NOAA report unable to pinpoint causes of the historic 2012 U.S. drought

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 7:27 PM GMT on April 12, 2013

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The extreme 2012 drought in the Central Great Plains of the U.S. was more intense than any drought since record keeping began in 1895, says a new NOAA assessment of the historic drought, released Thursday. However, the study was unable to pinpoint the cause of the drought. Other major global droughts in recent years have been linked to global warming and/or natural variation in patterns of sea surface temperatures, but these factors were seemingly not important in causing the drought of 2012, said the team of 19 atmospheric scientists, led by Martin Hoerling of the NOAA Modeling, Analysis, Predictions and Projections Program (MAPP). Their study attributed the drought to a random natural variation in the jet stream, which caused it to become "stuck" far to the north in Canada. Since rain-bearing low pressure systems travel along the jet stream, the northwards displacement of the jet stream resulted in abnormally dry conditions over the Central U.S. "This is one of those events that comes along once every couple hundreds of years," said Hoerling.



Key findings of the report
The researchers focused on a six-state region--Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri and Iowa, and found that the amount of precipitation in 2012 was only 53% of the long-term average. This was the driest year since record keeping began in 1895, surpassing the previous record driest years of 1934 and 1936, during the great Dust Bowl drought.

The researchers called the 2012 drought a "flash drought"--it developed suddenly in May, and was unrelated to the 2011 drought over Texas and surrounding states. The 2011 drought had a separate and well-understood trigger (a change in the jet stream and storm tracks, due to a La Niña event in the Eastern Pacific.)

The 2012 drought was not predicted by long-range weather forecast models. The new report concluded that our ability to predict drought is limited, but some new experimental techniques could improve future drought forecasts. For example, NOAA's long-range GFDL forecast model and the European EUROSIP model correctly anticipated the summer 2012 heat and dryness over the Central U.S. in projections made as early as January 2012.


Figure 1. Drought-damaged corn in a field near Nickerson, Nebraska, Aug. 16, 2012. The great U.S. drought of 2012 was the most extensive U.S. drought since the 1930s Dust Bowl. Over a six-state region--Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri and Iowa--precipitation during 2012 was only 53% of the long-term average., making it the driest year since record keeping began in 1895. Damage from the 2012 drought is at least $35 billion, and probably much higher. The associated heat wave killed 123 people, and brought the U.S. its second hottest summer on record. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Criticism of the report
Dr. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research was critical of the report's conclusions. In comments posted in Joe Romm's blog at climateprogress.org, Dr. Trenberth said that the study failed to "say anything about the observed soil moisture conditions, snow cover, and snow pack during the winter prior to the event in spite of the fact that snow pack was at record low levels in the winter and spring" and "no attempt was made to include soil moisture, snow cover anomalies, or vegetation health" in the climate model runs performed.

I would have liked to have seen the paper mention the growing body of research that has linked unusually early May snow melt in the Northern Hemisphere and Arctic sea ice loss in recent years to unusual summertime jet stream patterns, like the jet stream pattern observed during 2012. A March 2013 paper by scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Germany found that under special conditions, the atmosphere can start to resonate like a bell. This causes the jet stream pattern to freeze in place and amplify, leading to months-long periods of weather extremes. They showed that warming of the Arctic due to human-caused climate change might be responsible for this resonance phenomenon, which became twice as common during 2001 - 2012 compared to the previous 22 years. One of the more extreme examples of this resonance occurred during the summer of 2012, and could have been the cause of the 2012 drought.

Other blogs on the report
Yes, Climate Change Is Worsening U.S. Drought — NOAA Report Needlessly Confuses The Issue by Joe Romm at climateprogress.org

Global Warming Not Significant in 2012 Drought: Report by Andrew Freedman of climatecentral.org

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Jeff Masters

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MDR sea surface temperature anomalies have flatlined over the past few days. With a reduction in trade winds likely over the coming days, waters should slowly start to warm again.



Negative PDO is coming back...



and Nino region 1+2 continues to spaz out...

Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32870
Some thunder in the Hawaiian Islands
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
My Predictions: 16-20 Named, 8-11 Hurricanes, 3-5 Majors
18-10-4
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Quoting Tornado6042008X:

Does anyone by chance remember or have parents or grandparents that remember how Hurricane Hazel was like around Washington DC?


My mom was a teenager at the time, and remembers extreme wind and rain, and a short-lived tornado on the top of Twin Mountain in eastern WV, about 100 miles west of DC near the Allegheny Front. It made a big impression on her.

edit: she remembers the roof blowing off a large apple packing shed and a home due to the tornado.


another edit: I checked the latitude and longitude of Twin Mountain against the WU map of Hurricane Hazel, and found that by the time the storm reached that area, it had transitioned to an extra-tropical storm but was still packing 80-90 mph winds. Pretty impressive for an area that far inland.
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Quoting hurricaneben:


Way far out as someone else just pointed out but yes Florida is way overdue for a hurricane strike.

ik, and i am really, really, getting nervous....
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Quoting Grothar:


I'm just a little old man who just sits and posts weather blogs. By the way, the first system should develop on May 17.
Quoting hydrus:
I wonder if they will ever start the Atlantic Hurricane Season on the 15th of May.

maybe.....
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Quoting flcanes:

oh, what is replacement for sandy?


Sara... in 2018, also when the FIFA World Cup in Russia takes place
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Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:
4 names retired so far in the 2010s decade... expensive too

click for larger pic

oh, what is replacement for sandy?
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
blog excerise for the 21 to 24 named season coming up

maybe not that much
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A new blog... check out the latest hurricane list, just updated. 87 bloggers (many of you) are included
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
Quoting weathermanwannabe:
My ridging theory as to the Gulf in drought years just went out the window; just answered my question as to the 1934 and 1936 hurricane seasons (from Wiki). Actually, several Gulf strikes in both these years but no hurricanes/storms traversing the Caribbean in the 36 season.

1934

The 1934 Atlantic hurricane season ran through the summer and the first half of fall in 1934. The 1934 season was fairly quiet. However, it was a continuation of deadly seasons that had been going on since 1928.

A Category 2 June hurricane, the 1934 Central America Hurricane, carved an erratic path across Central America and the Gulf of Mexico, causing catastrophic flooding in Central America that killed 1,000-3,000 people.

Elsewhere, a tropical storm formed and existed entirely during the month of May, striking Florida and South Carolina and causing $155,000 in damage. A Category 1 hurricane passed over north Florida as a tropical storm and made landfall in central Texas, causing 11 casualties and $1–2 million in damage. Another Category 1 grazed Galveston. The extratropical remnant of a hurricane moved up the US East Coast, bringing hurricane force winds.


1936

The 1936 Atlantic hurricane season officially began on June 12, 1936, and lasted until December 6, 1936. These dates conventionally delimit the period of each year when most tropical cyclones form in the Atlantic basin.

The 1936 season was fairly active, with 20 tropical cyclones including 3 tropical depressions. Seven storms became hurricanes, of which one became a major hurricane. In addition, the season was unusual in the fact that no storms moved across large portions of the Caribbean Sea.[1] Seven storms, including three hurricanes, struck the United States. The season also set many records for the earliest date for a numbered storm, though all were surpassed by the extreme activity of the 2005 season.


Back to lurking for me today................:)

I figured I should say that back then, the AMO favored for storms to form in the gulf....
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Ryan Maue‏@RyanMaue1 min
@therobdale heavy pockets earlier along M-55 in central lower Michigan. Weak shortwave plus Lake CAPE enough for SN+
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Quoting Speeky:
How rare are Hawaiian tornadoes?


Tornadoes in Hawaii are very rare. But, not as common as waterspouts. Hawaii experience one tornado per year on average. The strongest tornado to hit Hawaii was in 1971 when the EF-2 tornado was produced. None of the tornadoes in the past has killed anyone in Hawaii.
Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 83 Comments: 7167
Quoting HurrMichaelOrl:


I don't know where all of our rain has been the last few days. The forecast has looked like June, yet we have had a trace of rain here. Today had a 50% chance of rain that was just lowered to 20%.


Yeah its not good, this continues to happen, forecast rain events that turn into not much of anything. Naturally one can't help but doubt next time one is expected because the models have collectively failed the last few times in a row.
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 8029
Quoting VR46L:



I take it the shields were up around Tampa in the last 24 hrs ... Shame



I believe it has probably been the 3rd or 4th system in a row expected to bring significant rain and thunderstorms to the area that turned out to be a complete bust of a forecast... The drought will only grow worse, at this point, I can't help but wonder if much of any rain will actually fall in the region the next few days.

Meanwhile, in the northern part of the state, we will likely be getting another soaker tomorrow into Monday, 2 to 3 inches of rain possible over much of the area...

Here everything is nice in green, just 250 miles south at my home in the Tampa Bay area, everything is parched and brown accept for the trees which still look lush thanks to a root system that can tap always available water from major rainfall periods in the past. I've never seen drought get so bad to where trees actually start to look bad. Mainly because yearly rainfall always still ends up high in Central and south Florida(typically 40 to 60 inches) even during years with bad drought. Unfortunately prolonged drought seems to be followed by a sudden and drastic change to torrential rains that end up bringing too much rain for a while, as was the case last year. My area down there had flooded streets almost every other day during the summer following a terrible dry period in the winter and spring.
Member Since: August 21, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 8029

Does anyone by chance remember or have parents or grandparents that remember how Hurricane Hazel was like around Washington DC?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting LargoFl:
gee we could sure use THIS 1-2 inches of rain, but i guess Miami does also..............................
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN MIAMI HAS ISSUED AN

* URBAN FLOOD ADVISORY FOR...
NORTHEASTERN MIAMI-DADE COUNTY IN SOUTHEAST FLORIDA...
THIS INCLUDES THE CITY OF HIALEAH...OPA LOCKA...NORTH
MIAMI BEACH...

* UNTIL 130 PM EDT

* AT 1134 AM EDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED
THUNDERSTORMS PRODUCING TORRENTIAL RAINFALL FROM HIALEAH TO OPA
LOCKA MOVING EAST. A STORM SPOTTER REPORTED MINOR STREET FLOODING
NEAR THE PALMETTO EXPRESSWAY AND INTERSTATE 75 WHERE DOPPLER RADAR
ESTIMATES THAT 1 TO 2 INCHES OF RAIN HAS FALLEN. RAINFALL RATES
IN EXCESS OF 3 INCHES PER HOUR IS OCCURRING WITH THESE THUNDERSTORMS.
THIS WILL PRODUCE SOME STREET FLOODING FROM HIALEAH TO EVENTUALLY
THE NORTH MIAMI BEACH AREA.

MOST FLOOD DEATHS OCCUR IN AUTOMOBILES. NEVER DRIVE YOUR VEHICLE INTO
AREAS WHERE THE WATER COVERS THE ROADWAY. FLOOD WATERS ARE USUALLY
DEEPER THAN THEY APPEAR. WHEN ENCOUNTERING FLOODED ROADS MAKE THE
SMART CHOICE...TURN AROUND...DONT DROWN.

LAT...LON 2588 8015 2585 8017 2583 8038 2590 8038
2597 8017 2593 8014

$$

GREGORIA


I don't know where all of our rain has been the last few days. The forecast has looked like June, yet we have had a trace of rain here. Today had a 50% chance of rain that was just lowered to 20%.
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Quoting AussieStorm:

They had one last year if i remember correctly. I think it tore the roof off a house or 2.


The same storm that brought the EF-0 tornado in Hawaii last year also produced a record-size hail that is 4.25 inches long!

Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 83 Comments: 7167


Doesn't look like it will make it today, but it probably will be close. Yesterday was 57.1/79.6 56.7 this morning. Normal is 50/75

Member Since: February 29, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 6258
279. beell
Quoting 1900hurricane:
Day 4-8 Convective Outlook: seem familiar to anyone?



It do, it do.
Member Since: September 11, 2007 Posts: 145 Comments: 16925
278. VR46L
Quoting LargoFl:
gee we could sure use THIS 1-2 inches of rain, but i guess Miami does also..............................
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN MIAMI HAS ISSUED AN

* URBAN FLOOD ADVISORY FOR...
NORTHEASTERN MIAMI-DADE COUNTY IN SOUTHEAST FLORIDA...
THIS INCLUDES THE CITY OF HIALEAH...OPA LOCKA...NORTH
MIAMI BEACH...

* UNTIL 130 PM EDT

* AT 1134 AM EDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED
THUNDERSTORMS PRODUCING TORRENTIAL RAINFALL FROM HIALEAH TO OPA
LOCKA MOVING EAST. A STORM SPOTTER REPORTED MINOR STREET FLOODING
NEAR THE PALMETTO EXPRESSWAY AND INTERSTATE 75 WHERE DOPPLER RADAR
ESTIMATES THAT 1 TO 2 INCHES OF RAIN HAS FALLEN. RAINFALL RATES
IN EXCESS OF 3 INCHES PER HOUR IS OCCURRING WITH THESE THUNDERSTORMS.
THIS WILL PRODUCE SOME STREET FLOODING FROM HIALEAH TO EVENTUALLY
THE NORTH MIAMI BEACH AREA.

MOST FLOOD DEATHS OCCUR IN AUTOMOBILES. NEVER DRIVE YOUR VEHICLE INTO
AREAS WHERE THE WATER COVERS THE ROADWAY. FLOOD WATERS ARE USUALLY
DEEPER THAN THEY APPEAR. WHEN ENCOUNTERING FLOODED ROADS MAKE THE
SMART CHOICE...TURN AROUND...DONT DROWN.

LAT...LON 2588 8015 2585 8017 2583 8038 2590 8038
2597 8017 2593 8014

$$

GREGORIA



I take it the shields were up around Tampa in the last 24 hrs ... Shame
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
FLZ073-074-173-174-131715-
COASTAL MIAMI DADE COUNTY FL FAR SOUTH MIAMI-DADE COUNTY FL INLAND
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY FL METROPOLITAN MIAMI DADE FL
1209 PM EDT SAT APR 13 2013

...A SIGNIFICANT WEATHER ADVISORY IS IN EFFECT FOR CENTRAL MIAMI-DADE
COUNTY...FOR FREQUENT TO EXCESSIVE LIGHTNING...GUSTY WINDS FROM 45 TO
55 MPH...UP TO NICKEL-SIZED HAIL...

* UNTIL 115 PM EDT

* AT 1205 PM EDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE METEOROLOGISTS DETECTED A
LINE OF STRONG THUNDERSTORMS ALONG A LINE EXTENDING FROM 6 MILES
WEST OF MICCOSUKEE RESORT TO PA-HAY OKEE OVERLOOK...AND MOVING
SOUTHEAST AT 10 TO 15 MPH.

* THE LINE OF STORMS WILL AFFECT...
MICCOSUKEE RESORT...
INTERSECTION KROME AND KENDALL DRIVE...
KENDALE LAKES...
WEST KENDALL...
WESTWOOD LAKES...
WESTCHESTER...
AND SURROUNDING COMMUNITIES.

FREQUENT TO EXCESSIVE LIGHTNING...GUSTY WINDS FROM 45 TO 55 MPH...UP
TO NICKEL-SIZED HAIL...TORRENTIAL DOWNPOURS...OR A COMBINATION OF
THESE ARE POSSIBLE. LIGHTNING IS THE NUMBER ONE WEATHER RELATED
KILLER IN FLORIDA. TREES AND OPEN SHELTERS OFFER NO PROTECTION. THESE
WINDS CAN DOWN SMALL TREE LIMBS AND BRANCHES...AND BLOW AROUND
UNSECURED SMALL OBJECTS. SEEK SHELTER IN A SAFE BUILDING UNTIL THE
STORM PASSES.

RESIDENTS NEAR THE PATH OF SHOULD REMAIN ON THE ALERT FOR ADDITIONAL
STATEMENTS AND POSSIBLE WARNINGS.

STAY TUNED TO NOAA WEATHER RADIO AND OTHER LOCAL MEDIA FOR FURTHER
DETAILS OR UPDATES.

LAT...LON 2569 8018 2574 8017 2572 8024 2564 8026
2561 8030 2557 8030 2549 8033 2544 8031
2539 8032 2526 8039 2544 8087 2555 8087
2584 8058 2577 8018 2575 8016 2576 8015
2577 8015 2576 8014
TIME...MOT...LOC 1609Z 297DEG 14KT 2574 8057 2547 8076

$$

BAXTER
SPECIAL WEATHER STA
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
gee we could sure use THIS 1-2 inches of rain, but i guess Miami does also..............................
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN MIAMI HAS ISSUED AN

* URBAN FLOOD ADVISORY FOR...
NORTHEASTERN MIAMI-DADE COUNTY IN SOUTHEAST FLORIDA...
THIS INCLUDES THE CITY OF HIALEAH...OPA LOCKA...NORTH
MIAMI BEACH...

* UNTIL 130 PM EDT

* AT 1134 AM EDT...NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED
THUNDERSTORMS PRODUCING TORRENTIAL RAINFALL FROM HIALEAH TO OPA
LOCKA MOVING EAST. A STORM SPOTTER REPORTED MINOR STREET FLOODING
NEAR THE PALMETTO EXPRESSWAY AND INTERSTATE 75 WHERE DOPPLER RADAR
ESTIMATES THAT 1 TO 2 INCHES OF RAIN HAS FALLEN. RAINFALL RATES
IN EXCESS OF 3 INCHES PER HOUR IS OCCURRING WITH THESE THUNDERSTORMS.
THIS WILL PRODUCE SOME STREET FLOODING FROM HIALEAH TO EVENTUALLY
THE NORTH MIAMI BEACH AREA.

MOST FLOOD DEATHS OCCUR IN AUTOMOBILES. NEVER DRIVE YOUR VEHICLE INTO
AREAS WHERE THE WATER COVERS THE ROADWAY. FLOOD WATERS ARE USUALLY
DEEPER THAN THEY APPEAR. WHEN ENCOUNTERING FLOODED ROADS MAKE THE
SMART CHOICE...TURN AROUND...DONT DROWN.

LAT...LON 2588 8015 2585 8017 2583 8038 2590 8038
2597 8017 2593 8014

$$

GREGORIA
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Don't forget Alicia and Ike. Alicia was minimal cat 3 on the Saffir Simpson scale and that scale was irrelevant for Ike.

Edit: For Alicia, its TCR said it was minimal cat 3 apparently on the basis of a 115 mph wind speed measured at 5,000 feet. I doubt that corresponds to a surface wind speed of 115 mph. Also, Alicia was not all that destructive though it made a direct hit on Galveston and Houston. It may have been major in another way, though, in that it probably was the first storm to go live on cable news (CNN).
Member Since: May 18, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 6158
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Quoting Grothar:
Prediction:

August 10, 2013 - First mention of the The Hebert Box.

Observation:

April 13, 2013 - First mention of The Hebert Box.
Member Since: May 18, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 6158
272. VR46L
Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
nice shot here VR



Hey Its a beauty of a shot ! Thats a classic looking Extratropical cyclone if I ever saw one .
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Quoting Speeky:
How rare are Hawaiian tornadoes?

They had one last year if i remember correctly. I think it tore the roof off a house or 2.
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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56141
nice shot here VR

Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 178 Comments: 56141
267. VR46L
Quoting PedleyCA:


Yikes, gonna get Nasty....

Good Day All...... 57.4 here (8:42PDT)


Yeah it is Oh Well

Thats a nice morning temp you have :)

anyway the swirl to my North west is cute but will make a nasty 24 hrs at least

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How rare are Hawaiian tornadoes?
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Hawaiian Tornado
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Quoting VR46L:
Yuck !! Oh well it will keep the drought worriers minds at ease ...



Yikes, gonna get Nasty....

Good Day All...... 57.4 here (8:42PDT)
Member Since: February 29, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 6258
263. VR46L
Yuck !! Oh well it will keep the drought worriers minds at ease ...

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Quoting JRRP:

?????


I see some uncertainty in the ensemble members with those lines going up and down but for the most part stay in Neutral but at the end the trend goes up.
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Quoting AtHomeInTX:


I was a little one too. My parents remember Carla flooding way up here in SE TX.
My Father said the Hazel was the worst storm he has ever seen. The Ash Wednesday Storm in 1962 was a Close second.
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259. JRRP

?????
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Volcano Popocha erupting near Puebla Mexico.
Stream-cam here
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Ryan Maue‏@RyanMaue1 min
2-day snow totals for upper-midwest & Mich UP most of which falls on Sunday. 1 foot + Link
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Quoting hydrus:
Those were all mean hurricanes. I was little, but Mom and Dad remember them well.


I was a little one too. My parents remember Carla flooding way up here in SE TX.
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Quoting pcola57:


Try this AtHome..

NOAA Return Periods


Thank you pcola! :) The central coast is just passed its 40 year return period for a major.
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Quoting LargoFl:
yes nice pic there, i remember worrying about where she would go..
Cantori said that Fran was much worse than Bertha.
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Gulf of Mexico..SYNOPSIS...COLD FRONT EXTENDING FROM SARASOTA FLORIDA TO THE
CENTRAL YUCATAN PENINSULA WILL STALL AND BEGIN TO DRIFT BACK
TOWARDS THE N GULF WATERS SAT AND SUN WHILE WEAKENING. A MODERATE
TO FRESH SE TO S WIND FLOW WILL PREVAIL MON THROUGH WED UNDER THE
INFLUENCE OF A RIDGE. THE NEXT COLD FRONT IS FORECAST TO MOVE OFF
THE TEXAS COAST WED NIGHT.
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Quoting AtHomeInTX:
Turns out I needn't have gone past 1971 to answer that question. The last major to hit the Central Texas Coast was Celia in 1970. So it has been awhile there. Can't do math any more. :)

Those were all mean hurricanes. I was little, but Mom and Dad remember them well.
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Quoting hydrus:
Nice outflow.
yes nice pic there, i remember worrying about where she would go..
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Quoting SFLWeatherman:
on the GFS a wave is going into the Caribbean and i know it is far out but
336HR

348HR

360HR

372HR

384HR


I hope it will happens! The GFS seems to show consistency...
Member Since: October 6, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6456
Quoting LargoFl:
Nice outflow.
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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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