Isaac reorganizing as it blows through the Lesser Antilles

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 8:34 PM GMT on August 22, 2012

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Tropical Storm Isaac continues to maintain top winds of just 45 mph as its center prepares to move through the Lesser Antilles islands late this afternoon and early this evening. The entire Lesser Antilles chain of islands is receiving heavy rains from Isaac, with Martinique picking up 1.46" of rain as of 2 pm EDT, and St. Lucia receiving 1.49". However, Isaac is not yet generating much in the way of tropical storm-force winds, and none of the islands had received winds in excess of 30 mph as of 4 pm EDT. During their storm penetration to obtain their 2 pm EDT center fix, an Air Force Reserve aircraft measured top surface winds of just 40 mph, and a central pressure of 1004 mb. Top winds at their 5000 foot flight altitude were 49 mph. Isaac is undergoing significant changes to its structure. The plane found the center had become a broad, elongated oval that extended 40 miles from NW to SE. The old center, fixed at 2 pm near 16.1°N, and closer to the dry air to Isaac's north, is being challenged for dominance by a new center that is attempting to form near a burst of heavy thunderstorms at 15.5°N. The Hurricane Hunters' latest fix at 3:50 pm EDT put the center near 15.9°N, a southwards shift of about 17 miles. The resulting battle between centers is giving Isaac a rather odd spiral rectangular shape, as seen on visible satellite loops. The Hurricane Hunters did not observe an eyewall trying to form, and recent microwave satellite images also show no signs of an eyewall forming. A large area of dry air to the north of the storm, as seen on water vapor satellite loops, continues to interfere with development, and Isaac will not be able to begin strengthening until it resolves the battle between it two competing centers, and casts out the dry air infiltrating it. This is going to take at least a day, since Isaac is a very large storm, and it takes more time to spin up a big chunk of the atmosphere. Radar imagery from Barbados and Martinique show plenty of heavy rain showers, mostly on the south side of Isaac where it is moister. There has been a modest increase in spiral banding since this morning.


Figure 1. Afternoon satellite image of Isaac, showing its odd spiral rectangle shape.

Latest model runs for Isaac
The latest set of 12Z (8 am EDT) model runs are very similar to the previous set of runs, which I discussed in detail in this morning's post. The models show a westward track to a point on the south coast of Hispaniola. Isaac's center shift to the south may require some modest adjustments to the south and west for the models. This would result in the storm spending a few hours less time over Hispaniola, and more time over or just south of Cuba. This would slightly decrease the risk to the Dominican Republic, the east coast of Florida, and the Bahamas, but increase the risk to the west coast of Florida. The ECMWF--our best performing model over the past two years--continues to be an outlier among the models. It predicts that Isaac will track just south of Cuba, cross the western tip of Cuba on Monday, then head north towards an eventual landfall in Louisiana. However, this model is keeping Isaac weaker than the other models, and thus predicts the storm will have a weaker response to the trough of low pressure over the Southeast U.S. If the official NHC intensity forecast is right and Isaac becomes a hurricane on Thursday, the more southerly track of the ECMWF is not going to verify, and Isaac will spend considerable time over Cuba on Saturday and Sunday. Where Isaac pops off the coast of Cuba will be critical in determining its future path and intensity, and at this point, we don't know it its more likely that Isaac will go up the east coast of Florida, the west coast, or straight up the peninsula over land. At this point, I'd put the odds at:

40% chance of a track through the Gulf of Mexico, west of Florida
25% chance of a landfall in South Florida, and a track mostly over the Florida Peninsula
35% chance of a track along the east coast of Florida

Which model should you trust?
Wunderground provides a web page with computer model forecasts for many of the best-performing models used to predict hurricane tracks. So which is the best? The best forecasts are made by combining the forecasts from three or more models into a "consensus" forecast. Over the past decade, NHC has greatly improved their forecasts by relying on consensus forecast models made using various combinations of the GFS, GFDL, NOGAPS, UKMET, HWRF, and ECMWF models. If you average together the track forecasts from these models, the NHC official forecast will rarely depart much from it, and the NHC forecast has been hard to beat over the past few years. The single best-performing model over the past two years has been the ECMWF (European Center model). The GFS model has been a close second. You can view 7-day ECMWF and 16-day GFS forecasts on our wundermap with the model layer turned on. Ten-day ECMWF forecasts are available from the ECMWF web site. The European Center does not permit public display of tropical storm positions from their hurricane tracking module of their model, so we are unable to put ECMWF forecasts on our computer model forecast page that plots positions from the other major models. As seen in Figure 2, the HWRF and GFDL were well behind the ECMWF and GFS in forecast accuracy in 2011, but were still respectable. The BAMM model did very well at 4 and 5-day forecasts. The UKMET, NOGAPS, and CMC models did quite poorly compared to the ECMWF, GFS, GFDL, and HWRF. For those interested in learning more about the models, NOAA has a great training video (updated for 2011.)


Figure 2. Skill of computer model forecasts of Atlantic named storms 2011, compared to a "no skill" model called "CLIPER5" that uses just climatology and persistence to make a hurricane track forecast (persistence=a storm will tend to keep going in the direction it's current going.) OFCL=Official NHC forecast; GFS=Global Forecast System model; GFDL=Geophysical Fluid Dynamic Laboratory model; HWRF=Hurricane Weather Research Forecasting model; NOGAPS=Navy Operational Global Prediction System model; UKMET=United Kingdom Met Office model; ECMWF=European Center for Medium Range Weather Forecasting model; TVCA=one of the consensus models that lends together several of the above models; CMC=Canadian Meteorological Center (GEM) model; BAMM=Beta Advection Model (Medium depth.) Image credit: National Hurricane Center 2011 verification report.

I'll have a new post in the morning.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting dmjmd:
Hi - total newbie here, hoping for some help from you experts.

My daughter HAS to be in Southwest Florida (Ft. Myers) on Monday morning. Currently she is scheduled to fly in Sunday afternoon, leaving New York at 2:30p, arriving at RSW at 5:30p Sunday. Is it pretty likely that Isaac will already be causing flight disruptions by then?

We could change her flight to Saturday evening, leaving NYC at 6pm and getting into RSW at 9pm, though it will be pretty costly to change; should that be pretty safe or is there a chance that flight disruptions could start that soon?

I know there are no guarantees, just looking for advice and educated guesses from people with more knowledge of these things, so any help is greatly appreciated...


I would have her fly in Sat. Things will be fine until late Sun pm at the earliest. Mon pm is too late.
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Quoting cat6band:
It would have had to start moving NW already to hit the NHC points....West he goes.....
You know what Isaac is starting to remind me of? Emily of last year, I remember she went quite a bit west before eventually turning into a weakness off the Southeast Coast and veered away from FL. just in the last minute.
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Weather h 98 model is running
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Quoting Drakoen:


Maybe be trying to start that turn
Latest VDM:

B. Center Fix Coordinates: 14°58'N 64°22'W (14.9667N 64.3667W)
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Traped between two ULLs...

Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9821
3546. LargoFl
Quoting StormTracker2K:
Issac could very well be right on top of Tampa Tuesday morning as a Hurricane!

yes we are in the cone, could be dangerous come monday and tuesday, at least..this storm is giving us plenty of time to watch and prepare huh..no one should be caught off guard this time...unless your saying right now..oh what storm?
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 39030
Guys...

the ridge in the 1000mb steering layer is still headed to Belize.

The ridge in the surface layer is still half-way between Belize and Cozumel.

Link

The storm is not going to just turn north and cut through the ridge without help.


Not only that, the 990mb steering is even farther west than the 1000mb steering, which means it's not turning north until it goes at least sub-990mb...or unless steering changes significantly.
Member Since: January 25, 2012 Posts: 33 Comments: 1520
Quoting weatherh98:



the weakness of this is killing me

It takes something that big awhile to wrap itself up. It's coming.
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3543. Drakoen
Quoting WxLogic:
LLC has relocated NW of the previous fix...

Center Fix Coordinates: 15°24'N 64°37'W (15.4N 64.6167W)


Maybe be trying to start that turn
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3541. sar2401
Quoting StormTracker2K:
Issac could very well be right on top of Tampa Tuesday morning as a Hurricane!



Yet you show an offical track that take Isaac offshore from Tampa. How did you come up with the "right on top of Tampa" idea?
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Quoting gprxomstr:

12mph. Watch satellite. Our buddy has slowed and will begin to move WNW or NW. We may not see a Gulf system.


May not? It's a certain gulf system
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Largo:

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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
BULLETIN
TROPICAL STORM ISAAC INTERMEDIATE ADVISORY NUMBER 9A
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL092012
800 AM AST THU AUG 23 2012

...ISSAC MOVING WESTWARD THROUGH THE EASTERN CARIBBEAN SEA...


SUMMARY OF 800 AM AST...1200 UTC...INFORMATION
----------------------------------------------
LOCATION...15.4N 64.8W
ABOUT 225 MI...360 KM SSE OF SAN JUAN PUERTO RICO
ABOUT 315 MI...505 KM ESE OF ISLA SAONA DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...40 MPH...65 KM/H
PRESENT MOVEMENT...W OR 270 DEGREES AT 13 MPH...21 KM/H
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...1003 MB...29.62 INCHES



the weakness of this is killing me
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Quoting Tazmanian:
i still dont see this storm going too HISPANIOLA.
Agree - I think it's a pissing match still, between the Euro & US forcasters personally
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3535. GetReal
Quoting StormTracker2K:
Issac could very well be right on top of Tampa Tuesday morning as a Hurricane!




IMO looking a little less likely with each passing hour as Isaac continues to pull left of forecast track.
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It would have had to start moving NW already to hit the NHC points....West he goes.....
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Quoting TampaFLUSA:
I wonder if a bend to the NE in the Gulf is possible like the GFS is indicating?
I would say yes, eventually this storm is going northeast, when is not known currently.
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3532. LargoFl
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 39030
Quoting gprxomstr:
It is starting to slow down some, so this could be the beginning of the WNW and then NW turn.


As predicted by most models.....
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
102 hrs GFS showing Joyce trying to block the progression of the Ridge. If it gets strong enough it could induce a stronger weakness for Isaac.



THe 06Z GFS shifted slightly east because of Joyce blocking the ridge. I was noticing that scenario last night.
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3529. sar2401
Quoting dmjmd:
Hi - total newbie here, hoping for some help from you experts.

My daughter HAS to be in Southwest Florida (Ft. Myers) on Monday morning. Currently she is scheduled to fly in Sunday afternoon, leaving New York at 2:30p, arriving at RSW at 5:30p Sunday. Is it pretty likely that Isaac will already be causing flight disruptions by then?

We could change her flight to Saturday evening, leaving NYC at 6pm and getting into RSW at 9pm, though it will be pretty costly to change; should that be pretty safe or is there a chance that flight disruptions could start that soon?

I know there are no guarantees, just looking for advice and educated guesses from people with more knowledge of these things, so any help is greatly appreciated...
It's a complete crapshoot, and anyone who tells you diferent is just guessing. If you want to be on the safe side, change her flight to Saturday. Monday could range from no problem to a total mess but there's no way to know right now.
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Quoting GTcooliebai:
I'm thinking that is the Mid-Level Center and that the Low-Level Center is back towards the NE.


If that is the case I don't think it's long before the mid level center takes over.
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Quoting LargoFl:

That is a real deceiving angle, I wouldn't look at that until they adjust the angle as its actually not moving up the channel.
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VDM # 2 further south

Product: Air Force Vortex Message (URNT12 KNHC)
Transmitted: 23rd day of the month at 11:54Z
Aircraft: Air Force Aircraft (Last 3 digits of the tail number are 307)
Storm Number & Year: 09L in 2012
Storm Name: Isaac (flight in the North Atlantic basin)
Mission Number: 5
Observation Number: 10
A. Time of Center Fix: 23rd day of the month at 10:00:10Z
B. Center Fix Coordinates: 14°58'N 64°22'W (14.9667N 64.3667W)
B. Center Fix Location: 263 miles (424 km) to the SSE (155°) from San Juan, Puerto Rico (USA).
C. Minimum Height at Standard Level: 1,463m (4,800ft) at 850mb
D. Estimated (by SFMR or visually) Maximum Surface Wind: 25kts (~ 28.8mph)
E. Location of the Estimated Maximum Surface Wind: 13 nautical miles (15 statute miles) to the NW (318°) of center fix
F. Maximum Flight Level Wind Inbound: From 144° at 30kts (From the SE at ~ 34.5mph)
G. Location of Maximum Flight Level Wind Inbound: 68 nautical miles (78 statute miles) to the ENE (62°) of center fix
H. Minimum Sea Level Pressure: 1006mb (29.71 inHg) - Extrapolated
I. Maximum Flight Level Temp & Pressure Altitude Outside Eye: 17°C (63°F) at a pressure alt. of 1,522m (4,993ft)
J. Maximum Flight Level Temp & Pressure Altitude Inside Eye: 16°C (61°F) at a pressure alt. of 1,523m (4,997ft)
K. Dewpoint Temp (collected at same location as temp inside eye): 16°C (61°F)
K. Sea Surface Temp (collected at same location as temp inside eye): Not Available
L. Eye Character: Not Available
M. Eye Shape: Not Available
N. Fix Determined By: Penetration, Wind and Pressure
N. Fix Level: 850mb
O. Navigation Fix Accuracy: 0.02 nautical miles
O. Meteorological Accuracy: 15 nautical miles
Remarks Section - Remarks That Were Decoded...
Maximum Flight Level Wind: 30kts (~ 34.5mph) in the northeast quadrant at 9:09:30Z
Sea Level Pressure Extrapolation From: 850mb
Maximum Flight Level Temp: 18°C (64°F) which was observed 68 nautical miles (78 statute miles) to the ENE (62°) from the flight level center
Remarks Section - Additional Remarks...
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Issac could very well be right on top of Tampa Tuesday morning as a Hurricane!

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Quoting dmjmd:
Hi - total newbie here, hoping for some help from you experts.

My daughter HAS to be in Southwest Florida (Ft. Myers) on Monday morning. Currently she is scheduled to fly in Sunday afternoon, leaving New York at 2:30p, arriving at RSW at 5:30p Sunday. Is it pretty likely that Isaac will already be causing flight disruptions by then?

We could change her flight to Saturday evening, leaving NYC at 6pm and getting into RSW at 9pm, though it will be pretty costly to change; should that be pretty safe or is there a chance that flight disruptions could start that soon?

I know there are no guarantees, just looking for advice and educated guesses from people with more knowledge of these things, so any help is greatly appreciated...


please use this nhc is the best place to go
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Quoting IKE:
isaac looking a little better this morning vs. last night. Good morning everyone!
Ike great to see you back. hows everything up your way. Besides WET! All good in Zephyrhills.
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If Isaac misses Dominica by trending left, doesn't that possible take it over the mountains of southeast Cuba and possibly longways over the mainland? That would certainly be disruptive, would it not?
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Anybody else think the center is where the white cloud tops are below, below 15 N? Looks that way when you put it in motion too.

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i still dont see this storm going too HISPANIOLA.
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115247
Quoting southernbell72:
The weather channel said Isaac should be a cat 1 by the time it moves past Haiti. Poor ppl.
I agree too many still living in tents.
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Quoting 69Viking:


Yes and isn't that below 15 N and mean this thing is still moving South of due West? Watch it in motion and then overlay (check) the forecast points, looks way South of the forecast points. I'm just not seeing this NW movement the NHC is predicting yet.
I'm thinking that is the Mid-Level Center and that the Low-Level Center is back towards the NE.
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Quoting GetReal:


There is a core of white (extremely cold cloud tops) near where I believe the dominant center is going to be found.


That is correct.

The mid level circulation is definitely there, and I think the low level is moving that way.

Until I see some definitive evidence to the contrary, I'll assume that's true, because it agrees with the PR long range radar.

The Venezuelan radar supports the notion that the mid level circulation is about 14.5N 66W.

Gotta remember Radar is looking very high by the time it gets 3 or 4 degrees out from the station, so the circulation it's seeing is mid level.
Member Since: January 25, 2012 Posts: 33 Comments: 1520

DISCUSSION AND 48-HOUR OUTLOOK
------------------------------
AT 800 AM AST...1200 UTC...THE CENTER OF TROPICAL STORM ISAAC HAS
REFORMED NEAR LATITUDE 15.4 NORTH...LONGITUDE 64.8 WEST. ISAAC
IS
MOVING TOWARD THE WEST NEAR 13 MPH...21 KM/H. SOME ERRATIC MOTION
TOWARD THE WEST-NORTHWEST TO NORTHWEST COULD OCCUR THIS MORNING...
BUT A STEADY MOTION TOWARD THE WEST-NORTHWEST IS EXPECTED TO BEGIN
BY THIS AFTERNOON OR TONIGHT AND CONTINUE INTO FRIDAY. ON THE
FORECAST TRACK...THE CENTER OF ISAAC SHOULD PASS TO THE SOUTH OF
THE VIRGIN ISLANDS AND PUERTO RICO TODAY...AND APPROACH THE
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC TONIGHT AND FRIDAY.

MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS ARE NEAR 40 MPH...65 KM/H...WITH HIGHER
GUSTS. STRENGTHENING IS FORECAST DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS....AND
ISAAC COULD BECOME A HURRICANE ON FRIDAY BEFORE IT REACHES
HISPANIOLA.
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 115247
perspection i tell ya
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3512. LargoFl
Quoting LargoFl:
.see..looks like it goes up thru the channel
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 39030
Quoting clwstmchasr:


That is a signal that it getting ready to make that wnw turn. Makes sense, getting close to the end of ridge, steering currents slow down and it turns.
I do not know why you people are saying the forward speed is slowing down - that gotta be a typo from the NHC - put the numbers together from the last 3 fixes!! Had to be a typo!!
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I wonder if a bend to the NE in the Gulf is possible like the GFS is indicating?
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3509. WxLogic
LLC has relocated NW of the previous fix...

Center Fix Coordinates: 15°24'N 64°37'W (15.4N 64.6167W)
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3508. LargoFl
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 39030
3507. dmjmd
Hi - total newbie here, hoping for some help from you experts.

My daughter HAS to be in Southwest Florida (Ft. Myers) on Monday morning. Currently she is scheduled to fly in Sunday afternoon, leaving New York at 2:30p, arriving at RSW at 5:30p Sunday. Is it pretty likely that Isaac will already be causing flight disruptions by then?

We could change her flight to Saturday evening, leaving NYC at 6pm and getting into RSW at 9pm, though it will be pretty costly to change; should that be pretty safe or is there a chance that flight disruptions could start that soon?

I know there are no guarantees, just looking for advice and educated guesses from people with more knowledge of these things, so any help is greatly appreciated...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting GetReal:


There is a core of white (extremely cold cloud tops) near where I believe the dominant center is going to be found.


Yes and isn't that below 15 N and mean this thing is still moving South of due West? Watch it in motion and then overlay (check) the forecast points, looks way South of the forecast points. I'm just not seeing this NW movement the NHC is predicting yet.
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3505. Chiggy
Quoting Tazmanian:
Haiti. may get vary lucky with this storm if it keeps moveing W today it will likey by pass Haiti well too the S

Agree
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TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
800 AM EDT THU AUG 23 2012

FOR THE NORTH ATLANTIC...CARIBBEAN SEA AND THE GULF OF MEXICO...

THE NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER IS ISSUING ADVISORIES ON TROPICAL
STORM ISAAC...LOCATED ABOUT 225 MILES SOUTH-SOUTHEAST OF SAN JUAN
PUERTO RICO...AND TROPICAL DEPRESSION TEN...LOCATED ABOUT 1110
MILES WEST OF THE CAPE VERDE ISLANDS.

SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS BETWEEN THE WEST COAST OF AFRICA AND THE
CAPE VERDE ISLANDS ARE ASSOCIATED WITH A TROPICAL WAVE. ANY
DEVELOPMENT OF THIS DISTURBANCE IS EXPECTED TO BE SLOW TO OCCUR...
AND THIS SYSTEM HAS A LOW CHANCE...10 PERCENT...OF BECOMING A
TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS AS IT MOVES GENERALLY
WESTWARD AT ABOUT 15 MPH.

ELSEWHERE...TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION IS NOT EXPECTED DURING THE
NEXT 48 HOURS.

&&
PUBLIC ADVISORIES ON TROPICAL DEPRESSION TEN ARE ISSUED UNDER WMO
HEADER WTNT35 KNHC AND UNDER AWIPS HEADER MIATCPAT5.
FORECAST/ADVISORIES ON TROPICAL DEPRESSION TEN ARE ISSUED UNDER WMO
HEADER WTNT25 KNHC AND UNDER AWIPS HEADER MIATCMAT5.

$$
FORECASTER KIMBERLAIN
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102 hrs GFS showing Joyce trying to block the progression of the Ridge. If it gets strong enough it could induce a stronger weakness for Isaac.

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3502. Chiggy
Quoting Tazmanian:
Product: Air Force Vortex Message (URNT12 KNHC)
Transmitted: 23rd day of the month at 11:45Z
Aircraft: Air Force Aircraft (Last 3 digits of the tail number are 307)
Storm Number & Year: 09L in 2012
Storm Name: Isaac (flight in the North Atlantic basin)
Mission Number: 5
Observation Number: 13
A. Time of Center Fix: 23rd day of the month at 11:21:40Z
B. Center Fix Coordinates: 15°24'N 64°37'W (15.4N 64.6167W)
B. Center Fix Location: 229 miles (369 km) to the SSE (155°) from San Juan, Puerto Rico (USA).
C. Minimum Height at Standard Level: 1,466m (4,810ft) at 850mb
D. Estimated (by SFMR or visually) Maximum Surface Wind: 26kts (~ 29.9mph)
E. Location of the Estimated Maximum Surface Wind: 46 nautical miles (53 statute miles) to the NW (324°) of center fix
F. Maximum Flight Level Wind Inbound: From 67° at 36kts (From the ENE at ~ 41.4mph)
G. Location of Maximum Flight Level Wind Inbound: 54 nautical miles (62 statute miles) to the NNW (333°) of center fix
H. Minimum Sea Level Pressure: 1003mb (29.62 inHg)
I. Maximum Flight Level Temp & Pressure Altitude Outside Eye: 19°C (66°F) at a pressure alt. of 1,518m (4,980ft)
J. Maximum Flight Level Temp & Pressure Altitude Inside Eye: 18°C (64°F) at a pressure alt. of 1,523m (4,997ft)
K. Dewpoint Temp (collected at same location as temp inside eye): 17°C (63°F)
K. Sea Surface Temp (collected at same location as temp inside eye): Not Available
L. Eye Character: Not Available
M. Eye Shape: Not Available
N. Fix Determined By: Penetration, Wind and Pressure
N. Fix Level: 850mb
O. Navigation Fix Accuracy: 0.02 nautical miles
O. Meteorological Accuracy: 10 nautical miles
Remarks Section - Remarks That Were Decoded...
Maximum Wind Outbound: 37kts (~ 42.6mph) in the north quadrant at 11:37:00Z
Maximum Flight Level Wind: 37kts (~ 42.6mph) in the north quadrant at 11:37:00Z
Maximum Flight Level Temp: 19°C (66°F) which was observed 47 nautical miles (54 statute miles) to the NW (325°) from the flight level center
Remarks Section - Additional Remarks...
RAIN CONTAMINATED SFMR


42.8mph max Flt level winds translates to 37mph surface.. BARELY a TS! LOL
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Quoting southernbell72:
The weather channel said Isaac should be a cat 1 by the time it moves past Haiti. Poor ppl.


Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15937

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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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