1. Did the passage of Hurricane Isaac stir up oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill? 2. What's the deal with these super-sized Category 1 and 2 hurricanes that have been hitting the U.S.? 3. Did the new $14.5 billion upgrade to the New Orleans levee system cause worse flooding elsewhere? 4. Can only hurricanes beginning with the letter "I" hit the U.S. now?
JeffMasters, • 4:35 PM GMT on August 31, 2012
Slow-moving Tropical Storm Isaac continues to hammer coastal Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida's Panhandle with tornadoes, torrential rains, high winds, and a damaging storm surge. Over the past 24 hours, destructive tornadoes have touched down in Biloxi and Pascagoula, Mississippi, and one person was killed by a tree. A major flood event is occurring in Slidell, Louisiana, where Isaac's storm surge filled portions of the city with 1 - 5 feet of water.
JeffMasters, • 4:44 PM GMT on August 30, 2012
Isaac has been downgraded to a tropical storm after losing some strength as its center is now due west of New Orleans. Isaac continues to inflict tropical storm-force winds along the coast from Louisiana to Alabama. Shell Beach, Louisiana has had sustained tropical storm-force winds since 2pm CDT on Tuesday and as of writing this, they continue to see sustained winds around 39 mph.
angelafritz • 10:10 PM GMT on August 29, 2012
Hurricane Isaac continues to lumber slowly northwestwards at 6 mph, as it pounds Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida's Panhandle with torrential rains, high winds, and a damaging storm surge. The eye was partially over water for most of the 15 hours after Isaac's official landfall at 7:45 pm EDT Tuesday night, but the eye is now fully ashore near Houma.
JeffMasters, • 4:01 PM GMT on August 29, 2012
Hurricane Isaac is ashore over Southeast Louisiana, having officially crossed the coast on the Mississippi Delta 90 miles southeast of New Orleans at 7:45 am EDT on August 28. Isaac intensified right up until landfall, striking with 80 mph winds and a central pressure of 970 mb. The storm isn't in a hurry to move fully inland, and has slowed down to a crawl this evening.
JeffMasters, • 2:27 AM GMT on August 29, 2012
Isaac gained hurricane status this afternoon after hurricane hunters found winds of 76 mph and a minimum central pressure of 975 mb, and continues to become more organized. Isaac will make landfall in Louisiana tonight likely as a category 1.
angelafritz • 9:31 PM GMT on August 28, 2012
The winds and water are rising all along the coast from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle as Tropical Storm Isaac makes its final approach. Two hurricane hunter aircraft in the storm are measuring a steadily lowering pressure and increasing winds aloft, but hurricane-force winds have not yet been observed at the surface.
JeffMasters, • 3:29 PM GMT on August 28, 2012
Isaac is walking the line of hurricane status this afternoon after a hurricane hunter mission investigated the storm and found winds of 80+ mph with the SFMR instrument. The forecast remains that Isaac will make landfall in Louisiana, close to New Orleans.
angelafritz • 9:14 PM GMT on August 27, 2012
Tropical Storm Isaac has changed little in strength or organization this morning, as the storm heads northwest at 14 mph towards the Central Gulf Coast. There are two hurricane hunter aircraft in the storm, and Isaac's central pressure held steady at 989 mb at the 8:30 am and 9:15 am center fixes. Top surface winds remain near 65 mph.
JeffMasters, • 3:25 PM GMT on August 27, 2012
Hurricane warnings have been issued for the northern Gulf Coast in advance of Tropical Storm Isaac, which is forecast to become a hurricane before landfall on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. Isaac has become visually better organized, though remains below hurricane threshold, and is expected to remain there over the next day or so as it moves northwest through the Gulf of Mexico.
angelafritz • 9:12 PM GMT on August 26, 2012
Tropical Storm Isaac is steadily organizing as it lashes the Florida Keys with heavy rain and tropical storm-force winds. Sustained winds of 44 mph and 41 mph have been observed at Molasses Reef and Sombrero Key, respectively, this morning. Radar out of Key West shows an increase in spiral banding, and the beginnings of an eyewall.
JeffMasters, • 3:48 PM GMT on August 26, 2012
This afternoon, Isaac remains a tropical storm with little change in intensity as it moves northwest along the northern coast of Cuba, with winds of 60 mph. Isaac is expected to become a category 2 hurricane as it approaches the Florida Panhandle on Tuesday, though the possibility of a stronger hurricane cannot be ruled out.
angelafritz • 9:37 PM GMT on August 25, 2012
Tropical Storm Isaac is pounding Haiti and the Dominican Republic with torrential rains that are causing extremely dangerous flooding and landslides. Isaac's center passed over Haiti's southwest peninsula early this morning, tracking about 50 miles west of the capital of Port-au-Prince. As the center pulled away to the northwest, Isaac's heaviest thunderstorms moved ashore over Hispaniola.
JeffMasters, • 2:24 PM GMT on August 25, 2012
Cuba's most formidable barrier to hurricanes is the one Isaac will be running into--the eastern portion of the island, where mountains up to 6,000 feet high rear up out of the sea. I present here a history of five storms that crossed portions of both Hispaniola and Cuba, similar to Isaac's track. These five storms strengthened by 5 - 20 mph in their first 24 hours after coming off the coast of Cuba.
JeffMasters, • 1:20 AM GMT on August 25, 2012
Tropical Storm Isaac has remained approximately level in intensity this afternoon. An Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter aircraft measured surface winds of 60 mph at 3:55 pm EDT, with winds at the aircraft's flight level of 5,000 feet of hurricane force, 80 mph. The surface pressure is falling, and is down to 994 mb. Tropical storm-force winds currently extend outwards 185 miles to the right of Isaac's center, and will continue to extend outwards about this far as the storm passes by the Bahamas and South Florida.
JeffMasters, • 8:40 PM GMT on August 24, 2012
Tropical Storm Isaac is strengthening. An Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter aircraft measured surface winds of 60 mph on the east side of the center, about 170 miles south of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, at 8:40 am EDT this morning. Winds at the aircraft's flight level of 5,000 feet were hurricane force, 76 mph. The surface pressure remained fairly high, at 1000 mb.
JeffMasters, • 2:58 PM GMT on August 24, 2012
Tropical Storm Isaac has strengthened slightly, data from the hurricane hunters show, but the storm remains disorganized and difficult to forecast. If you have to make decisions based upon what Isaac will do, I recommend that you wait until Friday morning to make a decision, as the forecasts then should be of significantly higher accuracy. Until Isaac consolidates, the lack of a well-defined center will make forecasts of the storm's behavior less accurate than usual.
JeffMasters, • 8:29 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
Tropical Storm Isaac is a large and impressive-looking storm on satellite images, but data from the Hurricane Hunters reveal that Isaac remains a minimal-strength tropical storm with 40 mph winds, as it heads westward across the Eastern Caribbean. However, satellite observations show that Isaac is growing more organized, and intensification should begin later today.
JeffMasters, • 3:13 PM GMT on August 23, 2012
Tropical Storm Isaac continues to maintain top winds of just 45 mph as its center prepares to move through the Lesser Antilles islands late this afternoon and early this evening. The entire Lesser Antilles chain of islands is receiving heavy rains from Isaac, with Martinique picking up 1.46" of rain as of 2 pm EDT, and St. Lucia receiving 1.49". However, Isaac is not yet generating much in the way of tropical storm-force winds, and none of the islands had received winds in excess of 30 mph as of 4 pm EDT.
JeffMasters, • 8:34 PM GMT on August 22, 2012
Tropical Storm Isaac is lashing the entire Lesser Antilles chain of islands with heavy rains this morning, and the winds will be on the increase this afternoon as the storm heads west at 19 mph. Isaac is still a weak and disorganized tropical storm, but that is changing. The Hurricane Hunters are in the storm, and have thus far found no increase in the storm's top surface winds, which remain near 45 mph.
JeffMasters, • 3:06 PM GMT on August 22, 2012
The Air Force Hurricane Hunters are in Tropical Depression Nine, and have discovered a region of 40 - 45 mph winds at the surface, using their SFMR instrument. Flight level winds at their 1000 foot altitude spiked as high as 49 mph. The surface pressure was 1005 mb, a typical one for a weak tropical storm. Based on these measurements, it is highly likely that NHC will name this Tropical Storm Isaac at 5 pm EDT.
JeffMasters, • 7:51 PM GMT on August 21, 2012
Tropical Depression Nine has formed in the waters a day's journey from the Lesser Antilles Islands, and is headed west towards the islands at 20 mph. This storm could be trouble for much of the Caribbean, and may affect the mainland U.S. next week. The entire Lesser Antilles Islands chain will have a three-day period of heavy weather Wednesday through Friday, as TD 9 and the associated area of heavy thunderstorms to its southeast passes through.
JeffMasters, • 2:54 PM GMT on August 21, 2012
A large tropical wave (Invest 94L) located about 1100 miles east of the Lesser Antilles Islands is headed west at 20 - 25 mph, and is showing increasing organization today. A well-defined surface circulation has developed. Heavy thunderstorms are now attempting to fire up around this circulation center, though are being hampered by dry air. The disturbance will have to build and maintain more heavy thunderstorms than it has now to be considered a tropical depression, though.
JeffMasters, • 2:43 PM GMT on August 20, 2012
A tropical wave (Invest 94L) located midway between the Lesser Antilles Islands and the coast of Africa is headed west at 20 - 25 mph. This storm is a threat to develop into a tropical storm that will affect the Lesser Antilles Islands as early as Wednesday. The storm is under light wind shear of 5 - 10 knots, and is over waters of 27°C. A large area of dry air lies just to the north of 94L, and this dry air is interfering with development.
JeffMasters, • 2:44 PM GMT on August 19, 2012
July 2012 was the globe's 4th warmest July on record, according NOAA. NASA rated it the 12th warmest. July 2012 global land temperatures were the 3rd warmest on record, breaking a streak of three months (April, May, and June) when global land temperatures were the warmest on record. July 2012 global ocean temperatures were the 7th warmest on record, and it was the 329th consecutive month with global temperatures warmer than the 20th century average.
JeffMasters, • 7:19 PM GMT on August 18, 2012
A large tropical wave (Invest 94L) is located a few hundred miles southwest of the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa, and is headed west at 15 - 20 mph. This storm is a potential threat to develop into a tropical storm that will affect the Lesser Antilles Islands as early as Wednesday. The storm is under moderate wind shear of 10 - 20 knots, and is over waters of 27.5°C. I expect the earliest that 94L could develop into a tropical depression would be Sunday.
JeffMasters, • 3:24 PM GMT on August 18, 2012
After a long path across the Atlantic that mirrored the track of Hurricane Ernesto, Tropical Depression Seven finally got its act together enough over the Bay of Campeche tropical storm breeding grounds to earn the name Helene. Helene's formation on August 17 ties 2012 with 1933 for the 2nd earliest appearance of the Atlantic's eighth tropical storm. Only 2005 had an earlier formation date of the season's eighth storm. Most of this year's storms have been weak, though.
JeffMasters, • 10:41 PM GMT on August 17, 2012
A small area of disturbed weather with an increasing amount of heavy thunderstorms has developed in southern Gulf of Mexico's Bay of Campeche, in association with the remnants of Tropical Depression Seven. Heavy rains from ex-TD-7 are beginning to impact the coast of Mexico between Tampico and Veracruz, and radar from Mexico shows some rotation to the echoes, but little in the way of spiral banding. Ex-TD-7 has a 70% chance of development.
JeffMasters, • 2:39 PM GMT on August 17, 2012
The Dust Bowl drought had natural roots, but human-caused effects made the drought worse and longer-lasting. The fact that we are experiencing a drought in 2012 comparable to the great Dust Bowl drought of the 1930s--without poor farming practices being partially to blame--bodes ill for the future of drought in the U.S. We can expect drought to cause an increasing amount of damage and economic hardship for the U.S. in the coming decades.
JeffMasters, • 4:52 PM GMT on August 16, 2012
Tropical Storm Gordon is here, born out of a tropical wave that emerged from the coast of Africa last week. Gordon's formation puts the hurricane season of 2012 in fourth place for the earliest date of formation of the season's seventh storm, going back to 1851. Only 2005, 1936, and 1995 had earlier formation dates of the season's seventh storm. Gordon has developed a Central Dense Overcast (CDO)--a large and expanding area of high cirrus clouds over the center, due to a build-up of heavy thunderstorms.
JeffMasters, • 1:10 PM GMT on August 16, 2012
A searing heat wave rare even for the Desert Southwest sent temperatures soaring to record levels on Monday, with Needles, California tying its record high for the date of 118°F. The temperature might have gone higher, but a thunderstorm rolled in and rain began falling at a temperature of 115°F (46.1°C). Monday's rain at 115° in Needles sets a new world record for the hottest rain in world history.
JeffMasters, • 3:19 PM GMT on August 15, 2012
Given that there have been two mass evacuations of Tampa during the past 25 years during the peak three-month period of hurricane season--August, September, and October--history suggests that the odds of a mass evacuation order being given during the 4-day period that the Republican National Convention is in town is probably around 0.2%. So far, early signs point to a hurricane-free Republican National Convention at the end of August.
JeffMasters, • 4:48 PM GMT on August 14, 2012
A large tropical wave (Invest 93L) is located in the Central Atlantic about 1000 miles southeast of Bermuda. Satellite loops this morning show a surface circulation attempting to form, and heavy thunderstorm activity has increased markedly since Monday. Residents of the Azores Islands should keep an eye on 93L, which could pass close to the islands as early as Sunday night. In their 8 am Tropical Weather Outlook, NHC gave 93L a 30% chance of becoming a tropical depression by Thursday morning.
JeffMasters, • 2:01 PM GMT on August 14, 2012
The remains of Tropical Depression Seven are headed westward at 20 mph across the Central Caribbean, and will bring heavy rain to Jamaica and Southwest Haiti today. High wind shear of 15 - 25 knots should prevent the system from regenerating today. Wind shear will fall to the low range over the disturbance on Tuesday and Wednesday, but there is not going to be enough time for ex-TD 7 to develop before it moves inland over the Yucatan Peninsula on Wednesday.
JeffMasters, • 1:50 PM GMT on August 13, 2012
The remains of Tropical Depression Seven brought heavy rains to Trinidad on Saturday, unleashing flooding and mudslides that killed two people and left two others missing in Diego Martin. The storm is headed westward at 20 mph across the Caribbean, but high wind shear of 15 - 25 knots should prevent the system from regenerating. None of the reliable models forecasts that TD 7 will regenerate, and the storm should arrive in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula on Wednesday.
JeffMasters, • 3:31 PM GMT on August 12, 2012
Tropical Depression Seven is dead, ripped apart by moderate wind shear of 10 - 20 knots this Saturday morning. The storm was too small and fragile to survive the shear, thanks to dry air from the Sahara that had infiltrated the storm environment. None of the reliable models forecasts that TD 7 will regenerate as it tracks westwards across the Caribbean over the next four days. The remains of the storm should arrive in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula on Wednesday.
JeffMasters, • 3:55 PM GMT on August 11, 2012
During the 1930s, a series of epic heat waves gripped the U.S., drying up the soil in an unprecedented drought that brought about the great Dust Bowl. The most intense heat hit during July 1936, which set a record for hottest month in U.S. history that stood for 76 years. That iconic record has now fallen, bested by 0.2°F during July 2012, which is now the hottest month in U.S. history.
JeffMasters, • 7:16 PM GMT on August 10, 2012
Tropical Depression 7 continues westward across the central tropical Atlantic with little change in appearance. Looking remarkably like the tropical depression that became Tropical Storm Ernesto last week, TD 7 has a limited region of heavy thunderstorms. A large amount of dry air to the west and north is interfering with TD 7's heavy thunderstorms. The official NHC forecast of a 45 - 50 mph tropical storm moving through the Lesser Antilles Islands Saturday night and Sunday is a reasonable one.
JeffMasters, • 1:57 PM GMT on August 10, 2012
Tropical Depression Seven is here. Looking remarkably like the tropical depression that became Tropical Storm Ernesto on August 1, TD 7 has a limited region of heavy thunderstorms, due to a large amount of dry air to the west and north that is getting into TD 7's circulation. Wind shear is a light 5 - 10 knots, and ocean temperatures are a relatively cool 26°C.
JeffMasters, • 9:59 PM GMT on August 09, 2012
A tropical wave midway between Africa and the Lesser Antilles Islands (Invest 92L) has become well-organized, with satellite loops showing that a well-defined surface circulation formed around 9 am EDT. So far, 92L's heavy thunderstorm activity is limited, due to a large amount of dry air to the west and north. However, heavy thunderstorms have recently increased near the new circulation center, and if current trends continue, 92L will likely be named Tropical Depression Seven later today.
JeffMasters, • 2:05 PM GMT on August 09, 2012
Ernesto is tropical storm again, after making landfall Tuesday night at 11 pm EDT just north of the Belize/Mexico border as a Category 1 hurricane with 85 mph winds. We have few good weather observations near the landfall location, though an automated weather station on Banco Chinchorro Island just off the coast of Mexico reported a minimum pressure of 979.4 mb.
JeffMasters, • 12:23 PM GMT on August 08, 2012
Ernesto strengthened to a category 1 hurricane this afternoon after the morning hurricane hunter mission found winds of 80 mph, which is unusual for a hurricane without an eye wall. The hunters also found a minimum central pressure of 984 mb, which has dropped since this morning. The next hurricane hunter mission is scheduled to reach the center of the hurricane around 8pm EDT.
angelafritz • 8:55 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
Tropical Storm Ernesto is closing in on the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula as a strong tropical storm with 65 mph winds. Latest data from the Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft in the storm found the pressure had dropped to its lowest value yet--988 mb at 9:12 am EDT. Top surface winds as seen by their SFMR instrument were in the 60 - 65 mph range, and the plane found 72 mph winds at their flight level of 5,000 feet, on the northeast side of the eye. Ernesto does not have an eyewall.
JeffMasters, • 2:19 PM GMT on August 07, 2012
Tropical Storm Ernesto is undergoing significant strengthening, and is not far from hurricane strength, according to data from this morning's Hurricane Hunter mission. The hurricane hunter aircraft in the storm found the pressure had dropped to 997 mb at 8:13 am EDT, and had dropped another 3 mb to 994 mb at 9:17 am. Surface winds as seen by their SFMR instrument had increased to 68 mph, and the plane found 89 mph winds at their flight level of 5,000 feet, on the northwest side of the eye.
JeffMasters, • 2:02 PM GMT on August 06, 2012
A disorganized Tropical Storm Ernesto continues to speed westward at 23 mph across the Caribbean. Ernesto has brought sporadic heavy rains to Jamaica today, and Kingston has picked up 0.51" of rain as of noon, and recorded top sustained winds of 22 mph. Ernesto looks very unhealthy on visible satellite loops, with its low-level circulation center a naked swirl exposed to view with almost no heavy thunderstorm activity near the center.
JeffMasters, • 4:25 PM GMT on August 05, 2012
Enigmatic Tropical Storm Ernesto continues westward across the Caribbean, but has weakened. Ernesto certainly looks impressive on visible satellite loops, with a symmetric shape, good spiral banding, and an upper-level outflow channel to the north and east. But this morning's flight by the Hurricane Hunters found that Ernesto had weakened, with top winds of just 50 mph, and a central pressure that had risen to 1007 mb.
JeffMasters, • 4:12 PM GMT on August 04, 2012
Tropical Storm Ernesto lashed the Windward Islands with strong winds and heavy rain early this morning, as it passed over St. Lucia near 7 am AST. Ernesto brought sustained winds of 43 mph to Barbados at 7 am AST, and sustained winds of 41 mph, gusting to 63 mph to St. Lucia at 6:15 am AST. Ernesto looks moderately well-organized on Martinique radar, with spiral bands to the north and south feeding into an echo-free center. Ernesto is beginning to show more organization on visible satellite loops.
JeffMasters, • 1:49 PM GMT on August 03, 2012
Observations from an Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft indicate that Tropical Storm Ernesto has arrived. The season's fifth tropical storm has surface winds of 50 mph on the north side near 14°N, but has an ill-defined surface circulation with almost no winds out of the west. Ernesto is not a pretty sight on visible satellite loops, with patchy heavy thunderstorm activity and little spiral banding.
JeffMasters, • 10:02 PM GMT on August 02, 2012
A disheveled Tropical Depression Five is clinging to life in the face of stiff wind shear and dry air, as the storm heads towards the Lesser Antilles Islands with a forward speed of 20 mph. The depression is very ragged looking on visible satellite loops. The depression has only a small area of heavy thunderstorms, which are on the south side of the center due to high wind shear and dry air on the northern side of the storm.
JeffMasters, • 2:04 PM GMT on August 02, 2012
Tropical Storm Watches are flying for much of the Lesser Antilles, as the islands await the arrival of Tropical Depression Five, which formed at 5 pm EDT today. The new depression is still fairly ragged looking, as seen on visible satellite loops. Heavy thunderstorm activity is only on the south side of the center, due to higher wind shear on the northern side of the storm. Wind shear over TD 5 is at the moderate level, 10 - 15 knots.
JeffMasters, • 10:22 PM GMT on August 01, 2012
A tropical wave (Invest 99L) near 11°N 47°W, about 1000 miles east of the Lesser Antilles Islands, is showing increasing organization, and has the potential to develop into a tropical depression today or tomorrow as it moves westward at 15 - 20 mph. Visible satellite loops show that the disturbance now has two respectable low-level spiral bands, one to the north and one to the south, and a moderate amount of heavy thunderstorms near the center.
JeffMasters, • 2:02 PM GMT on August 01, 2012