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Genesis of New Atlantic Tropical Cyclones: Which Model Should You Trust?

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:29 PM GMT on August 29, 2013

It's been a remarkably quiet late August in the Atlantic for hurricanes, with nary an "Invest", and precious few yellow 10% probability circles on NHC's Tropical Weather Outlook. When will this remarkable hurricane drought come to an end? The computer models we use to track hurricanes have conflicting ideas about this. Which model should we believe, and how far into the future can these models successfully predict genesis events of new tropical depressions in the Atlantic? Some answers come in a 2013 paper by a group of scientists led by Florida State's Daniel Halperin, just accepted for publication in the journal Weather and Forecasting, "An evaluation of tropical cyclone genesis forecasts from global numerical models." It turns out that two of the three most reliable models for predicting the genesis of tropical cyclones up to four days in advance are also the our top-performing models for predicting hurricane tracks: the American GFS model and the European ECMWF model. The UKMET model is also quite good at predicting tropical cyclone genesis events. The Canadian GEM model and the Navy NOGAPS model (now succeeded by the Navy NAVGEM model) do less well. When two or more models make the same genesis forecast, the odds of the event actually occurring are increased considerably. The models have improved greatly in making genesis forecasts in recent years; back in 2007, when our top three models made a 4-day genesis forecast, these verified only 17 - 28% of the time. By 2011, the hit rate had increased to 45 - 50%. However, the models still miss most genesis events. In 2011, the probability of detection of a tropical cyclone genesis event was only 8% - 23%, meaning that 77 - 92% of time, a tropical depression or tropical storm formed without the model predicting that it would form. The best model to use for looking at Atlantic tropical cyclone genesis in 2011 was the UKMET model, which combined a relatively high probability of detection rate with a low false alarm rate.


Figure 1. The probability of making a correct tropical cyclone genesis forecast for all forecast hours (06 to 96) by model, for the period 2004 - 2011. In 2011, three models--the GFS, UKMET, and European--made genesis forecasts that were correct 45 - 50% of the time. The Canadian GEM model and the Navy NOGAPS model did less well. Data taken from Halperin et al., 2013, "An evaluation of tropical cyclone genesis forecasts from global numerical models." Weather and Forecasting, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/WAF-D-13-00008.1

The paper looked at 135 Atlantic genesis events over the period 2004 - 2011, as predicted by five global computer weather forecast models: the GFS, ECMWF, UKMET, NOGAPS, and Canadian GEM. The regional GFDL and HWRF hurricane models were not considered, as they use output from the GFS model to drive them, and are not good at making genesis forecasts. The study only looked at forecasts made up to four days in advance. While there have been cases where I've seen genesis predictions made 7 - 10 days in advance come true, these are rare, and the "hit" rate of successful genesis forecasts even four days in advance is low. In the paper, a "hit" was defined as a forecast that successfully predicted genesis within 24 hours and 345 miles of the observed time and location. A "false alarm" occurred when the model predicted a storm that never developed. The other categories considered were "late genesis" events where a storm formed more than 24 hours before it was predicted to, and "early genesis", where a storm formed more than 24 hours after it was predicted to. Here are some details on each model's ability to make Atlantic tropical cyclone genesis forecasts:

European ECMWF model: The model is reluctant to predict genesis, and misses many genesis events (it had only an 8% probability of detection in 2011.) However, when it does predict genesis, it usually happens, with only a 16% false alarm percentage in 2011. The European model exhibits preferred regions of genesis, with over 60% of its genesis forecasts occurring in the MDR: 10-20°N, 60-20°W. Although the ECMWF misses many tropical cyclone genesis events in the Gulf of Mexico (as do the other models), when it does forecast genesis there, it almost always occurs. The model was highly prone to making late genesis forecasts.

American GFS model: The GFS model improved substantially in its genesis forecasts beginning in 2010, most likely due to a major model upgrade in 2010. The GFS is more aggressive at predicting genesis than the European model, and is less likely to miss a genesis event (22% probability of detection in 2011.) However, the incidence of false alarms was 32% in 2011, double what the European model had. Like the European model, the GFS exhibits preferred regions of genesis, with nearly 60% of its genesis forecasts occurring in the MDR: 10-20°N, 60-20°W.

UKMET model: The UKMET is more aggressive at predicting genesis than the European model, and is less likely to miss a genesis event (20% probability of detection in 2011.) The incidence of false alarms was 18% in 2011, similar to what the European model had. Like the European and GFS models, the UKMET exhibits preferred regions of genesis, with more than 67% of its genesis forecasts occurring in the MDR: 10-20°N, 60-20°W. The model was prone to making late genesis forecasts.

Canadian GEM model: The Canadian model was the least likely to miss a formation event, with a 23% probability of detection in 2011. False alarms have been a major issue, though, and the Canadian model generated the second highest number of bogus genesis events of any of the five models evaluated (42% of all its genesis forecasts in 2011 were false alarms.) The Canadian model does not seem to have a preferred region of genesis—all types of genesis events occur across the entire basin. The model performs best over the main development region (MDR; 10-20°N, 60-20°W), Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico (GOM).

Navy NOGAPS model: This model was retired in 2012, but we may be able to assume that its successor, the NAVGEM model, will have some of the same characteristics. False Alarms have been a major issue, and the NOGAPS model generated the highest number of bogus genesis events of any of the five models evaluated (60% of all its genesis forecasts in 2011 were false alarms.) The model also had a low probability of detection, just 9%. NOGAPS model does not seem to have a preferred region of genesis—all types of genesis events occur across the entire basin. Despite the high levels of hurricane activity in 2004 and 2005, the NOGAPS model failed to successfully forecast any genesis events those years.

Sources of Model Data
You can view 7-day ECMWF and 16-day GFS forecasts on wunderground's wundermap with the model layer turned on.
Longer ten-day ECMWF forecasts are available from the ECMWF web site.
FSU's experimental hurricane forecast page (CMC, ECMWF, GFDL, GFS, HWRF, and NAVGEM models)
NOAA's HFIP model comparison page (GFS, ECMWF, FIM, FIM9, UKMET, and CMC models.)
Experimental HFIP models

Very Quiet in the Atlantic
A tropical wave that came off the coast of Africa on Sunday is midway between Africa and the Lesser Antilles Islands. This disturbance is moving westward at 15 mph, has a modest amount of spin, but only a limited amount of heavy thunderstorm activity. In their 8 am EDT Thursday Tropical Weather Outlook, NHC left the 5-day odds of formation of this disturbance at 20%, but increased the 2-day odds of formation to 10%. Wind shear is a moderate 10 - 20 knots over the system, but there is an area of dry air and dust from the Saharan Air Layer (SAL) to the north and west that is interfering with development. With the exception of the NAVGEM model, there is little support from the models for developing the disturbance during the next five days. The wave could spread heavy rains and gusty winds to the Lesser Antilles Islands on Sunday and Monday.

A tropical wave expected to emerge from the coast of Africa on Friday and track over the Cape Verde Islands is also showing little support for development from the models. This wave is expected to take a northwesterly track, and would likely not be able to make the long trek across the Atlantic to threaten North America or the Caribbean Islands. In their 8 am EDT Thursday Tropical Weather Outlook, NHC put the 5-day odds of development at 20%.

Wunderblogger Lee Grenci has an excellent new post, "Atlantic Hurricane Season: The Saharan Air Layer and Vertical Wind Shear".

California's Rim Fire Now 6th Largest in State History, and is 30% Controlled
California's massive Rim Fire in Yosemite National Park continues to grow, but an army of over 4,000 firefighters are making headway against the blaze, and had attained 30% containment of the fire as of 9:20 am EDT on Thursday. According to Inciweb, fire has burned over 192,700 acres. This moves the fire into 6th place for largest fire in state history, according to statistics tabulated by wunderground's weather historian, Christopher C. Burt in his latest post, "The Worst Wild Fires in U.S. History". The Rim Fire will have difficultly surpassing California's largest fire on record--the Cedar Fire in San Diego County of October 2003. That fire burned 273,246 acres (430 square miles). California has had its driest year-to-date period, so it is no surprise that the state is experiencing an unusually large fire this summer.


Video 1. Time-lapse photography shows various perspectives of the 2013 Rim Fire, as viewed from Yosemite National Park. The first part of this video is from the Crane Flat Helibase. The fire is currently burning in wilderness and is not immediately threatening visitors or employees. The second half of the video is from Glacier Point, showing Yosemite Valley, and how little the smoke from the fire has impacted the Valley.

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.

Reader Comments

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Quoting 224. GTstormChaserCaleb:
Man someone is going to bust big time or have a huge serving of crow waiting for them. The model wars continue.





GFS will win. CMC is rubbish.
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TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
200 PM EDT THU AUG 29 2013

FOR THE NORTH ATLANTIC...CARIBBEAN SEA AND THE GULF OF MEXICO...

1. A BROAD AREA OF LOW PRESSURE ASSOCIATED WITH A TROPICAL WAVE IS
ABOUT TO MOVE OFF THE WEST COAST OF AFRICA. THIS SYSTEM IS
ACCOMPANIED BY A LARGE AREA OF CLOUDINESS AND THUNDERSTORMS.
ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS APPEAR TO BE FAVORABLE FOR SOME
DEVELOPMENT DURING THE NEXT TWO OR THREE DAYS WHILE THE SYSTEM
MOVES WESTWARD NEAR THE CAPE VERDE ISLANDS AT 10 TO 15 MPH. AFTER
THAT TIME...THE ENVIRONMENT IS FORECAST TO BECOME LESS CONDUCIVE
FOR DEVELOPMENT AS THE SYSTEM MOVES TOWARD THE NORTHWEST OVER THE
EASTERN ATLANTIC. THIS SYSTEM HAS A MEDIUM CHANCE...30 PERCENT...OF
BECOMING A TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS...AND A MEDIUM
CHANCE...40 PERCENT...OF BECOMING A TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE
NEXT 5 DAYS.

Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting 224. GTstormChaserCaleb:
Man someone is going to bust big time or have a huge serving of crow waiting for them. The model wars continue.



They sure are because it just ain't gonna happen.
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Quoting 228. daddyjames:


And I am waiting - all on pins and needles - what's it gonna be, Drak? Yes or no?


DJ, I am faintly hearing that song by Meatloaf...
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Quoting 221. Levi32:


I thought the "amateurs" were supposed to "inquire" from the degreed meteorologist in the room, not the other way around.


oh snap..
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Quoting 186. Josihua2:

hmm moistening up...

Nope. Still tons of dry air ahead east of the Antilles as seen on the water vapor satellite images and vry unfavorable winds across the Caribbean due to the persistent TUTT across the GOMEX, Carib and western Atlantic. No chance of development until at least 9-15 if even then.
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Learned an interesting sounding technical term for the NW GOM weather pattern.


"Deep layer Continental flow"

Used in a sentence:

"Deep layer Continental flow is expected to maintain a
relatively dry atmosphere at 700 mb and above...while shallow low
level flow maintains some semblance of a near surface moisture fetch."

(taken from the daily NWS scientific forecaster notes)
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Quoting 221. Levi32:


I thought the "amateurs" were supposed to "inquire" from the degreed meteorologist in the room, not the other way around.


And I am waiting - all on pins and needles - what's it gonna be, Drak? Yes or no?
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Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
225. IKE
Drama on the blogs. What a season :)
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Man someone is going to bust big time or have a huge serving of crow waiting for them. The model wars continue.



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.
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222. VR46L
Quoting 199. TXEER:
I'm so confused!

First we were told "global warming" would cause more hurricanes.

Then we were told that we would just have more, stronger hurricanes.

Now they seem to have disappeared.

No wonder they've gone from calling it global warming to climate change.


It would appear so . the lyrics keep changing but the tune keeps the same ...
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Quoting 212. Drakoen:


All asked was a simple question. I'm just a mere inquiring mind is all. :)


I thought the "amateurs" were supposed to "inquire" of the degreed meteorologist in the room, not the other way around.
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Quoting 158. GTstormChaserCaleb:
Anita and Odel are my cousins name. Good ole old fashion names on this list. Can't wait until they use my name. Do you know if there is a way you can submit your name to NOAA for consideration?


i thought that I had read somewhere a few years ago, that there was a way to submit a name request after they retire a storm, but I guess not.

Apparently the NHC doesn't even get to control the replacement names, and you would have to have some connections inside the UN:

From the NHC: We do not control the naming of tropical storms. Instead, a list of names has been established by an international committee of the United Nations World Meteorological Organization. . .

Link
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219. IKE

Quoting SLU:
smh.

ALTHOUGH THE SHOWER ACTIVITY ASSOCIATED WITH A TROPICAL WAVE LOCATED
A LITTLE LESS THAN 1000 MILES EAST OF THE LESSER ANTILLES HAS
INCREASED SOME...THE WAVE IS HEADING WESTWARD TOWARD A REGION WHERE
THE UPPER LEVEL WINDS ARE NOT FAVORABLE FOR DEVELOPMENT.
THIS
SYSTEM HAS A LOW CHANCE...10 PERCENT...OF BECOMING A TROPICAL
CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS...AND A LOW CHANCE...20 PERCENT...
OF BECOMING A TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 5 DAYS.

Looks like shear is in the way......


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Quoting 208. Levi32:


I'm pretty sure you're right at 50% right now.


LOL - at least in Drak's book.
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Quoting 212. Drakoen:


All asked was a simple question. I'm just a mere inquiring mind is all. :)


I take that to be a yes


yes or no...
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Quoting 198. wunderweatherman123:
man this fish storm pattern has been in control the last 4 years. when will it end?

What pattern? Nothing has formed yet.
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Quoting 208. Levi32:


I'm pretty sure you're right at 50% right now.


Wait, there are 'silent' shareholders, you know ;)
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BULLETIN
TROPICAL STORM JULIETTE INTERMEDIATE ADVISORY NUMBER 4A
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL EP102013
1100 AM PDT THU AUG 29 2013

...JULIETTE SLOWING DOWN...
...WARNINGS DISCONTINUED FOR MEXICO...


SUMMARY OF 1100 AM PDT...1800 UTC...INFORMATION
-----------------------------------------------
LOCATION...25.8N 113.4W
ABOUT 95 MI...160 KM NW OF CABO SAN LAZARO MEXICO
ABOUT 175 MI...280 KM SE OF PUNTA EUGENIA MEXICO
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...40 MPH...65 KM/H
PRESENT MOVEMENT...NW OR 315 DEGREES AT 18 MPH...30 KM/H
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...1003 MB...29.62 INCHES
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Quoting 206. CaicosRetiredSailor:


...Drak,

Are you going to continue to be a jerk?

Yes or no

: )


All asked was a simple question. I'm just a mere inquiring mind is all. :)
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180 hr on Navgem
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Quoting 195. barbamz:
Popcorn, please ;)


Hello, barbamz, I was just looking for one of your recent posts. I'm looking for the site you've used recently that shows Europe, in particular the Mediterranean and weather systems coming off North Africa, headed north into the Med. Can you share the link, please?
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Nice little storm South East of NS
Link
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Quoting 200. daddyjames:


LOL - wow, we have a company? Levi - what's my share?


I'm pretty sure you're right at 50% right now.
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Quoting 70. IKE:
12Z GFS.....snooze......snore.....season is a bust?

Not yet...
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Quoting 145. Drakoen:


So it's going to form right? Yes or no please. :)


...Drak,

Are you going to continue to be a jerk?

Yes or no

: )
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Quoting 198. wunderweatherman123:
man this fish storm pattern has been in control the last 4 years. when will it end?
what are u proposing to see then? ur excitement is a storm hitting land?
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TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
1100 AM PDT THU AUG 29 2013

FOR THE EASTERN NORTH PACIFIC...EAST OF 140 DEGREES WEST LONGITUDE..

THE NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER IS ISSUING ADVISORIES ON TROPICAL
STORM JULIETTE...LOCATED NEAR THE SOUTHWEST COAST OF THE BAJA
CALIFORNIA PENINSULA.

1. A BROAD AREA OF LOW PRESSURE LOCATED ABOUT 675 MILES SOUTHWEST
OF THE SOUTHERN TIP OF THE BAJA CALIFORNIA PENINSULA IS PRODUCING
DISORGANIZED SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS. DEVELOPMENT...IF ANY...
OF THIS SYSTEM SHOULD BE SLOW TO OCCUR DURING THE NEXT DAY OR SO
WHILE THIS SYSTEM MOVES NORTHEASTWARD OR NORTH-NORTHEASTWARD AT
ABOUT 15 MPH. THE LOW IS FORECAST TO REACH COOLER WATERS IN A
COUPLE OF DAYS AND DEVELOPMENT AFTER THAT TIME IS NOT EXPECTED.
THIS SYSTEM HAS A LOW CHANCE...10 PERCENT...OF BECOMING A TROPICAL
CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS...AND ALSO A LOW CHANCE CHANCE...
10 PERCENT...OF BECOMING A TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 5 DAYS.

2. SHOWER AND THUNDERSTORM ACTIVITY ASSOCIATED WITH AN AREA OF LOW
PRESSURE LOCATED ABOUT 1500 MILES WEST-SOUTHWEST OF THE SOUTHERN
TIP OF THE BAJA CALIFORNIA PENINSULA REMAINS DISORGANIZED. ANY
DEVELOPMENT OF THIS SYSTEM SHOULD BE SLOW TO OCCUR DURING THE NEXT
COUPLE OF DAYS AS IT BEGINS TO MOVE SLOWLY NORTHEASTWARD. THIS
DISTURBANCE HAS A LOW CHANCE...10 PERCENT...OF BECOMING A
TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS...AND A LOW CHANCE...
20 PERCENT...OF BECOMING A TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 5 DAYS.

FIVE-DAY FORMATION PROBABILITIES ARE EXPERIMENTAL IN 2013. COMMENTS
ON THE EXPERIMENTAL FORECASTS CAN BE PROVIDED AT...

HTTP://WWW.NWS.NOAA.GOV/SURVEY/NWS-SURVEY.PHP?COD E=ETWO

FORECASTER BROWN
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203. JLPR2
Come on, give me at least an invest...



Go CATL TW!
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202. SLU
smh.

ALTHOUGH THE SHOWER ACTIVITY ASSOCIATED WITH A TROPICAL WAVE LOCATED
A LITTLE LESS THAN 1000 MILES EAST OF THE LESSER ANTILLES HAS
INCREASED SOME...THE WAVE IS HEADING WESTWARD TOWARD A REGION WHERE
THE UPPER LEVEL WINDS ARE NOT FAVORABLE FOR DEVELOPMENT.
THIS
SYSTEM HAS A LOW CHANCE...10 PERCENT...OF BECOMING A TROPICAL
CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS...AND A LOW CHANCE...20 PERCENT...
OF BECOMING A TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 5 DAYS.

Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting 156. IKE:

Too early. If fronts keep coming through the SE USA in September it might be getting close....(northern GOM area).



Thanks..... I hear you but aren't the cold fronts for example, the ones that keep push any potential treats away?
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Quoting 192. Drakoen:


Patience Levi & Co.


LOL - wow, we have a company? Levi - what's my share?

Edit: I must be the silent partner, I suppose.
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199. TXEER
I'm so confused!

First we were told "global warming" would cause more hurricanes.

Then we were told that we would just have more, stronger hurricanes.

Now they seem to have disappeared.

No wonder they've gone from calling it global warming to climate change.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
man this fish storm pattern has been in control the last 4 years. when will it end?
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting 192. Drakoen:


Patience Levi & Co.


Drakeon will share his knowledge in all due time..
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
102
NOUS42 KWNO 291717
ADMNFD
SENIOR DUTY METEOROLOGIST NWS ADMINISTRATIVE MESSAGE
NWS NCEP AVIATION WEATHER CENTER KANSAS CITY MO
1731 UTC THU AUG 29 2013

THE SDM INFORMS US THAT THEY HAVE LOST NOMADS AND NCEP FTP
SERVERS. THE SDM MAY BE CONTACTED ON THE REGULAR NUMBER
301 683 1500.

STREIB/LEAD FORECASTER/AWC/NCEP
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Popcorn, please ;)
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Historical Storms over a 10 day period, 1-10 September:

http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/climo/images/8_11_20_nhc. png
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Quoting 185. Tornado6042008X:
Good afternoon, GT. There will be big waves for the east coast should this verify. ... but wow- what a monster.
Surfs up for the college kids who are back in school, get it before the fall and winter sets in.
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Quoting 189. daddyjames:


We're still waiting . . .


Patience Levi & Co.
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So at 2PM we have : A FISH + A BUST

DEPRESSING!!!
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Quoting 186. Josihua2:

hmm moistening up...


punch your tickets for the wave train..its coming..







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Quoting 181. Drakoen:


Redirection. Okay. I have been awaiting your wisdom all these years lol.


We're still waiting . . .
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Quoting 158. GTstormChaserCaleb:
Anita and Odel are my cousins name. Good ole old fashion names on this list. Can't wait until they use my name. Do you know if there is a way you can submit your name to NOAA for consideration?


I think hurricane names tend to follow the trends in baby names. I'm suprised that there aren't more Hurricane McKaylas, Hurricane Tylers, or Hurricane Briannas...

There has also been more Latin/Hispanic storm names in recent years...
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hmm moistening up...
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Quoting 167. GTstormChaserCaleb:
WOW!! in my Jasoniscoolman voice. BTW good afternoon to everyone in here. :)

Good afternoon, GT. There will be big waves for the east coast should this verify. ... but wow- what a monster.
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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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