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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I guess that appointment didn't help... ;)
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Quoting air360:
Could someone please answer my simple minded question.

That huge front or whatever that has been hanging over the entire SE for like a week now is still there...what effect will this play on Isaac? It doesnt seem like it really wants to go anywhere fast. Is this the trough that is being looked at that should move to the E?

if you ask me, i think this will help try to steer isaac N or NE
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Quoting Drakoen:


Notice on that imagery how the outflow channels do not extend to the northeast as a result of the overwhelming amount of obvious, undeniable, explicit, clear-as-day, dry air to the northeast of the system.


Lol. Tell us how you really feel, Drak.
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Quoting Grothar:
I don't see any dry air to the west.


Same... all I see is deep tstorms
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Could someone please answer my simple minded question.

That huge front or whatever that has been hanging over the entire SE for like a week now is still there...what effect will this play on Isaac? It doesnt seem like it really wants to go anywhere fast. Is this the trough that is being looked at that should move to the E?
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Quoting guygee:
Some code improvements in the GFS this year may be giving it the edge.



It had physics upgrades, I think they are working quite well, the euro on the other hand has been suffering from seemingly what the GFS has in the past. Although the EURO has still done better than many of the others.
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Quoting MAweatherboy1:

As odd of an analogy as that is, that's exactly what it looks like, lol.

I was just going to ask the same thing. I remember one last year in the Pacific, had a spinoff, refered to as The Spawn of ??
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Quoting Drakoen:


Indeed. It is obvious that dry air has been affecting the NE corner. All one has to do is turn on the WV imagery.


No. I think we're forgetting that mid-high level moisture is obviously going to be low when there is an absence of thunderstorms. The atmosphere is naturally dry up there in the absence of convection to bring moisture up from the ocean.

If you go down to the low-mid levels where it really matters, it is fairly obvious that the strong monsoonal flow from the south is shoving moisture up into the eastern part of the circulation and keeping the dry air at bay to the northeast. There is an abrupt change to dry air but it is not too close to Isaac's core and is not being directly entrained. Entrainment is only occurring on the west and SW sides.

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for those on the east coast..

NWS,Wilmington, NC

THE FORECAST BECOMES A LITTLE MORE UNCERTAIN BEGINNING MONDAY AS
THERE ARE SOME POTENTIAL IMPACTS FROM WHAT MAY BE HURRICANE ISAAC.
THE OFFICIAL NHC FORECAST KEEPS ISAAC TOO FAR SOUTH AND WEST FOR ANY
REAL IMPACTS LOCALLY...BUT SOME MODEL SOLUTIONS (00Z AND 12Z
CANADIAN IN PARTICULAR) ARE MUCH FARTHER NORTH AND EAST. THE VARIOUS
MODEL FORECASTS WITH ISAAC SEEM KEYED MORE TO INTENSITY DIFFERENCES
THAN TO TROUGHS AND STEERING FLOW.
A STORM THAT BECOMES STRONGER
MORE QUICKLY CURVES TOWARD THE CAROLINAS (LIKE THE CANADIAN SHOWS)
WHILE A STORM THAT REMAINS WEAKER LONGER (LIKE THE ECMWF SHOWS)
MAINTAINS A MORE WESTWARD PATH INTO THE GULF. THE NHC FORECAST
APPEARS TO BE A GOOD COMPROMISE SOLUTION. NOTE THAT A GULFSTREAM JET
IS SCHEDULED TO PERFORM UPPER AIR RECONNAISSANCE AROUND ISAAC
THURSDAY EVENING...AND THE ADDITION OF THIS TYPE OF DATA INTO THE
MODELS WAS INSTRUMENTAL IN STRAIGHTENING OUT LAST YEAR`S EARLY
FORECAST PATH ERRORS WITH IRENE.

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Quoting Jedkins01:
My thought right now is that Isaac will travel through the keys and make landfall in the eastern panhandle getting close to the west coast of Florida, but not quite over it, however I don't have high confidence in that forecast, a landfall further west or east of Florida has only a slightly lower chance in my opinion, but very close.
yes i think the same jed..and that puts us..on the bad side of this storm huh
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Honestly Isaac looks like two tropical cyclones merging, which actually isn't unrealistic considering it has multiple lower level vorticity maximum's. Highly disorganized convectively in my eyes.
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Quoting hydrus:
Are you kidding.?/ If your in Mobile, AL I would start making preparations now for a significant hurricane. Do not go crazy., just pace yourself and go down the hurricane prep list. If you dont have one, Patrap and KEEPEROFTHEGATE have a complete list on there blog. Starting now saves you from rushing and making mistakes later.


Hydrus and everyone, thanks for your comments. I wasn't trying to act dumb I've been reading most of the day and it just seem like it was a Florida storm. But I will go thru my stuff and make sure it's all good and I have everything. It don't hurt to check things out and see what all you need. And yes if it looks like it will be bad I will be leaving with my children and grandchildren. I remember how bad Fredrick was I was in high school. I also remember Ivan,George,Katrina, I will never ride one out. I was stuck here in Katrina. Left for Ivan. Lord if it comes this way I have a lot to do, close and tie down shop and house. SEND IT OUT TO SEA!!!!!!!!!!

again Thank you all. This is why I love this place, people here help other folks out.

Sheri
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Quoting hydrus:
I believe what is happening here is what the Dr himself was concerned with...It is eating or absorbing the huge thunderstorm complex that was hindering its development located to the S.E. All the while trying to form a dominant center. A lot for a large system to do in a rapid fashion.


+1

It's watch and observe.

Isaac also needs to slow down to get his act together. The longer any of that takes is going to impact the models. If every one of these things did the same thing, we'd have nothing to talk about.
Member Since: August 18, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 628
Quoting Grothar:
I don't see any dry air to the west.



Notice on that imagery how the outflow channels do not extend to the northeast as a result of the overwhelming amount of obvious, undeniable, explicit, clear-as-day, dry air to the northeast of the system.
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Quoting 69Viking:


So were to believe you're right while Dr. M and all he experts at the NHC are wrong? Normally I have no problem taking your word for it but too many experts are talking about the dry air in the NE corner of Isaac and you're saying they're all wrong. I'm no weather expert but even I can see the upper level low driving dry air into the NE corner of Isaac, pretty obvious on the water vapor loops.



These LLCs should consolidate into one MAIN LLCOC most likely will happen further SE then it will absorb those two burst of convection solidify its CDO also this SE reformation would align itself under the MLC as the old one was too far NW of the MLC so I expect a big slow down. The tilt and lack of being vertically stacked is one of the main reason there has been a lack of strengthening over the past 24 hours. Once this happens the NE quadrant will become filled with more moisture and possible RI could ensue.
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Quoting Bluestorm5:
I really think saying 'Merica is very disrespectful...


Why?
Member Since: September 3, 2011 Posts: 13 Comments: 3480
Isaac splits into 2 storms and they take the same path as a Cat 4 right into ___________.
Lol JK
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Quoting AtHomeInTX:
Sorry guys off topic.

Red, if you're out there, couldn't find out anything on the spin off TX. Looking at water vapor there's dry air to its west and maybe shear above it. So hopefully it won't do anything. But good catch. :)

Oh, I'm out there alright, but I'm also in here :)

'We're all here because we're not all there'

TX has one month left before the tropical gates close. It is infuriating to see all this moisture at our gates and this stupid dry air dropping to keep it at bay. Just one little system to come up and fill up Centex lakes...
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This troll is the same one who comes back again and again. More comments have been directed at him than I care to count. Dozens today alone. Hell he gets more attention than Levi. The POOFS are funny, but it gives him the attention he so desperately seeks. He will be back even if they IP ban him again. He has the software to get around it. I'm as guilty as anyone else here in ripping him and reading his obliviousness. If NO ONE reads his comments anymore and NO ONE responds at all then it's as if he's not here. Let's all completely ignore him and let him amuse only himself. His name will be in all caps when he returns as another entity. I promise I will never mention, read, or respond to this said troll ever again. Lets all give him this much deserved action of feeding him no more. Starve him of attention.
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Quoting WxGeekVA:


Well this is 'MERICA, and we have a different and better poof here!


Funny, I was under the impression it was a tropical blog with an open worldwide membership???

Isaac is looking poor right now, don't be fooled... He's in transition and will organise well by this time tomorrow..
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279. A4Guy
Those two lobes of convesction seem to be orbiting a center. Looks like this is spinning up to be a huge storm, area-wise. Slover to develop...maybe that is why Euro model keeps it shallow...ut may be understaing things a bit. I think Euro will slide East, and the Eastern outliers will slide west. I like Dr M's odds, posted above.
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My thought right now is that Isaac will travel through the keys and make landfall in the eastern panhandle getting close to the west coast of Florida, but not quite over it, however I don't have high confidence in that forecast, a landfall further west or east of Florida has only a slightly lower chance in my opinion, but very close.
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277. VR46L
Quoting UKHWatcher:


If you guys, especially the younger ones knew the UK definition of POOF, You may not be so keen to do it!

Link

...and it's off topic and most of you SHOULD know better, especially in active times!!!


LOL .. I was shocked when I first started lurking about 6 years ago .. could not get over calling each other poof . I still cant ..and its not even violating the infamous community standards huh..

Anyways back on topic Isaac in Rainbow

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Quoting Jedkins01:
It's funny how historically the Euro does indeed have an advantage, but so far this year it's done poorly in comparison to it's overall track record while the GFS has done better than it typically does...
Some code improvements in the GFS this year may be giving it the edge.
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Quoting TomTaylor:
Some dust and dry air has been entrained and wrapped around the circulation. Here's the ECMWF dust analysis showing a circle of dust around the center.



Here's the Link to the website.
Thanks T.T.
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NWS MIAMI

ALL EYES THEN TURN TO TROPICAL STORM ISAAC AND ITS POTENTIAL THREAT
TO SOUTH FLORIDA THIS WEEKEND INTO EARLY NEXT WEEK. MODEL GUIDANCE
IS STILL FAIRLY SPREAD OUT BY SUNDAY. THE OFFICIAL FORECAST TRACK
FROM THE NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER BRINGS ISAAC ACROSS EASTERN CUBA
AND TOWARDS THE SOUTH AND SOUTHWEST COASTS OF SOUTH FLORIDA BY
MONDAY MORNING AS A STRENGTHENING HURRICANE. THE 12Z GFS MODEL
FOLLOWS THIS TRACK VERY CLOSELY. THE GFS HAS A LARGE WEAKNESS OVER
THE EASTERN GULF TO THE BAHAMAS...WHICH WOULD ALLOW ISAAC TO TURN
MORE TO THE WEST NORTHWEST AND NORTHWEST FROM CUBA TOWARDS THE
GENERAL DIRECTION OF SOUTH FLORIDA. SO POSSIBLE IMPACTS TO SOUTH
FLORIDA ARE HIGHLY DEPENDENT ON THE STRENGTH OF THIS RIDGE...THE
STRENGTH OF ISAAC...AND HOW IT INTERACTS WITH THE TERRAIN OF
HISPANIOLA AND EASTERN CUBA. IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT TRACK
FORECAST ERRORS AT DAY 5 ARE ON THE ORDER OF 225 MILES. SO IT IS
STILL TOO EARLY TO DETERMINE THE IMPACTS OF TROPICAL STORM ISAAC
TO SOUTH FLORIDA OR THE SURROUNDING MARINE AREAS. HOWEVER...THERE
IS A POTENTIAL THAT SOUTH FLORIDA AND/OR THE SURROUNDING MARINE
AREAS COULD SEE TROPICAL STORM OR HURRICANE CONDITIONS BEGINNING
ON SUNDAY.
SO NOW IS A GOOD TIME TO REVIEW INDIVIDUAL TROPICAL
CYCLONE PREPAREDNESS PLANS. FOR THE LATEST INFORMATION REGARDING
TROPICAL STORM ISAAC...CONTINUE TO MONITOR THE LATEST FORECASTS
FROM THE NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER.

Member Since: July 14, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 3029
Quoting WxGeekVA:


Well this is 'MERICA, and we have a different and better poof here!
I really think saying 'Merica is very disrespectful...
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I don't see any dry air to the west.

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Quoting Levi32:
The only place dry air has been wrapping in during Isaac's entire life has been the western side, and that hasn't affected him greatly. He has a very nice moisture bubble that has remained perfectly intact, with again the only intrusion from the west, and minor at that.

Some dust and dry air has been entrained and wrapped around the circulation. Here's the ECMWF dust analysis from yesterday showing a circle of dust around the center.



Here's the Link to the website.
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Quoting air360:


So which is more accurate to the actual conditions - lots of dry air to the north or not as much anymore?


I would side with the GFS initialization, since it does not have a "bogus" storm inserted. They cyclone specific models do.
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.
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My best advice is to avoid the rush and get your gas and beer now. I did that today. I stock and keep up hurricane supplies all year round so when it gets crazy I have alot less money to shell out and can deal with the more pressing stuff like protect my property.
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Quoting Patrap:
We could maybe,,,see that right Lobe fade and a new Overall become dominate tomorrow as it races west at 22...or vice versa as well.

: )


Dvorak Loop






That'd be my guess as well. No organization, no strengthening at that forward pace. About the only thing I think we could count on with such is that eventually the models will shift somewhat further west. A weaker Isaac only toys with the prospect of maturing and feeling any weakness north of it. A bit different, but very similar still to Ernesto's performance. Rinse, repeat in the present.
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It's funny how historically the Euro does indeed have an advantage, but so far this year it's done poorly in comparison to it's overall track record while the GFS has done better than it typically does...
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264. CJ5
Isaac will consolidate again over the next 12 hours and will look much better in the am. There is slight dry air intrusion but convection and rotation is very healthy. Slowing down would certainly aid in his reorganization as well. He has plenty of things in his favor so he will not be going away.
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Quoting Patrap:


I'll be gone for 4 weeks as of tomorrow and will jot some stuff down from Memory and maybe some from our Team Rubicon Members as well.

I'll send via wu-mail jeffs.


Perfect! Thanks, Patrap!
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Big Duke NOLA 7.

....signing O-F-F.
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Quoting SLU:
WOW ... so the EURO was right when it showed ISAAC as a large mess with multiple lows.



The ECMWF is a good model and should not be discounted, even though it is an outlier. It is possible that if the internal structure of Issac doesn't get its act together (multiple vorticies), that the system takes a more western track.
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Quoting UKHWatcher:


If you guys, especially the younger ones knew the UK definition of POOF, You may not be so keen to do it!

Link

...and it's off topic and most of you SHOULD know better, especially in active times!!!


Well this is 'MERICA, and we have a different and better poof here!
Member Since: September 3, 2011 Posts: 13 Comments: 3480
Quoting jeffs713:
Oh...

I plan on doing a blog soon about injuries (and how to administer first aid for them) that are common during and after a storm. For those who have been through storms in the last 10 years or so, and also everyone involved with Portlight... what kind of injuries do you see the most with a storm making landfall?

Please send your input via WUmail - I am about to head home from work, and any replies on here will be drowned out quickly by the sheer volume of entries on the blog.


I'll be gone for 4 weeks as of tomorrow and will jot some stuff down from Memory and maybe some from our Team Rubicon Members as well.

I'll send via wu-mail jeffs.
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May be a little more N mixed into the western motion now. Very hard to tell with the confusion that is the center, but that's my take on it.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16874
Quoting Tazmanian:
ISAAC has a twin
Well that will settle the great debate both Floridacasters and Gulfcasters win therefore no more debate.They split The two.
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Quoting MAweatherboy1:

As odd of an analogy as that is, that's exactly what it looks like, lol.

I believe what is happening here is what the Dr himself was concerned with...It is eating or absorbing the huge thunderstorm complex that was hindering its development located to the S.E. All the while trying to form a dominant center. A lot for a large system to do in a rapid fashion.
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Quoting SLU:
WOW ... so the EURO was right when it showed ISAAC as a large mess with multiple lows.

but it appears TS Isaac is begining to consolidate , i would not be surprised to see a 60-65 mph TS in the morning
Member Since: July 14, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 3029
Quoting gordydunnot:
What I find almost as interesting as Issac is the persistent line of thunderstorms over the stalled out front in the Gulf. I don't believe I have seen it persist this long. Shows the tremendous heat out there I suppose.

Cooling the waters??
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It seems like I remember several storms in previous years in almost the exact same location looking very similar to Isaac right now (ie two competing convective 'blobs')... Can anyone help me recall what storm(s) it was, and if so what was the end result? Continued struggles but maintaining intensity, weakening/dissipation to open wave, or consolidation and intensification? I hope that question makes some sense...
Member Since: June 30, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 113
Quoting SLU:
WOW ... so the EURO was right when it showed ISAAC as a large mess with multiple lows.

Let's pray they are wrong with the monster in gulf... let's pray.
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Quoting Patrap:
The question is where's Isaac?.
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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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