Transcript of the NHC press conference; QuikSCAT science

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 8:27 PM GMT on July 06, 2007

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The National Hurricane Center political controversy continues today. In an Associated Press story released this morning, Senior Hurricane Specialist James Franklin of the National Hurricane Center commented on Bill Proenza's QuikSCAT claims, saying:

"He has been very loudly saying if it failed our forecasts for landfalling storms would be degraded, that warning areas would need to be expanded. None of that is the case, and he knows that we feel that way. The science is not there to back up the claims that he's making."

This was the same case I made in my blog yesterday. However, in comments published in the Miami Herald today, Dr. Bob Atlas, a QuikSCAT scientist who runs NOAA's Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory on Virginia Key, rose to defend Proenza. To quote from the Herald:

He said the report challenged by Masters, even if not yet published, appears to be a "rigorous study" that provides the "most comprehensive study of QuikSCAT data related to hurricane predictions."

Atlas said nothing he has heard Proenza say about QuikSCAT has made him wince, though Atlas added that NOAA is developing ways to mitigate the loss of QuikSCAT data.

In addition, he said, Proenza's estimates of 16 percent and 10 percent have been misunderstood: They apply to the accuracy of one of many computerized forecast models rather than actual, end-result predictions by hurricane forecasters.

"Bill's worked very hard and very well to position the hurricane center to interact well with researchers," Atlas said.


Dr. Atlas was mis-quoted by Time Magazine, who printed this:

Bob Atlas, director of NOAA's Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory in Miami, insist that Proenza's concerns "are very well founded. QuickScat is the most valuable forecasting tool." Atlas says he applauds Proenza's outspokenness, predicting it will "accelerate the effort to replace QuickScat with an even better scatterometer satellite."

I talked with Dr. Atlas this morning, and what he actually said is that "NCEP's Ocean Prediction Center (OPC) have referred to QuikSCAT as the most valuable tool they have." OPC issues the high seas marine forecasts and warnings for the North Atlantic and North Pacific. Dr. Atlas did not say QuickSCAT is the most valuable forecasting tool for hurricane forecasting which it is not. Dr. Atlas and I both agree on what the science says about QuikSCAT. I respect his support for Proenza, and hope that Proenza's superiors in Washington take into account all the facts in the case. I did my best to present what I know of the science in my blog yesterday. No one knows the full story of what's going on at NHC, but this morning's press conference, done by staff members at NHC who oppose Proenza, will help clarify things. A transcript was sent to me by WTVJ, the NBC Station in Miami.

Transcript of this morning's press conference

Senior Hurricane Specialist James Franklin
We have been a family here, we are a small group of about 50 people. When things are really happening, we've got a Katrina out there or a Rita type of storms, everybody needs to stop what they're doing and pull together and make sure our message gets out and that we're doing the best job that we can to make the best forecast. We've got a lot of people pulling together to do that. That takes a certain amount of teamwork and appreciation of sense of family and he's destroying that, he's destroying that.

He's divided the staff, and it's hard to know how we're going to be able to come together with him here. One thing that happened yesterday when the staff met, and talked about these issues and a lot of people learned for the first time about some of the issues going on yesterday, and that brought a lot of the staff together. You saw a number of people speaking out both in terms of 3 to 23 yesterday. We found out what was really going on here. and I think you're going to see more later on.

I was very very gratified, we had a wonderful meeting with staff, including those who have been prior supporters of Bill. And we're learning a lot of things for the very first time. There we're a number of people who agreed with us, didn't like the idea of going to the press, but felt he needed to go, there are a fair number of people who didn't sign the letter for that reason. They wanted to keep it in house, and I certainly understand that. About 70-percent of the people who were in the discussion yesterday, put their names on the paper.

I think we've learned an awful lot about Bill here, during the last six months that maybe we didn't know.

We would have liked to have seen Bill realize that he didn't have the support of the staff and step down. That's not going to happen apparently. The process, the Dept. of Commerce process, I imagine needs to go forward. I think it would be nice if they could take him out of the office while that process goes on, those are not decisions we can make.

Lixion Avila-Senior Hurricane Forecaster
-Been here longer than any other forecaster
-Worked for 5-hurricane directors

I was Bill's stronger supporter, I went with him to the Caribbean with the hurricane hunter plane. To develop the hurricane hunter plan, like I did with all the directors. And I'm very upset (loud truck drives by) that he's been misrepresenting the views of the National Hurricane Center, and the hurricane plan. That plan was developed by the previous five hurricane directors, it's a jewel, it's the best in the world and it's been something that Neil Frank, Bob Sheets and Jerry Jarrel and developed for 20-years in six months he wants to destroy that plan.

For example he, I'm a scientist not a manager, and I don't know anything about management, but I can tell you that he came to my office telling me that he wants my advice, that he can not work here if he doesn't hear my advice.. very helpful with the previous directors, and he asked me, and I said the first thing you need to do is quit talking about that QuikSCAT and tell him that is out of line, will help all the problems. And he says he will do that, instead he goes back to the media, and you don't publish that you only publish the good things he said.

He said that we don't want to work with him, because he brings many good ideas, and we don't want to do that. I want you to know that he has not made a hurricane forecast since 1964.

That satellite, I gave that example to many people here. There are many things more important than that satellite. Of course I want that someone to have that satellite. The example I gave everybody is like having a BMW with leather seats. If you don't have leather seats that BMW is going to ruin, and we are going to make a very damn good forecast this year, with Bill or without Bill, and I think. I'm being very emotional, because I was his strongest supporter and I feel betrayed.

I was the last forecaster to join the group. They were smarter than me, I was giving him one more chance. Two day's ago when he came to my office and said please, what should I do to solve this problem? And I was very naive and I told him you need to stop fighting, pretending you're David against Goliath, and all those things with NOAA. The public thinks you're a hero, but you're not. You just need to develop your time and saving the hurricane program that your predecessor developed so nicely, this castle that has been done here. and he went back and said he was going to do that, he went to the media and said the opposite, and that's the end, thank you.

James Franklin
I want to say something about the QuikSCAT issue because, because that's important. The QuikSCAT satellite, is important to us, it does a lot of good things for us. We want a next generation advanced instrument, however there are a lot of things that current instrument cannot do, and by misrepresenting the case for that satellite, he has made it seem so urgent and so important. That what we're afraid of, that we'll get a quick fix, a copy of the kind of thing with existing technology. And within a couple of years we'll be in exactly the same position same situation. QuikSCAT is not a tool to help us improve track forecasts, that's how it's been misrepresented. Bill waves this NOAA report that some of my colleagues worked on and said look this is it. That report did not address track forecast accuracy, that is another one of the misrepresentations.

QuikSCAT is important to help us understand the size of the wind field, the strength, the current instrument has a lot of trouble with rain, a lot of rain in tropical cyclones. We need to move forward if we take the time develop the technology further and in a few more years get at the technology that really helps us get at the intensity problem, that's where our forecast problem really is. We've made great strides with track, as you know we're having a lot more problems with intensity, and doing the QuikSCAT problem correctly, taking our time, developing new technology is one of the tools that we need to help solve the intensity problem. But because of the way it's been portrayed we're afraid that there's going to be a quick fix that's not going to address the track problem, and it doesn't address the track problem and it isn't going to end up helping us with what the forecasters really know will help us.

We've see members of the Congress talking about how the information from the recognizance aircraft are inferior to QuikSCAT, we're afraid that somebody might get it in their heads to fund a stopgap QuikSCAT to take funds from recon aircraft. There is no comparison, there is not a forecaster here who believes QuikSCAT is more important than recon aircraft or other tools we have. But because this issue has been misreported we're afraid we might lose what we have.

We've got forecasters still back at there desks doing their jobs and they'll continue doing that. But there's a lot of people losing sleep over this, and as we get into august September, October, I don't think you want a bunch of tired sick, forecasters working the forecast desk. I think it takes a full effort. It's not just about doing our jobs, we need to go over and beyond when those storms are coming, and that's becoming harder to do.

I think when things get busy, it's going to be harder for us to work effectively with the situation we have here.

Vivian Jorge, Administrative Officer
As far as myself in the administration, since Bill got here, is the turmoil in the administration, because in my sense, bill(sat breakup) likes controversy. And I myself have been asked to do things that I know are not procedure but have been asked to do because that's the way he wants things done, and I've worked at hurricane center since 1985.

Unfortunately I think a director needs to unite his staff and he needs to be a calming person. It doesn't need to be a no new ideas. All the directors have different ideas.. from Neil on down to Max, they were different, they were not the same, their management styles were not the same, but they united the staff, the listened to the staff, especially the folks who have been here for so many years. .. and I think in the case of bill he doesn't feel that's necessary, he always feels he knows best. And that again in our case, there's never been so many closed doors, so much intrigue at the hurricane center as now and that's really unfortunate. I can't tell you how proud I am to work here.

--End of Press Conference

QuikSCAT science
Enough of politics, let's talk science! I've communicated several times over the past few weeks with Dr. Paul Chang, a NOAA QuikSCAT scientist whose QuikSCAT web page I've linked to hundreds of times in my blogs over the past two years. He did not want to comment on the politics of the QuikSCAT issue (smart man!), but did ask me print these comments:

The need for an operational ocean surface vector wind satellite system like QuikSCAT (or actually better) goes much further than the hurricane issue, and the push for it started long before Bill Proenza became the NHC director. NHC actually wants/needs something better so that it can provide them with reliable and accurate information (intensity and structure) within all hurricanes. A few other users of QuikSCAT data include: The Department of Defense's Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Pearl Harbor, which has a much larger area to forecast for. They have no Hurricane Hunter data and much less surface and upper air data to work with, and thus use QuikSCAT winds quite a bit. This is a similar situation for NOAA's Central Pacific Hurricane Center located in Hawaii. QuikSCAT has also had significant positive impacts at the Ocean Prediction Center, which issues the high seas marine forecasts and warnings for the North Atlantic and North Pacific. This has led to the introduction of a warning category for hurricane force winds for the most dangerous extratropical cyclones. I know of at least a few private marine weather companies that routinely use QuikSCAT. The Australians, French and many others use QuikSCAT routinely for tropical storm forecast/analysis, and for marine weather in general.

The track degradation impact numbers that Bill Proenza has been stating publicly come from a limited data study for the 2003 season in the Atlantic with the GFS model only. I believe Bob Atlas did some earlier work studying the impact of QuikSCAT on Hurricane Cindy using an earlier version of the NCEP global model. Both of these studies did show promising positive impacts. They are of course limited studies, and a more in-depth study is warranted.

The GFS model hurricane track forecasts are just one piece of guidance that the NHC human forecasters use to generate the official track forecast, so the impact in a particular model guidance package does not directly translate to the same impact in the actual NHC officially issued track forecast. Additionally, QuikSCAT data are also used directly by forecasters at NHC and elsewhere, but this impact tends to be more difficult to quantify.

The aircraft are a very important hurricane operational and research tool, and no one involved in the QuikSCAT follow-on effort has ever said QuikSCAT (or its successor) should or could replace the role of the hurricane aircraft flights, just as no one has said that aircraft could replace the role of satellites. They are very complementary platforms, but they fulfill different roles.


It would be a shame if in the hubbub over Bill Proenza's push to get a replacement for the QuikSCAT satellite we lose sight of what all the scientists agree on--QuikSCAT is a vital tool in weather prediction that needs to be replaced with a better satellite. Both Dr. Atlas and Dr. Chang are working on research specifically designed to study just how much impact QuikSCAT has on landfalling hurricanes in the Atlantic, which no studies have yet quantified.

Read Margie' Kieper's View From the Surface Blog for more on the QuikSCAT/Bill Proenza matter.

Jeff Masters

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1386. Drakoen
8:24 PM GMT on July 08, 2007
michael wind shear is already low in the Gulf. Its just that nothing is there lol.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29864
1385. KoritheMan
3:23 PM CDT on July 08, 2007
jp, not NOTHING. -_-...

There IS a tropical wave out there, albeit weak one. Upper-level winds remain unfavorable, so I am not that worried.

Go ahead and say it someone...

That Atlantic basin is boring, this season will suck, blah blah blah, I only hear that 80 times a day.
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1384. Thunderstorm2
4:24 PM EDT on July 08, 2007
What would wind do to Tampa's downtown?


There's wind all the time there and nothing bad has happened..lol
Please be a little more specific!
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1383. sporteguy03
8:23 PM GMT on July 08, 2007
Michael,
depending on how strong the wind is blow out windows and glass would be flying through the streets like knifes not pretty and massive power outages, heck I was on I-275 near Tampa Bay with Barry and the water crept passed the fences.
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1379. Drakoen
8:21 PM GMT on July 08, 2007
Posted By: jphurricane2006 at 8:21 PM GMT on July 08, 2007.

um they didnt move the floater Drakoen


lol i just realized that i was about to edit my post. Look like its still there from 96L.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29864
1378. sporteguy03
8:20 PM GMT on July 08, 2007
yeah I know JP, I did not realize when I first came on here there are bloggers here from the Islands here.
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1377. Patrap
3:20 PM CDT on July 08, 2007
Semper Fi..Guam WW-2 Fathers collection.

5
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1376. Drakoen
8:20 PM GMT on July 08, 2007
Posted By: randommichael at 8:19 PM GMT on July 08, 2007.

Is there a system they are monitoring in the Atlantic? I wasn't aware of that.


not really.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29864
1374. sporteguy03
8:17 PM GMT on July 08, 2007
I remember hearing in 04 that when Charley was threatening Tampa/St.Pete that the Glass buildings in downtown were a huge concern and they were threatening to cut all power out to the city, Did New Orleans cut power with Katrina?
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1370. Drakoen
8:17 PM GMT on July 08, 2007
not that this is anything big but the NHC put a floater on the area east of South America. Upper level winds are 20 kts over the system so i don't expect any development.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29864
1369. sporteguy03
8:14 PM GMT on July 08, 2007
JP,
On this blog especially when you say a system is moving through the West ATL I've learned to be sensitive to the Leeward and Windward Islands alot of bloggers are from there like pottery2 and BarbadosJulie so we don't want to forget them.
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1366. Thunderstorm2
4:13 PM EDT on July 08, 2007
04W is forecast to develop into a Typhoon Tip type Storm and Narrowly MISS Shanghai before recurving out to sea.
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1365. FLfishyweather
8:12 PM GMT on July 08, 2007
Sorry to hear about your father in law msphar.
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1363. moonlightcowboy
8:11 PM GMT on July 08, 2007
10 Most Vulnerable Hurricane Areas
By BusinessWire.com

The entire East and Gulf Coasts are subject to hurricane impacts, but some areas are much more vulnerable than others. Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, Director of the International Hurricane Research Center, has released the Top 10 List that nobody wants to be on — “10 Most Vulnerable US Mainland Areas to Hurricanes.”

To nobody’s surprise, “The Big Easy” tops the list with the protective levees of this below-sea level city being in little better shape than when Hurricane Katrina flooded 80% of New Orleans last year. The only other area that is protected from flooding by levees (e.g., the 140-mile long Hoover Dike) is adjacent to Lake Okeechobee, Florida where the second worst hurricane disaster for life loss in US history occurred in 1928. Presently more than 40,000 people live at the base of this giant Corps of Engineers earthen structure that is leaking and declared by two recent reports (e.g., Bromwell, Dean, and Vick, 2006 and Zhang, Xiao and Leatherman, 2006) to be a “grave and imminent danger to the people and the environment of South Florida.”

Twelve criteria were used to evaluate the vulnerability of US mainland areas to hurricanes. Cyclonic energy (hurricane frequency and storm intensity) and levee/dike failure were primary determinants of vulnerability. Physical factors included storm surge and freshwater flooding potential as well as coastal erosion trends and island breaching history. Socioeconomic indicators involved populations at risk, evacuation distance and routes, what’s at risk, and local/state capabilities to respond to major hurricane impacts. The rankings are as follows:

1. New Orleans, Louisiana

2.. Lake Okeechobee, Florida

3. Florida Keys

4. Coastal Mississippi

5. Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

6. Galveston/Houston, Texas

7. Cape Hatteras, North Carolina

8. Eastern Long Island, New York

9. Wilmington, North Carolina

10. Tampa/St. Petersburg, Florida

Florida dominates the list with four out of the ten most vulnerable areas, but this is to be expected with its long shoreline that includes both the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. Waveland, Mississippi was hit by a 30-foot storm surge during Hurricane Katrina, but the entire coastal area of Mississippi was devastated by Katrina’s high surge. Hurricane Camille in 1969 did a similar amount of damage. Such disasters are to be expected, yet beachfront property in Mississippi is now selling at a premium in spite of the widespread devastation still evident. The Hamptons in eastern Long Island, New York have been impacted by Hurricane Donna in 1960, Gloria in 1985 and Bob in 1991. The fear is a return of a 1938-type Great Hurricane that generated a 15-foot storm surge that overtopped and pancaked the barrier beaches (which now are crowned with waterfront mansions) and flooded the downtown villages of Westhampton Beach, Southampton, and Montauk.

The International Hurricane Research Center (IHRC) is working hard to make a difference; major IHRC contributions include:

Wall of Wind - The first-of-its-kind full scale, destructive testing of houses to understand how buildings fail and to change the public perception of building safety, just as crash testing of cars led to seat belts and air bags. The IHRC has recently submitted a $5 million proposal to the State of Florida for a Center of Excellence in Hurricane Damage Mitigation for a Wall of Wind facility. (http://www.ihrc.fiu.edu/media/news.htm).

Public Loss Model - The IHRC recently completed the first Public Hurricane Loss Projection (Catastrophe) Model that is being used by the State of Florida in its insurance rate making evaluations and policies.

Storm Surge Modeling - The new high resolution surge model developed by IHRC researchers correctly predicted the 30-foot surge at Waveland, Mississippi more than 24 hours before Hurricane Katrina made landfall, which drowned hundreds of people who did not believe that the surge could go this high.

Storm Chasing - The deployment of meteorological towers and surge instrumentation at hurricane landfalls to provide critical information for post-storm assessments.
National Windstorm Damage Reduction Act - The IHRC Director wrote the draft Act that was passed in 2004, which calls for tens of millions of dollars in new funding for hurricane research; now that the funds have been authorized, they still must be appropriated by Congress.
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1362. sporteguy03
8:07 PM GMT on July 08, 2007
JP,
04W or any Cyclone ,Hurricane that effects a country can have a severe impact on the Globe's economy? Katrina taught us how it can effect oil for our country imagine a storm like that hitting Japan or China lets see clothing, electronics etc could be affected, thats why I hope these storms hit no one.
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1361. msphar
7:51 PM GMT on July 08, 2007
West Pac storm looks like it is heading straight for Shanghai. I wonder if it will recurve. Fortunately Guam is not in the line of fire for this one. I have family on Guam. I have property on Guam. Guam gets hit a lot. and hit by big storms.

Anyone who is a Marine should know about Guam. The 3rd Marine Division is relocating from Okinawa to Guam over the next 5 years. Approximately 5000 - 8000 leathernecks will be making Guam home soon. I was on Guam recently to help bury my father in law. He was the first Chammoro to be a commissioned Marine Officier. He broke a glass ceiling back in 1946. We buried him in his uniform per his request last month. He was proud of the Corps. 21 July marks Liberation Day in Guam. They still celebrate it island wide. Sadly Capt. Pete Siguenza will be absent.

Guam's economy is largely driven by Japanese tourism. A lot of hotels and a lot of golf courses these days but the people of Guam are some of the most patriotic Americans one can ever find. I was not a Marine, but I did duty at Anderson AFB occasionally, back when the Hurricane Hunters had a detachment there.
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1360. FLfishyweather
8:07 PM GMT on July 08, 2007
anyone here?
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1359. Drakoen
8:07 PM GMT on July 08, 2007
Although the shear is high in the Caribbean it is droppping of. yesterday it was 40-50 kts now its 20-40kts.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29864
1358. IKE
3:06 PM CDT on July 08, 2007
Posted By: whirlwind at 2:59 PM CDT on July 08, 2007.
florida... ya dont say. did you know new roof warranties dont cover natural disasters, flood, *wind* damage?

So..whats your deductible?


You're pathetic.
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1357. FLfishyweather
7:57 PM GMT on July 08, 2007
New Orleans DID get the most damage though. Im conciderate of the other cities who were put in danger too, its just that Orleans STILL hasn't fully recovered.

probably never will be
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1356. Patrap
2:59 PM CDT on July 08, 2007
OMG!.. they said the Loop Eddy is After New Orleans!


6
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1354. Alec
3:56 PM EDT on July 08, 2007
we all getting riled up about the freaky eddy?LOL

Dont scare the children....
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1353. FLfishyweather
7:53 PM GMT on July 08, 2007
FLORIDA!?!?! NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

well it's nothing new
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1352. nash28
7:52 PM GMT on July 08, 2007
The eddy current has jacksquat to do with the steering current a storm follows.

New Orleans isn't the only city on the Gulf Coast. But since Katrina, everyone thinks that the rest of the Gulf Coast is out of the picture...

Wrong.
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1351. FLfishyweather
7:50 PM GMT on July 08, 2007
Yay mn! SAVE ORLEANS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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1350. stormybil
7:49 PM GMT on July 08, 2007
Why do u have to talk like that? Haven't the citezens of New Orleans gone through enough?!?!

yes and the missisipi biloxi people too . but i think fla will get a nice one cause i left there for here after evrything was washed away into the gom and the storms like to follow me lol
1348. nash28
7:49 PM GMT on July 08, 2007
Jesus. Has everybody smoked pot today!

The "eddy current" is NOT POINTED at New Orleans... It isn't "pointed" anywhere...

It just IS... No pointing involved.

I'm tired...
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1347. MrNiceville
7:45 PM GMT on July 08, 2007
As I said I think one WILL hit NO as a category 3 or better this Aug/Sep, and its name will start with a J or later

Why so anti-social? Were you visciously beaten as a small child? Or did they just lock you in a small closet when you weren't in school?

The last thing that they need is a Cat 3 or better in NOLA this year! What's your basis for the forecast (or is it just a wishcast)?
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1346. whirlwind
7:46 PM GMT on July 08, 2007
CLW? link?

nice... but thats too far out.

we dont have accurate weather forecasts for this afternoon, cant imagine few months out. LOL
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1345. FLfishyweather
7:45 PM GMT on July 08, 2007
Why do u have to talk like that? Haven't the citezens of New Orleans gone through enough?!?!
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1343. Altestic87
3:44 PM EDT on July 08, 2007
As I said I think one WILL hit NO as a category 3 or better this Aug/Sep, and its name will start with a J or later.
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1342. whirlwind
7:39 PM GMT on July 08, 2007
Hurricane Ioke was the only interesting EPAC storm. But even that weakened when it hit land.

Im just really anxious to see whats gonna happen when a developed storm makes its way into the GOM. The eddy current is pointed straight at New O. Time will tell, until then keep wishcasting for or against blobs....
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1341. Altestic87
3:39 PM EDT on July 08, 2007
Nevertheless if we can see something make it past Porto Rico (end of the 30 knot shear area) and into the Bahamas area, we could see development
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1340. FLfishyweather
7:38 PM GMT on July 08, 2007
Compared to the GOM, its pretty high.
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1339. Altestic87
3:36 PM EDT on July 08, 2007
Bahamas have 10-20 kt wind shear, 20 being marginally favorable.
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1338. FLfishyweather
7:35 PM GMT on July 08, 2007
I agree with Drakeon, the bahamas has fairly high shear.
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1337. Drakoen
7:33 PM GMT on July 08, 2007
Posted By: Altestic87 at 7:30 PM GMT on July 08, 2007.

the West Caribbean, Bahamas and GOM all have low shear


the bahamas does not.
Member Since: October 28, 2006 Posts: 57 Comments: 29864
1336. Altestic87
3:33 PM EDT on July 08, 2007
LOLZ... The wind shear model looks VERY similar to what it did on August 26, 2005!
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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.