Which model do you trust? And, Arctic sea ice reaches a record minimum

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 7:33 PM GMT on August 17, 2007

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Hurricane Dean, now a major Category 3 hurricane with 125 mph winds, continues to intensify and grow larger in size. Dean pounded Martinique and St. Lucia this morning, and claimed its first victim when a 62-year old man died on St. Lucia while trying to save his cow from raging flood waters.

Dean's eye is now visible on long range radar out of Puerto Rico. Buoy 42059 is in Dean's path, and should be interesting to watch.

We're fairly confident of the 1-2 day forecast, which has Dean headed west to west-northwest over the Central Caribbean, very close to Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, then into the Western Caribbean. After that, things become murkier. The latest 12Z runs of the NOGAPS, UKMET, GFS, and HWRF computer models all show Dean hitting the Yucatan Peninsula, and continuing on into the Gulf of Mexico towards a second landfall near or south of the Texas border. The HWRF run is slower, and does not take Dean to the coast at the end of its forecast period. The big outlier is the GFDL model, which now takes Dean northwest into central Louisiana. Which model is correct? The problem is that each model has a different solution for the behavior of an upper-level low pressure system expected to be over the Gulf of Mexico early next week. Which model should we trust?

In 2006, the official NHC forecast performed better than any of the individual computer forecast models. However, several "consensus" forecasts made using an average of the "big four" computer models (GFDL, GFS, UKMET, and NOGAPS), slightly outperformed the official forecast at some time periods (Figure 1). The Florida State Super-Ensemble (FSSE), for example, combines the "big four" models on the basis of past performance in an attempt to correct for biases in those models. (The FSSE is owned by a private company, which makes it available to NHC but not the general public). The Florida State Super Ensemble slightly out-performed the official NHC forecast at most forecast times.

The "big four" models are plotted on wunderground.com's computer model page for Dean, (along with the inferior BAMM model, which is plotted since it is always available quickly, and has done well at longer range forecasts in the past). We do not get tracking points for the ECMWF or HWRF models at this point, so you'll have to go the raw plots to see those forecasts. Note that three of the "big four" models performed well in 2006, with the GFDL and GFS performing the best. The UKMET had a very poor showing in the Atlantic in 2006. However, the UKMET was the best-performing model in the Eastern Pacific in 2006, along with the GFDL and BAMM models.

The European Center's model (ECMWF) outperformed the "big four" consensus models for 72, 96, and 120 hours forecasts in the Atlantic. However, the ECMWF model was generally not available in time to be used by forecasters. Efforts are being made to make the ECMWF available in a more timely fashion for the 2007 season, which would be a big help. We also have the new HWRF (Hurricane Weather Research Forecast) model this year. In tests done on a number of hurricanes for past years, the HWRF performed about as well as the GFDL (Figure 2).



Figure 1. Track forecast skill in 2006 of the official forecast and the various models, compared to a "zero skill" forecast using NHC's CLIPER5 model. The CLIPER model (short for CLImatology and PERsistence) is a model that makes a forecast based on historical paths hurricane have taken, along with the fact that hurricanes tend to keep moving in the direction they are going (i.e., their current motion persists). Note that many models had a negative skill for their 120 hour (5 day) forecast. The official NHC forecast had about 10% skill at 5 days. Image credit: NHC.

Figure 2. Track errors for 48-hour forecasts from the 2006 version of the GFDL model (black) and the new HWRF model (red). The HWRF model performed better on some hurricane than the GFDL, and worse on others. Overall, the two models had about the same performance on the cases tested. Image credit: Naomi Surgi, NOAA Environmental Modeling Center.

In conclusion, the official NHC forecast outperforms all the individual models, particularly at long ranges. Looking at the individual model plots can be helpful to determine the uncertainty in the forecast, but it's tough to beat the NHC. In the case of Dean, where one model is an outlier from the rest, it is usually better to believe the consensus of the other models.

If you want to look at plots of the individual models, I've written a description of the various models and where to find these plots on our tropical weather page.

Arctic sea ice shrinks to record low
The National Snow and Ice Data Center announced today that Arctic sea ice has just surpassed the previous single-day (absolute minimum) record for the lowest extent ever measured by satellite. Satellite measurements began in 1979. Sea ice extent has fallen below the 2005 record low absolute minimum and is still melting. Sea ice extent is currently tracking at 5.26 million square kilometers (2.02 million square miles), just below the 2005 record absolute minimum of 5.32 million square kilometers (2.05 million square miles). This new record was set a full five weeks before the usual late September minima in ice extent, so truly unprecedented melting is occurring in the Arctic. The most recent images from the North Pole webcam show plenty of melt water and rainy conditions near the Pole.


Figure 2. Current extent of the polar sea ice, compared to the normal for this time in August (pink line). Image credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center.

I'll have an update Saturday morning.
Jeff Masters

Hurricane Dean near the island Puerto Rico (Hector777)
the ciclonic surge hard mind in Salinas,Puerto Rico mines the Community Las Ochenta in the south of Puerto Rico
Hurricane Dean near the island Puerto Rico

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2985. JPV
12:09 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
Posted By: BiloxiGirl

JPV - so if all the models are converging much further south, what scenario would ever bring it up to say LA and MS?


5 day forecasts aren't very reliable.

And hurricanes can be VERY unpredictable.

Not saying that it will make a US landfall, but I think that it's way too early to call it, either way.
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2984. UnderstandingFL
12:10 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
Biloxi, I'm in Florida and I'm so relieved that it's not coming this way. I think it's pretty much a given that we won't meet Dean.

There's something else out there, but I've just decided to ignore it for now.
2983. IKE
7:10 AM CDT on August 18, 2007
Posted By: BiloxiGirl at 7:09 AM CDT on August 18, 2007.
JPV - so if all the models are converging much further south, what scenario would ever bring it up to say LA and MS?


Unless the high doesn't build in and there's very little reason to doubt it won't.
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2982. BiloxiSaint
12:10 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
Biloxigirl, We can relax when it makes landfall somewhere else....hopefully northern Mexico
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2981. ForecasterColby
12:10 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
143kt was from the inner eyewall. Outer had definite wind maximum, but not nearly as strong as the inner yet.
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2980. WPBHurricane05
8:07 AM EDT on August 18, 2007
I think the NHC is going to have to shift the short term forecast north with Dean. If you look at the 5am and 8am advisories, you can tell that Dean has jogged north.

5am Link
8am Link
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
2979. WeatherSpotter
12:08 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
924.1 mb - Getting stronger

Just the Hurricane is undergoing a EWRC

This thing will be a massive monster after this replacement cycle.
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2978. watchingnva
12:08 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
the eye is getting freaking tiny....def. see an ewrc coming up shortly...
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2977. ForecasterColby
12:06 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
920.4mb extrapolated by recon.
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2976. BiloxiGirl
12:08 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
JPV - so if all the models are converging much further south, what scenario would ever bring it up to say LA and MS?
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2975. extreme236
12:08 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
yes and look at the pressure. it is 924mb
Member Since: August 2, 2007 Posts: 19 Comments: 19234
2974. russh46
12:07 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
Nice turn to the NW
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2973. extreme236
12:07 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
ok well the hurricane hunters are just now starting so it will be interesting to see what they find.
Member Since: August 2, 2007 Posts: 19 Comments: 19234
2972. TheStormWillSurvive
12:07 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
how close is that to the center
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2971. WPBHurricane05
8:07 AM EDT on August 18, 2007
143kt is significantly lower than last night's final pass, which measured 154kt.

They just got up there.
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
2970. Masquer08er
12:05 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
Look at PR radar. If I were in Haiti and the DR, I would be worried.
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2969. JPV
12:04 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
BiloxiGirl

Does everyone think LA, MS, AL and FL can relax?


Nope... not yet.
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2968. Skyepony (Mod)
12:05 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
recon up

11:50:30
15.40N 67.82W
Flight level winds From 137 (SE) at 143 kts (164.4 mph)
924.1 mb
surface wind 121 kts
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2967. ForecasterColby
12:04 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
143kt is significantly lower than last night's final pass, which measured 154kt.
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2966. FLWeatherFreak91
12:04 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
JRRP...what city are you in? My dad's in La Romana right now making sure our hotels are all locked down tight, and he called to say a band came in that was pretty strong. What about where you are?
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2965. guygee
12:03 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
Interesting, the 06Z 08/18 GFDL bends a little more north at first, then flattens out and ends up more south.
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2964. Weather456
11:31 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Cenral Atlnatic Wave Update

A tropical wave is along 33W-34W south of 24N moving west near 16 knots. Recent PV analysis and the first visible image of the day shows this wave continues to exhibit inverted V curvature and clear cyclonic rotation in the surrounding mid-low level cloud field across the the Tropical Atlantic north of 15N. However this part of the wave axis is enveloped in very dry African Dust and thus convection remains absent.

Another interesting feature is QuikSCAT continues to show cyclonic curvature in the area of showers to the south of the ITCZ (purple line in the image below). None of these features are showing signs of organziation at the moment and is just something to watch.

by Weather456

Member Since: July 24, 2005 Posts: 407 Comments: 19076
2963. Bobbyweather
8:03 AM EDT on August 18, 2007
then what's the 145 next to the flight level?
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2962. SaBenDa
12:02 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
Good Morning Gang,

On the last 3-4 frames of the IR..It seems to have moved a bit more to the north..My crude measurments are about 5 deg...

Does anyone else note this?
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2961. Masquer08er
12:01 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
JRRP,

Thank you. I was asking (without response) if I was really seeing what I was seeing.
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2960. BiloxiGirl
11:59 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
I am starting to feel more and more confident that Dean will not come to the Northern GOM. Think I will check back again tomorrow since the models are in more agreement with one another. Although I know stronger storms can have a tendency to just move around where they want so it is hard not to watch and wait for suprises. Does everyone think LA, MS, AL and FL can relax?
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2959. Bobbyweather
8:01 AM EDT on August 18, 2007
in the top ten strongest Atlantic storms, the 10th is Janet of 1955, with pressure of 914 mb.
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2958. guygee
12:00 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
Thank you IKE, corrected in my previous post.
I've already gotten some very nasty WUMails from some people this morning, people are getting very tense and that is understandable. I do not want to add to the confusion.
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2957. extreme236
12:02 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
yes the hurricane hunters are in it now. remember though, dean appears to be undergoing an eye wall replacement cycle
Member Since: August 2, 2007 Posts: 19 Comments: 19234
2956. nola70119
12:00 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
00Z is the 2am. The key is going to be how far north Dean gets passing Jamaica....lastest GFDL is more south.
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2955. WeatherSpotter
12:01 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
143 kts is 165 mph!! 165mph is a Category 5 hurricane.

Surface winds assume 90% flight winds.



165/90% = 148 so Cat 4 150MPH justified for Surface.
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2954. IKE
7:01 AM CDT on August 18, 2007
Posted By: Bobbyweather at 7:00 AM CDT on August 18, 2007.
143 kts is 165 mph!! 165mph is a Category 5 hurricane.


That's flight-level...I think you deduct 10%....that puts it between 145-150 mph at the surface.
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2953. hurricane667
12:01 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
are the hurricane hunters investigating dean now
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2952. comtrader
11:51 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
if you compare the projected path of the center of circulation of the ull from the 0z gfs to the actual placement on 6z you will see that the ull has moved more south than the forecast. the gfs predicts that this feature will head rapidly west over the next 48 hours then on into texas. the speed and path of this feature is crucial and by no means totally in the bag.
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2951. WPBHurricane05
8:00 AM EDT on August 18, 2007
143 kts is 165 mph!! 165mph is a Category 5 hurricane.

That was flight level, at the surface it would be around 150 mph.
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
2950. WeatherSpotter
11:59 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
GFDL saying 161 KT

Wow what a monster
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2949. extreme236
12:00 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
that is flight level winds
Member Since: August 2, 2007 Posts: 19 Comments: 19234
2948. JRRP
11:51 AM GMT on Agosto 18, 2007
NOW DEAN LOOK LIKE IT GOING TO HIT HAITI
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2947. Bobbyweather
7:58 AM EDT on August 18, 2007
143 kts is 165 mph!! 165mph is a Category 5 hurricane.
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2946. WPBHurricane05
7:59 AM EDT on August 18, 2007
Most likely if your going to have a hurricane with 180 MPH winds then your gunna have a pressure close to the record books.

That is true.
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
2945. WeatherSpotter
11:54 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Most likely if your going to have a hurricane with 180 MPH winds then your gunna have a pressure close to the record books.
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2944. IKE
6:57 AM CDT on August 18, 2007
Posted By: guygee at 6:57 AM CDT on August 18, 2007.
Somebody showed the GFDL above, but isn't the 2007081800 GFDL run the most recent? That run shows Dean clipping Western Cuba then on to a Central TX coast landfall.

'
The one above is the latest run...the 06Z run of the GFDL.
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2943. ForecasterColby
11:57 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
000
URNT15 KNHC 181151
AF304 0604A DEAN HDOB 08 20070818
...
114830 1528N 06745W 6957 02738 9553 +111 +111 137143 145 121 000 00

143kt flight-level.
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2942. guygee
11:55 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Somebody showed the GFDL above, but isn't the 2007081800 GFDL run the most recent? That run shows Dean clipping Western Cuba then on to a Central TX coast landfall.

Edit - No, my mistake, the map above shows the 08/18 06Z run, more recent than my link above.
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2941. extreme236
11:52 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
ok so dean is undergoing an EWRC
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2940. WPBHurricane05
7:53 AM EDT on August 18, 2007
WOW 157 KT IN 48 HOURS

180 MPH CAT 5 HURRICANE

What a record breaker!!!


Not really. They go by pressure when it comes to records, and even if you did wind speed there have been few to achieve 190mph.
Member Since: July 31, 2006 Posts: 56 Comments: 8112
2939. WeatherSpotter
11:45 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
WOW 157 KT IN 48 HOURS

180 MPH CAT 5 HURRICANE

What a record breaker!!!
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2938. watchingnva
11:49 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
i personnaly would like to have none of the eyewall...lol..but yes I know what your talking about...but a drag with the southern eyewall would be better than going through both in my opinion...
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2937. Bobbyweather
7:50 AM EDT on August 18, 2007
000
WTNT34 KNHC 181150
TCPAT4
BULLETIN
HURRICANE DEAN INTERMEDIATE ADVISORY NUMBER 21A
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL042007
800 AM AST SAT AUG 18 2007

...CORE OF HURRICANE DEAN PASSES WELL SOUTH OF PUERTO RICO...

A HURRICANE WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FOR THE SOUTH COAST OF THE
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC FROM BARAHONA WESTWARD TO THE HAITI-DOMINICAN
REPUBLIC BORDER...AND FOR THE SOUTHWESTERN PENINSULA OF HAITI FROM
THE HAITI-DOMINICAN REPUBLIC BORDER TO PORT-AU PRINCE. A HURRICANE
WARNING MEANS THAT HURRICANE CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED WITHIN THE
WARNING AREA WITHIN THE NEXT 24 HOURS. PREPARATIONS TO PROTECT
LIFE AND PROPERTY SHOULD BE RUSHED TO COMPLETION.

A HURRICANE WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT FOR JAMAICA. A HURRICANE
WARNING WILL LIKELY BE REQUIRED FOR JAMAICA LATER THIS MORNING.
A HURRICANE WATCH MEANS THAT HURRICANE CONDITIONS ARE POSSIBLE
WITHIN THE WATCH AREA...GENERALLY WITHIN 36 HOURS.

A TROPICAL STORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FOR THE BRITISH VIRGIN
ISLANDS....U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS AND PUERTO RICO. THESE WARNINGS
WILL LIKELY BE DISCONTINUED ON SATURDAY MORNING. A TROPICAL STORM
WARNING IS IN EFFECT ALONG THE SOUTH COAST OF THE DOMINICAN
REPUBLIC FROM CABO ENGANO WESTWARD TO BARAHONA...AND FOR COAST OF
HAITI NORTH OF PORT-AU-PRINCE TO THE NORTHERN HAITI-DOMINICAN
REPUBLIC BORDER. A TROPICAL STORM WARNING MEANS THAT TROPICAL
STORM CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED WITHIN THE WARNING AREA WITHIN THE
NEXT 24 HOURS.

A TROPICAL STORM WATCH IS IN EFFECT FOR PORTIONS OF CUBA...FROM THE
PROVINCE OF CAMAGUEY EASTWARD TO THE PROVINCE OF GUANTANAMO. A
TROPICAL STORM WATCH MEANS THAT TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS ARE
POSSIBLE WITHIN THE WATCH AREA...GENERALLY WITHIN 36 HOURS.

INTERESTS ELSEWHERE IN THE CENTRAL AND WESTERN CARIBBEAN...INCLUDING
WESTERN CUBA...THE CAYMAN ISLANDS...AND THE YUCATAN PENINSULA OF
MEXICO...SHOULD CLOSELY MONITOR THE PROGRESS OF DEAN.

FOR STORM INFORMATION SPECIFIC TO YOUR AREA...INCLUDING POSSIBLE
INLAND WATCHES AND WARNINGS...PLEASE MONITOR PRODUCTS ISSUED
BY YOUR LOCAL WEATHER OFFICE.

AT 800 AM AST...1200Z...THE CENTER OF HURRICANE DEAN WAS LOCATED
NEAR LATITUDE 15.4 NORTH...LONGITUDE 67.9 WEST OR ABOUT 615 MILES...
990 KM...EAST-SOUTHEAST OF KINGSTON JAMAICA AND ABOUT 250 MILES...
400 KM...SOUTH-SOUTHEAST OF SANTO DOMINGO IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC.

DEAN IS MOVING TOWARD THE WEST NEAR 17 MPH...28 KM/HR. A GENERAL
WEST TO WEST-NORTHWEST MOTION IS EXPECTED DURING THE NEXT 24 HOURS.
ON THIS TRACK...THE CORE OF THE HURRICANE WILL BE MOVING SOUTH OF
THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC LATER TODAY AND SOUTH OF HAITI TONIGHT.

MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS ARE NEAR 150 MPH...240 KM/HR...WITH HIGHER
GUSTS. SATELLITE IMAGES SUGGEST THAT DEAN COULD HAVE WEAKENED A
LITTLE DURING THE PAST FEW HOURS...BUT REMAINS AS A DANGEROUS
CATEGORY FOUR HURRICANE ON THE SAFFIR-SIMPSON SCALE. AN AIR FORCE
RESERVE HURRICANE HUNTER AIRCRAFT IS CURRENTLY APPROACHING THE
HURRICANE AND WILL DETERMINE THE INTENSITY. SOME FLUCTUATIONS IN
INTENSITY ARE LIKELY DURING THE NEXT 24 HOURS.

HURRICANE FORCE WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP TO 60 MILES...95 KM...FROM
THE CENTER...AND TROPICAL STORM FORCE WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP TO 205
MILES...335 KM. NOAA BUOY 42059 RECENTLY REPORTED A 1-MINUTE
AVERAGE WIND OF 65 MPH...105 KM/HR AND A WIND GUST OF 76 MPH....122
KM/HR AS DEAN MOVED NEARBY.

THE ESTIMATED MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE IS 930 MB...27.46 INCHES.

STORM TOTAL RAINFALL AMOUNTS OF 1 TO 2 INCHES CAN BE EXPECTED FROM
DEAN OVER PUERTO RICO...THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC AND HAITI WITH
MAXIMUM AMOUNTS UP TO 5 INCHES POSSIBLE. THESE RAINS COULD CAUSE
LIFE-THREATENING FLASH FLOODS AND MUDSLIDES.

REPEATING THE 800 AM AST POSITION...15.4 N...67.9 W. MOVEMENT
TOWARD...WEST NEAR 17 MPH. MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...150 MPH.
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...930 MB.

THE NEXT ADVISORY WILL BE ISSUED BY THE NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER AT
1100 AM AST.

$$
FORECASTER AVILA
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2936. gsueagle07
11:49 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
All models now in agreement...that ridge of high pressure will continue it on its westerly track....this time the ridge protects the US...
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2935. Masquer08er
11:45 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Tell me why I am wrong in thinking Mean Dean looks like it going to Haiti/DR.

Sorry about the Mean Dean. I've been dying to say it.
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About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.