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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Where is Isaac??????



This is only 2hrs old... right????
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15940
Good to see you Ike!!

Hazardous Weather Outlook
HAZARDOUS WEATHER OUTLOOK
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE TAMPA BAY RUSKIN FL
504 AM EDT THU AUG 23 2012

FLZ039-042-043-048>052-055>057-060>062-065-232115 -
LEVY-CITRUS-SUMTER-HERNANDO-PASCO-PINELLAS-HILLSB OROUGH-POLK-
MANATEE-HARDEE-HIGHLANDS-SARASOTA-DESOTO-CHARLOTT E-LEE-
504 AM EDT THU AUG 23 2012

THIS HAZARDOUS WEATHER OUTLOOK IS FOR WEST CENTRAL AND SOUTHWEST
FLORIDA.

.DAY ONE...TODAY AND TONIGHT.

...THUNDERSTORM IMPACT...
A STATIONARY FRONT ACROSS NORTHERN FLORIDA TODAY COMBINED WITH
ABUNDANT MOISTURE AND DAYTIME HEATING WILL SUPPORT SCATTERED
SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS ACROSS THE AREA WITH THE HIGHEST ODDS
IN THE NORTH...FOR THE NATURE COAST. THESE SHOWERS AND STORMS
WILL BEGIN TO FORM ON THE ADJACENT GULF WATERS AFTER SUNRISE AND
THEN INCREASE IN AREAL COVERAGE AS THEY MOVE ONSHORE THROUGH THE
REMAINDER OF THE DAY. SOME OF THE STORMS COULD BECOME STRONG
WITH GUSTY WINDS AND SMALL HAIL. IN ADDITION SOME LOCALLY HEAVY
RAINFALL AND FREQUENT LIGHTNING STRIKES WILL ACCOMPANY THE STORMS.
IF THUNDER IS HEARD OR LIGHTNING IS OBSERVED MOVE INDOORS
IMMEDIATELY.

...FLOOD IMPACT...
A STATIONARY FRONT OVER NORTH FLORIDA WILL CONTINUE TO BE THE
FOCUS FOR SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS TODAY. DEEP TROPICAL MOISTURE
OVER THE AREA WILL CREATE IDEAL CONDITIONS FOR SOME VERY HEAVY
RAIN. SLOW MOVING SHOWERS AND STORMS MAY ALLOW FOR TRAINING TO
DEVELOP WHICH COULD PRODUCE LOCALLY EXCESSIVE RAINFALL WHICH MAY
CAUSE FLOODING OF ROADS AND LOW LYING AREAS. RAINFALL TOTALS OF 2
TO 4 INCHES WILL BE POSSIBLE THROUGH THURSDAY WITH LOCALLY HIGHER
AMOUNTS ESPECIALLY OVER THE NATURE COAST...A FLOOD WATCH REMAINS
IN EFFECT THERE THROUGH TONIGHT.

.DAYS TWO THROUGH SEVEN...FRIDAY THROUGH WEDNESDAY.

...POTENTIAL TROPICAL IMPACTS...
TROPICAL STORM ISAAC...CURRENTLY LOCATED SOUTHEAST OF PUERTO RICO
EARLY THIS MORNING...IS FORECAST BY THE NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER
TO MOVE ON A GENERAL WEST-NORTHWEST TRACK THROUGH THE END OF THE
WEEK. ISAAC IS EXPECTED TO TURN NORTHWEST...MOVING IN THE GENERAL
DIRECTION OF FLORIDA DURING THE UPCOMING WEEKEND AND THERE IS A
POTENTIAL FOR ISAAC TO IMPACT THE FLORIDA PENINSULA EARLY NEXT
WEEK. THERE IS SOME UNCERTAINTY WITH REGARDS TO THE EXACT TRACK
AND INTENSITY OF ISAAC AND AS TO WHETHER OR NOT ISAAC WILL HAVE
DIRECT IMPACT ON WEST CENTRAL AND SOUTHWEST FLORIDA....HOWEVER ALL
INTERESTS ARE ENCOURAGED TO CONSULT THE LATEST GUIDANCE AND
INFORMATION FROM THE NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER CONCERNING THE
POSSIBLE EFFECTS OF TROPICAL STORM ISAAC.

...THUNDERSTORM IMPACT...
DRIER AIR WORKS IN FRIDAY AND RESULTS IN ONLY ISOLATED SHOWERS AND
THUNDERSTORMS. THEN MOISTURE BEGIN TO RETURN WITH SCATTERED
SHOWERS AND STORMS FOR THE WEEKEND AND CONTINUING INTO EARLY NEXT
WEEK...POSSIBLY BECOME NUMEROUS AT TIMES. A FEW OF THESE STORMS
MAY BE STRONG WITH GUSTY WINDS...BUT THE MAIN THREAT WILL CONTINUE
TO BE LOCALLY HEAVY RAINFALL AND OCCASIONAL LIGHTNING STRIKES.

...WIND AND SEA IMPACT...
WINDS OVER THE ADJACENT GULF WATERS WILL BE ON THE INCREASE DURING
THE UPCOMING WEEKEND AND INTO EARLY NEXT WEEK DUE TO HIGH
PRESSURE TO THE NORTH AND TROPICAL CYCLONE ISAAC TO THE SOUTHEAST.
THE INCREASING WINDS WILL LEAD TO BUILDING SEAS WHICH WILL PRODUCE
VERY ROUGH BOATING CONDITIONS FOR SMALL CRAFT OPERATORS. ALL
MARINERS SHOULD CONTINUE TO MONITOR THE PROGRESS OF TROPICAL
CYCLONE ISAAC THROUGH THE REMAINDER OF THE WEEK AND INTO THE
UPCOMING WEEKEND.


.SPOTTER INFORMATION STATEMENT...

SPOTTER ACTIVATION WILL NOT BE NEEDED TODAY.

$$

09/RKR






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sometimes the models get it , and a lot of times they dont , remember these are computer generated tracks they will miss things us humans will pick up, like for instance did they take in consideration the southerly flow which pushed a ull sw into isaac forcing him to take a awsw movement , i mentioned this tues night.
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3347. tkdaime
Gfdl model says cat 4 for south florida
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3345. LargoFl
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 39309
Quoting kmanhurricaneman:
no , but look at the current steering winds and ridge, its plain to see friend.
I would agree but the steering ahead of the storm is clearly a NW flow. Also the storm would have to stay pretty weak to make that journey before turning. My opinion with the decrease in forward motion we may see this one blow up pretty good today. This should encourage him to start his NW movement.
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3342. Relix
What is happening? Woke up this morning... saw Isaac was pretty far. Still got out of bed and I hear from the radio that Isaac could be pulling a Hortense (1996)? What?
Member Since: August 3, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 2725
3341. LargoFl
Quoting AussieStorm:

Don't know how to post it but here is a link to the GFDL loop.

Here is what it says at 90hrs...

114.5kts = 131.76mph or Cat 4 Hurricane.
gee that you aussie..THAT track has NOT changed for days..GDFL says a direct hit on florida and so does the nogaps etc...all eyes ON this storm for sure
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 39309
Quoting IKE:
isaac looking a little better this morning vs. last night. Good morning everyone!


Welcome back! Missed your GFS run posting!
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3339. IKE
Been doing ok. Didn't want to hog the blog during Isaac. Large system.
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Quoting IKE:
isaac looking a little better this morning vs. last night. Good morning everyone!

Oh what the!!!!!!

Are we getting the band back together or something???

Hello old timer, How ya been.
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15940
3337. GetReal
Quoting IKE:
isaac looking a little better this morning vs. last night. Good morning everyone!


Good morning and glad to see a WU veteran return to the blog!
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3336. msphar
NHC's tracked is still messed up, south of Puerto Rico.

This whole forecasting adventure on this one storm has been an embarassment to the NHC. It is as if the invisible hand of politics has reached down and thrown them under the bus.

Soon NHC will have to make the necessary adjustments to the track (westward) to reflect reality.

What a fiasco this has been.
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3335. IKE
Doing fine everyone.
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Quoting IKE:
isaac looking a little better this morning vs. last night. Good morning everyone!
Good morning! Good to see your back
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Quoting IKE:
isaac looking a little better this morning vs. last night. Good morning everyone!


Sup stranger?
Member Since: July 25, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 575
3332. IKE
isaac looking a little better this morning vs. last night. Good morning everyone!
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no , but look at the current steering winds and ridge, its plain to see friend.
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Quoting LargoFl:
Does anyone have an animated track for the GDFL?..if you do could you post it please

Don't know how to post it but here is a link to the GFDL loop.

Here is what it says at 90hrs...

114.5kts = 131.76mph or Cat 4 Hurricane.
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15940
This is gonna be a Florida panhandle event
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Good Morning guys..i missed everything since yesterday mid-afternoon....it appears that isaac looks better, am i making a correct assumption?

And is it also more south than it was predicted to be?

TIA
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Quoting kmanhurricaneman:
models re crap just what i said tuesday night, isaac is going to travel west until jamaica then turn north.



We should just quit looking at them and rely on you right?
Member Since: July 25, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 575
Quoting FLWeatherFreak91:
This isn't true in my opinion. A lot of the track depends on intensity as well, and if the storm can blow up south of the islands, it will be drawn north into the weakness a little ahead of schedule and may end up in the far eastern gulf anyways.
Agreed. I meant further west into the gulf as a weaker storm would not feel the break as much as a strong one. I think now that the forward speed has slowed we will see more of the true motion of the storm. The only other factor that could throw a wrench in the track is the interaction with Haiti or cuba.
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3325. LargoFl
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 39309
Quoting TampaFLUSA:
A recent trend I noticed on some of the models is that once Isaac reaches the north central/eastern Gulf is that it bends more north and north east.

Latest GFS has it bending back in near Cedar Key.
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This is my Video Blog for Thursday Link
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Quoting hulazigzag:
A few interesting things happening now. The forward speed has slowed drastically. This is a sure sign of the storm starting to organize. I think the short term adjustments of the center are less likely to affect the long term track. The biggest factor should be how quickly the storm intensifies. A strong storm will push the track closer to Florida weaker more into the gulf. The long term track could be drastically different if there is Ri after getting into the gulf. We saw that with Charlie.


+1

Well said. If Isaac is going to organize it's now init's best environment to do so. Doesn't mean he will. Therefore we have your two options of which both are in the cone.
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.edit
Member Since: July 25, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 575
Quoting panamasteve:
Darn. Looks like it's time to refill the gas cans for the generator. Nobody yet paying too much attention to Isaac here in Panama City Beach.

Has gas prices gone up yet???
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15940
models re crap just what i said tuesday night, isaac is going to travel west until jamaica then turn north.
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Quoting TampaFLUSA:
A recent trend I noticed on some of the models is that once Isaac reaches the north central/eastern Gulf is that it bends more north and north east.
A hint at a future trend... This could get in the gulf and come back at as. I believe Doc mentioned the possibility of a sharp hook to the northeast in one of the original entries on 94l
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Quoting hulazigzag:
A few interesting things happening now. The forward speed has slowed drastically. This is a sure sign of the storm starting to organize. I think the short term adjustments of the center are less likely to affect the long term track. The biggest factor should be how quickly the storm intensifies. A strong storm will push the track closer to Florida weaker more into the gulf. The long term track could be drastically different if there is Ri after getting into the gulf. We saw that with Charlie.
This isn't true in my opinion. A lot of the track depends on intensity as well, and if the storm can blow up south of the islands, it will be drawn north into the weakness a little ahead of schedule and may end up in the far eastern gulf anyways.
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A recent trend I noticed on some of the models is that once Isaac reaches the north central/eastern Gulf is that it bends more north and north east.
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3315. LargoFl
Quoting LargoFl:
..now THIS model has it going in the track i think Levi said yesterday..there IS way too much uncertainty yet with this storm..all eyes ON it for the next few days
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 39309
Water Vapor Loop shows a wnw flow ahead of Isaac:



Steering Supports this too, so aside from all the relocation should resume the heading that the NHC put out.


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Good morning all! It appears that the models have come closer together this morning (Euro & GFS). But,to my VERY untrained eye, it appears that the Euro moved more towards the east than the GFS moved west? Even if I have that right, I am not sure what it would mean -- but it feels like the NHC Cone is pretty dead on to me.
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3312. LargoFl
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 39309
A few interesting things happening now. The forward speed has slowed drastically. This is a sure sign of the storm starting to organize. I think the short term adjustments of the center are less likely to affect the long term track. The biggest factor should be how quickly the storm intensifies. A strong storm will push the track closer to Florida weaker more into the gulf. The long term track could be drastically different if there is Ri after getting into the gulf. We saw that with Charlie.
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Quoting RTSplayer:
Quoting serialteg:
Another one to ponder:

Why in high heaven doesn't the discussion mention the whyabouts of the de-acceleration? That's a MAJOR event. This thing has RACED all it's life, suddenly slams the brakes, and it's just mentioned nonchalantly as a fact with no discussion over it?

We all - well, should - know that de-acceleration is a sign of an organizing storm. And a dangerous one at that.




If you read the NHC forecaster's notes, he said the speed and heading is uncertain. He put that together as sort of an average of all the data, since apparently they couldn't actually find the center...again...


Tropical Storm ISAAC Forecast Discussion

Home Public Adv Fcst Adv Discussion Wind Probs Graphics Archive

000
WTNT44 KNHC 230858
TCDAT4

TROPICAL STORM ISAAC DISCUSSION NUMBER 9
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL092012
500 AM AST THU AUG 23 2012

AN AIR FORCE RECONNAISSANCE AIRCRAFT INVESTIGATING ISAAC THIS
MORNING HAS FOUND A POORLY DEFINED INNER CORE WITH A LARGE AREA OF
LIGHT WINDS AROUND A CENTER...WHICH IS SIMILAR TO WHAT AN EARLIER
NOAA RESEARCH MISSION INDICATED. RADAR DATA FROM GUADELOUPE AND SAN
JUAN ALSO INDICATE A POORLY DEFINED INNER CORE CONVECTIVE PATTERN.
RATHER THAN INITIALIZE THE CENTER OF ISAAC WELL TO THE SOUTH OF THE
PREVIOUS TRACK...I HAVE OPTED TO USE A BLEND OF THE RECON FIXES...
SATELLITE IMAGERY...DATA FROM NEARBY NOAA BUOY 42060...AND A 06Z
CONSENSUS FORECAST POSITION FROM THE GFS...ECMWF...AND UKMET
MODELS. THE INITIAL INTENSITY WAS ALSO DECREASED TO 35 KT BASED ON
DATA FROM THE RECON AIRCRAFT AND NOAA BUOY 42060.

THE INITIAL MOTION ESTIMATE IS AN UNCERTAIN 270/12 KT.


Here's the part I disagree with...

THE 00Z
GFS...ECMWF...AND UKMET MODELS DID AN OUTSTANDING JOB PREDICTING
THE RECENT SOUTHWESTWARD JOG
OR REFORMATION OF THE CENTER OF ISAAC.



LOL?

What's he smoking? The only model predicting a WSW turn last night was the HWRF, which was dissipating it.


Of course, myself and a few other people were saying it was going WSW, but we're not models.


This is typical NHC fudging the numbers to smooth over errors. I don't know why he's bothering though, it just looks stupid and anyone who's been watching the actual models knows better.


well what's uncertain for him is reality for most humans. they are, after all, the official authority on weather this side of the world.

but that doesn't mean we can't track and see things from ourselves, and learn, and more so, that they're infallible.
Member Since: August 22, 2006 Posts: 2 Comments: 1983
Come on, we are intelligent rational people



Some are and some are not.
I admire your optimism!
Member Since: July 25, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 575
3308. LargoFl
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 39309
3307. WxLogic
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Watches and Warnings for Jamaica soon?? Isaac either needs to turn north today or he'll slide under DR/Haiti.
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It appears PR is out if the woods from damaging winds and DR may be soon too if trend south continues at 8:00 advisory. Looks like center is now around 15.0 N 67W keeping winds well offshore. All flights into San Juan today appear to be on schedule.
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3304. LargoFl
Does anyone have an animated track for the GDFL?..if you do could you post it please
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 39309
3303. LargoFl
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 39309
Quoting ackee:
I think Isaac WILL miss hispanola track south of cuba


Currently, I do too.

With that thought he would still be in the cone.
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Quoting tramp96:

Do you have a link for those graphs?

Move your mouse over the menu's at the top of the page to get the models.
Link
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15940

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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.