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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2385. TexJonnie
6:01 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Posted By: WatchingInHouston at 5:57 AM GMT on August 18, 2007.
"Justwondering: Can't say that I entirely agree with his predictions either... :) But, it seems to be fairly objective, which I respect. Being inland a bit (Galleria area), I'll probably stay in town for the duration of this, if it heads our way. Need to stock up on supplies tomorrow while the gettings good... I'd hate to get all of the no-good snacks, ya know? :)

Haven't gone through any major canes... question for those that have - what do you do with your vehicles? I don't feel comfortable leaving mine at ground level... I imagine that a multi-level parking garage would be fine?"

I live near D.W. Hooks Airport. I plan to stay as well. Keeping my car in the garage. My house is elevated from the road and my driveway is near the top of the slope of my road... don't foresee water coming up to my door if Dean hits, but then this will be my first hurricane to live through here in Houston. Been in this area for 12 years.
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2384. wederwatcher555
6:04 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
is there anything backing up the gfdl at this point other than itself which has been pretty consistent with the north track
2383. ForecasterColby
6:01 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Get in the weather chat, guys!
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2382. Dan187
5:59 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
wind in the HH trip through the small eye and eyewall of dean (time, each one is 30 seconds apart, and max wind in kts during that 30 seconds)
045900 117
045930 095
050000 044
050030 008
050100 013
050130 035
050200 044
050230 070
050300 115
050330 148
050400 154

basically they went from cat 4 winds, to near nothing, to winds near 180 mph in a spand of 5 minutes
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2381. redagainPatti
1:02 AM CDT on August 18, 2007
cat four.. just five miles below being a cat five.. I guess that is what it will be in a few hours
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2380. KRL
5:52 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Map of US Landfall Hurricanes 1950 to 2004

(click to enlarge>

Landfalls
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2379. Crisis57
6:02 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Hey guys checking in whats the status on Dean
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2378. Justwondering
5:56 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Hey Watching:

Yes...I do appreciate objectivity. This site is an education in where to go do find really great sites and information.

Yep - I plan to do a side trip tomorrow as well (North Houston). All I can say is...if you didn't experience the hell that was the Rita evacuation (which, before anyone flames me was no comparison to Katrina), be glad. Surely the Galleria is far enough inland; check Harris County's Evacuation zip code map (looking around for the link).....
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2377. WatchingInHouston
5:57 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Labayourambler: Please take my opinion with a grain of salt, or for what it's worth or whatever you want... but it's really too far out to nail it down to a ~200-mile point of landfall.
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2376. SavannahStorm
5:56 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Posted By: MikeOhio at 5:55 AM GMT on August 18, 2007.

I don't know about you, but after the extremes of the past decade or so, I'd take the stance of never saying never anymore....


If very limited 18th and 19th century records are anything to go on, the 20th century may have been very quiet, relatively speaking. The 21st century may just usher in a return to normal tropical activity.
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2375. JamaicanGir
12:57 AM EST on August 18, 2007
.
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2374. wolfshadow
5:56 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
2am Advisory is up~!

000
WTNT34 KNHC 180548
TCPAT4
BULLETIN
HURRICANE DEAN INTERMEDIATE ADVISORY NUMBER 20A
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL042007
200 AM AST SAT AUG 18 2007

...EXTREMELY DANGEROUS CATEGORY FOUR DEAN CONTINUES TO INTENSIFY
WHILE PASSING SOUTH OF PUERTO RICO...

A HURRICANE WARNING IS IN EFFECT FOR THE SOUTH COAST OF THE
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC FROM BARAHONA WESTWARD TO THE HAITI-DOMINICAN
REPUBLIC BORDER. 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 IS IN EFFECT FOR JAMAICA. 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 LATER THIS MORNING. A TROPICAL STORM
WARNING IS IN EFFECT ALONG THE SOUTH COAST OF THE DOMINICAN
REPUBLIC FROM CABO ENGANO WESTWARD TO BARAHONA. 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 200 AM AST...0600Z...THE CENTER OF HURRICANE DEAN WAS LOCATED
NEAR LATITUDE 15.0 NORTH...LONGITUDE 66.7 WEST OR ABOUT 700 MILES...
1125 KM...EAST-SOUTHEAST OF KINGSTON JAMAICA AND ABOUT 240 MILES...
390 KM...SOUTH OF SAN JUAN PUERTO RICO.

DEAN IS MOVING TOWARD THE WEST NEAR 18 MPH...30 KM/HR...AND THIS
GENERAL MOTION IS EXPECTED TO CONTINUE DURING THE NEXT 24 HOURS.
ON THIS TRACK...THE CORE OF THE HURRICANE WILL BE MOVING WELL SOUTH
OF PUERTO RICO TONIGHT AND SOUTH OF THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC LATER
TODAY.

REPORTS FROM AN AIR FORCE HURRICANE HUNTER AIRCRAFT INDICATE THAT
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS HAVE INCREASED TO NEAR 150 MPH...
240 KM/HR...WITH HIGHER GUSTS. DEAN IS A CATEGORY FOUR HURRICANE ON
THE SAFFIR-SIMPSON HURRICANE SCALE. SOME ADDITIONAL STRENGTHENING
IS FORECAST 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.

THE MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE JUST REPORTED BY THE AIRCRAFT WAS 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 200 AM AST POSITION...15.0 N...66.7 W. MOVEMENT
TOWARD...WEST NEAR 18 MPH. MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...150 MPH.
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...930 MB.

THE NEXT ADVISORY WILL BE ISSUED BY THE NATIONAL
HURRICANE CENTER AT 500 AM AST.

$$
FORECASTER BEVEN
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2373. WatchingInHouston
5:51 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Justwondering: Can't say that I entirely agree with his predictions either... :) But, it seems to be fairly objective, which I respect. Being inland a bit (Galleria area), I'll probably stay in town for the duration of this, if it heads our way. Need to stock up on supplies tomorrow while the gettings good... I'd hate to get all of the no-good snacks, ya know? :)

Haven't gone through any major canes... question for those that have - what do you do with your vehicles? I don't feel comfortable leaving mine at ground level... I imagine that a multi-level parking garage would be fine?
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2372. Metallica1990
5:55 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
well im out yall my parents are yelling at me to go to bed later

CAT 5 by 5 my prediction:)
2371. MikeOhio
5:53 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Posted By: mikester at 5:52 AM GMT on August 18, 2007.
Is it me or is dean moving to fast to really bloom as a huge hurricane. I mean he is moving faster then the rain bands right? OR am i missing something?


I don't know about you, but after the extremes of the past decade or so, I'd take the stance of never saying never anymore....
2370. Dan187
5:53 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
1724N 6611W is the HH plane location as of 1:50, which is ne of the center.
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2369. pablolopez26
5:53 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
I was just on Highway 290 this evening and i saw the worker trucks clearing the shoulders for the contra lanes should Dean come near... Man, i hope this thing doesnt come near Houston....
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2368. RyanFSU
5:54 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
GFDL 00Z

The http://moe.met.fsu.edu/tcgengifs will update the GDFL tracks in a few minutes...
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2367. SavannahStorm
5:52 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
FL30- Looks like Dean may close on the ULL by tomorrow night.

Also, Dean will hit the pocket of high SST's sometime today.
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2366. TheCaneWhisperer
5:51 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
That is a shed band Puerto Rico, heavy winds and squalls can be expected.
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2365. Labayourambler
5:51 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Is there still a chance for Dean to hit La.? Been getting mixed message. If it slows down, does it have a better chance to turn north to either upper Tx. or Sw. La? Could someone clarify this for me if ya'll don't mind. Merci beaucoup.
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2364. IRememberIvan
5:52 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Can't say I'm surprised w/ Dean staying a 4 for now.

A 930mb pressure is a cat 4 pressure. I would bet that the NHC decided to withhold cat 5 intensity until the pressure falls a tad bit more. 922mb is generally the cat 5 threshold.
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2363. SavannahStorm
5:50 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Instead of adding a category 6, I think the best solution to today's intense Atlantic storms is to follow the Pacific Model. I think we need a Super Hurricane designation. That will add to public awareness.
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2362. Fl30258713
5:52 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Link

Check out this Bahamas WV loop from HU's GOES east. Dean's eye is showing up and you can see the entire ULL.

Here's the last frame of it.

Dean & ULL
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2361. mikester
5:50 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Is it me or is dean moving to fast to really bloom as a huge hurricane. I mean he is moving faster then the rain bands right? OR am i missing something?
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2360. Tazmanian
10:49 PM PDT on August 17, 2007
winds are up to 150mph now
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2359. Dan187
5:49 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
150, rather surprised, with winds of 177 at flight level
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2358. weathersp
1:47 AM EDT on August 18, 2007
Huh?

HURRICANE DEAN INTERMEDIATE ADVISORY NUMBER 20A
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL042007
200 AM AST SAT AUG 18 2007

...EXTREMELY DANGEROUS CATEGORY FOUR DEAN CONTINUES TO INTENSIFY
WHILE PASSING SOUTH OF PUERTO RICO...

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2357. KRL
5:44 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
With the way weather is going, I think they should add a Cat 6 at 176+, just in case, to really get folks off their butts to evacuate, since a lot of people ignore major cane warning.

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2356. Metallica1990
5:47 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
still a cat 4
2355. Justwondering
5:44 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Thanks for that post WatchinginHouston. I'm watching as well.

I'm not so sure that I totally agree with his predictions, however. Looking at the GFS, UKMET and GFDL shows that it's moving way North\Northeast. I'm all for not screaming "the sky is falling" but I wish he would discuss the cone a little better.
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2354. iahishome
5:46 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
OK, GOES out of blackout and starting to give images again:

NASA GHCC
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2352. wederwatcher555
5:48 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
looks like gfdl still stuck on the northern track? 00z run looks the same as the last is that true?
2351. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
5:28 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
taz winds will be 165 gusting 200 soon its gonna shift slightly north restrenghting will begin to see C5/H/D by noon or there after sat i beleive track mark 16.1,72 C5
16.5,75
17.2,77
17.2,79
18,81 C4/H/D
stop....
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 174 Comments: 54616
2350. H2PV
5:46 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Dry air isn't doing anything to Dean. He's spinning so fast that he's throwing off rainbands that couldn't keep up with him. His lil' brother behind him don't look troubled by dry air either.

http://www.h2-pv.us/wiki_100mpg/img/wiki_up/AfterDean3.jpg
http://www.h2-pv.us/wiki_100mpg/img/wiki_up/AfterDean3.jpg
2349. Jaxen
1:47 AM EDT on August 18, 2007
After I make a quick side trip tomorrow. I'm filling the tank. Then buying gas cans. And filling the cans.

If Dean gets more than a lil' north of Yucatan and anywhere close to the central Gulf, the gas prices you see right now will be the lowest it'll be for months. Oil/gas companies are still jittery 2 years after '05.
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2348. Yoderfunk
1:46 AM EDT on August 18, 2007
50mph Gusts at the buoy so far.. and its 4:50 GMT, how often do these update
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2347. stormybil
5:46 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
wow no post in a whole 2 min they all on the nhc site
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2346. Skyepony (Mod)
5:40 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Oh My Dropsnode in the eye wall

Mission Number: 05
Flight ID: AF302
Observation Number: 27
Time: 0400Z
Latitude: 16.1N
Longitude: 67.3W
#NAME?
Surface: 1007 mb; Temp: 82F; Dewpt: 76F; NE (40) @ 40 mph
1000mb height: 200 ft; Temp: 81F; Dewpt: 74F; NE (45) @ 46 mph
925mb height: Unavailable
850mb height: Unavailable
700mb height: Unavailable
500mb height: Unavailable
400mb height: Unavailable
300mb height: Unavailable
250mb height: Unavailable
200mb height: Unavailable
EYEWALL 000 SPL 1492N06660W 0510 MBL WND 34147 AEV 00000 =


936mb winds: NNW (330) @ 154 mph
923mb winds: NNW (335) @ 173 mph
912mb winds: NNW (345) @ 168 mph
889mb winds: N (350) @ 181 mph
873mb winds: N (355) @ 169 mph
862mb winds: N (355) @ 172 mph
850mb winds: N (0) @ 165 mph
828mb winds: N (5) @ 161 mph
818mb winds: N (10) @ 177 mph
794mb winds: NNE (15) @ 157 mph
770mb winds: NNE (25) @ 160 mph
765mb winds: NE (40) @ 175 mph
761mb winds: NE (35) @ 161 mph
712mb winds: ENE (75) @ 159 mph
708mb winds: E (80) @ 173 mph
702mb winds: E (95) @ 150 mph
695mb winds: E (95) @ 152 mph
#VALUE!


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2345. Dan187
5:46 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
looking at HH data, it must be amazing the shift the plane goes through


in 2.5 minutes, the plane went from 13kts of wind to 154 kts of wind,
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2342. TheCaneWhisperer
5:42 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
2340. Metallica1990
5:42 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
I think records will be broken tomorrow
2339. WatchingInHouston
5:40 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Cheyenne - one other thought... if you're looking for a local source of information, check out Eric Bergers blog... he's a Houston Chronicle staffer and he's doing a very good job, imo, of providing information objectively... Here's a link:

Houston Chronicle

Sorry for bending the rules and posting to another blog... just thought that a local source of info would be useful in this case.
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2337. weathersp
1:41 AM EDT on August 18, 2007
so if the FL winds are 154 Kts and 90 percent of that is 159 mph are we dealling with a cat 5 now?

Yup... Expect a 160mph Hurricane at 2 AM.
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2336. turtlex
5:36 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Cheyanne: I feel your pain. I just spent half an hour at Kroger buying water for a storm that "just might" come around. The stacks of water are still 5' high in front of the store, so not many raided it yesterday. I think the Brownsvilleitis on the TV is a reflection of the uncertainty of the forecasts, and a wish by the local govt. to avoid what happened right before Rita.

Ah, well. If nothing happens my cats will enjoy the bottled water, I'm sure.
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2335. mikester
5:41 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Here is what is happening in africa.
pic
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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.

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