Superstorm Sandy and the importance of polar orbiting satellites in forecasting

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 8:19 PM GMT on January 03, 2013

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On the 23rd of October, the 18th named storm of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, Tropical Storm Sandy, was born in the Central Caribbean. As is common for late-season storms in the Caribbean, Sandy moved northwards across Cuba. The official forecasts from the National Hurricane Center issued on October 23 called for Sandy to turn to the northeast after crossing Cuba, and head into the Central Atlantic. This forecast was based on the output from five of our top six computer models, which all predicted that an upper-level low pressure system in the Central Atlantic would be strong enough to pull Sandy northeastwards. However, the global weather forecast model run by the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) showed a disturbing possibility: the upper-level low pressure system in the Central Atlantic would not be strong enough to turn Sandy to the northeast. The hurricane would instead get caught up in the flow associated with a trough of low pressure approaching the U.S. East Coast, and Sandy would get slung into New York or New Jersey on October 29. While the ECMWF model was the best performing model for tracking Atlantic hurricanes in both 2010 and 2011, and had done very well again so far in 2012, the American GFS model had outperformed the ECMWF model several times during the 2012 season. NHC elected to discount the ECMWF forecast for Sandy as an outlier, and went with the forecast from the GFS and other models. By October 25, it was clear that the ECMWF model had the right idea all along. More models were now showing the turn towards New York, and the official NHC forecast now called for Sandy to make landfall in New York or New Jersey on October 29. The ECMWF model's early forecast of a track for Sandy into the Northeast was critical for allowing additional time for residents to prepare for arrival of the devastating storm. So what enabled the ECMWF model to make such an excellent forecast for Sandy, six days in advance?


Figure 1. This image uses the model output from the ECMWF experiment, showing where Sandy was predicted to be located five-days out with the normal satellite data inputs into the model (left) and without any polar-orbiting satellite data (right). Both position and intensity forecasts were affected--Sandy stays out to sea without the polar-orbiting satellite data, and the closer isobar lines encircling the storm also imply a more organized and stronger system. Image credit: NOAA.

Polar satellite data: a key to ECMWF model success
The ECWMF has a very sophisticated technique called "4-D Var" for gathering all the current weather data over the Earth and putting the data on a 3-dimensional grid that is then used as the initial "reality" of the current weather for the model to use for its forecast. The old expression, "garbage in, garbage out" is a truism for weather forecast models. If you don't properly characterize the initial state of the atmosphere, the errors you start off with will grow and give a lower-quality forecast. Data from geostationary satellites, which sit continuously at one spot above the globe, are easy to assimilate, and all the models use this data. However, the ECMWF model's superior technique used to assimilate the initial data allows inclusion of data from a large number of polar-orbiting satellites, which the other models cannot do as well. Polar-orbiting satellites orbit Earth at an altitude of 540 miles twice per day, circling from pole to pole. Their data is difficult to use, since the it is only available twice per day at each spot on the Earth, and the time of availability is different for each location. According to an email I received from Jean-Noël Thépaut, the chief of the Data Division of the Research Department at the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, the ECMWF model uses data from at least fourteen polar orbiting satellites: N-15, N-19, N-19, N-17 (ozone SBUV instrument only), Metop-A, AQUA, NPP (ATMS instrument only), AURA (ozone OMI data only), F-17, TRMM (TMI data), COSMIC, GRACE-A, TERRASAR, and the GPSRO data on top of METOP-GRAS. The data of most importance is the data collected in the infrared and microwave wavelengths, as well as atmospheric density data obtained via GPS radio occultation (as a polar orbiting satellite goes over the horizon, the GPS signals from the satellite get bent by Earth's atmosphere, with the amount of bending proportional to the density of the atmosphere. This GPS Radio Occultation data is gathered from eight polar orbiting satellites, and fed into both the ECMWF and GFS models.) You can find a nice summary of the impacts of polar orbiting satellite data on weather prediction models at this link.)


Figure 2. Forecast track error for four of our top models used to predict Hurricane Sandy, for their runs that began at 00Z October 25, 2012. By this time, the GFDL model had joined the ECMWF in predicting that Sandy would make landfall in Southern New Jersey in five days. The GFS and HWRF models made good 1 - 3 day forecasts, but failed to anticipate Sandy's north-northwestward turn towards the U.S. coast. Image credit: Morris Bender, NOAA/GFDL.

As originally reported by the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang, then confirmed in a NOAA press release, a study done by ECMWF research scientist Tony McNally found that if the ECMWF model did not have all of the data from the fourteen polar orbiting satellites, the five-day forecast of the model for Hurricane Sandy would have shown Sandy missing the Northeast U.S. This brings up a concern, since the U.S. polar orbiting satellite program is behind schedule. As explained by Andrew Freedman of Climate Central, the program is plagued by mismanagement, billions in cost overruns, and technical development challenges. The next polar orbiting satellite is not scheduled to be launched until 2017, and one or more of the existing polar orbiting satellites are expected to fail before then. This will result in a degradation of our ability to observe and predict the weather, and may result in poorer forecasts for storms like Hurricane Sandy. Given that the ECMWF model used data from fourteen polar orbiting satellites, the failure of just one satellite may not have made a significant difference in its forecast for Sandy. But if we lose several of these key satellites by 2017, our hurricane forecasts in 2017 may be worse than they were in 2012. To figure out how to cope with the loss of satellite-derived data, NOAA is conducting a Gap Risk Study that seeks ideas from researchers and the public on how NOAA can preserve the quality of its weather model forecasts in the event of the failure of one or more polar orbiting satellites in the coming years.


Figure 3. A tanker rests on the southern shore after being swept onto land by a storm surge due to Superstorm Sandy, Friday, Nov. 2, 2012, in the Staten Island borough of New York. (AP Photo/ John Minchillo)

Links
Eric Berger of the Houston Chronicle has an interview with Jean-Noël Thépaut, chief of the Data Division of the Research Department at the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, on why the European model did so well with Hurricane Sandy.

Jeff Masters

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Bitter cold still here in SE Utah. LIke living in a freezer. Supposed to get minus 20 tonight. But it looks like some snow maybe coming our way, which will warm things up. Hating winter right now...thinking of moving to Canada where it has to be warmer.
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Quoting whitewabit:


Levi .. What model do you favor ?


In this particular situation I would probably lean towards the GEM progression for Days 12-15 because I know that highly-amplified ridges building into Alaska usually at least partially break off and retrograde.
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Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42861
395. whitewabit (Mod)
Quoting Levi32:
Interesting battle going on between the GFS and GEM (CMC) ensembles right now for week 2. Both agree a monster ridge builds into Alaska by Day 9. However, the GFS ensemble just keeps it there for the next several days, not really evolving a whole lot, while the GEM ensemble breaks the ridge off into a closed blocking high that retrogrades over Siberia, which these amplified Alaskan ridges do tend to do, by the way.

The reason this matters is that to the east of this AK ridge, a big arctic attack plunges into the western-central United States during this time. The GFS solution through Day 16 seems to allow the arctic attack to work its way into the eastern U.S. as well, while the GEM solution with the AK ridge breaking off would allow the arctic air in the U.S. to gradually ride northeastward and out of the country without severely attacking the eastern third of the lower 48.

Day 13 500mb Height and Anomaly comparison: GFS (left), GEM (right): Click for larger size



Levi .. What model do you favor ?
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Quoting Grothar:


I'm not a betting man, but I would go with the GFS on this one.


Well, last winter, the GEM (CMC) ensemble mean creamed the GFS ensemble mean week after week when the GFS tried to bring cold into the east that never came. We'll see how they dance the rest of this winter.
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Sup, Gro.....
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Quoting Levi32:
Interesting battle going on between the GFS and GEM (CMC) ensembles right now for week 2. Both agree a monster ridge builds into Alaska by Day 9. However, the GFS ensemble just keeps it there for the next several days, not really evolving a whole lot, while the GEM ensemble breaks the ridge off into a closed blocking high that retrogrades over Siberia, which these Alaskan ridges do tend to do, by the way.

The reason this matters is that to the east of this AK ridge, a big arctic attack plunges into the western-central United States during this time. The GFS solution through Day 16 seems to allow the arctic attack to work its way into the eastern U.S. as well, while the GEM solution with the AK ridge breaking off would allow the arctic air in the U.S. to gradually ride northeastward and out of the country without severely attacking the eastern third of the lower 48.

Day 13 500mb Height and Anomaly comparison: GFS (left), GEM (right): Click for larger size



I'm not a betting man, but I would go with the GFS on this one.
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Quoting Grothar:


Yep. She put on some show!!


Gro always sat front row trying to get a glimpse of her knickers...
Member Since: September 23, 2006 Posts: 1 Comments: 2653
Quoting Skyepony:


I think Grace is like 10 years old now? It's been amazing what it's sent back.

Wasn't that Grail? I was hoping it would last way longer than planned like Grace. They decommissioned them & they crashed into the lunar surface I think middle of last month. There may have been a funeral in my blog..


Yes.. the name had escaped me.. part timers ya know...

missed the funeral..[hangs head] I just don't cruise the member blogs enough.
Member Since: September 23, 2006 Posts: 1 Comments: 2653
Quoting Grothar:


Yep. She put on some show!!


Swedish Nightingale..
1820-1887..
Quite a write up on her..
Famous singer..lost her voice..got it back again..
Quite a looker in the Wiki pic.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Interesting battle going on between the GFS and GEM (CMC) ensembles right now for week 2. Both agree a monster ridge builds into Alaska by Day 9. However, the GFS ensemble just keeps it there for the next several days, not really evolving a whole lot, while the GEM ensemble breaks the ridge off into a closed blocking high that retrogrades over Siberia, which these amplified Alaskan ridges do tend to do, by the way.

The reason this matters is that to the east of this AK ridge, a big arctic attack plunges into the western-central United States during this time. The GFS solution through Day 16 seems to allow the arctic attack to work its way into the eastern U.S. as well, while the GEM solution with the AK ridge breaking off would allow the arctic air in the U.S. to gradually ride northeastward and out of the country without severely attacking the eastern third of the lower 48.

Day 13 500mb Height and Anomaly comparison: GFS (left), GEM (right): Click for larger size

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Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42861
Quoting pcola57:


The opera singer Gro?


Yep. She put on some show!!
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385. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting indianrivguy:


You are right Skye, Grace is very cool. Wonderful new information. The work they did on the moon with the same system was at least as cool as our gravitationally lumpy blue marble project. Amazing what we are learning about crustal compositions, and what lies below that.


I think Grace is like 10 years old now? It's been amazing what it's sent back.

Wasn't that Grail? I was hoping it would last way longer than planned like Grace. They decommissioned them & they crashed into the lunar surface I think middle of last month. There may have been a funeral in my blog..
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 236 Comments: 39718
Quoting RTSplayer:


Something similar was already being done for Prostate Cancer, where they took a man's own immune cells and trained them to fight the cancer, and re-inject them. It costed about $90,000 to have it done though, because it needed to be tailored to each patient's own unique cancer and unique immune system.


My hope was that they would be able to identify all the major blood types, or all the major cancer types, and make this "vaccine" in enough sub-groups so that the majority of them would all be covered by something mass produced. this would conceivably lower cost of individual treatments. I've heard nothing of the sort being done, however.


My dad died of glioblastoma when he was 50 years old. He was only diagnosed properly a few days earlier, so I guess it wouldn't even have helped. Stupid doctors do medical scans, tests, and biopsies in about the completely backwards order that they should be done in.

I'm hopeful that terahertz band medical scanners, which should be available in a few years, will make full body medical scans dirt cheap so that a much higher fraction of cancers, defects, fractures, inflammation, and infections will be diagnosed properly, before the worst damage is done, and while there's still time to actually do something about it. The technology to do this was discovered recently, and is being researched with success. I think they will be able to do full body scanners similar to how MRI and CT scans can be done now, but they will also have hand held scanners, which will be about the size of a metal detector, to speed up preliminary diagnoses.
thanks, Im with you on that..coming down with cancer,and you have to be a millionaire to pay for the treatments and Then find out, after you incur these huge costs..they cant cure it anyway..costs need to be brought wayyyy down so the average working person wont be wiped out totally with HUGE medical bills..
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42861
Quoting Grothar:


Anybody remember Jenny Lind?


Of course... wasn't she friends with Dolly Varden?
Member Since: September 23, 2006 Posts: 1 Comments: 2653
Could be a real soaker of a storm for the East in the middle/latter part of next week, looks like it'll be drawing moisture right out of the Gulf.

GFS:



CMC:

Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 84 Comments: 8078
Quoting Grothar:


Anybody remember Jenny Lind?


The opera singer Gro?
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Sonamu is putting on a show!



Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting RTSplayer:


Something similar was already being done for Prostate Cancer, where they took a man's own immune cells and trained them to fight the cancer, and re-inject them. It costed about $90,000 to have it done though, because it needed to be tailored to each patient's own unique cancer and unique immune system.


My hope was that they would be able to identify all the major blood types, or all the major cancer types, and make this "vaccine" in enough sub-groups so that the majority of them would all be covered by something mass produced. this would conceivably lower cost of individual treatments. I've heard nothing of the sort being done, however.


My dad died of glioblastoma when he was 50 years old. He was only diagnosed properly a few days earlier, so I guess it wouldn't even have helped. Stupid doctors do medical scans, tests, and biopsies in about the completely backwards order that they should be done in.

I'm hopeful that terahertz band medical scanners, which should be available in a few years, will make full body medical scans dirt cheap so that a much higher fraction of cancers, defects, fractures, inflammation, and infections will be diagnosed properly, before the worst damage is done, and while there's still time to actually do something about it. The technology to do this was discovered recently, and is being researched with success. I think they will be able to do full body scanners similar to how MRI and CT scans can be done now, but they will also have hand held scanners, which will be about the size of a metal detector, to speed up preliminary diagnoses.
I lost my mom and four friends to GBM (glioblastoma) A cure for cancer will not come soon enough. Lets hope that Japan is on the right track.
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Quoting PalmBeachWeather:
Grace Slick is one of the best ever... Way back my favorite was Joni Mitchell...


Anybody remember Jenny Lind?
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Quoting PalmBeachWeather:
IRG.....What a great age we lived in................


I remember being able to walk up to anyone and give out a "Peace and Love" hug without feeling weird..
It was something that all of us felt good about..
Days gone by..
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1 to 2 tenths last 24 hrs for South Central Texas, looking forward to Next Storm System Tuesday which should bring some decent rains to parts of Texas.
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375. beell
Quoting 1900hurricane:
And HGX has issued a "Bear Watch" (whatever that means).


Bears watching, of course.
;)

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Quoting LargoFl:
Off Topic but important..i heard on the news today, some Japanese researchers have created a gene that kills Cancer Cells..my mom died of that way back in my childhood..my prayers they succeed in their research..thats one disease I personally want to see vanish from this earth huh...wish them well folks, alot more research needs to be done BUT..at last something is promising huh................from the UK daily mail.."Scientists have created cells capable of killing cancer for the first time.


The dramatic breakthrough was made by researchers in Japan who created cancer-specific killer T cells.

They say the development paves the way for the cells being directly injected into cancer patients for therapy.



Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2256711/ World-scientists-create-cancer-killing-cells-injec ted-patients.html#ixzz2H3GUjg1J
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook


Something similar was already being done for Prostate Cancer, where they took a man's own immune cells and trained them to fight the cancer, and re-inject them. It costed about $90,000 to have it done though, because it needed to be tailored to each patient's own unique cancer and unique immune system.


My hope was that they would be able to identify all the major blood types, or all the major cancer types, and make this "vaccine" in enough sub-groups so that the majority of them would all be covered by something mass produced. this would conceivably lower cost of individual treatments. I've heard nothing of the sort being done, however.


My dad died of glioblastoma when he was 50 years old. He was only diagnosed properly a few days earlier, so I guess it wouldn't even have helped. Stupid doctors do medical scans, tests, and biopsies in about the completely backwards order that they should be done in.

I'm hopeful that terahertz band medical scanners, which should be available in a few years, will make full body medical scans dirt cheap so that a much higher fraction of cancers, defects, fractures, inflammation, and infections will be diagnosed properly, before the worst damage is done, and while there's still time to actually do something about it. The technology to do this was discovered recently, and is being researched with success. I think they will be able to do full body scanners similar to how MRI and CT scans can be done now, but they will also have hand held scanners, which will be about the size of a metal detector, to speed up preliminary diagnoses.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting indianrivguy:


Go boating early, wind shifts and increases. Gulfstream might be bumpy.

This is one of my top five from Woodstock. Gracie and the boys when they were fresh.





IRG.....What a great age we lived in................
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334 help4u: The Bastardi model had Sandy coming in 10 days before anyone knew!
That is what forcaster does! Nailed the storm!


The "Bastardi model" sent lots and LOTS of Atlantic hurricanes into NewYorkCity since (at least) 2005.
So many that I wouldn't be surprised if it had also sent a few Pacific hurricanes into NYC as well.
Member Since: August 21, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 4860
Quoting Skyepony:


I'd read it before, good piece from Yale. There is really very little debate on ice addition & removal changing the shape of the earth, causing an increase in earthquakes & volcano explosion, no matter the forcing factor.

I was wondering where you'd got isostatic rebound out of there so reread it & saw it in the comments. It's known by a few other names like I left in #331. I think glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA) is the more current or atleast what's used more in the many research papers GRACE data has led to..


You are right Skye, Grace is very cool. Wonderful new information. The work they did on the moon with the same system was at least as cool as our gravitationally lumpy blue marble project. Amazing what we are learning about crustal compositions, and what lies below that.
Member Since: September 23, 2006 Posts: 1 Comments: 2653
Quoting indianrivguy:


Go boating early, wind shifts and increases. Gulfstream might be bumpy.

This is one of my top five from Woodstock. Gracie and the boys when they were fresh.





..WOW, IRG... What a voice....Thanks
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369. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting PlazaRed:

That is a very interesting article.
Heres the name for the effects of the ice melting:-
"isostatic rebound".
I would strongly recomend reading the article if you have the time, as it covers all sorts of related topics.


I'd read it before, good piece from Yale. There is really very little debate on ice addition & removal changing the shape of the earth, causing an increase in earthquakes & volcano explosion, no matter the forcing factor.

I was wondering where you'd got isostatic rebound out of there so reread it & saw it in the comments. It's known by a few other names like I left in #331. I think glacial isostatic adjustment (GIA) is the more current or atleast what's used more in the many research papers GRACE data has led to..


Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 236 Comments: 39718
Quoting PalmBeachWeather:
Grace Slick is one of the best ever... Way back my favorite was Joni Mitchell...


Go boating early, wind shifts and increases. Gulfstream might be bumpy.

This is one of my top five from Woodstock. Gracie and the boys when they were fresh.





Member Since: September 23, 2006 Posts: 1 Comments: 2653
well my vote goes to Phill Collins, man he gets the crowd wild at the concerts...Link
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42861
Iv'e seen my favorite live many times.Leon Russell

I've been so many places in my life and times
I've sung alot of songs I've made some bad rhymes
I've acted out my life in stages
With 10,000 people watching
But we're alone now and I'm singing this song for you
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Quoting TomballTXPride:





I know, Neap.

"Every Possible Outcome"

Kinda like Climate Change. It used to be Global Warming. Most understood that concept.

Now, let's cover all the bases...

You can hedge your bets against anything now:

Cold
Heat
Blizzards
Drought
Mudslides
Floods
Hurricanes
Tornadoes

Um, did I miss anything??

Please add to my post if I left anything out.

TIA







Plagues of locusts (well, at least some kind of insect :)) Link


Disease Link


Starvation Link


War Link

Can you tell I have been reading Margaret Atwood lately??? All Gloom and Doom. And unfortunately, all plausible.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Off Topic but important..i heard on the news today, some Japanese researchers have created a gene that kills Cancer Cells..my mom died of that way back in my childhood..my prayers they succeed in their research..thats one disease I personally want to see vanish from this earth huh...wish them well folks, alot more research needs to be done BUT..at last something is promising huh................from the UK daily mail.."Scientists have created cells capable of killing cancer for the first time.


The dramatic breakthrough was made by researchers in Japan who created cancer-specific killer T cells.

They say the development paves the way for the cells being directly injected into cancer patients for therapy.



Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2256711/ World-scientists-create-cancer-killing-cells-injec ted-patients.html#ixzz2H3GUjg1J
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42861
363. VR46L
Quoting PalmBeachWeather:
Grace Slick is one of the best ever... Way back my favorite was Joni Mitchell...


Before my time but have to say I adore Both sides now
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Quoting LargoFl:
..yeah i remember those days well too,some great tunes back in those days
Grace Slick is one of the best ever... Way back my favorite was Joni Mitchell...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting PalmBeachWeather:
Beautiful day to dive or fish tomorrow Largo
IF its anything like today was..im indoors for sure..nasty, cold and raw around here
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42861
Quoting PalmBeachWeather:
My era Largo...
Quoting PalmBeachWeather:
My era Largo...
Quoting PalmBeachWeather:
My era Largo...
..yeah i remember those days well too,some great tunes back in those days
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42861
Beautiful day to dive or fish tomorrow Largo
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358. VR46L
Quoting PalmBeachWeather:
Sorry.Maybe.Seems to be a lull..


....Starship ...

Say you don't know me, or recognize my face
Say you don't care who goes to that kind of place


The weather is pretty boring at the moment...
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Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42861
Quoting LargoFl:
loved that song
My era Largo...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42861
Quoting PalmBeachWeather:
Say you don't know me, or recognize my face...
Say you don't care who goes to that kind of place..

We Built this city...We built this city on Rock and Roll
loved that song
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42861
Sorry.Maybe.Seems to be a lull..
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Say you don't know me, or recognize my face...
Say you don't care who goes to that kind of place..

We Built this city...We built this city on Rock and Roll
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48 hours.........................
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42861
GFS at 48 hours,good because this is our DRY season....
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42861
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 42861
Quoting 1900hurricane:
While the nature of their solutions have come closer together, the timing differences between the GFS and ECMWF is still fairly large.

That is huge difference for only 5 days out. Surprised to hear the discussion from NWS Fort Worth saying they are favoring the GFS solution over the ECMWF...Not to often you hear that.
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