Interview with the NW Florida Daily News - Part 4

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:42 PM GMT on June 09, 2006

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This is part 4 of 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. Our nation's first line of defense against hurricanes is the National Hurricane Center. Is NHC adequately funded for such a role?

A. Things have improved considerably, thanks to some increased funding autorized by Congress in the wake of the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005. The Hurricane Center has been understaffed for a number of years, especially since they were tasked with the additional job of writing all the advisories for Eastern Pacific hurricanes. However, NHC just added four new hurricane forecasters last month, thanks to the a special requisition championed by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla). NHC now has ten hurricane forecasters, and this will help greatly. NOAA also got money for a new weather research airplane, which will help out our hurricane reconnaissance needs. An additional $1.4 million has been proposed this year to improved buoys in the Atlantic. The only area where not much money was made available was for hurricane research. We need more dollars to fund development of better hurricane intensity forecasts. NOAA's Hurricane Research Division does fantastic work on this, and could probably significantly improve our hurricane intensity forecasts if they were able to add a few new scientists to research this.

Q. When a hurricane strikes, much of the damage is concentrated along the coastline. Obviously this raises questions about the wisdom of building in vulnerable areas, and materials used in such construction. If you could provide guidance to local governments and contractors about those two issues, what would it be?

A. The level of hurricane activity we experienced in the 1970s and 1980s--when most of the recent coastal development happened--was very low. The high levels of activity we've experienced since 1995 are what we can continue to expect for at least the next 10 or 20 years. Planners better get used to the idea of building for more frequent major hurricanes.

Q. Since 1995, hurricane activity "seems" to have increased. I qualify "seems" because the increase strikes me as more subtle than what might be apparent to somebody who is not a student of tropical meteorology. The 2004 and 2005 seasons were noticeably more active, even to a layman. Is this a result of a natural occurrence, the Atlantic decadal cycle, or is it a portent of things to come?

A. There are a lot of conflicting ideas on this among hurricane scientists. The majority view is that most of the increase since 1995 is due to a natural decades-long cycle called the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), which is tied to sea surface temperatures and salinity in the Atlantic (the so-called "thermohaline circulation"). The trouble is, there is little observational support for this theory, as there are very few oceanographic measurements going back in time. In fact, ocean measurements taken in the past few years show a 30% slow down of the thermohaline circulation in the North Atlantic, which is the opposite effect one would expect to see if the AMO were truly causing the current upswing in hurricane activity. These measurements had a high potential for error, so more measurements are needed verify this finding. Dr. Kerry Emanuel, who developed much of the theory regarding hurricane intensification, has a new theory on the AMO--he thinks that this observed decades-long observed change in Atlantic hurricane activity is not a natural cycle. The lower levels of hurricane activity and lower SSTs observed from 1970-1995 were due to increased air pollution over the Atlantic reducing the sunlight. Since 1995, pollution control efforts, plus a significant increase in global warming, have acted to warm the oceans and drive increased hurricane activity. Except for the occasional strong El Nino year, he sees no end to the current pattern of increased hurricane activity in the Atlantic. I believe it is too early to say who's right. Dr. Emanuel hasn't published his findings yet; Nature magazine rejected his paper as being "too esoteric" for its readers.

Q. Lately a debate has sprung up among meteorologists about global warming and its relationship to hurricane formation. In your blog you have made a point of stressing the jury is still out on such a relationship, if I'm reading your blog correctly. The evidence so far seems inconclusive one way or the other. Do you have a personal opinion about such a relationship?

A. There's no doubt that there is an effect. Hurricanes are heat engines, and heating up the oceans makes stronger hurricanes. However, the amount of heating of the oceans we can blame on global warming, about 1 degree Fahrenheit, should (according to Dr. Emanuel's theory) cause at most a 2-3 mph increase in the winds of a storm like Katrina. Is the theory wrong? That's a question that is being seriously considered, and it is possible that global warming has made the strongest hurricanes much stronger than the theory would suggest. My opinion is that it its too early to tell. The database of global hurricane intensities is deeply flawed and doesn't extend over a long enough period of time to determine if there has been a significant increase in Category 4 and 5 hurricanes due to global warming.

Jeff Masters

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1175. hurricanechaser
11:13 PM GMT on June 10, 2006
Posted By: hurricanechaser at 4:41 AM GMT on June 10, 2006.

In my own personal opinion, I see three different attitudes on here.

There are most here who do fortunately symbolize respect for another's best guess and disagrees with it if applicable with respect with no need to belittle the others best effort.

However, there are those here who act as if this is a competition to be the first to predict such and such will occur and if so, wants everyone to know they called it first and pat themselves on the back for it while mocking those who choose not to be so aggressive with their forecasts so early on.

In contrast, there are even others who do the opposite and criticize those who make such predictions well ahead of time but do so not for the competition or to say hey look what I have done but just simply for the enjoyment of monitoring the tropics minute by minute and they should not be mocked for that either in my personal opinion for no one can say that their predictions so early on will not ultimately materialize in time.

1174. snowboy
6:16 PM GMT on June 10, 2006
excerpt from latest NHC update:

TROPICAL DEPRESSION ONE INTERMEDIATE ADVISORY NUMBER 2A
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL012006
100 PM CDT SAT JUN 10 2006

...DEPRESSION DUMPING HEAVY RAINFALL IN WESTERN CUBA...
...OUTER RAINBANDS OVER EXTREME SOUTHERN FLORIDA...

TROPICAL STORM WARNINGS ARE RECOMMENDED FOR THE CUBAN PROVINCES OF
PINAR DEL RIO AND THE ISLE OF YOUTH.

INTERESTS ELSEWHERE IN THE EASTERN GULF OF MEXICO SHOULD MONITOR
THE PROGRESS OF THIS SYSTEM.

AT 100 PM CDT...1800Z...THE POORLY-DEFINED CENTER OF TROPICAL
DEPRESSION ONE WAS ESTIMATED NEAR LATITUDE 21.7 NORTH...LONGITUDE
85.6 WEST OR ABOUT 45 MILES... 75 KM...WEST OF CABO SAN ANTONIO ON
THE WESTERN TIP OF CUBA.

THE DEPRESSION IS MOVING TOWARD THE NORTH-NORTHWEST NEAR 9 MPH...
14 KM/HR...AND THIS GENERAL MOTION IS EXPECTED TO CONTINUE FOR THE
NEXT 24 HOURS. THIS MOTION WILL BRING THE CENTER OF THE
DEPRESSION INTO THE SOUTHEASTERN GULF OF MEXICO THIS AFTERNOON.

MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS ARE NEAR 35 MPH...55 KM/HR...WITH HIGHER
GUSTS. SOME STRENGTHENING IS FORECAST DURING THE NEXT 24 HOURS...
AND THE DEPRESSION COULD BECOME A TROPICAL STORM LATER TODAY OR
TONIGHT. AN AIR FORCE RESERVE HURRICANE HUNTER AIRCRAFT IS
EN ROUTE TO INVESTIGATE THE DEPRESSION.

ESTIMATED MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE IS 1003 MB...29.62 INCHES.

AT THIS TIME...THE MAIN THREAT FROM THE DEPRESSION IS HEAVY
RAINFALL. THE DEPRESSION IS EXPECTED TO PRODUCE TOTAL RAINFALL
ACCUMULATIONS OF 10 TO 20 INCHES OVER THE WESTERN HALF OF
CUBA...WITH ISOLATED TOTALS OF 30 INCHES OVER THE HIGHER TERRAIN.
THIS COULD CAUSE DEVASTATING FLASH FLOODS AND MUD SLIDES.
ADDITIONAL RAINFALL OF 5 TO 10 INCHES IS POSSIBLE OVER THE CAYMAN
ISLANDS. RAINFALL TOTALS OF 3 TO 5 INCHES ARE POSSIBLE OVER THE
NORTHEASTERN PORTION OF THE YUCATAN PENINSULA. THERE IS ALSO THE
POTENTIAL FOR HEAVY RAINFALL OF 4 TO 8 INCHES POSSIBLE OVER THE
FLORIDA KEYS AND WESTERN FLORIDA THROUGH MONDAY.

REPEATING THE 100 PM CDT POSITION...21.7 N...85.6 W. MOVEMENT
TOWARD...NORTH-NORTHWEST NEAR 9 MPH. MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...35
MPH. MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...1003 MB.

FORECASTER KNABB
Member Since: September 21, 2005 Posts: 10 Comments: 2547
1173. ShawnX
4:49 PM GMT on June 10, 2006
Even the NHC says that TD is going to get ripped to shreds by the wely shear. If it's lucky it might be a TS but I'm still unwilling to bend in that direction. TD to hit Florida pan handle then rapidly transform into a extratropical low carried quickly along the welys.
1171. Levi32
4:41 PM GMT on June 10, 2006
NEW THREAD UP! The other meteorologists from WU filled in for Dr. Masters.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26589
1170. pcolabob
4:40 PM GMT on June 10, 2006
12Z GFS HAS IT STALLING OUT UNDER PANHANDLE LINK PLEASE? IF THIS IS TRUE MY 85 ELANA SENRIOMAY COME TRUE THROUGH BRING IT NORTH THEN NE NOT STRONG ENOUGH TO TAKE IT OUT THEN IT STALLS THE RIDGE REBUILDS AND SENDS WNW OR NW FOR LANDFALL ON NORTH GC
Member Since: August 3, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 0
1168. Hawkeyewx
4:38 PM GMT on June 10, 2006
Ok guys, here is what is going on right now. TD1 remains very disorganized. There is an elongated surface low/trough extending from the west tip of Cuba to a point just off the coast of Chetumal, Mexico(southeastmost point in the Yucatan). All morning we have been watching the original TD1 center vortex move southwest away from the convection. Now a new vortex at the southern end of the surface trough appears to be getting better organized with a lot of deep convection blowing up around it. This new vortex may continue to strengthen a bit and ride northward along the trough, a bit like a yoyo spinning at the end of a string moving back upward. If this happens, the old vortex spinning southwestward will continue moving south and will likely be absorbed into the newly organizing vortex. The whole thing really is a mess and a lot of time will be needed for it to consolidate into a single focused system, if it ever does.
Member Since: July 5, 2005 Posts: 2 Comments: 1923
1167. amazinwxman
4:38 PM GMT on June 10, 2006
from what I was told I think they'll reach the TD at 2pm Est
1166. Levi32
4:38 PM GMT on June 10, 2006
NEW BLOG UP!!!
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26589
1165. arcturus
4:38 PM GMT on June 10, 2006
There is alot of movement on the Water Vapor loop it looks like a boiling cauldron down there. When the primary center does take over I believe it will squeeze thru the channel and avoid the Yucatan and Cuba.

1164. wxgssr
4:37 PM GMT on June 10, 2006
Quickscat pass

http://manati.orbit.nesdis.noaa.gov/storm_at_image21/latest_at_0.html

Note the small vortice is showing up to the SW of the main circ.

Do not get hyped over the 50 kt flags ENE of the main center, rain has a tendency to pollute the data
1163. amazinwxman
4:36 PM GMT on June 10, 2006
Yeah i agree with the others I see TD 1 dissapating away by days end. I think it would be generous to even downgrade it as a wave it was a close one.
1162. BRDinShalimarFl
4:36 PM GMT on June 10, 2006
It's that time of the year. I look forward to reading and learning from all. I do not see much coming out this system. Definitely a rain event. Maybe this will get the attention of those who have not already prepared themselves. Those in Fl should have taken advantage of the sales tax holiday. If nothing else they could have gotten themselves a sales tax free cooler for their beer. Anyway greetings to all and I look forward to an informative friendly blog.
1161. STORMTOP
4:36 PM GMT on June 10, 2006
i just hope it doesnt turn into another juan we dont need that...it doesnt have to be s tropical storm to produceflooding rains and the weaker it is if it holds together will tend to move it on a more nw course then ne..
1159. southbeachdude
4:33 PM GMT on June 10, 2006
i think i read the recon flight does not go out until 330pm Eastern time....is that correct?
Member Since: July 29, 2005 Posts: 2 Comments: 696
1157. seflagamma
4:32 PM GMT on June 10, 2006
Just another check in to see what is happening . still no word from the recon flight????
Member Since: August 29, 2005 Posts: 298 Comments: 40891
1156. STORMTOP
4:32 PM GMT on June 10, 2006
yes i said yesterday that was a huge high for this time of year..its hard to develop anything with all this dry air aloft....
1154. NAtlanticCyclone
4:30 PM GMT on June 10, 2006
The tropical depression 1 right now does seem a little unorganized at this time, but as time goes on today and tomorrow it will clear the northwestern Caribbean Sea and strengthen possibly past category two status. If the next front does leave the depression alone we could be faced with another major hurricane. Just an idea nothing to do with my predictions at this time. Especially after last year I don't know what will happen, but time will tell us all.
1152. STORMTOP
4:27 PM GMT on June 10, 2006
thats how the tropics are in june now if this was august you would have a completely different scenario here...
1151. MZT
4:27 PM GMT on June 10, 2006
Well I need to do *something* today besides read this blog... But I would say I'm partial to the GFS and GFDL solutions.

First, because they are generally good models and have consistently been handling this as an east coast storm, for the last several runs.

Second, just personal observation for the last few decades... that storms that form just southwest of Florida "tend to" get sucked northeast, and then ride up the coast. It is just a common solution.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 793
1150. arcturus
4:26 PM GMT on June 10, 2006
To me the center looks far southwest of the isle of youth and is far south-southeast of Cancun. The huge MCS like flareup is NE of the center and is shearing out in that direction rather fast. You can see new cloud tops filling in the center on the water vapor loop.



1149. thelmores
4:25 PM GMT on June 10, 2006
i too noticed the exposed vortice....

its really weird when you see this happen, i know i have heard explanations of this, but don't remember.....

wish there was a way we can see all the low level cloud circulation below the upper/mid level stuff.....
Member Since: September 8, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 3805
1147. STORMTOP
4:24 PM GMT on June 10, 2006
yes ike but its main convection has been seperated from the center which has moved sw...its either going to form a new center or fall apart...recon plane may downgrade it to a tropicl wave later today...
1146. SavannahStorm
4:23 PM GMT on June 10, 2006
Multiple vortices are present in the system, as many have pointed out already. The exposed low near the Yucatan is one of several associated with the system.
Member Since: September 22, 2005 Posts: 18 Comments: 2324
1145. IKE
4:21 PM GMT on June 10, 2006
Key West has 24 mph winds..gusting to 34...

Just looks like a lopsided TD moving NNW to me.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
1143. STORMTOP
4:21 PM GMT on June 10, 2006
i agree fla boy
1142. SavannahStorm
4:20 PM GMT on June 10, 2006
The Sierra de los Organos is a range in the Matanzas province on the western end of the island.
Member Since: September 22, 2005 Posts: 18 Comments: 2324
1140. GPTGUY
4:16 PM GMT on June 10, 2006
how much farther east savannah? because western cuba is a flat terrain, central and eastern cuba have the mountains
Member Since: August 26, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 391
1138. SavannahStorm
4:15 PM GMT on June 10, 2006
IMHO, it looks to me like it has reorganized just SW of the Isle of Youth, and I wouldn't doubt it will reach TS status by tonight. However, with a center farther east it will be trekking over the high mountains of Cuba, which will hinder its development for at least a day.
Member Since: September 22, 2005 Posts: 18 Comments: 2324
1137. STORMTOP
4:13 PM GMT on June 10, 2006
53rd its moving at 12mph thats a good screeching halt ...i cant see that happening but i agree with you on it going poof
1136. MZT
4:10 PM GMT on June 10, 2006
Nope. A strong Bermuda High will shoot storms up the east coast, when they form near Florida. Storms are steered father into the Gulf based on where the toughs and highs are...
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 793
1135. STORMTOP
4:10 PM GMT on June 10, 2006
yes its very disorganized and i wouldnt be surprised if the recon downgrades it back to a tropical wave this afternoon if this keeps up
1134. 53rdWeatherRECON
4:09 PM GMT on June 10, 2006
OK OK All new prediction just in.

Alberto will form into a TS tonight into tomorrow morning while pretty much stationary. It will move slowly north untill it gets just north of Cuba and then will disapate over a 72hour time frame. Yes stationary just north of Cuba. Then dissappear. Poof!
Member Since: August 5, 2005 Posts: 2 Comments: 80
1133. StormShelter
4:09 PM GMT on June 10, 2006
I think cyclonebuster is "All over It"
1129. STORMTOP
4:05 PM GMT on June 10, 2006
sorry houston i just wanted to make it crystal clear new orleans was not going to get a direct hit from whatever this thing end up to be...
1127. MZT
4:03 PM GMT on June 10, 2006
I have to agree with most here, that the complexity of what is going on plus proximity to western Cuba abd the Yucutan will limit development this weekend.

Alberto needs room to swing his arms around. The Gulf or the Atlantic will be the place for that.
Member Since: September 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 793
1126. Levi32
4:03 PM GMT on June 10, 2006
I still don't know whether the shear everybody's talking about is the outflow of the system or not. There really isn't that much shear there, and it drops off near the Florida panhandle.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26589

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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.