Over 500 Killed in India's Monsoon Floods

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:25 PM GMT on June 21, 2013

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Earth's deadliest natural disaster so far in 2013 is the deadly flooding in India's Himalayan Uttarakhand region, where torrential monsoon rains have killed at least 556 people, with hundreds more feared dead. At least 5,000 people are missing. According to the Indian Meteorological Department, Uttarakhand received more than three times (329%) of its normal June rainfall from June 1 - 21, and rainfall was 847% of normal during the week June 13 - 19. Satellite estimates indicate that more than 20" (508 mm) or rain fell in a 7-day period from June 11 - 17 over some regions of Uttarakhand, which lies just to the west of Nepal in the Himalayas. Dehradun, the capital of Uttarakhand, received 14.57" (370 mm) of rain in 24 hours on June 16 - 17. This was the highest 24-hour rainfall in city history, according to an official from the India Meteorological Department. Dr. Dave Petley's Landslide Blog details that the torrential rains triggered a massive landslide that hit Uttarakhand's Hindu shrine in Kedarnath, which lies just a short distance from the snout of two mountain glaciers. The shrine is an important pilgrimage destination this time of year, and was packed with visitors celebrating the char-dham yatra: a pilgrimage to the four holy sites of Gangotri, Kedarnath, Yamnotri and Badrinath. Apparently, heavy rainfall triggered a collapse event on the mountain above Kedarnath, which turned into a debris flow downstream that struck the town. The main temple was heavily damaged, and numerous buildings in the town were demolished. It was Earth's deadliest landslide since the August 2010 Zhouqu landslide in China.

According to Aon Benfield's May Catastrophe Report, Earth's deadliest natural disasters of 2013 so far:

Winter weather, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, 1/1 - 1/20, 329 deaths
Earthquake, China, 4/20, 196 deaths
Flooding, Southern Africa, 1/10 - 2/28, 175 deaths
Flooding, Argentina, 4/2 - 4/4, 70 deaths
Flooding, Kenya, 3/10 - 4/30, 66 deaths


Figure 1. Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) arrive to rescue stranded Sikh devotees from Hemkunt Sahib Gurudwara, a religious Sikh temple, to a safe place in Chamoli district, in northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, India, Monday, June 17, 2013. AP photo.


Figure 2. Satellite-estimated rainfall for the 7-day period June 11 - 17, 2013, from NASA's TRMM satellite exceeded 20 inches (508 mm) over portions of India's Uttarakhand province, leading to catastrophic floods. Image credit: NASA.

A record early arrival of the monsoon
The June 2013 monsoon rains in Uttarakhand were highly unusual, as the monsoon came to the region two weeks earlier than normal. The monsoon started in South India near the normal June 1 arrival date, but then advanced across India in unusually rapid fashion, arriving in Pakistan along the western border of India on June 16, a full month earlier than normal. This was the fastest progression of the monsoon on record. The previous record for fastest monsoon progression occurred in 1961, when all of India was under monsoon conditions by June 21. Reliable monsoon records go back to 1961, and are patchy before then. Fortunately, no more heavy rain is expected in Uttarakhand over the next few days, as the monsoon will be active only in eastern India. Heavy rains are expected again in the region beginning on June 24. Wunderblogger Lee Grenci's post, Summer Monsoon Advances Rapidly across India: Massive Flooding Ensues, has more detail on the meteorology of this year's monsoon. There is criticism from some that the devastating floods were not entirely a natural disaster--human-caused deforestation, dam building, and mining may have contributed. "Large-scale construction of dams and absence of environmental regulations has led to the floods," said Sunita Narian, director general of Delhi based advocacy group Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).


Figure 3. The summer monsoon arrived in southwest India right on schedule (June 1) in South India, but it spread northward much faster than usual, reaching Pakistan a full month earlier than normal. Solid green contours indicate the progress of the 2013 summer monsoon (each contour is labeled with a date). You can compare this year's rapid advance to a "normal" progression, which is represented by the dashed, red contours (also labeled with dates).

Monsoons in India: a primer
Disastrous monsoon floods are common in India and surrounding nations, and 60,000 people--an average of 500 people per year--died in India due to monsoon floods between 1900 - 2012, according to EM-DAT, the International Disaster Database. EM-DAT lists sixteen flood disasters which killed 1,000 or more people in India since records began in 1950. Here are the number of people killed in these events, along with the month and year of occurrence and locales affected:

4892, Jul 1968, Rajasthan, Gujara
3800, Jul 1978, North, Northeast
2001, May - Oct, 1994, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh
2000, Jul 1961, North
1811, Aug 1998, Assam, Arunachal, Bihar
1600, Aug 1980, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar
1591, Jul 28, 1989, Maharashtra, Andhra Prade
1479, Sep 1995, Bihar, Haryana, Punjab
1442, Aug 1997, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal
1200, Jul 24 - Aug 5, 2005 Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh
1200, Aug 1987, Assam, Bihar, West Bengal
1103, Jul 3 - Sep 22, 2007, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh
1063, Jun 11 - Jul 21, 2008 West Bengal, Orissa
1023, Jun 1971, North
1000, Sep 22 - Oct 9, 1988, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh
1000, Oct 1961

The monsoon occurs in summer, when the sun warms up land areas more strongly than ocean areas. This happens because wind and ocean turbulence mix the ocean's absorbed heat into a "mixed layer" approximately 50 meters deep, whereas on land, the sun's heat penetrates at a slow rate to a limited depth. Furthermore, due to its molecular properties, water has the ability to absorb more heat than the solid materials that make up land. As a result of this summertime differential heating of land and ocean, a low pressure region featuring rising air develops over land areas. Moisture-laden ocean winds blow towards the low pressure region and are drawn upwards once over land. The rising air expands and cools, condensing its moisture into some of the heaviest rains on Earth--the monsoon. Monsoons operate via the same principle as the familiar summer afternoon sea breeze, but on a grand scale. Each summer, monsoons affect every continent on Earth except Antarctica, and are responsible for life-giving rains that sustain the lives of billions of people. In India, home for over 1.1 billion people, the monsoon provides 80% of the annual rainfall. The most deadly flooding events usually come from monsoon depressions (also known as monsoon lows.) A monsoon depression is similar to (but larger than) a tropical depression. Both are spinning storms hundreds of kilometers in diameter with sustained winds of 50 - 55 kph (30 - 35 mph), nearly calm winds at their center, and generate very heavy rains. Typically, 6 - 7 monsoon depressions form each summer over the Bay of Bengal and track westwards across India.

The future of monsoons in India
A warming climate loads the dice in favor of heavier extreme precipitation events. This occurs because more water vapor can evaporate into a warmer atmosphere, increasing the chances of record heavy downpours. In a study published in Science in 2006, Goswami et al. found that the level of heavy rainfall activity in the monsoon over India had more than doubled in the 50 years since the 1950s, leading to an increased disaster potential from heavy flooding. Moderate and weak rain events decreased during those 50 years, leaving the total amount of rain deposited by the monsoon roughly constant. The authors commented, "These findings are in tune with model projections and some observations that indicate an increase in heavy rain events and a decrease in weak events under global warming scenarios." We should expect to see an increased number of disastrous monsoon floods in coming decades if the climate continues to warm as expected. Since the population continues to increase at a rapid rate in the region, death tolls from monsoon flooding disasters are likely to climb dramatically in coming decades. However, my greater concern for India is drought. The monsoon rains often fail during El Niño years, and more than 4.2 million people died in India due to droughts between 1900 - 2012. Up until the late 1960s, it was common for the failure of the monsoon rains to kill millions of people in India. The drought of 1965 - 1967 killed at least 1.5 million people. However, since the Green Revolution of the late 1960s--a government initiative to improve food self-sufficiency using new technology and high-yield grains--failure of the monsoon rains has not led to mass starvation in India. It is uncertain whether of not the Green Revolution can keep up with India's booming population, and the potential that climate change might bring more severe droughts. Climate models show a wide range of possibilities for the future of the Indian monsoon, and it is unclear at present what the future might hold. However, the fact that one of the worst droughts in India's history occurred in 2009 shows that serious droughts have to be a major concern for the future. The five worst Indian monsoons along with the rainfall deficits for the nation:

1) 1877, -33%
2) 1899, -29%
3) 1918, -25%
4) 1972, -24%
5) 2009, -22%

References
Goswami, et al., 2006, " Increasing Trend of Extreme Rain Events Over India in a Warming Environment", Science, 1 December 2006:Vol. 314. no. 5804, pp. 1442 - 1445 DOI: 10.1126/science.1132027

Wunderground's climate change blogger Dr. Ricky Rood wrote a nice 3-part series about the challenges India faces due to climate change after he completed a 2009 trip there.


Video 1. Flood waters claim a multi-story apartment building in Uttarakhand province, India, on June 17, 2013.

Historic flooding in Calgary, Alberta
Torrential rainfall on Wednesday night and Thursday has resulted in the most extensive flooding in Alberta Province, Canada in at least 8 years, with some 100,000 people facing evacuations in the city of Calgary. Wunderblogger Christopher C. Burt has a look at the disaster in his latest post. The floods are due, in part to the "stuck" jet stream pattern that brought record heat to Alaska this week.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting TylerStanfield:
I'm really not buying the MJO Pulse the GFS is forecasting to verify. The pulse is for one over-hyped, which is typical of the GFS to do, and also it is much slower, which is also typical of the GFS, because timing and the GFS do not mix well.
We aren't going to be able to get a handle on what is to come for about a week, because the GFS' forecasts go out much farther than any other global models do, meaning that the more reasonable UKMET and EURO won't be picking up any leftovers that the GFS dropped because of its Super-MJO in the Eastern Pacific literally blinding it. The GFS is one of the Least accurate models in forecasting the MJO, which is to it's downfall and really is the true reason that it still falls short to the EURO, that is one of the more accurate at forecasting the MJO. I won't be paying attention too much to the models for 5-6 days until the MJO is already over Octant 8, and forcing the GFS to fix it's forecast and clearing up it's vision in spotting storms in the Atlantic.

Another thing that backs up this is the fact that other global models have began to show a storm in the Atlantic like the GFS WAS showing. I do believe we'll be seeing Chantal over the next 15 days as indicated indirectly by what you could call a glimpse of what's ahead for July.
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:


Joy Luck down here in Palm Springs.
Joy Luck? That's the same name as my now defunct childhood restaurant....Joy Inn for many years, then Joy Luck. I wonder if they have the same chow mein? Enquiring minds want to know.
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Brad Panovich ‏@wxbrad 46s
Now walk back! #Skywire


MEGA LOL
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15938
1705. Grothar
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:


That was Cosmo you twit.


I know that. I can still hear Henrietta's voice.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26477
1704. Grothar
Quoting caneswatch:


Hello Grothar! How're you doing?



So now you ask???????? What a friend. :)
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26477
1703. Grothar
Quoting sar2401:

Ya know, I just realized I had heard the name "Cosme" before, and I was wracking my brain trying to remember...until now. Nick, Nora, and Cosme. Back in the days when they made real movies.


Actually it was George and Marion, but Nick and Nora were good, too.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26477
1702. sar2401
Quoting caneswatch:


Exhausted Geoff! Got back from a cruise today! How're you doing?

I hope you're not exhausted because the ship's power failed or it started on fire. That seems to be an added "feature" with cruises nowadays. Where did you go, and on what line. I've been thinking about a cruise but haven't found one that looks interesting yet.
Member Since: October 2, 2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 16052
Quoting sar2401:

Are hurricanes supposed to be able to control themselves? :-) I wonder what the Florida Labor Day hurricane of 1935 would have looked like on satellite? I suspect big storms really aren't all that new.


The 1935 hurricane was small in physical size. Like Andrew was.
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Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:


I know. .. but in recent years I've seen storms getting bigger and bigger...

Igor, Ike, Sandy, Ernesto, Irene, Isaac. ..etc.
They grow so much not being able to control themselves.

If this thing hits the perfect conditions, watch it go boom
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15938
Quoting caneswatch:


Where'd you get it from?


Joy Luck down here in Palm Springs.
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1698. sar2401
Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:


I know. .. but in recent years I've seen storms getting bigger and bigger...

Igor, Ike, Sandy, Ernesto, Irene, Isaac. ..etc.
They grow so much not being able to control themselves.

Are hurricanes supposed to be able to control themselves? :-) I wonder what the Florida Labor Day hurricane of 1935 would have looked like on satellite? I suspect big storms really aren't all that new.
Member Since: October 2, 2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 16052
1697. sar2401
Quoting Grothar:


Didn't you ever see any of the Topper movies?

Ya know, I just realized I had heard the name "Cosme" before, and I was wracking my brain trying to remember...until now. Nick, Nora, and Cosme. Back in the days when they made real movies.
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:


Quite well Gro. Enjoying a nice Chinese dinner.


Where'd you get it from?
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Quoting AussieStorm:


It's a typical looking monsoon low


I know. .. but in recent years I've seen storms getting bigger and bigger...

Igor, Ike, Sandy, Ernesto, Irene, Isaac. ..etc.
They grow so much not being able to control themselves.
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
Quoting Grothar:


Hello, Geoff. How are you doing?


Hello Grothar! How're you doing?
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:


Hi Canes! How are you doing?


Exhausted Geoff! Got back from a cruise today! How're you doing?
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Quoting Grothar:


Didn't you ever see any of the Topper movies?


Grothar, email ;)
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Quoting Grothar:


Didn't you ever see any of the Topper movies?


That was Cosmo you twit.
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1690. sar2401
Quoting CosmicEvents:
Naked and Afraid? Next on DSC after this episode of "How close can I come to Dying". That sounds interesting. Cantore might be needed to measure humidity for meteoroligical purposes.

LOL. I was born naked and afraid but didn't get a TV show out of it. :-) For those who don't know it, Wallenda isn't doing a tightrope walk across the "Grand Canyon". He's doing it across a gorge that spans the Little Colorado River, about a mile upstream from where it meets the Colorado River. This is well east of the actual Grand Canyon, although it sounds more exciting to use "Grand Canyon" instead of "Unnamed Gorge on the Little Colorado River", I suppose. :-)
Member Since: October 2, 2004 Posts: 0 Comments: 16052
Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:


Td3 is huge... why storms that big?

Poor 95e may be absorbed.


It's a typical looking monsoon low. these take a long time to grow and pressure to drop but they become very strong as long as they have enough overall food to eat
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Quoting doubtit:


That was a great video and I was gladt to see it for the first time ever.

Don't mind Taz,,, he's in one of his moods again.

I have seen the Hurricane Hugo video a fair few times and it's still chilling. This Hurricane Gilbert one WOW 894mb the 882mb and that view as the first came out of the eye-wall. WOW. 6mile eye
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Quoting Grothar:


Hello, Geoff. How are you doing?


Quite well Gro. Enjoying a nice Chinese dinner.
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1686. Grothar
Quoting BaltimoreBrian:


Until your comment I didn't realize Cosme was a boy's name!


Didn't you ever see any of the Topper movies?
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1685. Grothar
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:


Hi Canes! How are you doing?


Hello, Geoff. How are you doing?
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26477
TD 3E...

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Quoting Civicane49:
95E looks hardly noticeable on this satellite image:



Td3 is huge... why storms that big?

Poor 95e may be absorbed.
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14873
Quoting allancalderini:
Cosme is going to be a huge boy,anyways finally having the rain that I have been wishing for it rained for 3 hours straight and the wind was like being in a ts amazing miss the days when it was more common though.


Until your comment I didn't realize Cosme was a boy's name!
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Quoting caneswatch:


Is this how I'm repaid for going on a cruise lol?


Hi Canes! How are you doing?
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Quoting MississippiWx:


Well I just lost interesting in reading then. :-p


I get pretty easily bored with long-range forecasting if there's nothing new to report. Like I said, there's really no new model developments, so I'd just be repeating myself, which is also a big no no for me.
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95E looks hardly noticeable on this satellite image:

Member Since: July 21, 2011 Posts: 83 Comments: 7167
Quoting MississippiWx:
The preacher that was praying on the skywire event prayed for wisdom. Lol. He's about to walk over the Grand Canyon on a wire unsupported...too late for that one, preach.
Goodness...
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1677. zampaz
Quoting Patrap:
Uploaded on Sep 19, 2010
http://airboyd.tv

Courtesy: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

'Towers in the Tempest' is a narrated animation that explains recent scientific insights into how hurricanes intensify. This intensification can be caused by a phenomenon called a 'hot tower'. For the first time, research meteorologists have run complex simulations using a very fine temporal resolution of 3 minutes. Combining this simulation data with satellite observations enables detailed study of 'hot towers'. The science of 'hot towers' is described using: observed hurricane data from a satellite, descriptive illustrations, and volumetric visualizations of simulation data. The first section of the animation shows actual data from Hurricane Bonnie observed by NASA's Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) spacecraft. Three dimensional precipitation radar data reveal a strong 'hot tower' in Hurricane Bonnie's internal structure. The second section uses illustrations to show the dynamics of a hurricane and the formation of 'hot towers'. 'Hot towers' are formed as air spirals inward towards the eye and is forced rapidly upwards, accelerating the movement of energy into high altitude clouds.

The third section shows these processes using volumetric cloud, wind, and vorticity data from a supercomputer simulation of Hurricane Bonnie. Vertical wind speed data highlights a 'hot tower'. Arrows representing the wind field move rapidly up into the 'hot tower, boosting the energy and intensifying the hurricane. Combining satellite observations with super-computer simulations provides a powerful tool for studying Earth's complex systems.


A big thank you to all that share and are helping me learn about tropical weather!
-z
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1676. Patrap
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128647
1675. Patrap
Brings back memories Pat..Does not really seem like that long ago...Latest CMC..

Indeed hydrus, we rode Elena out Just off Pass Road by the SeaBee Base in Long Beach/Gulfport.
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Quoting SFLWeatherman:


Is this how I'm repaid for going on a cruise lol?
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1673. doubtit
Quoting Tazmanian:



yes yes yes we seen that 100 too 1000 times all ready why not post some in we have not seen 100 too 1000 times




post some in new for once not some in we have seen overe 1000 times all ready


That was a great video and I was gladt to see it for the first time ever.
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Poor little fella...

Member Since: July 2, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 1183
The preacher that was praying on the skywire event prayed for wisdom. Lol. He's about to walk over the Grand Canyon on a wire unsupported...too late for that one, preach.
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1670. hydrus
Quoting Patrap:
Hurricane Elena (Eye) - Biloxi, Mississippi - September 2, 1985
vmax135

Uploaded on Dec 25, 2008
A short clip from my chase footage as Hurricane Elena's textbook eye moves over Biloxi, Mississippi on the morning of September 2, 1985.





Brings back memories Pat..Does not really seem like that long ago...Latest CMC..
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Rain all week in S FL!
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Member Since: May 23, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 4672
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

They cannot be certain that such a pass would hit the center of the storm. It's probably still a tropical depression on the basis that the center lacks a good bit of convection (though it has been increasing as of late).


I would not be surprised about an upgrade to TS Cosme at the last minute even without the Best Track doing so.
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1665. Patrap
One sound I'll never forget is when you could hear the backside of Elena coming as the wind came up fast...after that eye passed over.

First you hear it coming and if you have never experienced that, you wont forget it if you do.







Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128647
Quoting CosmicEvents:
Naked and Afraid? Next on DSC after this episode of "How close can I come to Dying". That sounds interesting. Cantore might be needed to measure humidity for meteoroligical purposes.


LOL.
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Naked and Afraid? Next on DSC after this episode of "How close can I come to Dying". That sounds interesting. Cantore might be needed to measure humidity for meteoroligical purposes.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: June 11, 2013 Posts: 20 Comments: 3212
Cosme is going to be a huge boy,anyways finally having the rain that I have been wishing for it rained for 3 hours straight and the wind was like being in a ts amazing miss the days when it was more common though.
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Quoting Patrap:
Dr. Jeff Masters Flies in the NOAA P-3 Orion Hurricane Hunter as Flight Meteorologist into Hurricane Gilbert 1988





Oh thanks for that Pat. I didn't know he was in Gilbert. Seen the Hugo one but not this one.
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15938
1659. Patrap
Hurricane Elena (Eye) - Biloxi, Mississippi - September 2, 1985
vmax135

Uploaded on Dec 25, 2008
A short clip from my chase footage as Hurricane Elena's textbook eye moves over Biloxi, Mississippi on the morning of September 2, 1985.





Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128647
Quoting Tropicsweatherpr:


Is possible that they may be waiting for ASCAT or Microwave pass?

They cannot be certain that such a pass would hit the center of the storm. It's probably still a tropical depression on the basis that the center lacks a good bit of convection (though it has been increasing as of late).
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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.