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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86. Bamatracker
10:22 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
Well now I dont think they could work together and really focus on the weather. They always are going to have that distrust towards each other deep down which could be a distraction. I think that Bill does need to go, but the staff needs to be repremanded for the way they handled the situation.
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85. RL3AO
5:21 PM CDT on July 06, 2007
By the time 96L finally builds convection during the day, the shear is too high.
84. CosmicEvents
10:04 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
The Weather Channel has done in past years, and again this year, a fine job in informing the public about the tropics. They're not talking about 96L because there is nothing to talk about. They're not obsessed with every cloud bank that forms. It's not the Tropical Cyclone Channel, it's The Weather Channel. They give a basic overview of what's happening(which right now is nothing), and then if you want more detail on the nothingness, you can come here. When things start percolating, you can get the key basic facts from them, and come here for more in depth analysis. The Weather Channel has spent a lot of time talking about the situation at the NHC, which is much more important to the country than some flaccid cloud swirl 1000 miles away from Barbados.
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83. Drakoen
10:18 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
bobw99 they already made up their minds, after Proenza said what he had to. I don't think they handled the situation maturely by any means. And this is not the time to start something like this as we are nearing the peak of hurricane season.
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82. sporteguy03
10:18 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
I wonder if Dr.Masters would let Mr.Proenza write a blog on here defending himself?
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81. Drakoen
10:17 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
Posted By: sporteguy03 at 10:17 PM GMT on July 06, 2007.

I think the NHC needs a Come to Jesus Talk and If I were Mr.Proenza I would sit everyone down in the NHC in a room and say " We have our differences but we must now work togther and put our best efforts in forecasting the American Public depend on us.

Enough of the Bickering if any of the maps are true with low shear expected we need the NHC to do what they are good at protecting lives from these destructive tropical systems.


yes i agree. No time for senseless hatred.
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80. bobw999
6:17 PM EDT on July 06, 2007
That was exactly what I was going to say 03. What the staff did was completely un-called for. They first need to talk with the guy before they order for him to be fired. Max Mayfield says there needs to be communication. Well calling for a petition to fire him is by no means communication.
79. Drakoen
10:17 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
the only place that something can form now is probably the GOM.
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78. Thundercloud01221991
10:15 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
Tell me what you think of the ULL over Mexico

http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/goes/east/watl/loop-wv.html
Member Since: August 1, 2006 Posts: 28 Comments: 3716
77. sporteguy03
9:53 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
I think the NHC needs a Come to Jesus Talk and If I were Mr.Proenza I would sit everyone down in the NHC in a room and say " We have our differences but we must now work togther and put our best efforts in forecasting the American Public depend on us.

Enough of the Bickering if any of the maps are true with low shear expected we need the NHC to do what they are good at protecting lives from these destructive tropical systems.
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76. Drakoen
10:15 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
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75. Drakoen
10:13 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
GainesvilleGator
Conditions change. When it dry now it moist during the peak. The shear relax and the SST warm. Everything changes this set up look likes an active season. OH and the peak of hurricane season is August through september with a secondary peak in Ocotober. Not November.
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74. IKE
5:11 PM CDT on July 06, 2007
Posted By: Miamiweather at 5:10 PM CDT on July 06, 2007.
I am not trying to cause controversy i just was saying what the local channel was saying


That's more than the weather channel said. At least he mentioned it.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
73. GainesvilleGator
9:45 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
If it wasn't for the NHC snaffu then we wouldn't have anything to talk about. There is still a lot of dry air from the Carribean across most of the Atlantic. It looks pretty dead in the tropics at the moment. This is as dead as it gets until probably November. If you can't take this weekend off from watching tropical "blobs" than you can have my condolences.
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72. bobw999
6:09 PM EDT on July 06, 2007
I liked one of the comments Proenza made. He said that he loved how professional the staff was.
71. Miamiweather
10:08 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
I am not trying to cause controversy i just was saying what the local channel was saying
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70. Drakoen
10:08 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
Posted By: clwstmchasr at 10:08 PM GMT on July 06, 2007.

Looks to me on the last visible that 96L is continuing to open up on the east side. Maybe it will close back, we'll have to see.


yea it been doing that a few hour ago it was closed...
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69. Pachanga
10:02 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
What's going on at the NHC sounds no different than what happens at every other company that brings in new leadership.....the people resist change. Every company we ever took over and restructured we had to fire almost every employee to do it. Funny thing is they usually come running back for a job within a year.

This shouldnít be surprising to anyone that know how the government operates though (unionized companies too), no reform just more money to fund the inefficiency and incompetence.

By the way, Iím not claiming Bill is the person for the job, that I donít know. But the fact that so many people are calling for his firing, leads me to believe he is!
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68. Drakoen
10:08 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
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66. stormybil
10:04 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
max mayfield just came out on channel 10 and said that 96L is going to dissipate


i beleive thats what he feels but after cris hmmmm how many times did that write that one off right so ill kkep watching it as long as it keeps its name 96l . and yes it does look like it going a little further north . will there be a new model run soon . ?
65. Miamiweather
10:04 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
if you are from miami watch the news now he is talking
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64. IKE
5:04 PM CDT on July 06, 2007
I'll believe it when I see it..
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
63. Drakoen
10:03 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
dry air is not as strong in the Caribbean but it will have to contend with wind shear.
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62. Drakoen
10:03 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
Posted By: Miamiweather at 10:01 PM GMT on July 06, 2007.

max mayfield just came out on channel 10 and said that 96L is going to dissipate


if it does disspate it won't be anytime soon.
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61. Miamiweather
9:58 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
max mayfield just came out on channel 10 and said that 96L is going to dissipate
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59. CFLSW
10:00 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
What is the latest on 96L?
96L has been batteling dry air. Right?
and everyone is saying or was saying wait untill it get to the Carb.
Well when it gets to te Carb. It will still be in dry air. will it not? and would have not been? What was it or is it that will change once it gets to the Carb. It was or will still be in dry air. How was the Carb. Goin to change what it would or is going to do?
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58. Drakoen
9:58 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
Posted By: stormybil at 9:58 PM GMT on July 06, 2007.

Their tropical update needs to be improved.

agree ike they skim by it so fast less than 30 seconds .


i agree which take up half that thirty second. all they talk about is vacation spots. Sometimes it feels less than thirty seconds.
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57. BoyntonBeach
9:59 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
Do you know how it is done ?
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56. Drakoen
9:58 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
Posted By: BoyntonBeach at 9:57 PM GMT on July 06, 2007.

Drak, Can the intensity of Thunder be measured ?


yes.
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55. stormybil
9:57 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
Their tropical update needs to be improved.

agree ike they skim by it so fast less than 30 seconds .
54. stormpetrol
9:53 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
TayTay, I agree , I don't know the full story, and I must say Mr. Proenza will never be able to manage the NHC regardless because of all the ill feelings. He should step aside before he is forced to resign, at least he will have shown class. I'm just stating my personal opinion based on similar situation I have witnessed before.

Remember this one: "You doing a heck of job Brownie"
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53. StormHype
9:29 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
One of Proenza's staff commented that Proenza liked "controversy". If that's the case, that implies Proenza prefers an environment of drama, and NHC is no place for drama. On the other hand, where can all this staff go if they are unhappy? Accuweather? Maybe accuweather's chance to be the first bidder to privatize NHC role.
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52. IKE
4:55 PM CDT on July 06, 2007
Posted By: clwstmchasr at 4:52 PM CDT on July 06, 2007.
On their update The Weather Channel did not make one mention of 96L.


Their tropical update needs to be improved.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
51. BoyntonBeach
9:55 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
Drak, Can the intensity of Thunder be measured ?
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50. wunderwomen
5:56 PM EDT on July 06, 2007
Florida
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49. wunderwomen
5:55 PM EDT on July 06, 2007
im so tired of rain here in lake worth
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48. 0741
9:54 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
asd

as long as its still on the navy page its still invest 96l . and we will can talk about it anything can happen . it dead you will see nhc will drop that 96l soon from outlook most likly at 10:30 or 5:30 outlook
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47. Drakoen
9:53 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
At 501 PM EDT... National Weather Service Doppler radar indicated
strong thunderstorms developing across southeast Palm Beach County
and eastern Broward County. These storms will affect Fort
Lauderdale... Plantation... Coconut Creek... Parkland... and Boca Raton.
Public reported hail approaching dime size along U.S. 441 and
Broward Boulevard.

Expect dangerous lightning strikes... gusty winds to 40
mph... pea-sized hail... and torrential downpours.

Stay tuned to NOAA Weather Radio and other local media for further
details or updates.
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46. TayTay
9:46 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
There must be more to this, though, Stormpetrol. If such a large number of staff can speak out against him, there has to be something behind it. He isn't the right man for the job. I don't think he deserves the humiliation, but maybe this is the last thing the NHC could have done. (Speaking out)

Like Margie said "It does appear that the concerns about whether Proenza can be an effective manager are valid ones, as it is hard to imagine how so many people could take this extreme position without there being quite a bit of substance to their concerns."
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44. Drakoen
9:51 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
ThunderStorm over me.
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43. stormpetrol
9:23 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
I can't help but make a comment on the Proenza uproar.I couldn't care less who's Director of the NHC so long as we are kept informed during the Season, but you know what , this strikes me as a pure case of SOUR GRAPES, who was in line at the NHC that didn't GET the position as DIRECTOR, tell me that one, maybe someone who worked there deserved it MORE than Mr. Proenza but does Mr. Proenza really deserve this? I think not. I worked before where no one liked someone outside their FAMILY coming to take the head post/position and about half or more rebelled, how SAD! While I can surely understand the resentment, Is it all Mr. Proenza's fault, no it can't be!
Anytime someone bring new ideas or states the truth about certain problems within a department it always seems to RUB the old crowd the wrong way, this is just fact of life.

I must say on visit Mr. Proenza made here to Grand Cayman with the Hurricane Hunters I was very impressed with the way he answered questions posed to him by our local reporter, one I remember distinctly the reporter asking whether he trusted man or machine when it came to forecasting weather, MR. Proenza replied man always.So while Mr. Proenza wants machine to aid man in forcasting, he does not base everything on machine or computer models, at least that is the impression I got.

One might say of this surprise visit by his superiors MR. Proenza regardless of how you feel about him, truly got BUSHWHACKED!!My opinions only!
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42. stormybil
9:44 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
give up 96l is dead their not thing to talk about 96l i see someone of you still talking about it
Page: 1

asd

as long as its still on the navy page its still invest 96l . and we will can talk about it anything can happen .
41. 0741
9:30 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
give up 96l is dead their not thing to talk about 96l i see someone of you still talking about it
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40. StormThug
4:42 PM CDT on July 06, 2007
that would be something if 96l made it all the way too the gulf!!
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39. stormybil
9:40 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
hey when is the next model runs on 96l . will it be further north looks like it .
38. HurricaneRoman
9:32 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
Hey guys =] .... i have a question ... Will 96L make it into the carribean or will it go into South America... Thanks
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37. Bgoney
9:23 PM GMT on July 06, 2007
Are you kiddin 999, Where have you been since the last ice? OOPs we're still in one.
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36. IKE
4:23 PM CDT on July 06, 2007
Statement as of 5:30 PM EDT on July 6, 2007

For the North Atlantic...Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico...

An elongated and weak low pressure area...located about 125 miles
east of Jacksonville Florida...is producing disorganized showers
and thunderstorms extending from the southern Florida Peninsula
northeastward into the Atlantic for several hundred miles.
Upper-level winds are not favorable for development.

An area of low pressure is located about 350 miles east of the
southern Windward Islands and is moving westward at 10 to 15 mph.
Associated shower activity has mostly dissipated and environmental
conditions remain unfavorable for development.


Elsewhere...tropical cyclone formation is not expected during the
next 48 hours.

$$
Forecaster Rhome
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860

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