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Impressive Bill churning huge waves; New England air pollution episode underway

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:38 PM GMT on August 18, 2009

Hurricane Bill has popped out an impressive eye, and continues to gather strength over the middle Atlantic. Visible and infrared satellite imagery show a well-organized, symmetric hurricane, with plenty of low-level spiral banding and upper-level outflow channels to the north and south. The spectacular appearance of the storm is evidence of the light wind shear environment that Bill finds itself in.

Wind shear is low, 5 - 10 knots, and is forecast to remain low to moderate, 5-15 knots, for the next five days. Sea Surface Temperatures (SSTs) will rise steadily from 27.5°C today to 29°C on Friday. Total ocean heat content also rises today into Wednesday, and it is expected that Bill will take advantage of these favorable conditions to intensify into a major hurricane. The Hurricane Hunters make their first penetration into Bill this afternoon. The NOAA Hurricane Hunters will be continuously flying Bill for the next three days. They are flying research missions that will feed real-time radar data into an experimental version of the HWRF model to see if this data can improve the model forecasts.


Figure 1. Wave forecast for Hurricane Bill from NOAA's Wavewatch III model. Beginning Saturday (right panel) large waves from Bill are expected to affect most of the U.S. East Coast. By Sunday, the model predicts waves of 10 - 15 feet may impact the offshore waters of New England.

Water vapor satellite loops show that a trough of low pressure is diving down towards Bill, and this trough will be able to turn Bill more to the northwest over the next two days, and Bill will miss the Lesser Antilles Islands. The main impact of Bill on these islands will be high waves. Yesterday, Bill passed just north of Buoy 41041, which recorded significant wave heights of 28.8 feet. Maximum wave height is typically a factor of 1.9 greater than the significant wave height, so Bill was likely generating waves up to 55 feet high. High waves from Bill are propagating across the Atlantic towards the U.S. East Coast, and will arrive there on Saturday, according to NOAA's Wavewatch III model (Figure 1). The highest waves spawned by Bill will affect the New England coast, where waves of 10 - 15 feet in offshore waters can be expected. The waves will cause significant erosion of beaches, and possible damage to shoreline structures.

A much larger trough of low pressure is expected to develop along the U.S. East Coast late this week, turning Bill to the north. Exactly where this turn occurs is still not clear, and both Bermuda and Cape Cod, Massachusetts will be in Bill's 5-day forecast cone of uncertainty. At present, it appears that the Canadian provinces of Newfoundland or Nova Scotia are at greatest risk from a strike by Bill, but New England and Bermuda cannot relax just yet.

Elsewhere in the tropics
The remains of Tropical Storm Ana are bringing heavy rain to Haiti, Cuba, and the Bahamas today, and this activity will spread over South Florida tonight. The remains are disorganized, and are not likely to re-develop. No models are calling for any new tropical cyclones to develop in the Atlantic over the next seven days.


Figure 2. Image from NASA's Terra satellite of air pollution haze over the Northeast U.S. on Monday, August 17, 2009.

First major air pollution episode of the summer for the Northeast U.S.
New England is currently experiencing a far more deadly weather event than a direct hit by Hurricane Bill would likely bring--a large dome of high pressure. The reason? The high pressure system camped over the Northeast U.S. has brought hot temperatures, stagnant air, and the summer's first major air pollution episode.

The event started on Sunday, when a high pressure system with light winds moved over the eastern U.S., limited mixing and leading to stagnation and a buildup of pollutants. Mostly sunny skies and high temperatures also enhanced formation of ground-level ozone gas, a dangerous pollutant. Furthermore, southerly winds brought high humidity into the Northeast, which is conducive to particle pollution formation in the atmosphere. Particle pollution is the most deadly form of air pollution in the U.S. The poor air quality led to issuance of air quality advisories and action days on Monday in more than 30 cities, including New York City, NY; Newark, NJ; Providence, RI; and Portland, ME.

Today's air pollution forecast
Today, similar conditions are expected across much of the region, and Air Quality Index (AQI) levels are forecasted to remain in the Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups (Code Orange) range for many areas in the Northeast. For a complete list of action/advisory days and their locations, visit the EPA AIRNow website.

Health Tip: Cut back on strenuous outdoor exercise when air quality is expected to be poor.

How You Can Help: Choose a cleaner commute - share a ride to work or use public transportation. Bicycle or walk when possible. Combine errands and reduce trips.

Mortality from air pollution
As I discussed in a previous blog post, air pollution is a far more deadly weather hazard in the U.S. than hurricanes. Sure, hurricanes have killed an average of 150 people per year in the U.S., and the "premature deaths" caused by air pollution are only partly attributable to breathing bad air, while drowning in a hurricane's storm surge is entirely due to the hurricane. Nevertheless, a great many children die of pollution-induced asthma attacks who would not have died otherwise, and the mortality due to air pollution in the general population is in the thousands or ten of thousands each year. Outdoor air pollution in the U.S. due to particulate pollution alone was estimated by the EPA in 1997 to cause at least 20,000 premature deaths each year. A 2005 study by EPA scientists (Particulate Matter Health Risk Assessment for Selected Urban Areas) estimated that over 4,700 premature deaths occur each year in just nine cities (Detroit, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Boston, Phoenix, Seattle, and San Jose)--even if those cities all met the current federal standards for particulate matter pollution. Extrapolating these data to the entire nation puts the annual death toll in the tens of thousands--but the EPA has not calculated that total. Some studies have placed the annual pollution death toll in the U.S. at 50,000 to 100,000 (Dockery, D.W., and C.A Pope III. Acute Respiratory Effects of Particulate Air Pollution. Annual Review Public Health, 1994, vol. 15,107-32.) The death toll is much higher in other parts of the world, where air pollution standards are not as stringent. Globally, about 800,000 people per year die prematurely due to outdoor air pollution, according to a 2005 study published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health. This represents about 1.2 percent of total annual global deaths.

In the debate over the costs of switching over the cleaner energy sources, the huge costs and deaths attributable to air pollution are often ignored. Sure, it will be costly to move away from fossil fuels, but let's not forget that the price per gallon we pay at the pump does not include the billions in medical costs we pay for the effects of air pollution.

I'll have an update Wednesday morning.

Jeff Masters


The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

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Quoting Chiggy007:
StormW:

Seeking your opinion in the new wave that just came off Africa!?
Surprisingly no one else is talking about it in here..!?
To me BILL is a non-story...


so Bill is a "non story", but a wave off africa that hasn't even formed is a story?? Why?
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
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Quoting Chiggy007:
StormW:

Seeking your opinion in the new wave that just came off Africa!?
Surprisingly no one else is talking about it in here..!?
To me BILL is a non-story...


Any hurricane headed for major status is a story. They're just so...beautiful.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting connie1976:
could the track change a lot after the hh are done? ...does it ever change a lot?
it could change a lot.
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Garbage In, Garbage Out is a phrase in the field of computer science or Information Communication technology. It is used primarily to call attention to the fact that computers will unquestioningly process the most nonsensical of input data and produce nonsensical output.

Garbage In, Gospel Out is a more recent expansion of the acronym. It is a sardonic comment on the tendency to put excessive trust in 'computerized' data, and on the propensity for individuals to blindly accept what the computer says.

Link

lets see what the HH say before we discount bill imho
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could the track change a lot after the hh are done? ...does it ever change a lot?
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Quoting Chiggy007:
StormW:

Seeking your opinion in the new wave that just came off Africa!?
Surprisingly no one else is talking about it in here..!?
To me BILL is a non-story...

Weather456 mentions the wave in his blog.
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Bill's eye is much more well defined. Beginning to strengthen rapidly.
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CI# /Pressure/ Vmax
6.1 / 947.9mb/117.4kt

I'm sure someone has already posted these #'s but I'm still amazed at these estimates. I don't think Bill is quite this strong, but it certainly does give credence to the possibility that he could already be a major hurricane. We'll find out more when the HH's reach him.
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Quoting Chiggy007:
StormW:

Seeking your opinion in the new wave that just came off Africa!?
Surprisingly no one else is talking about it in here..!?
To me BILL is a non-story...


For some Bill is not a non-story. Until he's past your latitude you need to be aware of where he is and where he's going. There for, IMO, Bill will be a story for at least a few more days.
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a GIV-SP will never fly into a hurricane unless they want a good chance of crashing into the ocean.
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Quoting connie1976:
Are the people at the nhc ever really wrong?? ..the 5 day forecast is usually correct for them??


there is an error of about +/- 300 miles on the 5 day forecast. that's what the "cone of uncertainty" is for. very low chance (less than 5%) the actual track will be outside the cones.
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Quoting AllStar17:


That is an unnecessary post

I agree, that is uncalled for
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Morning Storm! You're probably pretty busy doing forecasting?
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StormW:

Seeking your opinion in the new wave that just came off Africa!?
Surprisingly no one else is talking about it in here..!?
To me BILL is a non-story...
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175. Prgal
Quoting rwdobson:
PRGirl, 99% chance you are fine and it will miss PR by a lot...but you still have to keep an eye open just in case. Remember that a lot of posters here are just trying to create controversy and debate by saying things like "It's going west"...

I agree with you and I know there are a lot of people here that like to create controversy. To my untrained eye I have seen a few times a more westward movements from time to time but I am really not sure if I am being unconsciously led by these comments. I will still keep an eye out on the system because we never know when there will be changes in the track. Thanks for the comment!
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Quoting Acemmett90:

can you post a link for that program for google earth


http://hhrecon.com/recon/
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Quoting BahaHurican:
Relax dude. It's not a competition, an either-or situation. U'd think u'd be glad there hasn't been anything major so far in that bathtub of a GOM....


Personally, I'd like it stay that way. Nothing in the GOM would be just fine with me.
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I take it back. Looks like the "non-tasked" GIV research mission was crisscrossing Bill and unloading dropsondes this morning.
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Good Morning....Looks likes the remnants of Ana are headed towards South Florida and the Florida Keys...Plenty of warm SST's around the Keys/Lower Gulf and pretty low sheer so we still need to keep an eye on the air pressure values as the remnants travel over/near the Keys; they still look pretty healthy at the moment although I agree with the NHC in terms of low percentages over the next 48 hours because the "mess" is so disorganized at the moment. As for Bill, the NHC three day tracks are pretty accurate (forget the 5 day track) so Bermuda may have a very rough time, on the NE side of the storm, on the current track; any shift on the east side of the cone would bring the storm right over/near them so I would certainly try to evacuate the Island if I could if this particular major cane was headed their way.
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Quoting 69Viking:


Everyone seems to be discounting anything in the GOM this year. People were blasted last week for suggesting something could develop there over the weekend and guess what, we had a surprise visit from Claudette. That spin may be nothing but just like the reminants of Ana it needs to be watched. At least I know a few of us that live in the area will be watching it.

Unless Bill misses one of those troughs he's going fishing and shouldn't be more than a East Coast Surfer's delight!
Relax dude. It's not a competition, an either-or situation. U'd think u'd be glad there hasn't been anything major so far in that bathtub of a GOM....
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165. jipmg
http://cimss.ssec.wisc.edu/tropic/real-time/atlantic/winds/wg8dlm6.html
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Are the people at the nhc ever really wrong?? ..the 5 day forecast is usually correct for them??
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I like your graphics AllStar17. There visually appealing and you don't need to watch some chick on TWC stand in front of right where your looking.
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Quoting DM21Altestic:

I don't think this improves the Vikings' chances of making the playoffs this year...

As long as the Steelers don't repeat, all is fine with me. I hate them. However, I would like to see my Cowboys make the Super Bowl...


Dolphins looked good in their 1st PS game. Beat the Jags 12-9.
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Quoting DM21Altestic:

Juan hit Halifax, not Newfoundland.


The point I was making is how far north a system can go and not be extratropical.
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Hurricane Hunters finding some 34 mph winds SE of Puerto Rico. Continuing toward Bill
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Quoting ssmate:
Totally off topic. Brett Farve on his way to MN to sign with the Vikes today. Left Hattisberg this morning to Minneapolis.
Back to weather.


Where did you get that information? When will these rumors end!?
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Quoting DM21Altestic:
By the time Newfoundland feels Bill he'll be an extratropical storm.


Extratropical storm is still a storm with major consequences. They need to be careful.
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Good Morning Everyone!

This mornings NAM at 84 hours shows a narrow, but strong ridge remaining to Bill's north (5940m 500mb heights)...as the Midwest Trough is weakening and lifting a bit.

This setup would maintain a WNW or NW heading a bit longer.

I'll be interested in the GFS, HWRF, and GFDL coming out soon...but I would expect another shift a bit closer to New England.


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Quoting lurkn4yrs:
Am I crazy or didn't someone on here earlier say that hurricane hunters have been flying getting info all morning...


As of 10 minutes ago, the first mission was about 90 miles east of St. Croix. They have a ways to go to get to Bill, and then they have a lot of flying around to do. So there is no HH data available yet.
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Nor a word from Dr M about the impressive wave that just came off Africa...
To me it looks very interesting...!! ;)
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Cat 6 lead authors: WU cofounder Dr. Jeff Masters (right), who flew w/NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990, & WU meteorologist Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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