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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3385. weatherwonderer
2:47 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
Neponset no problem here. Again, your right specifically. I happen to be more a big picture type. It takes both big picture and small picture (for the details) for most things to be worked out. None of has a lot to contribute here since we are relying on data provided and most of us are amateurs at best. But hey, thats what makes it interesting. Believe me, I worry about Jamaica and the Caymens right now. Any more to the right even Cuba will have to start worrying. I must say I have learned alot on this site 2005. Esp. from lefy, swflyboy, stormjunkie and many others. You are a good poster as well. I certainly don't have problem being corrected.
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3384. raindancer
2:52 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
Yes - the force would be the high pressure continuing to build in ahead of Dean - as predicted. The models are in high agreement. And note that the majority of the major models do call for a hit on Jamaica or slightly north. Dean remains on course.
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3383. PBG00
2:51 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
The NOGAPS looks like its hinting something but drops it.

The NOGAPS didn't have dean at the beginning either, now look at him!
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3382. Bootsie1
9:48 AM CDT on August 18, 2007
Mississippi or Louisiana have the best chance of getting this monster?
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3381. sngalla
10:53 AM EDT on August 18, 2007
You are welcome, Bama!
Member Since: February 18, 2003 Posts: 57 Comments: 5363
3380. BuffaloSnow77
2:44 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
Ok, this Dr. Lyons guy on TWC is officially out of his mind. He basically just said Dean will NOT hit the US and its just going to hit the Yucatan, and then South of Texas in Mexico. The projected path they show- the entire red swath was south of Haiti, doesnt anyone else realize this Hurricane is going to clip that SW part of Haiti, and when i say clip, i mean the EYE is going to clip that, which is WAY NORTH of their predictions. Why is TWC giving out info that is going to let TX/LA residents let their guard down????
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3379. quakeman55
2:53 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
000
WTNT34 KNHC 181447
TCPAT4
BULLETIN
HURRICANE DEAN ADVISORY NUMBER 22
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL042007
1100 AM AST SAT AUG 18 2007

...DEAN'S FURY THREATENS HAITI...JAMAICA AND THE CAYMAN
ISLANDS...HEAVY SQUALLS ALREADY APPROACHING HISPANIOLA...

AT 11 AM...1500 UTC...THE GOVERNMENT OF JAMAICA HAS ISSUED A
HURRICANE WARNING FOR JAMAICA. 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 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 TROPICAL STORM WARNING REMAINS 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.

AT 11 AM...1500 UTC...THE GOVERNMENT OF THE CAYMAN ISLANDS HAS
ISSUED A HURRICANE WATCH FOR THE CAYMAN ISLANDS. A HURRICANE WATCH
MEANS THAT HURRICANE CONDITIONS ARE POSSIBLE WITHIN THE WATCH
AREA...GENERALLY WITHIN 36 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.

AT 11 AM...1500 UTC...THE TROPICAL STORM WARNING FOR THE BRITISH
VIRGIN ISLANDS...U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS AND PUERTO RICO HAS BEEN
DISCONTINUED.

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...PLEASE MONITOR
PRODUCTS ISSUED BY YOUR LOCAL WEATHER OFFICE.

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

AT 1100 AM AST...1500Z...THE CENTER OF HURRICANE DEAN WAS LOCATED
NEAR LATITUDE 15.7 NORTH...LONGITUDE 68.6 WEST OR ABOUT 565 MILES...
910 KM...EAST-SOUTHEAST OF KINGSTON JAMAICA AND ABOUT 210 MILES...
340 KM...SOUTH-SOUTHEAST OF SANTO DOMINGO IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC.

DEAN IS MOVING TOWARD THE WEST-NORTHWEST NEAR 17 MPH...28 KM/HR. A
TRACK BETWEEN THE WEST AND WEST-NORTHWEST IS FORECAST DURING THE
NEXT 24 HOURS. ON THIS TRACK THE CORE OF THE HURRICANE WILL BE
MOVING SOUTH OF HISPANIOLA TODAY AND EARLY SUNDAY.

MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS REMAIN NEAR 150 MPH...240 KM/HR...WITH
HIGHER GUSTS. DEAN IS A CATEGORY FOUR HURRICANE ON THE
SAFFIR-SIMPSON SCALE. SOME FLUCTUATIONS IN INTENSITY ARE LIKELY
DURING THE LITTLE CHANGE IN STRENGTH 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.

LATEST MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE REPORTED BY AN AIR FORCE HURRICANE
HUNTER PLANE WAS 929 MB...27.43 INCHES.

STORM TOTAL RAINFALL AMOUNTS OF 5 TO 10 INCHES CAN BE EXPECTED OVER
JAMAICA...WITH MAXIMUM AMOUNTS OF UP TO 20 INCHES. AMOUNTS OF 2 TO
3 INCHES CAN BE EXPECTED OVER THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC AND HAITI WITH
AMOUNTS UP TO 6 INCHES POSSIBLE. ADDITIONAL RAIN ACCUMULATIONS OF 1
TO 2 INCHES ARE POSSIBLE OVER PUERTO RICO...WITH ISOLATED STORM
TOTAL AMOUNTS OF 5 INCHES. THESE RAINS COULD CAUSE LIFE-
THREATENING FLASH FLOODS AND MUDSLIDES.

REPEATING THE 1100 AM AST POSITION...15.7 N...68.6 W. MOVEMENT
TOWARD...WEST-NORTHWEST NEAR 17 MPH. MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...150
MPH. MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...929 MB.

AN INTERMEDIATE ADVISORY WILL BE ISSUED BY THE NATIONAL HURRICANE
CENTER AT 200 PM AST FOLLOWED BY THE NEXT COMPLETE ADVISORY AT 500
PM AST.

$$
FORECASTER AVILA

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3378. Bamawatcher
9:51 AM CDT on August 18, 2007
sngalla,
Thanks for the info
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3377. TerraNova
10:53 AM EDT on August 18, 2007
From FORECAST ADVISORY 22

HURRICANE CENTER LOCATED NEAR 15.7N 68.6W AT 18/1500Z
POSITION ACCURATE WITHIN 10 NM

PRESENT MOVEMENT TOWARD THE WEST-NORTHWEST OR 290 DEGREES AT 15 KT

ESTIMATED MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE 929 MB
EYE DIAMETER 10 NM
MAX SUSTAINED WINDS 130 KT WITH GUSTS TO 160 KT.
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3376. littlefish
2:42 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
Dean back to WNW and a Yucatan hit it looks like... The ULL is moving out now and Dean has slowed a bit. The outlier has corrected itslef more each time to the track of the others.
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3375. nola70119
2:50 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
I don't think NW turn now, but the more N the storm goes of Jamaica the more a chance it moves NW later, or even N. Then again it could make a left turn at Jamaica, like the GFS had yesterday.
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3374. westernmob
2:50 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
Interaction with the mountains of eastern Cuba would at least de-intensify this monster
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3372. Drakoen
2:51 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
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3371. KYhomeboy
2:31 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
Cayman's houses are almost all concrete....and steel reenforced. Very few wooden ones. We are above average in terms of our building construction....but never the less....we experiences gusts of over 200 mph in Ivan....so of course there would be tremendous damage. But our infrastructure was not touched very much.
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3369. Miamiweather
2:46 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
thanks sj
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3368. noleman
9:51 AM CDT on August 18, 2007
Raindancer I think the discrepancy is the models as of now show a direct hit on Jamaica but, the movement as of now doesnt justify it. Also, a couple of the models show Dean flattening back out after it makes its landfall with Jamaica. i just dont see it. If there is a force that is going to act on it to push it more into the Yucatan, can you or anyone else explain it?
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3367. ScoobaSteve
9:51 AM CDT on August 18, 2007
ScoobaSteve - have you ever stayed in Sunset House? My wife works there and I will be enjoying a few beers there tomorrow evening before heading home to board up :)

Welshcayman:

Nope. Never stayed there but have turned up many a Heineken at that bar with the wonderful view.

I have a close friend who lived on the island during the 80s and early to mid-90s so I stayed with him when I visited. On subsequent trips I rented a condo.

Be safe. Your wife and you, as well as all of the Caymanian people, are in my prayers.
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3366. Drakoen
2:50 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
Posted By: SatBeachFL at 2:49 PM GMT on August 18, 2007.

Anyone see the cluster behind Dean? Are any of the models showing it developing


the GFS is the only reliable model that develops the wave. The NOGAPS looks like its hinting something but drops it.
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3365. nola70119
2:48 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
Everything past monday is guess-casting, models included, don't be shocked if the GFDL swings back and forth, it did yesterday.
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3364. PensacolaDoug
2:50 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
Sup Brian!
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3362. CajunSubbie
2:46 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
i've been watching this blog for years.. you have your wishcasters, your NHC lovers, etc.
but overall this blog predicts hurricane tracks better than any model around.. ya know why? this blog is real-time computation. the models problem is the timeframe of the data that is entered into them.. its no where near real-time.. and it makes them bounce all over the place.. i'm putting my faith in this blog.
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3361. DocBen
2:48 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
Is that an invest I spy on the horizon? About 35 degrees?
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3360. sngalla
10:49 AM EDT on August 18, 2007
The cliper model is a statistical model of what similar storms have done in the past.
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3359. CycloneBoz
2:45 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
Good Morning Everyone: I'm back from Erin.
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3358. PensacolaDoug
2:47 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
Anyone know of a radar link out of Haiti or D.R.?
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3357. SatBeachFL
2:44 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
Anyone see the cluster behind Dean? Are any of the models showing it developing?
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3356. raindancer
2:48 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
So - 11 AM is out... Still Cat4; WNW; same-O
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3355. weatherboykris
2:48 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
There is n other eyewall on radar....no EWRC yet.
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3354. nola70119
2:45 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
StormW suspects NW turn later, something about the ULL causing a weakness in the steering ridge. I am not sure if that is what we are seeing now though Dean could go back to due W for a few hours.
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3353. Bamawatcher
9:40 AM CDT on August 18, 2007
I agree amystery, makes you wonder why they are so far out on a limb from every one else???
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3352. jake436
8:46 AM CST on August 18, 2007
Deans pressure is down a mb to 929, according to the weather channel on there website

No...it's pressure is UP to 929...was 926 earlier. Probably beginnings of an ERC.
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3351. Neponset
2:46 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
weatherwonder
No problem, I don't have much to contribute here and I thought it would be fun to use a word that is fundamental to the forces at work here. M. Coriolis said that bodies in motion in the northern hem. would curve to the right -not shoot straight for the pole.
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3349. nola70119
2:41 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
I'd say right now its toward the right part of the NHC cone.....so yeah, maybe certainly we need to keep paying attention here in LA. I think the real test comes tommorow night though....
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3348. OUFan919
2:44 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
Deans pressure is down a mb to 929, according to the weather channel on there website
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3347. StormJunkie
2:43 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
SW analysis

That link can also be found on that Quick Links link I just posted. As well as the Dr's blog, imagery, models, marine data, wind data, preparedness info, and some other great info. Basically, it contains the links most often posted in here.
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3346. pcshell
2:44 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
ok i have been watchin for days as people keep saying its going north as usual with any storm but i have never seen forward motion down to 18 mph with dean before he has always been just cruisin through this whole time not that i am saying this is whats happening now but in the past when storms slow down in the carribean its so they can turn which makes me nervous praying for everyone in the path of this monster
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3345. youngw3ath3rman
2:42 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
thanks
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3344. jake436
8:40 AM CST on August 18, 2007
Dean is about 4-5 days away from any possible US landfall. That said, I can't help but remember the forecast for Katrina 4-5 days out. Every model, AND the NHC, TWC, and all the "experts" had it going to Apalachicola, FL. I guess what I'm trying to say is this:There's no need in panicking along the northern GOM, but keep an eye on things. On Monday, we'll all have a better idea of what's going to happen...BE PREPARED!
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3343. DonnaGalveston
2:40 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
Hello, how are things looking for Galveston this morning?
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3342. NOWCAST
2:42 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
Dean is not moving due west anymore NHC just said that.. 11:00 update should be interesting.
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3341. Drakoen
2:42 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
Posted By: sporteguy03 at 2:42 PM GMT on August 18, 2007.

Drak,
The GFDL shows that convection heading towards FL in the loop.


time frame is not with the other models.
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3340. weatherwonderer
2:40 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
I concur Kenner, that would the end of NO if Dean kept its strength and Made landfall near it. Highly unlikely but not impossible.
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3339. raindancer
2:41 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
Just to clarify... NONE of the models call for a due west movement of Dean. ALL call for WNW movement - which is exactly what Dean is doing...
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3338. Miamiweather
2:41 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
could someone post a link to stormw synopsis
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3337. StormJunkie
2:41 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
youngwx-

Info on model pages and imagery pages...
Quick Links

Select the first link in the model section. This is the FSU Experimental model page. For all models except for the GFDL and HWRF, I set the field to 850mb vorticity to view potential genesis or track and size of tropical systems. Select animate then scroll right and page through the model run. The surface maps are also good to look at as the 850mb map will sometimes show features which are not at the surface. The GFS, GFDL, and HWRF run four times a day; 00z, 06z, 12z, and 18z. The 00z runs usually come out around 2am Est, the 06z around 8am Est, the 12z around 2pm Est, and the 18z around 8pm Est. The CMC, Nogaps and mm5fsu only run at 00z and 12z. The FSU model site can depict the strength of a system which is something you donít get with the line models. There is a great link that shows the mb to ft comparison in the learning section. Also the GFDL and HWRF only work with the field set to Surface Pressure and they only run for active storms. The NWS NCEP model page contains the long range GFS and the NAM as well as several other models. The South Florida Water Management page has a nice spaghetti plot showing most all of the models together. The Weather Underground Tropical section also has some nice spaghetti plots of several of the major models. The GFDL track can usually be found here before it can be seen on the other sites.

Select the first link in the imagery section. This is the Global Hydrology and Climate Data Center. There are several rows of maps. The first column is visible imagery. The second infrared and the third is water vapor. The first row is the W Atl view and the frames update most often and also has the highest max zoom. The next active row down does not have the same zoom level and the images update every 30 minutes. The Carib row uses a different color scale on the IR imagery and shows more whites and reds with weaker convection. Select the map you wish t o view. Below the image that comes up are options that will allow to change size, number of frames, zoom level, quality, etc. There is also a box that on SOME maps will allow you to turn on lat/lon lines. Set these parameters the way you choose and then click the area on the map you wish to view. Make sure you select the animate feature if you wish to see a loop. Allow loop to load and enjoy. This site releases images prior to any other site as far as I know.
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3336. sporteguy03
2:41 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
Drak,
The GFDL shows that convection heading towards FL in the loop.
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3335. stormhank
2:38 PM GMT on August 18, 2007
Dean isnt moving due west anymore? wonder if that will change path projections on models later today?
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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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