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 ILikeIke:
Does anyone else make a Hurricane kit at the start of each season or do you just run to the store when the storms a commin
Both??? Perishables you plan to eat right away get bought last. Canned stuff gets bought in increments starting @ the end of May. By August / September when u are most likely to need them, you have enough without busting the budget. Eat off what you don't use during the season the same way, a little at a time. Non-perishables ditto Largo.

Quoting txwcc:
BahaHurricane
What's up???

Quoting thebandman:


They also tell people to have one but when the lines form you realize no one listens.
The scary thing you may not realize is that there are plenty of pple out there who have done the preps... imagine if absolutely no one did....
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22728
Quoting Skyepony:


94L model verification shows GFS ensemble not doing so well on that storm..
So which of the dynamical models are doing the best with 94L?
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Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42117
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Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:


Bad, Ensembles, Bad!


Yep. Guess we can hope for more curve and faster then what the general consensus is right now. I don't like the fact that they have been fairly consistent for several runs now. I do like that the track seems to continually shift a little further to the E. Maybe we'll get lucky and it will miss the CONUS. Timing and land interaction are going to be crucial.

Wait, wait, wait, and see...
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Intensity models are split into two groups, one group showing a lot of strengthening and the other showing very little.

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Quoting Grothar:
Where's Reed???



If this stays weak, gulf landfall is probable..jmo
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Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42117
Quoting LargoFl:
well I sort of trust my local mets on bay news9,and now their new track leanings make me nervous,


But 94L will have to go through some islands and that should degrade its strength; however, the SSTs are pretty high between the islands and CONUS down there. So the speed will be a major variable in how the new storm from 94L strengthens.
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421. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting Grothar:
Where's Reed???





94L model verification shows GFS ensemble not doing so well on that storm..
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Quoting STXHurricanes2012:
that bouy is southeast of 95L


You are correct and my apologies; I did not have my reading glasses on when I read the coordinates and I was off by several degrees................ :)
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Unless it develops into a Storm or Hurricane, models will keep on shifting forecasts.... cause they are based on data collected related to storms and hurricanes...

During those days Invest data or variables such as Dry air, SAL were not considered...

Once it turns into a storm or hurricane, something that will occur, we will see models alineate into consensus....

Meanwhile... complex interaction of variables ...

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Quoting Grothar:
Where's Reed???





More like where's presslord...
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Quoting Skyepony:


I dug up the 95L model verification.. So far the models are doing about as well as they did on HELENE..the remnants among other things 95L is spinning up from (terrible direction, alright intensity). LBARS has as good a chance as the rest. It's in the hunt for place at the moment.
ok ty
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42117
Some people have been showing the steering maps and saying 94L should go WSW for a bit, but the models do not show this (at least none of the ones I have seen). Anyone have an updated steering map or explanation for the discrepancy?
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Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:


Bad, Ensembles, Bad!


Couldn't have said it better myself, fellow Virginian. I've had enough after Isabel, Gaston, Ernesto (06), and recently Irene...
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Quoting Grothar:
Where's Reed???



hey Gro..the mass of tracks together has changed from early this morning..NOW florida isnt covered in them
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42117
413. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting LargoFl:
guys How reliable is the LBAR model?..if 95 took its track..that would be wonderful for those drought stricken states that Badly need its rains


I dug up the 95L model verification.. So far the models are doing about as well as they did on HELENE..the remnants among other things 95L is spinning up from (terrible direction, alright intensity). LBARS has as good a chance as the rest. It's in the hunt for place at the moment.
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Quoting Grothar:
Where's Reed???





Bad, Ensembles, Bad!
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Quoting ProgressivePulse:


Time to polish the shields me thinks, get them ready in case of action.


Keep them polished.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27208
Quoting VR46L:
Hmmm 95L seems to have linked upto the front guess it will be a rain and wind maker...



Nope it's detaching from the front.
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Where's Reed???



Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27208
Quoting LargoFl:
guys How reliable is the LBAR model?..if 95 took its track..that would be wonderful for those drought stricken states that Badly need its rains


Just take what the LBAR does, and thats exactly the opposite of what the storm will do.
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Dry air is still king out there right now. 94L just can't get any convection going.

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that bouy is southeast of 95L
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well I sort of trust my local mets on bay news9,and now their new track leanings make me nervous,
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42117
Quoting CaribBoy:
NOBODY IS COMMENTING THE 12Z CMC!! It shows a trough!


The CMC is doing what it's been doing for years.... over intensifying way too fast. That is why you see the quick recurve. Impossible, no. Likely, no.

My guess is in 48 hours, even the GFS prognosis is a track farther west than it is now. Why? Because that would continue the same story in place all season.
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Quoting HuracandelCaribe:


Where is this bouy located again
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12716
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While the blog is not busy, can someone please explain fracking to me? Oh, and before I forget, can you also explain how mountains are formed?

TIA
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Quoting Grothar:


Time to polish the shields me thinks, get them ready in case of action.
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Quoting ScottLincoln:


I have read this elsewhere, and would suggest high caution with this news - it's not exactly straight-forward.

We have been reducing our acceleration of greenhouse gas emissions since the start of the recession. Even though it's official over, times are still tough. We are using our cars less often and many are trying to reduce their energy bills.

It is also hard to claim that this was all market driven. Subsidies and programs to improve energy efficiency and develop solar/wind have increased those sources of energy. Coal power plants are having a tougher time meeting environmental requirements, which appears to have been part of shutting down some plants and preventing some new ones from coming online.

Also keep in mind that this is 1) just the U.S., which although we can be the highest per capita producers of GHGs, we are not the largest total source, and 2) just for one year, and could easily start to reverse if the economy ramps up but has not had a dramatic switch to sustainable, cleaner fuels, and 3) we still are emitting far more CO2 than the natural systems can absorb, thus accumulation of GHGs is still continuing.

Obviously it's better to have a few years with declining rates of emission than the continuation of GHG emission growth, but its not nearly enough.


Thanks, ScottLincoln, for this information. "Looking under the hood" will give more information as to the real state of the vehicle.

This subject was also brought up on Rick Rood's Blog a few days ago and with little discussion. I suspect that the primary reason for any lack of a real discussion of this bit of good news is because global CO2 levels are still rising in spite of this tidbit of "good news".

I agree that market forces had a play in the U.S. reducing its CO2 levels back down to the 1992 levels. Some of these market forces are:

1. Exporting many of our dirtiest industries to other countries. Mostly with regards given to China. As a side note, China recently became a larger producer of CO2 emissions than the U.S..

2. As previously noted, the economic worries we face today have caused many to consume less and to conserve more of what they consume. Fossil fuels being one of the things being consumed less and conserved as much as possible.

3. Natural gas has become cheap enough that many electrical manufacturing plants here are switching from coal to natural gas. Coal is much dirtier to use, on nearly every level, than is natural gas. "Fracking" methods are the caveat that may ultimately cause greater concerns for us all than it presently does.

4. We are driving more fuel efficient automobiles than before. The ever increasing gasoline/diesel prices was the market driver to bring this about sooner than any government desires to do so would have.

5. Solar and wind power are still largely lagging fossil fuels for our energy needs, but we continue to see a larger share of our energy needs coming from the renewable energy sources. Market forces may again prove more effective to move us towards renewable energy sources than our government efforts to do so. Certainly one market driver is that fossil fuels will only become more expensive over the years and renewable energy sources will almost certainly become cheaper.

6. Our move to more energy efficient appliances and light bulbs were more determined by our government's influences than any market lead decision to do so. The CFL and LED light bulbs are now proving themselves to be the budget weary consumer's choice. Yes, you can still buy existing stocks of the incandescent light bulbs. Why would you want to do so?

As ScottLincoln has already noted, global CO2 levels continue to rise. Without our current bad economic situation and the off shoring of many of our dirtiest industries, then it is very likely that China would still be far behind us in our CO2 output, as a nation. Per capita, as ScottLincoln has noted, China is still far behind us in its CO2 output. Further more, China is currently taking serious steps to intentionally reduce their CO2 output. The U.S.? ... Eh, not so much! I do not think that China has any fears of out producing the U.S., in per capita CO2 emissions.

While the news is good, we should not begin to believe that our job is done. Nationally and globally, there is more work to be done.
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Quoting LargoFl:
ok ty..sure is a nice track tho huh



I know I would love the nice rain
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Quoting LargoFl:
guys How reliable is the LBAR model?..if 95 took its track..that would be wonderful for those drought stricken states that Badly need its rains

last I checked now very at all
Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12716
Quoting stormchaser19:
CMC is out of track,but a thinks this is a category 4 hurricane
I think the CMC is out to lunch because it also had Helene hitting NOLA as a Tropical Storm and we know how that worked out. That model has been performing poorly so far this year.
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Quoting TXHuRRicanE:



I would love for the LBAR to be right... but it's wrong most of the time...
ok ty..sure is a nice track tho huh
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42117
CMC is out of track,but a thinks this is a category 4 hurricane
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Quoting LargoFl:
guys How reliable is the LBAR model?..if 95 took its track..that would be wonderful for those drought stricken states that Badly need its rains



I would love for the LBAR to be right... but it's wrong most of the time...
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People in C & N FL better be prepared later today for some very serious weather rolling.

Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
Quoting LargoFl:
for sure the ants around my house have been trying to go up my walls to the roof for days now..as always..watch nature for the signs
But it's been raining there since June... maybe they've been having flooding problems?

Quoting doabarrelroll:


Bring it on. This would be number 3 for me this year.
Hey, barrel! Good to see you in the blog! Are u N or C FL???

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Quoting Grothar:
..it dont look to good for us Gro with each new run huh
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Quoting DaytonaBeachWatcher:


Hey SJ.... me too... was gonna disagree with you yesturday when you thought Yuc Pen but I figured we would wait and see how it pans out....

:-)


lol, no worries DBW and good to see ya. Levi was making plenty of sense yesterday. I sounded much more serious about the Yuc Pen than I was. Guess I was being hopeful. Now I'm hoping it does not miss the mountains.
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Thanks guys
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I bolded some key words in Dr. Masters post.

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.

All of these scenarios are interesting in terms of favored tracks, patterns, and steering mechanisms. I noticed he didn't mention anything about a recurve possibility in his post and I remember yesterday he said, it is becoming decreasingly likely that a recurve away from the US will happen. And the pattern has been for a strong Subtropical Ridge with the Western Flank extending into the Southeast US with a trough extending down from the Northeast through the Carolina's and N FL. and the Gulf Coast. Also the Central Plains Ridge which was parked over Texas last year has moved towards the Plains states and so if these troughs aren't strong enough to create a weakness between these 2 Highs then westbound it will go.
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guys How reliable is the LBAR model?..if 95 took its track..that would be wonderful for those drought stricken states that Badly need its rains
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381. afj3

Quoting LargoFl:
days and days and days away..still time for a track change but..stay tuned
Thanks! I am normally fascinated by storms but can't have one now...A day without power will eat into badly needed revenue!!!
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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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