Killer tornadoes rip Iowa, and Minnesota; tropical depression possible late this week

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:08 PM GMT on May 26, 2008

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The 2008 Memorial Day Weekend tornado outbreak will continue to hammer the U.S. today, even as residents from Iowa and Minnesota clean up from the devastating tornadoes that killed eight people Sunday afternoon. A mile-wide tornado plowed through Parkersburg, Iowa between 5pm and 6pm CDT yesterday, killing five people in that city, and two in nearby New Hartford. It was the deadliest tornado in Iowa in more than 40 years. The tornado passed just north of the airport in Waterloo, Iowa, which recorded sustained winds of 64mph, gusting to 94 mph at 5:37pm CDT. Damage appeared to be at least EF-4 in photos I saw, and possibly EF-5 (over 200 mph). In Minnesota, another powerful twister killed at least one person and injured 9 in the Minneapolis suburb of Hugo.


Figure 1. Satellite image of the supercell thunderstorms that spawned the Parkerburg, Iowa and Hugo, Minnesota tornadoes on May 25, 2008.

The slow-moving low pressure system responsible for all the mayhem began in Colorado on Thursday, when the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) recorded 48 reports of tornadoes, including the EF-3 mile-wide twister that killed one person in Windsor, Colorado. On Friday, an additional 63 tornado reports occurred, mostly in Kansas. The tornado that hit Quinter, Kansas on Friday was the eighth violent EF-4 tornado of the year. Also on Friday, two people were killed in Cairo, Kansas when a tornado smashed a car trying to flee the storm. If you want to see why one should not try to escape a tornado in a car, take a look at what the tornado did to the car. Saturday was relatively quiet, with only 13 tornado reports, but Sunday's tally of 43 brought the 4-day total from the 2008 Memorial Day weekend outbreak to a remarkable 157 tornado reports. Some of these tornado reports are undoubtedly of the same tornado, so the actual number of tornadoes for the 4-day outbreak may be less than 150. BBC has some awesome aerial footage of the weekend tornadoes.



Figure 2. Radar reflectivity image (top) of the May 25, 2008 Parkersburg, Iowa tornado. The position of Parkersburg is marked by a circle with a cross in the middle. Bottom: Doppler velocity image of the tornado, showing a small core of red and blue colors right next to each other, denoting strong winds towards and away from the radar, the classic signature of a tornado vortex.



Figure 3. Radar reflectivity image (top) of the May 25, 2008 Hugo, Minnesota tornado. The position of Hugo is marked by a circle with a cross in the middle. Bottom: Doppler velocity image of the tornado, showing a small core of red and blue colors right next to each other, denoting strong winds towards and away from the radar, the classic signature of a tornado vortex. We've also saved a 12-frame radar animation of the Hugo cell, thanks to wunderground member Todd S.

Tallying up the numbers
The death toll from Sunday pushes this year's tornado deaths to 111, the most since 1998, when 130 were recorded. Assuming that the Parkersburg, Iowa tornado was an EF-4 or EF-5, there have been nine violent EF-4 or EF-5 tornadoes this year. This is the most since 1999, when 13 such twisters were recorded. The total number of tornadoes this year is approaching 1100, and we may challenge the all time record for tornadoes in a year of 1817, set in 2004. Could this be a sign of climate change? No, I don't think so, and I'll explain why in a blog later this week.

Severe weather forecast
Severe weather will pound the U.S. again this Memorial Day, with the main action expected to stretch more than halfway across the country--from Texas to New York. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center has placed much of Kansas, Oklahoma, and the Texas Panhandle under its "Moderate Risk" category for severe weather, one step below its highest level of concern, "High Risk". Yesterday was also a "Moderate Risk" day in Iowa and Minnesota. The Weather Underground Severe Weather page and Tornado page are good places to go to follow the severe weather. Also, tune in to the chase accounts and awesome storm photos from Wunderblogger Mike Theiss. After today, it appears the severe weather outbreak will finally diminish, with only a slight risk of severe weather expected Tuesday, and no severe weather expected Wednesday.

Possible development in the Western Caribbean or Eastern Pacific late this week
For the past 3-6 days, our most reliable global computer weather forecast models have been predicting the development of a low pressure system near or over Central America by Friday of this week. Given the persistence in the models in developing this low, we need to be alert to the possibility of a tropical depression forming in either the Western Caribbean or Eastern Pacific, on either side of Costa Rica and Nicaragua. It is uncertain which ocean basin such a storm might form in, and whether or not there will be a tropical wave around to help kick off development. It may be that the low pressure region will stay anchored over land south of the Yucatan Peninsula, preventing any development. This is the solution preferred by the ECMWF model in its last few runs. However, the GFS, NOGAPS, and Canadian models all predict a tropical depression might form in the Western Caribbean near Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. In contrast, the UKMET shows development in the Eastern Pacific, on the Pacific side of Central America. Climatologically, May tropical storms are much more common in the Eastern Pacific than the Western Caribbean, so we should not discount the UKMET solution, even though it is an outlier. All five models predict that the Central American low pressure area will move northward towards the Gulf of Mexico, and wind shear may fall enough to allow a tropical depression to form should the low's center emerge over water. I'll be posting daily updates on the situation this week.

Jeff Masters

Wedge Tornado (MikeTheiss)
A large and violent wedge tornado near Quinter, Kansas. Photo Copyright Mike Theiss
Wedge Tornado
Wallcloud near Lacrosse, Kansas (MikeTheiss)
Photo of a wallcloud crossing road near lacrosse, Kansas on May 25, 2008. Photo copyight Mike Theiss
Wallcloud near Lacrosse, Kansas
Storm Damage (CAPEdcrusader)
These are pictures taken of the storm that went through Forest Lake / Hugo, MN. The tornado passed 3 miles south of us, but we got a pretty vicious shot of hail for about 15 minutes straight. The pictures of bldg damage are west of the worst tornado damage, probably where the funnel cloud was just about to reach the ground.
Storm Damage

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409. Skyepony (Mod)
6:07 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
See the Cape Verde cmc picked up on & the gfs hints at it. Less consenses this run but they look nervous.
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408. hurricane23
6:10 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Nogaps has been pretty consistent with its idea of bringing something northward then bending it into southeast florida bringing what be a welcome site in regards to some tropical rains in the area.

Lol after another look at the 12z nogaps its intensity is running close to a hurricane
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407. Tazmanian
11:04 AM PDT on May 26, 2008
this commet was from storm chat and look how high the cape is right now in OK

Cape is 5000 in OK


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406. moonlightcowboy
1:09 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
403. That would do it, Drak!
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405. 882MB
6:09 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
thanks drakoen, can you post the link?
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404. moonlightcowboy
1:06 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
387. Thanks, Adrian. But, I do hope a depression or weak tropical system will develop and bring some rain to the seCONUS, espcially FL.
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403. Drakoen
6:05 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
NOGAPS 12z:
Photobucket
Photobucket
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402. JRRP
5:44 PM GMT on Mayo 26, 2008

456 the second activity of storms is it that the models are predicting ?
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401. moonlightcowboy
1:03 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
397. TerraNova 1:00 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
Your hard work is worth the pain, I hope you realize that :)


Absolutely, Drak!
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400. Drakoen
6:00 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
12 modes:
GFS: crossing Honduras then Yucatan to BOC.
CMC and UKMET: crossing Guatemala and into the BOC.
NOGAPS: into the northern Caribbean and across south Florida.
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399. 882MB
6:02 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Can someone please post the images of the 12zNOGAPS at 120 to 144 hours i cant seem to see the new run.
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398. HurricaneGeek
2:00 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Hi everybody, I'm back for a little while. I'll lurk for now =)
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397. TerraNova
5:57 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
I have alot to say in regards to MLC's post but you guys have worn me out today.

LOL. Your hard work is worth the pain, I hope you realize that :) People have been holding some great discussions here today.
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396. Drakoen
5:57 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Well the NOGAPS has been consistent. Will see what happens.
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395. moonlightcowboy
12:57 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
I will say this, I'd like to see some something tropical develop and dump some much needed rain on FL and parts of the se. Now, that would be very welcomed for sure!
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394. moonlightcowboy
12:55 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
Don't hold back, Drak! You know I value your opinion in here. Heck, I'm the first to admit I can be wrong.

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393. TerraNova
5:52 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
The latest NOGAPS (12z) has the Caribbean system drifting northward, across the western tip of Cuba, then crossing South Florida and ends with it on top of the Bahamas with a minimum central pressure just under 1000 millibars.
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392. hurricane23
5:54 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Fuuny thing is there's nothing even close to developing in basin right now.What happens if there's a major approaching the U.S. this season it will likely make it impossible to post.
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391. Drakoen
5:53 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
I have alot to say in regards to MLC's post but you guys have worn me out today.
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390. IKE
12:52 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
...
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388. moonlightcowboy
12:51 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
Could be, JP! I'm no met and yield to you smarter folks - just seems like a good stretch from my novice view, right now is all.
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387. hurricane23
5:47 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Could not agree more with youe staments MLC...

There's really nothing down in the region but scattered disorganized thunderstorm activity.If anything does move into the caribbean from the pacific it would be greatly impacted by land and any development if any would be slow to occur.I mentioned that dry air that is basically all over the region a few days back.
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386. Drakoen
5:50 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
I think I preferred this blog more in February. Way too much excitement in here right now.
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384. juniormeteorologist
5:45 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
850mb NOGAPS Model take this storm through Florida by June 02.
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383. moonlightcowboy
12:44 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
I just don't see this "modeled" storm happening yet for the Caribbean. First off, I don't trust them, they're just a tool in the pouch is all, and I think there's way too much reliance on them. Everything else I can see so far doesn't put a tropical system into the Caribbean from that mess in the ePac either.

Basic imagery LOOP with the main area of convection is already moving west. Convection near the coast line is scattered, breaking/flaring up and down. The Caribbean is full of dry air and will be, unless there's a heckuva MJO pulse coming through - and, it seems to weaken as it crosses as seen here.

Plus, looking at just a few of the loops, Water Vapor and IR, all the motion in the GOM is coming from the north, not the west. AND, look at all that high pressure to the north and to the east - nothing's going there for a while yet.



Too, then, there's land interaction, etc. And, it's still early yet - already kind of been signs of a slower starting season. I just don't buy into it yet, but hey, it won't be the first time I've been wrong either! LOL
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382. Drakoen
5:43 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
381. louisianaboy444 5:43 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
I just think the NOGAPS is overdoing it i dont think the conditions are ripe enough for a hurricane just yet....the wind shear may be low but the ocean temperatures are not quite warm enough yet....maybe in the western Caribbean they are getting there but the Gulf is still in the early stages of heating...


Actually they are warm enough. Especially where the NOGAPS wants to take the system.
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381. louisianaboy444
5:40 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
I just think the NOGAPS is overdoing it i dont think the conditions are ripe enough for a hurricane just yet....the wind shear may be low but the ocean temperatures are not quite warm enough yet....maybe in the western Caribbean they are getting there but the Gulf is still in the early stages of heating...
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380. hurricane23
5:42 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
HPC has the low just of the tip of the yucatan.
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379. Bamatracker
5:40 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
The ghost storm is spoke about on the Pacific discussion as well.

UPPER LEVEL MOISTURE REMAINS CONFINED TO THE SRN PORTION OF THE
AREA...OR S OF THE UPPER ANTICYCLONES AND E OF 122W DUE TO THE
EFFECTS OF UPPER LEVEL DIFFLUENCE RESULTING FROM THE POSITIONS
OF THE ANTICYCLONES RELATIVE TO ONE ANOTHER. THIS MOISTURE IS
PRIMARILY TIED TO CONVECTION DESCRIBED ABOVE UNDER ITCZ. THERE
IS SOME INDICATION...AS SEEN ON WATER VAPOR IMAGERY...THAT THE
NRN FRINGE OF THIS MOISTURE IS WORKING ITSELF NWD IN BETWEEN THE
ANTICYCLONES WITH TIME. RECENT AND CURRENT PRES ANALYSES REVEAL
THAT THIS MOISTURE IS RELATED TO AN AREA OF GENERAL LOW PRES
WHICH COVERS THE FAR ERN PACIFIC FROM 03N-14N BETWEEN 84W-100W.
GLOBAL NWP MODELS AND ENSEMBLES SUGGEST THAT THIS AREA MAY
CONSOLIDATE FURTHER TO FORM A BROAD LOW CENTER DURING THE NEXT
FEW DAYS WITH AN EVENTUAL TRACK TO THE N TOWARD CENTRAL AMERICA.
HAVE INTRODUCED A BROAD LOW PRES IN THE 48 HOUR HIGH SEAS NEAR
09N89W. CURRENTLY...SCATTEROMETER DATA AND A FEW SHIP
OBSERVATIONS HAVE SHOWN WINDS IN THE 20-25 KT RANGE WITH
DIRECTION FROM SW TO NW WITHIN THIS AREA. IN ADDITION SCATTERED
CLUSTER OF MODERATE TO STRONG CONVECTION ARE OBSERVED IN THE
AREA FROM 04N TO 12N BETWEEN 89W AND 96W.

Link
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378. Chicklit
5:39 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
"...All five models predict that the Central American low pressure area will move northward towards the Gulf of Mexico, and wind shear may fall enough to allow a tropical depression to form should the low's center emerge over water. I'll be posting daily updates on the situation this week." Jeff Masters

The Doc has thrown us a bone--on schedule for the start of Hurricane Season '08.


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377. TerraNova
5:39 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
369. hurricane23 5:35 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Hey andy!

Just looked at the 12z Nogaps and indeed it has what looks like a moderate TS over southeast florida.

View at 144hrs


See post #370 for the correct NOGAPS link...apologies, I gave everyone the link to the old run!
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376. Drakoen
5:38 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Also Hurricane23 the MLSP on the NOGAPS shows 29.40in low which would be around 995mb. Thats a decent hurricane on a model.
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375. louisianaboy444
5:36 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Looking at the model run i dont think it is a moderate tropical storm maybe a very weak tropical storm at best.....the NOGAPS actually shows the best case scenario Florida needs the rain and a weak tropical depression or storm might not be that bad...i dont like to predict ghost storms i wait until its actually formed to look at the big picture....
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374. Drakoen
5:37 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
369. hurricane23 5:35 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Hey andy!

Just looked at the 12z Nogaps and indeed it has what looks like a moderate TS over southeast florida.

View at 144hrs


Thats from the 00Z RUN
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373. IKE
12:37 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
That's the 0Z NOGAPS 23.
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372. Weather456
1:35 PM AST on May 26, 2008
362. JRRP 1:31 PM AST on May 26, 2008
CMC is showing a TD in EATL in route towards the carribean


Check my blog....i mentioned that this morning
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371. weatherblog
5:33 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
350. FLWeatherFreak91 5:25 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
332. weatherblog 1:04 PM EDT on May 26, 2008 Hide this comment.
Imagine if Alma forms in the EPAC, and it crosses over into the Atlantic Basin and mimicks Hurricane Alma with the same name (which seems a possible scenario as far as track goes and date goes).


LOL you stole my idea! I said that a few hours ago... It would be a rather rare occurrence wouldn't it


Oops didn't know you mentioned it already lol. Well, I think it would definately be weird having the return of an already retired storm hitting near the same place around the same time of the month: The Return of Alma. lol
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370. TerraNova
5:33 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Sorry nash, I gave you the 00z run without knowing...here's the main NOGAPS page (this one's correct, I promise):

NOGAPS/GFS full access to model runs

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369. hurricane23
5:35 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Hey andy!

Just looked at the 12z Nogaps and indeed it has what looks like a moderate TS over southeast florida.

View at 144hrs
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368. Weather456
1:26 PM AST on May 26, 2008
2008 should end up the lastest starting season in the EPAC in the 2000s

2000 - May 22
2001 - May 25
2002 - May 24
2003 - May 19
2004 - May 22
2005 - May 17
2006 - May 27
2007 - May 26
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367. moonlightcowboy
12:32 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
347. Well said. Imagery, etc, if anything, all points to the ePac. Nothing's happening anytime soon in the Caribbean as long as there's land interaction, dry air, flow from the north, lots of high pressure, etc, etc. Much hype over little at this time.

I know it's against climatology, but I think we'll see the Atl basin's first invest somewhere between the seCarib and the cAtl. Hey, wouldn't be the first time I've been wrong either.
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366. nrtiwlnvragn
1:33 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
Marine Weather Discussion

HOWEVER...GLOBAL MODELS CONTINUE TO ADVERTISE BROAD LOW PRES
FORMING EITHER SIDE OF CENTRAL AMERICA AND GRADUALLY LIFTING NW
FROM THU THROUGH SAT. SOME MODELS LIKE THE UKMET AND ECMWF
SUGGEST THAT WHATEVER LOW PRES DEVELOPS WOULD REMAIN IN EASTERN
PACIFIC SOUTH OF MEXICO/GUATEMALA...WHILE THE GFS AND ITS
ENSEMBLE MEAN HAS BEEN CONSISTENT IN PREDICTING DEVELOPMENT
INITIALLY IN THE EASTERN PACIFIC BUT ULTIMATELY IN THE W/NW
CARIBBEAN CLOSE TO LAND. AT THIS POINT...IT IS NOT ENTIRELY
CLEAR AS TO WHERE SFC LOW PRES COULD BEGIN TO CONSOLIDATE LATER
THIS WEEK. NONETHELESS...WITH ALL THE GLOBAL MODELS INDICATING
SOME SORT OF DEVELOPMENT...SOME WITH REMARKABLE CONSISTENCY...
THERE SEEMS LESS DOUBT TODAY THAT BROAD SFC LOW PRES WILL BE IN
THE VICINITY OF CENTRAL AMERICA FROM MID-WEEK INTO THE WEEKEND.
WITH THIS IN MIND...THE LATEST FORECAST PACKAGE WILL SHOW SOME
INCREASE IN WINDS AND SEAS OVER THE SOUTH CENTRAL AND SW GULF
BEGINNING LATE FRI INTO SAT.

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365. atmoaggie
5:32 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
Tropical Weather discussion (Atlantic)
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364. IKE
12:31 PM CDT on May 26, 2008
Here's the NOGAPS 12Z through 120 hours.......

Link
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363. Bamatracker
5:30 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
NWS New Orleans am discussion
REGARDING THE LONG RANGE MODELS DEVELOPMENT OF A `TROPICAL-LIKE`
CIRCULATION FROM THE WESTERN CARIBBEAN SEA ...THE MODELS HAVE
SHOWN A 997 TO 999 MB CLOSED ISOBAR SURFACE LOW ON SOME RUNS AND
HAVE SHOWN OPEN WAVE TROUGH ON OTHER RUNS. THE GFS TRIES TO DEEPEN
THE SYSTEM WHILE OVER THE YUCATAN PENINSULA...AS IF NO LAND
EXISTED. THIS LOOKS HIGHLY SUSPECT AT THIS TIME. BASED ON
ANTICIPATED STRONG RIDGING EXPECTED TO DEVELOP ACROSS THE GULF
STATES...ANY DEVELOPMENT SHOULD NOT HAVE DIRECT IMPACT ON THE
AREA. THIS IS...OF COURSE AT AND JUST BEYOND THE FORECAST
HORIZON. /24


Note NWS miami didn't say anything about it on this mornings discussion
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362. JRRP
5:23 PM GMT on Mayo 26, 2008
CMC is showing a TD in EATL in route towards the carribean
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361. cchsweatherman
1:23 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
347. Weather456 1:22 PM EDT on May 26, 2008
I never saw so much dependency on computer models rather than evaluating the situation....most likely if an invest forms today or 2mr it would be 90E not 90L.


You have noticed that as well. Well, I guess so many are so dependent on the computer models since we have not had, until this point, an actual low that we can track. I will be watching for further organization with this new Eastern Pacific low and movement in the future. We could very well have Invest 90E within the next 24 hours if this low continues to become better established and convection maintains itself. Just take a wait-and-see approach, but be prepared.

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360. 0741
5:28 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
147. cchsweatherman 3:46 PM GMT on May 26, 2008Tropical Weather Discussion for MONDAY, May 26, 2008

were did you get that from? link please
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359. Bamatracker
5:27 PM GMT on May 26, 2008
NWS tallhassee from earlier this morning

THE FORECAST FOR THE EXTENDED PERIOD SUNDAY AND BEYOND IS RATHER LOW
CONFIDENCE. THE GFS HAS BEEN INSISTENT ON BRINGING SOMETHING
TROPICAL LOOKING INTO THE NORTHWEST CARIBBEAN ON MONDAY.
HOWEVER...THE LAST COUPLE OF RUNS OF THE EURO THROUGH THE 25/12Z
WERE MUCH WEAKER AND FURTHER SOUTH AND WEST...ESSENTIALLY OVER
MEXICO AND GUATEMALA. GIVEN THE FAR TIME RANGE AND DISAGREEMENT
BETWEEN THESE TWO MODELS...WILL NOT INDICATE INCREASING WINDS AND
CLOUD COVER THAT THE GFS BRINGS BY THE END OF THE PERIOD.
INSTEAD...WILL FOLLOW A FORECAST CLOSER TO CLIMO FOR EARLY JUNE.

&&


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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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