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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1185. Metallica1990
1:04 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Posted By: paulfrmpasschristian at 1:04 AM GMT on August 18, 2007.

mettalica - sorry;sick minds think alike

I would like to throw him in the trunk of a car and drive around middle America...we could spell a word with the tracking a make history.:)


ROTFLMAO oh thats funny
1184. katadman
12:58 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Posted By: H2PV at 12:54 AM GMT on August 18, 2007.

TWO CAT 5 HURRICANES THIS WEEK (when DEAN graduates as he must when he hits the HOT WATER AHEAD OF HIM, and you still are pretending that GLOBAL WARMING is not real.



Was this meant to be directed at me?
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1183. paulfrmpasschristian
7:00 PM CST on August 17, 2007
mettalica - sorry;sick minds think alike

I would like to throw him in the trunk of a car and drive around middle America...we could spell a word with the tracking a make history.:)
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1182. StuccoMan
7:59 PM CDT on August 17, 2007
Posted By: bunkerr at 7:58 PM CDT on August 17, 2007.
Has anyone experienced a cat 5 hurricane? I live in Jamaica and experienced Gilbert & Ivan but your blogs are beginning to scare me. Do you think the eye will miss Jamaica?


Dont believe the hype.This storm might be a cat 4 but it has a very small center and it is moving very fast.Dennis is a perfect example.Looked real powerful at landfall and was all hyped up but all the winds were up high.Storm lasted for an hr and was a cat 3.Ivan was far more worse than dennis and catrina IMO as far as size and strength.Dont let the storm scare you.I would go inland at least 20 miles and get into a really good structure at least 50 feet above sea level.
This storm looks scary on sattelite but it has a very tight center and will be over before you know it.
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1181. coffeecrusader
1:00 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Posted By: obxrox at 12:47 AM GMT on August 18, 2007.

cat 5 history to consider:

23 cat 5's between 1923-1998, or about 1 every 3 years

dean will be the 7th cat 5 since 2003, or about 1.5 per YEAR (and we're not done with this year)

what could be behind this increase in intense hurricanes?.....


Ask Al Gore
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1180. weatherwonderer
12:46 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
AlexWade, Dr. Masters is doing a great job. He is a scientist after all. I am as well. It is our job to educate the public to best our current understanding of our particular interest. Since science, although limited to what we know, is conservative by nature, he would not bring global warming up if he were not concerned. It distubs me greatly that people value our current excesses to what the future might bring. At worst, global warming may nor be avoided, but it is irresponsible to think things are going to remain the same, that includes the excesses that we currently enjoy. Sometime it takes a smack in the face to wake people up. It is amazing that the evidence of global warming is not sinking in to even the most dense minds. There is no question that global warming is occurring the only question is how much man has to do with it. It is Dr. Masters responsibility (and he feels it) to tell it as he sees it. The data he has presented and live time evidence he has shown, should wake you up (and others). If not, you can gamble that your world is a constant, but most smart people are prudent, even if you can't stop it, you can mitigate some of GWing effects. Of course if the response is too late, then I guess if the worst happens you will be part of it. As a microbiologist, I study drug resistance. Bacteria do not wait to see more evidence they respond. The difference between life and death. Perhaps being simple is terribly under-rated.
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1179. Dodabear
8:59 PM EDT on August 17, 2007
bunkerr, no, and I never want to. If I were where you are, I would be afraid. I would be getting outta Dodge right now.
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1178. foofi
1:01 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Am I crazy or does the GFDL model run show Dean coming right in on NOLA as a Cat 5?
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1177. catjojo
1:00 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Bunker

I would batten down the hatches and prepare for the worst, we all know the terrible impact on New Orleans......

Good Luck
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1176. SWFLdrob
1:01 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Posted By: weatherguru at 12:59 AM GMT on August 18, 2007.

last couple of frames has him making a jog to the NW.

still looks like it is hugging the 15N line to me...maybe just a tick to the south of it.
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1175. Metallica1990
1:01 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Posted By: whipster at 1:00 AM GMT on August 18, 2007.

Cantore just spotted in the Brownsville airport. You heard it here first. :)

(it's a joke, if it was real I would post in ALL CAPS like that other guy :)


LMAO
1174. coffeecrusader
12:58 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
GFDL has shifted a little further south on the 18z run. If that track holds true Houston is in the line of fire.
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1173. STPByTheBay
1:00 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
I also noticed that the ULL is getting stronger. It's also interesting how strong the thunderstorms are that are dropping south from Georgia. Almost seems like a collision course with the ULL, a collision and probable change in atmospheric conditions none of us need at this point. However, what still amazes me is the extreme warm SST's in the Gulf. I just don't remember seeing 2/3s of the Gulf pink in August, even in 2005. Conditions are ripe for the record books. Hopefully, it will be about the quickest dissipating major hurricane in history.
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1172. Metallica1990
12:59 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Posted By: weatherguru at 12:59 AM GMT on August 18, 2007.

last couple of frames has him making a jog to the NW


still looks west to me if it did move to the nw its probaly just a wobble
1171. whipster
7:00 PM CST on August 17, 2007
Cantore just spotted in the Brownsville airport. You heard it here first. :)

(it's a joke, if it was real I would post in ALL CAPS like that other guy :)
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1170. C2News
8:59 PM EDT on August 17, 2007
So, I've been out for a couple hours, what Dean doing, and where is he headed?
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1169. KnowYourRole
8:58 PM EDT on August 17, 2007
Posted By: bunkerr at 8:58 PM EDT on August 17, 2007.
Has anyone experienced a cat 5 hurricane? I live in Jamaica and experienced Gilbert & Ivan but your blogs are beginning to scare me. Do you think the eye will miss Jamaica?


I would listen to your local emergency management folks before listening to anyone on this blog. Just my two cents.
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1168. StormJunkie
12:57 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
DJ, the NHC floaters have little check boxes above the loops, you can turn on and off lat, lon, forecast points, and a lot more.

Under imagery links here.
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1167. atmoaggie
12:54 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
There's no denying the reality, of 40 named storms since January 1st 2007 and 27% of them peaked at, or passed, category 4.

We all have to admit that whole storms went undetected in our history and that from ~35 to ~65, to last active period in the 30 year cycle, we knew next to nothing about the storms, except that the wind blew and the pressure 400 miles to the east was XXXmb
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1166. paulfrmpasschristian
6:58 PM CST on August 17, 2007
The best tracking prediction----If Jim Cantore comes to your town, be afraid!!
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1165. weatherguru
12:56 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
last couple of frames has him making a jog to the NW
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1164. Metallica1990
12:56 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
indeed the key is not the nhc forecast track! its knowing were jim cantore is if you near him get outta there lol
1163. wederwatcher555
12:57 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
all the models clustered south of brownsville in N.Mexico with the GFS and GFDL as outliers on different sides
1162. katadman
12:50 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Posted By: obxrox at 12:47 AM GMT on August 18, 2007.

cat 5 history to consider:

23 cat 5's between 1923-1998, or about 1 every 3 years

dean will be the 7th cat 5 since 2003, or about 1.5 per YEAR (and we're not done with this year)

what could be behind this increase in intense hurricanes?.....


Questions: Why did you omit 1999 through 2002? What does it do to your averages if you factor those years into either side of your comparison?

sure, no problem...for the sake of discussion add 99-02 to the most recent period. that gives an average of .63 cat 5's per year over the past 11 years versus .32 cat 5's per year over the previous 70 yr period. looks like an increased trend to me. of course the ranges can be adjusted and so forth....


Thanks! It just makes the upswing in activity more realistic. I'm all for realism.
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1161. moonlightcowboy
12:52 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Jamaica, Caymans, even without a direct hit, just grazing the south, in the worst right part of that! Still, the trough is gone, won't have anything "remotely" to pull it north except its own northward reach for the npole.

...playa del carmen, maybe! Blue Parrot! Not gonna be LA! They sure don't need it. Ain't happening, not this time. God, help 'em all in the way!
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1160. thelmores
12:47 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
"I think it is awesome that Dr. Masters is posting on the arctic ice as this ties in with Dean. Thank you Dr. Masters!"

Thats a crock of BS!

You have absolutely NO evidence such a correlation exists!

Please, we have a cat 4 Hurricane with people in harms way..... lets try out best to noodle out what we can on Dean!
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1159. bunkerr
12:53 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Has anyone experienced a cat 5 hurricane? I live in Jamaica and experienced Gilbert & Ivan but your blogs are beginning to scare me. Do you think the eye will miss Jamaica?
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1158. FatPenguin
12:53 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Posted By: atmoaggie at 12:51 AM GMT on August 18, 2007.

obxrox - "what could be behind this increase in intense hurricanes?....."

According to some (Specifically, Chris Landsea, HRD), there is no proven increase in storms or intensity. He presented as much at IHC (International Hurricane Conference) in NOLA in April. His argument is primarily that we honestly do NOT know the central pressures of most storms before HH began to fly or even a consistent use of the Dvorak technique until the late 70s. Many storms weaken by the time a measurement can be made on land. An example, the 1900 Galveston storm had some pressure readings from miles and miles away while at sea and we can make a swag about the circulation center location and intensity, but that is just a swag. I promise that if a ship were in the middle of the storm, they would NOT be worried about accurately recording the pressure or even their lat/long. As a metter of fact, NOAA has discovered that some of our historical ocean-going ship records were recorded with a lat/long that are in the middle of the Sahara.

See Link

And for science types: Link

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
What does warmer water do to developing storms? Weaken or strengthen?

What happened to an 800-year-old coral reef in the Carib back in 2005? Unprecedented warm waters killed it.

There are many, many factors in creating a major hurricane, but common sense dictates that we might get more major storms if there's more warm water.

I find it odd that some people try so hard to prove that there's no way warmer water could mean more major storms.
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1156. hahaguy
12:56 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
ya whats up with cantore everywhere he goes the storm goes
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1155. kchaussee
12:56 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
If you had ten grand to throw away in Vegas on where Dean will landfall in the USA, where would you choose?

I'd take it to the blackjack table - the odds are better there...

Enjoying the predictive banter - passes the time at work (slow tonight). Thanks.
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1154. howarjo1943
12:48 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Interestingly, if you go back into the archives, the NHC's report on Hurricane Allen stated that the outflow from the huge circulation possibly helped maintain high pressure to the north when everything pointed toward a more northerly movement in the Gulf. I vaguely remember the same problems with Gilbert's continued west movement when forecasts thought it would go to the upper texas coast. Ivan too was forecast to turn much faster than it did. I can see why outflow would increase high pressure to the north with all that sinking air.
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1153. Metallica1990
12:54 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Posted By: swFLboy at 12:53 AM GMT on August 18, 2007.

Mike Sidell from TWC going to Jamaica tomarrow


cantore must be on his way to texas
1152. louisianaweatherguy
12:48 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
the CMC happens to be along the exact track of the NHC... what is that??? I thought it was the Can't Model Crap model...
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1151. H2PV
12:52 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Posted By: katadman at 12:39 AM GMT on August 18, 2007.
Posted By: obxrox at 12:25 AM GMT on August 18, 2007.

cat 5 history to consider:

23 cat 5's between 1923-1998, or about 1 every 3 years

dean will be the 7th cat 5 since 2003, or about 1.5 per YEAR (and we're not done with this year)

what could be behind this increase in intense hurricanes?.....



Questions: Why did you omit 1999 through 2002? What does it do to your averages if you factor those years into either side of your comparison?


TWO CAT 5 HURRICANES THIS WEEK (when DEAN graduates as he must when he hits the HOT WATER AHEAD OF HIM, and you still are pretending that GLOBAL WARMING is not real. 40 inches of rain from SEPAT TODAY! All these computer pictures you see are showing you GREENHOUSE GASES by INFRARED WAVELENGTH EMISSIONS, and you dare deny it's reality HERE where people with actual science knowledge live.

There's no denying the reality, of 40 named storms since January 1st 2007 and 27% of them peaked at, or passed, category 4.

As of day 230 (August 15):
MAJOR HURRICANES in 2007 after Christmas 2006

One Major every 15.3 days on average.
Two cat-5
Nine cat-4
Four cat-3

4 Hurricane Dean (Cat-4 so far)
5 Typhoon Sepat Cat-5
4 Hurricane Flossie Catagory-4
4 Typhoon Usagi Category-4
4 Typhoon Man-yi (Bebeng) Category-4
5 Category-5 Ganu
4 Category 4-equivalent typhoon Yutu
3 Intense Tropical Cyclone Jaya cat-3 2007
3 Intense Tropical Cyclone Kara cat-3 2007
4 Intense Tropical Cyclone Indlala cat-4 2007
3 Intense Tropical Cyclone Gamede cat-3 2007
4 Intense Tropical Cyclone Favio cat-4 2007
4 Intense Tropical Cyclone Dora cat-4 2007
4 Tropical Cyclone Xavier cat-4 2007
3 Severe Tropical Cyclone George Cat-3 2007

---- Christmas 2006 -------
Intense Tropical Cyclone Bondo Cat-4 2006
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1149. deadmandancing
12:51 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
See ya, Donna. Take care and TRY to have a good weekend.
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1148. extreme236
12:51 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
well, with shear low with the wave at 34W, it is very possible for it to develop. another one of those go to bed and wake up and see what it looks like in the morning things lol
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1146. Cheyanne
12:46 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
To be honest, the more I read about the "predicted" path, the more frustrated I become. I live just east of Houston (Baytown) and I am not looking forward to another evacuation. Rita is forever etched in my brain! I know it's rediculous, but I want a definite yes or no..will we have a house in a week? Guess I'll have to start packing tonight..here we go again..
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1144. weatherwatchin
12:48 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Anyone know if/how to get shuttle pics of the storm

they'd probably be posted here....


Link
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1143. charlesimages
12:49 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
I had posted an earlier track .. when dean was way out in the Atlantic still. This one holds the same prediction as my "most likely" track.

I am afraid for the folks on the Gulf Coast =(
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1142. jamnkats
12:45 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
no Kman; I'm on the Yucatan penninsula just across from Cozumel. I don't know why, but I was so optimistic before the Cat 4 news and now I'm just so down. I don't think anything will keep Dean away from us, but I'm really hoping.

So I guess I'll adopt your attitude and hope for no direct hit. Chin up and soldier on. I guess the Cat 4 so early just really knocked me for a loop.
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1141. atmoaggie
12:50 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
obxrox - "what could be behind this increase in intense hurricanes?....."

According to some (Specifically, Chris Landsea, HRD), there is no proven increase in storms or intensity. He presented as much at IHC (International Hurricane Conference) in NOLA in April. His argument is primarily that we honestly do NOT know the central pressures of most storms before HH began to fly or even a consistent use of the Dvorak technique until the late 70s. Many storms weaken by the time a measurement can be made on land. An example, the 1900 Galveston storm had some pressure readings from miles and miles away while at sea and we can make a swag about the circulation center location and intensity, but that is just a swag. I promise that if a ship were in the middle of the storm, they would NOT be worried about accurately recording the pressure or even their lat/long. As a metter of fact, NOAA has discovered that some of our historical ocean-going ship records were recorded with a lat/long that are in the middle of the Sahara.

See Link

And for science types: Link
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1140. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
12:46 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
weatherguru theres still 3 more to come a total of five in all by end of the month of august as i said early in the month when they come it will be one right after another.
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 173 Comments: 54347
1139. cormit
12:47 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Metallica, go to www.tropicalatlantic.com/recon/URNT15 and there is a reconnaisance decoder that should help you see the reconaissance information in realtime.
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1137. Crisis57
12:48 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Posted By: ClearH2OFla at 12:48 AM GMT on August 18, 2007.

Well all gonna check out some fantasy football news. For me its about the High and ULL. I dont care what the models are saying at this point.


i agree
1136. melwerle
12:48 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
ok - off to bed for me - gotta cook in the morning. Be well and anyone in the path of the storm tonight - be safe.

Melissa
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1135. charlesimages
12:49 AM GMT on August 18, 2007
Hello everyone!

I though I would put in my full forecast of what I think for Dean. Now a powerful CAT 4 storm.. I predict that Dean will strengthen into a dangerous CAT 5 storm, and make landfall within 20 miles both ways of Galveston, TX, and should make landfall as a strong CAT 3 storm. By the time it reaches Houston, TX it should be downgraded to high end CAT 2, still very dangerous. Just adding my 2 cents worth!!

Good luck!

My forecaster is the CAR - GF (GF = Gut Feeling lol this is my very own track plot map. thanks to Microsoft Paint!)

DEAN...MY FORECAST
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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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