Interview with the NW Florida Daily News

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:49 AM GMT on June 04, 2006

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For the next week, I'll be posting excerpts from an interview I did with the Northwest Florida Daily News of Fort Walton Beach, Florida, that was published on Sunday, May 28. The questions were posed to me by Del Stone Jr., Deputy Managing Editor and self-admitted weather nut. I'll be back to live blogging on June 14.

Q. Is The Weather Underground your full-time job?

A. The Weather Underground is my full-time job, but I do a few guest lectures for the University of Michigan introductory meteorology classes.

Q. The $64,000 question, at least for people along the Emerald Coast here in Northwest Florida, is: What can we expect of the hurricane season in 2006? Specifically, do you have any feel for the number of named storms in 2006? I assume some of these storms reach the intensity of 2005's notorious Katrina, Rita and Wilma. Do you have a feel for how many?

A. The active hurricane period that began in 1995 should continue this year, since there is no strong El Nino event present, sea surface temperatures (SSTs) are .5 - 1.5 degrees C above normal across the tropical Atlantic, and the other four indicators we look at to predict seasonal hurricane activity are all positive. However, SSTs are nearly 1 degree cooler than last year's record levels, so I am not expecting another 2005. That was a once-in-a-lifetime year. My worst-case scenario calls for another year like 2004, with 15 to 20 named storms, and two to four major hurricanes hitting the U.S. My best-case scenario is still for an active year with 15 or so named storms, but with most of the storms recurving harmlessly out to sea. This happened in 1995, when the Bermuda High set up shop further east than usual, allowing the storms to recurve before hitting the coast. There will probably be at least three Category 4 or 5 hurricanes this year, and I expect one of these will make it into the top ten list for most intense Atlantic hurricanes on record. I don't look for anything like 2005, when three of the six most intense hurricanes on record occurred.

Q. At least one weather forecasting service has suggested the East Coast of the United States will face the brunt of this year's hurricane season. Do you agree or disagree with that prediction? If not, which part of the United States, in your estimation, should keep a closer eye on the tropics?

A. The jet stream pattern controls where hurricanes recurve. Our ability to forecast the jet stream pattern is limited; the best we can do is about a one week forecast. At times, we can get a general idea out to two weeks. Thus, it is difficult to make a skilled forecast at this time about which parts of the U.S. are likely to face the brunt of this year's hurricane season. Dr. Gray and some other researchers have shown that one can use statistical methods to make a slightly skillful prediction several months in advance about what parts of the U.S. might get hit most. Dr. Gray is predicting that the U.S. East Coast is more likely to get hit by a major hurricane then the Gulf Coast this year, but forecasts of this nature are only a little better than chance. Note that between 1000 and 3400 years ago, sediment records along the Gulf Coast show that Category 4/5 hurricane landfalls were about three to five times more common that we've seen during the past 1000 years. It's possible, but unlikely, that the intense hurricanes we've seen in the Gulf the past few years mark a return to this hyperactive pattern. It is not yet known if the Eastern U.S. coast also experienced this same hyperactive pattern 1000 to 3400 years ago; the researchers haven't done a full study of the sediment records there yet. I speculate that the East Coast saw a drop in intense hurricane during the same 1000 to 3400 year period, since a shift in the Bermuda High position steered most of the hurricanes into the Gulf of Mexico, and relatively few into the East Coast.

Q. I was asked to ask you: Is the Bermuda High, the system that sometimes steers hurricanes toward Northwest Florida, in a position to do the same again this year?

A. The position of the Bermuda High is controlled by the jet stream, and we won't know until about 1-2 weeks in advance what the Bermuda High might do.

To be continued...

Jeff Masters

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238. newt3d
8:11 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
What exactly are the analog years that various seasonal hurricane predictions utilize? I assume (quite generically) that some current observed quantities are correlated with past observed quantities in an attempt to predict near-future behavior based on past behavior.

What quantities are considered? Are these results accurate? or statistically significant? How are the various years broken down into categories? Is there any theory to suggest the observed quantities would actually map to the physical things that cause cyclone development?

I'm curious -- and would be looking still if I didn't have to go to work.
Member Since: October 6, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 90
237. hurricanechaser
5:20 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
Hey Jedkins, Alec, and Newt,

I couldn't agree more for those are and have been my sentiments all along.

Just think that any relatively short range 5 day forecast when an actual storm does exist and the other weather systems that control its eventual movement are also visible as well still carries a large 300 mile forecast error by the very best in the business (the NHC).

This is very large for any coastline much less trying to accurately determine where an East coast storm may make a landfall if at all, which is by far the most difficult to predict naturally due to recurvature.

That is why I stated earlier that there is practically zero skill in such a long range forecasts and climatology is the only real tool that offers any idea for a best educated GUESS which is all it is and the same really applies to even a 5 day forecast as well regarding it also being the equivalent of a best educated Guess where some real skill does actually exist.

I wish I had more time but I really need to go spend some time with my little girl.

Before I go, I want to thank Fredwx and all of you here who I had a chance to talk with for your time and input.:)

I hope each of you and everyone else has a great day.:)

Most sincerely,

236. fredwx
5:05 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
I love studying historic hurricanes as well. Since I live in Tampa I have posted on by blog a summary of the 1848 Hurricane and will soon add the 1921 Hurricane
Member Since: June 8, 2005 Posts: 221 Comments: 261
235. hurricanechaser
5:00 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
Hey Fredwx,

I know... That is obviously why we were both so adamant about the "official" data and this puts that into question.

Honestly, I simply want to know why the discrepancies exist and far more importantly, which data is accurate myself and will let you know as soon as the man in charge clarifies it for us.:)

I love studying hurricane history and I personally want to make sure that I know the true intensities and have been on the reanalysis email list for over a year that lets us know when any revisions have been completed.

With that in mind, there have been several noteworthy revisions up and down during every period under review so far to include the 1915-1930 period that still has to be reviewed and approved by the NHC best track committee and can be seen in only a PowerPoint format at the current time and is not yet listed in the official HURADAT listing I linked that shows they still have to review the years from 1915-1979.

234. fredwx
4:59 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
On the link showing the landfall intensities is states that the data after 1914 is from Jarrell et al. 1992 and that may be why there is a difference. The reanalysis team has not published any data after 1914 (yet) so there may be changes coming.

The 1938 Hurricane was classified Extra-Tropical as it past 39N latitude so it had no "official" Catagory, however the reported winds seem to confirm it was indeed a cat. 3 at landfall.
Member Since: June 8, 2005 Posts: 221 Comments: 261
233. newt3d
4:58 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
A major hurricane hitting New England is rare, but could happen. I don't see how anyone can say that it's any more likely this year than any other.

Any hurricane that does so would be similar to Hurricane Wilma across Florida, or the Long Island Express. They'd start out as a strong Cat4/5 storm, and then speed off to the north, making landfall quickly as they recurve to the north and east. This sort of situation would be very difficult to predict more than 3 days in advance as the probable storm track would parallel the east coast. Certainly, a yearly forecast is difficult.

1. Water off the New England coast cannot support the formation of a major hurricane in the area. Furthermore, a major hurricane entering the area could only maintain strength for a minimal period of time (24 hours).
2. Recurving hurricanes depend on synoptic scale systems, which have a lot of variance on a weekly timescale.
Member Since: October 6, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 90
232. Alec
4:52 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
Jedkins is ABSOLUTELY correct, they were calling for a high risk for the East Coast last season but it was the Gulf! Extended forecasts are nothing more than an EDUCATED one knows how the atmospheric setup will shape up months in advance....
231. hurricanechaser
4:49 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
Hey Fredwx,

I already saw that as well and was why I am going to ask Chris Landsea who heads it up at the NHC why they have Carol and Donna both "officially" listed as category three landfalls for multiple states but shows something diferent in their best track coordinate data.

What I was trying to state is that the link I provided you is also in that same site of course and lists all U.S. hurricane landfalls for the U.S. from 1851-2004 and has all 6 I noted from 1938 as a category 3 landfall on some portion of the Northeast U.S. and the NHC forecasters stated they go by that "official" data listing for states affected at a particular intensity.

When I was making sure it was the only official source, I wasn't aware of the discrepancies until I saw it this morning and stated as much in my last post about Carol.

Bsicaly, I am pretty confident that both Carol and Donna will most likely be downgraded from their official category 3 intensities for Northeast landfalls in the HURADAT database listings to category two which I alluded to earlier unaware of that discrepancy at the time.

I don't see them revising the 1938 hurricane in reanalysis nor Edna and the great 1944 hurricane.

Moreover, I think Gloria may survive such a revision since recon data is considered more reliable since 1989 when the HRD began their post storm analysis in 1979.

This is why I stated repeatedly that I expect 2 or 3 to be revised to category 2 opnce they get to reanalysis on these storms but that aty this very moment the NHC itself considers all 6 to be category 3 Northeast landfalls which is all I have been saying all along and can understand the confusion given even the contradictory information between their official determination and the best track data.

I will email you with a copy of the email response so we will both know what's going on when I get it from Chris Landsea about these dioscrepancies because we both simply want to know the "official" intensity regardless.:)

230. Jedkins
4:45 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
Well in my oppinion the way things HAVE been it will LIKELY NOT follow what is "typical" for storms as they were saying the same crap last year that it would be the east coast's turn.DID IT HAPPEN?ABSOLUTELY NOT!Soooo my point is I believe it to be more of a wait and see game.I dont think that we should try and guess which ares have to watch out the most this year,all I know is that climatology says Florida has by far the most hurricane strike frequency's(66),and texas the second most with (33),we shouldn't try to predict what paterns will prevail this year as those same paterns govern the storms that are so dang hard to predict.
229. fredwx
4:38 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
TO hurricanechaser:
It's interesting that both your link and my link come from the same source web site!
Member Since: June 8, 2005 Posts: 221 Comments: 261
228. GainesvilleGator
4:37 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
I see all this talk about US landfalling hurricans East Coast vs Gulf Coast. With the price of Crude already above last year's peak prices, I would rather see hurricanes hit the East Coast rather than the Gulf Coast. If we get a couple of cat 3+ ones in the Gulf than who knows what Crude will top out at this year. Hopefully the Gulf Coast will catch a break this year so that we can catch a break from the high price of gas.
Member Since: September 11, 2005 Posts: 4 Comments: 746
227. hurricanechaser
4:35 PM GMT on June 05, 2006

1954 Hazel category 4
1959 Gracie category 3
1989 Hugo category 4


1933 Sept. category 3
1944 Sept. category 3
1954 Hazel category 4
1955 Connie category 3
1955 Ione category 3
1960 Donna category 3
1985 Gloria category 3
1993 Emily category 3 (Just offshore but listed as official category three landfall by the NHC)
1996 Fran category 3

This means the Carolinas have had 11 different major hurricane landfalls since 1900 which usually comes in bunches so to speak as I was alluding to earlier about climatilogical trends where major hurricane landfall activity historically has shown patterns where it switches from a concentration mainly in the Gulf coast over to the South Florida East coast and then to the Carolinas and Northeast U.S. for periods at a time.

226. oriondarkwood
4:33 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
New Post in my blog.

Also for those not in the know I am trying to put together a friendly contest for hurricane predictions and hurricane triva.

Lastly once the first storm comes I might start my Friday Wacky Questions again.
Member Since: July 5, 2004 Posts: 51 Comments: 42
225. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
4:32 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
several areas in the Pacific has 1.5 percent of tropical formation.. really active in this fourth week
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 51011
224. fredwx
4:32 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
I don,t now why the two HURDAT links have conflicting data. Here is the HURDAT Reanalysis site, just click on the HURDAT link to get the data. Search on Carol and Donna for example and you will see that both were downgraded to CAT 2 before landfall in the NE.
Member Since: June 8, 2005 Posts: 221 Comments: 261
223. hurricanechaser
4:28 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
Hey SavannahStorm,

Here are all the major (category 3 or higher) landfalls in the Carolinas since 1900 according to the NHC's "official" HURADAT database that I researched for all U.S. states in my April 17th blog entry.

Note: that you are absolutely correct that the Carolinas and even Georgia that has not had one since the category four in 1898 was specifically hammered in the late 1800's as you so well noted and I simply think you must've misunderstood my reply to NAtlanticCyclones when he asked about the possibility of category 4 and 5 hurricanes in the Northeast.

My response was that I couldn't fathom a scenario for this to occur in the Northeast during the next 100 years, and subsequently stated that the furthest north there has ever been a category 4 landfall was Hazel at the NC/SC border in 1954 and that the next furthest north a category four had made landfall was Hugo just north of Chaleston, SC.

In other words, I was by no means simply talking about category 3 major hurricanes just to clear up any confusion.

222. hurricanechaser
4:09 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
Hey savannahStorm,

I think you might be responding to my post earlier about category 4 and 5 landfall possibilities on the East coast where I was saying that Hazel and Hugo are the only category 4 strikes in the carolinas for instance.

I was certainly not talking about simply category three or major storms for there have been plenty this past century in the carolinas, not just when Georgia for example was getting slammed by them in the late 19th century where in 1898 they got slammed by a category 4.

221. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
4:09 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
Didn't mean for my flash post to spread here by other people, sorry
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 51011
220. Levi32
4:09 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
Ok we're coming Alec...
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26774
219. Levi32
4:08 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
Oh yeah HGW that was a good one yesterday about the snake lol!
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26774
218. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
4:08 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
egh gahh snaaaake, snaake oh it's a snake..

I mean hello everyone
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 51011
217. Alec
4:08 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
Lets take this to my blog, dont want to clutter up Jeff Master's blog..............
216. Levi32
4:06 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
By the way, how do you copy a flash animation? I have no idea.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26774
215. Levi32
4:05 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
I stand corrected lol! Yes I am going to annoy you periodically lol!
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26774
214. Alec
4:04 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
213. hurricanechaser
4:03 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
Big typo (lol)...

Regardless, there is no debate that the link I gave you from the NHC's only database called the HURADAT is what is officially the case that 6 major hurricanes have made landfall on some portion of the Northeast U.S. since 1938.

I will add that I personally have no idea how they came to such conclusions but that this is what the NHC themselves "officially" declared.

That being said, I will email them again to see how they can list Carol for example as an "official" category 3 for landfall when there track coordinates say only category two.

In that respect, we are in total agreement in regards to the inconsistencies, but it doesn't change the fact they(NHC) still have Carol for example listed officially in the HURADAT as a landfalling category 3 storm.

212. Alec
4:03 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
REALLY????Then we can have an photos/animation war in out own blogs!LOL Just dont post anymore longggggggggg posts so people'c computers dont freeze trying to open them!
211. Levi32
4:01 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
You're kidding! What a coincidance! (did I spell that right? lol)
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26774
210. Levi32
4:00 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
Alec, go read Aaron's blog. We are saved lol! He says that the relationship between our war and the mail problem are not causal, so we don't need to fret over it! (He also doesn't seem to care about our war at all lol)
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26774
209. Alec
3:59 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
right after I said cyclonebuster could cure the mushrooms, that song went away!LOL
208. NAtlanticCyclone
3:58 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
Hey Everyone. I updated my new blog. I have a fascinating photo to show you all. Come and stop by.
207. Levi32
3:57 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
LOL Alec!
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26774
206. Levi32
3:57 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
Well we sure learned some neat stuff about html code yesterday lol. I want to learn more about that "page source" feature on the internet. Might be handy for copying little pieces of webpages or something. I thought all that was interesting yesterday.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26774
205. Alec
3:56 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
cyclonebuster's tunnels could cure the mushrooms!!!LOL(sorry, couldn't resist)
204. SavannahStorm
3:56 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
South Carolina was hit by 2 major hurricanes in 1893 and again in 1898, one of the two 1893 canes being the Sea Islands hurricane that killed up to 2000 people in Georgia and SC. So there are times, climatalogically, that the Carolinas due get a high number of major hurricanes.
Member Since: September 22, 2005 Posts: 18 Comments: 2376
203. Levi32
3:49 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
Agh really? I sent you some good ones lol! I should delete mine I forgot to.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26774
202. hurricanechaser
3:47 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
Posted By: fredwx at 3:25 PM GMT on June 05, 2006.

There seems to be a large difference between the official data and the link you posted. It does say that in your link: "Note that from 1915 through 1979, no official wind speed estimates are currently available." so I don't know where those landfall estimates came from. I will try to check that out..... interesting!

No offense intended but I have stated this repeatedly that the link I gave you is the onlt "official" data from the HURADAT and that it is curently undergoing reanalysis and shows only what has been completed and reviewed by the NHC best track committee through 1914.

This is why I also have stated three times already that I expect 2 or 3 of the 6 current "officially" listed by the only real source (the NHC)will likely/possibly be reduced to category two intensity.

Regardless, therre is no debate that the link I gave you from the NHC's only database called the HURADAT is what is officially the cae that 6 major hurricanes have made landfall on some portion of the U.S. since 1938.

I find it unbelievable that you can read the "official" stats listing category 3 intensity by the NHC in the HURADAT for specific states and still say that it is not official and these other secondary sources are the offical data.

To be most specific, there is no way anyone can say that the HURADAT "official" data I linked for you is not the 100% official determination by the NHC itself as it currently stands other than to say that the NHC is also not the official source for such determinations, not that I agre with all their individual determinations (i.e. Katrina) but it is what is in the official records whether I agree with it or not.

201. Alec
3:47 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
Mine were deleted on the spot Levi!LOL And I refused to open up some of your emails!
200. Levi32
3:46 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
Do you think we should delete all the e-mails we have with giant images and graphics in them which we recieved during the war?
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26774
199. Alec
3:44 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
aquak, some animated graphics messages were being sent to us, and I believe that is the reason why the mail wasn't working(overloaded the system)...
198. Levi32
3:43 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
Alec it's the snake message you sent back to me lol!
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26774
197. swlaaggie
3:43 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
LOL, it's(Taz's music) more persistent than CycloneBuster's tunnels.

Quiet day in the Gulf(unless your a bird trying to fly through all that shear).

Fantastic!!!!! Every day counts.
Member Since: April 26, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1032
196. Levi32
3:42 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
So did I!
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26774
195. aquak9
3:42 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
I'm thinking maybe those dancing sound graphics might be the reason we lost wumail.
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 192 Comments: 27806
194. Alec
3:41 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
193. Alec
3:40 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
yes, I read that after 5+ people spam a post it disappears but that apparently isn't happening...
192. Levi32
3:37 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
That's the badger graphic right? I spammed that one last night.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26774
191. Alec
3:33 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
9:52pm PDT....
190. hurricanechaser
3:33 PM GMT on June 05, 2006
Hey Fredwx,

Just for curiosity, what do you consider the link I provided you to be from the actual official NHC database itself for it is not what you said it was earlier (not just the highest category the storm achieved which naturally is listed there as well) but exactly what the NHC has officially determined each locality listed to have experienced relative to a specific SSHS intensity which shows 6 category 3 landfalls on some portion of the Northeast U.S. since 1938 no matter if one chooses to disregard this data or not for it is undebatable.

Please notice where it lists the column that says, "States affected and states by category" before it lists the next column stating the "highest category achieved".

Here is the link once again for you or anyone else who desires to see the only true "official" data.

All "official" U.S. hurricane landfalls
189. aquak9
3:32 PM GMT on June 05, 2006

Hate to barge in guys, but it looks like we've lost wu-mail. I think Aaaron's got his hands full today.
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 192 Comments: 27806

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Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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