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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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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Quoting hurricanejunky:


A LOCAL chase! How convenient. Ominous model to be sure but still pretty far out.


LOL! GFS has been solid for 4 runs with it's location so we'll see.
Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
Quoting afj3:
Hello everyone! How reliable is the GFS long term? That latest run has 94L running straight to South Florida....



Anything past 150hrs out, I would'nt pay much attention to it... but thats just me..
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Very unusual to have a squall line barreling toward the west coast of FL in August.


Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
377. VR46L
Quoting afj3:
Hello everyone! How reliable is the GFS long term? That latest run has 94L running straight to South Florida....


Who knows right now 94L has DOOMED near everyone in the past 3 days but seems to be liking/hating Florida at the moment but no other model yet is agreeing with it .
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Quoting Grothar:


Please refrain from using the word twit on the blog. :)
Twit twit twit twit twit twit twit....twitty twit twit..I love big twits.
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Quoting StormJunkie:


lol, and since when were we all pc around here?

This one worries me a little Baha. For y'alls sake and all of Fl or points up the E coast.


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....

:-)
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Quoting hurricanejunky:


A LOCAL chase! How convenient. Ominous model to be sure but still pretty far out.


Hey junky, good to see ya. My biggest fear right now is that this thing does not take the exact path the GFS shows. If it is even a hair further N and misses the mountains...
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Quoting LargoFl:
days and days and days away..this will surely change
Better hope it doesn't change to something closer to the Kid's forecast... that would not be pretty. Best bet for everybody N of Cuba is a fast-moving TC just south of the Antilles and crossing Cuba at the Western end near Habana. Any earlier than that gives time for strengthening over the Bahamas and points east, and west gives the wider scope of the GoM, meaning a potentially more serious threat to the Central / Eastern GoM coast...

Quoting GeorgiaStormz:


no it has blue for TD just like on the map you posted.
I meant in the historicals.... they show similar TSs in a location, but not similar TDs... guess the TD data for those earlier storms are hard to come by...
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22357
Quoting hurricanejunky:


A LOCAL chase! How convenient. Ominous model to be sure but still pretty far out.


Ft Myers.... +/- 500 miles.... W,E,N, or S.
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Quoting afj3:
Hello everyone! How reliable is the GFS long term? That latest run has 94L running straight to South Florida....
days and days and days away..still time for a track change but..stay tuned
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 39690
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 39690
Quoting StormTracker2K:
Right over Fort Myers FL



A LOCAL chase! How convenient. Ominous model to be sure but still pretty far out.
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368. afj3
Hello everyone! How reliable is the GFS long term? That latest run has 94L running straight to South Florida....
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Quoting AllStar17:
Recon is off to investigate 95L in the western GOM.
might.find.a.td
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Quoting BahaHurican:
Uh... I been calling "Goagah" all along???

Do you think the GFS will give us a run like that? Oh, wait... already had a Savannah hit, right???

Thought he had school today...

Lot's of other pple have been saying something similar. Is that because dogs like bones more than twits?

Afternoon, Aqua... lol



Please refrain from using the word twit on the blog. :)
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26548
Quoting VR46L:
Hmmm 95L seems to have linked upto the front guess it will be a rain and wind maker...

This could get interesting to be sure. If the gulf blob develops and soaks parts of the gulf, and then 94 comes and hits the same area, watch out.
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Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 39690
Quoting Grothar:


It could have been worse. You could have been 18.
LMAO
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 39690
This bouy at 22N-94W is pretty close to the area of 95L and air pressure is rising at the moment.


Station 42055
NDBC
Location: 22.203N 94W
Date: Mon, 20 Aug 2012 15:50:00 UTC

Winds: SE (140°) at 13.6 kt gusting to 15.5 kt
Significant Wave Height: 3.0 ft
Dominant Wave Period: 5 sec
Mean Wave Direction: ESE (111°)
Atmospheric Pressure: 29.91 in and rising
Air Temperature: 85.5 F
Dew Point: 78.4 F
Water Temperature: 84.6 F
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Quoting VR46L:
Hmmm 95L seems to have linked upto the front guess it will be a rain and wind maker...

..gee those poor people up there along to panhandle and eastward..flooding big time is sure to come
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 39690
Quoting WalkingInTheSun:


Fireants are never funny to me -- not since they got up my pants' leg at age 5 & I had to shuck my jeans in front of a bunch of my relatives. Hey, when my Aunt & I saw how badly they were on me...& she said to pull my pants off, I don't think she had to say it twice, despite some embarassment. lol.


It could have been worse. You could have been 18.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26548
Quoting BahaHurican:
We live in hopes. While I can't say I agree with a lot of what the RNC seems to have planned for the US, I wouldn't want the delegates to have to deal with a mass evacuation ahead of a storm. I understand the tourist economy concept, and can frankly say storm threats are bad for business...



That and you don't want all those visiting OWS protesters looting your homes while you're evacuated.
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Quoting VR46L:
Hmmm 95L seems to have linked upto the front guess it will be a rain and wind maker...

imo..globs.movng.west
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Quoting BahaHurican:
On the outside looking in, it would be ironic [wond say funny] if both Tampa and Charlotte got a hurricane during their conventions...
..it sure would..mother nature saying their BOTH wrong..SHE rules the nest huh
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 39690
NOBODY IS COMMENTING THE 12Z CMC!! It shows a trough!
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WOW at GOM off Texas Coast. Big red blob. Will we get some rain? We need it.
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353. VR46L
Hmmm 95L seems to have linked upto the front guess it will be a rain and wind maker...

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Quoting BahaHurican:
You betcha... need a prayer chain for this one...

[oops, forgot chain=slavery=not PC...]



lol, and since when were we all pc around here?

This one worries me a little Baha. For y'alls sake and all of Fl or points up the E coast.
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Quoting wunderkidcayman:


nope didn't move, just relocated late last night.





nope wave is all the way on the SW cornor of that image
near 53W



lol look at the botton white line that could be our track, well so far its following that track just saying maybe

..yes the white line crosses south florida then it will head to texas etc IF it took that track, notice..to Take that florida track..it has to go above the islands thru the straights...if it goes thru the islands and beyond..its the other track it will take...again..most likely according to that graph of previous storms
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 39690
Agreed:
Quoting opal92nwf:
... So the bottom line is, THE WEATHER CHANNEL WAS NEVER THE SAME AFTER THE 2004-2005 HURRICANE SEASONS.
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Quoting LargoFl:
..would be funny tho..watching all those fat cats running lol..nah it wont happen..hurricanes dont come here, not this time of year
On the outside looking in, it would be ironic [wouldn't say funny] if both Tampa and Charlotte got a hurricane during their conventions...
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22357
Recon is off to investigate 95L in the western GOM.
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
One thing that 94L has that none of our systems entering the Caribbean had this year is that it is massive. That's a negative and a positive, it's a negative because it's going to have a hard time consolidating as it approaches land and probably won't be a major system. That being said, if it can avoid Haiti it could become a potent system, the trade wind issue seems to be a less of a problem this time around as it appears 94L will slow down to about 15mph in the Eastern Caribbean.. that could allow for some additional development.

Positives for its size is the fact that once it mixes out that dry air and gets a core going it's going to be somewhat harder for dry air to get back in. 94L at this time does appear likely to develop into a Tropical Storm and perhaps even stronger *if* it can avoid the islands. If it trucks over the islands, no more than 50mph unless it reaches the GOMEX.


Roger that, CybrTed.

Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 8032
Fishin, here is a better link to those model tutorial videos.
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Quoting StormJunkie:
Morning Baha, good to see ya. How about keep an eye on this one and do NOT let it some how sneak to the N of PR/DR and Cuba....
You betcha... need a prayer chain for this one...

[oops, forgot chain=slavery=not PC...]

Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22357
whew..going to be flooding here later on..same area as debby flooded them
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 39690
We got west winds at the buoy...

Obviously the lack of convection near the center will preclude classification at this point, but it wouldn't take more than 6 hours or so of deep convection to get 94L a TD, or more likely TS designation.

Wind Direction (WDIR): W ( 260 deg true ) Wind Speed (WSPD): 13.6 kts
Wind Gust (GST): 15.5 kts
Member Since: June 15, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 291
Quoting txwcc:

Hey, what up brother? Long time no hear. So, what's you opinion on 94L. Where's he heading??


Beats me! I am no forecaster just an observer... It appears west he goes though
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Quoting earthlydragonfly:



I would rather be in the cone early in the cycles. That pretty much improves the chance that this storm will stay way clear of the RNC.
We live in hopes. While I can't say I agree with a lot of what the RNC seems to have planned for the US, I wouldn't want the delegates to have to deal with a mass evacuation ahead of a storm. I understand the tourist economy concept, and can frankly say storm threats are bad for business...

Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22357
Thanks for the links, Haven't tested them yet.
Quoting WxGeekVA:
For anyone that wants links to weather pages including models, satellite, and data, I'm posting my link collection below.

Hydrometeorological Prediction Center
Climate Prediction Center Teleconnections
Storm Prediction Center
Storm Prediction Center Mesoscale Analysis Page
Wind Map
Wunderground NEXRAD Page
NWS Radar Page
National Center for Environmental Prediction Models
Penn State e-Wall Models
Twisterdata
Allan Huffman/ American WX Models
Canadian Models
Iowa State Models
European Models/ Weather Center
High Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR/ RAP) Model Page
Tropical Cyclone Heat Potential
Advanced Scatterometer (ASCAT)
NOAA Hurricane Archive
Tropical Atlantic Home
UNISYS Hurricane Archive
Cane Fever
National Data Buoy Center
Tropical Cyclone Formation Probability Page
ATCF Directory
Florida State Cyclone Phase Analysis
Tropical Tidbits Analysis Tools
Ocean Prediction Center
National Hurricane Center Satellite
NHC Floaters
Alternate NHC Satellite Page
U.S. Navy Tropical Cyclone Page
Tropical Tidbits Satellite GIFs
Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS) Atmospheric Analysis
NASA Interactive Satellite Home
Advanced Dvorak Technique Analysis
Florida Satellite Page
Regional and Mesoscale Meteorology Branch (RAMMB) Tropical Floaters
NASA Near Real Time Satellite Page
Louisiana State Satellite Page

Let me know if any of these links are broken. I tested them and they work but just in case I missed one please let me know so I can fix it!
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Link

CMC
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Nothing but naked swirl... but patience is a key.
Member Since: August 1, 2011 Posts: 28 Comments: 8032
One thing that 94L has that none of our systems entering the Caribbean had this year is that it is massive. That's a negative and a positive, it's a negative because it's going to have a hard time consolidating as it approaches land and probably won't be a major system. That being said, if it can avoid Haiti it could become a potent system, the trade wind issue seems to be a less of a problem this time around as it appears 94L will slow down to about 15mph in the Eastern Caribbean.. that could allow for some additional development.

Positives for its size is the fact that once it mixes out that dry air and gets a core going it's going to be somewhat harder for dry air to get back in. 94L at this time does appear likely to develop into a Tropical Storm and perhaps even stronger *if* it can avoid the islands. If it trucks over the islands, no more than 50mph unless it reaches the GOMEX.
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Quoting luvtogolf:


So it has moved a full degree north since last night.


nope didn't move, just relocated late last night.



Quoting stormpetrol:
Looks like 94L is merging with the wave ahead of it, 94L appears its going to be one large cyclone!



nope wave is all the way on the SW cornor of that image
near 53W

Quoting LargoFl:
................we must remember what Month this is..and where storms usually go


lol look at the botton white line that could be our track, well so far its following that track just saying maybe

Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12180
Quoting LargoFl:
................we must remember what Month this is..and where storms usually go


And if it goes almost straight down the middle it will have some mountainous areas to survive.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 614
Quoting nofailsafe:
I woke up yesterday morning with the GFS showing Isaac knocking on my door here in Houston, I wake up this morning and see that it wants to crash the party in Florida, with two more hours until the 12z GFS I half expect it to wind up in Georgia.
Uh... I been calling "Goagah" all along???

Do you think the GFS will give us a run like that? Oh, wait... already had a Savannah hit, right???

Quoting AtHomeInTX:


Yeah where is he?
Thought he had school today...

Quoting reedzone:


I said this many times, but all I get is "Reeds wishcasting the storm to Florida or NY"
Lot's of other pple have been saying something similar.
Quoting aquak9:
161. duranta 12:04 PM EDT on August 20, 2012 +0
There's a lot of ignorance on this blog about fracking.


There's a lotta ignorance on this blog about the TOPIC!!!

(twit? or bonehead? pondering, pondering...)

BONEHEAD!
Is that because dogs like bones more than twits?

Afternoon, Aqua... lol

Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22357


WOw!
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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.

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