be an excellent forecaster. In this particular case, or system, we disagree. Looking at the evironmental conditions, and steering that will be surrounding 94L for the next 72 to 144 hours, IMO 94L will be no stronger than a TD, or weak TS once it reaches the E. Caribbean. This system, again IMO, will not be deep enough to make a more northerly turn towards the EC.

If it never slows down, it will more than likely slam into Mexico, or Belize.
It's the right type of disagreeing, I'll say.
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 8075
Quoting NICycloneChaser:


Yeah, I know, didn't look properly. Silly mistake.


It happens to me too...

No worries :)
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Can't believe it... everybody forgetting Irene. Irene was this UGLY when it was an invest. Same location, same place, etc.
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 8075
Quoting wunderkidcayman:
from last blog

right just want to put this out there

this was my forecast cone from late last night in colour




and this is mine now the cone has shifted abit N and has a more N track at the end of the run also extended for an extra 24 hours

(tracks on Jamaicas S coast and track NW between Grand Cayman and its sister islands then up into Cuba then towards Fl and turns back WNW towards NE GOM coast warning no colour



I don't have much confidence with this cone due to the fact that 94L is not offically TD9 yet I am waiting for advisory to come out and forecast cone given
Hi WKC. I had responded to this post in the previous blog until I realized that the Blog had turned! I bet you can find a lot of my comments on the end of these blogs. My comment was that it is a tradition to get a storm looming to come our way for Labor Day, whether it is before or after. After looking at Patraps link to NOAA and getting the spaghetti model lines of storms, I am sure the Caymans are very similar. If the Caymans get a storm, the Keys will probably get something from it.
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....CBS met down south florida
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Quoting Doppler22:

Minor flooding and some power outages...
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22736
Quoting CybrTeddy:


Yea.. at 25,000 feet.


Sure...but is is something nonetheless.
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Quoting GetReal:


Levi and I go way back, and I consider him to be an excellent forecaster. In this particular case, or system, we disagree. Looking at the evironmental conditions, and steering that will be surrounding 94L for the next 72 to 144 hours, IMO 94L will be no stronger than a TD, or weak TS once it reaches the E. Caribbean. This system, again IMO, will not be deep enough to make a more northerly turn towards the EC.

If it never slows down, it will more than likely slam into Mexico, or Belize.


Absolutely nothing wrong with disagreeing.... not the same as bashing! just sayin...
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95L:
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Quoting hurricanehanna:

Rita, I think there is only one model the guys are watching on this map ;) lol
DITTO on That
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645. 7544
94l is about to get its act together at this hour could be a td soon imo before tomorow

local mets in so fl talking about it, but watching it close

did the gfs kill of 96l in its last run

LOOOkin for 97l
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Quoting jascott1967:


It may be some "Gulf people" but all of us. I haven't even seen his tidbit yet today but if his thinking is the Gulf will be spared, at least in the short term, I'm all for that.

Gulf is in his western edge of his cone, but he is still suggestion East Coaster.

Link
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 8075
Quoting WalkingInTheSun:
Hmm, not liking the turbulence in the East Central GOM in recent sat images. Is there anything that shows likelihood of having TWO GOM storms by the weekend? lol.


dont think there have ever been two storms in the gulf at one time... i tried to find this out a while back but i cant find anything on it.
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
All of the Levi bashing had been from Gulf people... just saying.


Levi and I go way back, and I consider him to be an excellent forecaster. In this particular case, or system, we disagree. Looking at the evironmental conditions, and steering that will be surrounding 94L for the next 72 to 144 hours, IMO 94L will be no stronger than a TD, or weak TS once it reaches the E. Caribbean. This system, again IMO, will not be deep enough to make a more northerly turn towards the EC.

If it never slows down, it will more than likely slam into Mexico, or Belize.
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Quoting AllStar17:
Recon did find some kind of circulation in association with 95L.


Yea.. at 25,000 feet.
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Quoting DaytonaBeachWatcher:
What is with all the Levi bashing?
Some pple fell out of love with him because he doesn't plus posts...

[You had to be there...]
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22736
Just a few observations and a comment.
Models do poorly up until formation and HH data.
Doom and gloom on something that has not formed is just silly.
I do not think recurve will be possible the longer it stays weak the greater the chance of westward ho,does mexico really need another storm?
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
All of the Levi bashing had been from Gulf people... just saying.


It may be some "Gulf people" but not all of us. I haven't even seen his tidbit yet today but if his thinking is the Gulf will be spared, at least in the short term, I'm all for that.
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DoH... Shows 4 areas of low pressure after a brush with Haiti.
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Alright, this is the first "official" forecast speculation i've done. I hardly know as much as many on here do about the specific factors and dynamics and models, but I'll go out on a limb here.

I think 94l is taking longer and being weaker right now, which means (as people have been advertising) that a more west track will ensue especially if it will still be relatively weak in the Caribbean. If I had to guess, I would say East-Central Gulf all the way to South Carolina is a possibility. I would lean though on the Western side of this.
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Quoting StormJunkie:

I wish I could give it two pluses for the excellent use of the word Jackwagon.  :)


As a German I had to look that up ...
Very educational blog, this one, for sure.
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Quoting HoustonTxGal:


Compare those temps to the GOM ridght before Katrina.. they are very similar.

Link
..yes they sure are..we really do need to watch the gulf
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GOM water temp's during Rita Link
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Quoting kwgirl:
Good Afternoon all. Thanks for the link Patrap. I typed in Key West, Fla. and boy the colors of the rainbow. Plus I could not tell how close they came since all the storms obliterated the Keys. LOL You should try it to see. Miami isn't any better.
The offline program I have on this computer allows you to put in a date range and a location. So you can look at all August tracks that impacted your location... pretty cool stuff. I'd bet the NOAA site allows something similar, since it's prolly more powerful than what I've got.
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22736

Quoting pensacolastorm:


Enter 32507 my zipcode. Which ones missed?!
Now things are getting ugly in here...Namely that stinky orange paw print ;)
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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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