Sometimes I Hate Knowing The Future

Meanwhile, as a forecaster (even if I do it just for fun right now) it’s sad to see tragedy unfold in slow motion. I didn’t know exactly where the flooding would be, but what we’ve seen the past few days was expected.

Deserts flood often.

phoenix flooding

Hurricane Norbert is a weird duck. It was a powerful hurricane. Then kryptonite. Cool water! Norbert deflated like a balloon.

THIS IS THE LAST FORECAST/ADVISORY ISSUED BY THE NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER ON NORBERT.

norbertMonday at 2:00 AM the Hurricane Center washed its hands. Norbert had ceased to exist.

Except, of course, nothing ceases to exist. It just shape shifts a little, takes on another form.

Norbert is now a flooding rainstorm. I was scared this was going to happen.

On Saturday I wrote:

This could result in heavy rains and life-threatening flash flooding in these areas during the next few days.

COD Meteorology    NEXRAD Single Site Radar DataThe Mexican state of Sonora and extreme southern California and Arizona seem most susceptible.

I underestimated the scope. Phoenix broke it’s record for single day rainfall. There was more flooding farther north.

Meanwhile, as a forecaster (even if I do it just for fun right now) it’s sad to see tragedy unfold in slow motion. I didn’t know exactly where the flooding would be, but what we’ve seen the past few days was expected.

Deserts flood often. Their sparse rain comes in a very few intense storms. Water rises very quickly especially where there are steep mountains–as there are in the Southwest.

By the point my colleagues and I knew what was about to happen it was too late. Beside that our forecasts weren’t specific enough. Weather forecasting isn’t yet at the point where we can zero on a specific flood basin more than a few hours in advance.

TD5, But You’ll Probably Call Her Dolly

There’s concern, but it’s likely this storm won’t grow strong enough to produce major damage. Though water temperatures in the southern Gulf are bathtub warm, wind shear will limit intensification.

National Weather Service   Graphical ForecastThe Hurricane Center just gave a cluster of clouds in the Gulf of Mexico the once over. Those clouds are now Tropical Depression 5. Sustained winds are under 30 mph, but some strengthening is expected. TD5 will likely become Tropical Storm Dolly.

The midpoint of the Hurricane Center’s storm track is Tampico, on the Mexican Gulf Coast. Metro Tampico has nearly a million people.

There’s concern, but it’s likely this storm won’t grow strong enough to produce major damage. Though water temperatures in the southern Gulf are bathtub warm, wind shear will limit intensification.

rgb0-laloIn an average year we’re on the “E” storm on September 1. So far 2014 has only produced A, B and C.

In early August the Hurricane Center revised their pre-season “below average” forecast to point even more strongly in that direction. Being a few letters behind remains the expectation.

There’s still danger this hurricane season, but less than usual.

Paula: If You Didn’t Know There Was A Hurricane There…

From time-to-time people talk about the frequency of hurricanes claiming there are more hurricanes now than ever before. Please take that claim with a grain of salt.

From time-to-time people talk about the frequency of hurricanes claiming there are more hurricanes now than ever before. Please take that claim with a grain of salt.

I will let the Hurricane Center do my explaining for me. This is the lead paragraph in the current technical discussion on Hurricane Paula.

A HURRICANE IS CROSSING BETWEEN THE WESTERN TIP OF CUBA AND EASTERN YUCATAN…BUT WITHOUT MODERN TECHNOLOGY NO ONE WOULD KNOW IT WAS THERE.

This is not to say there aren’t going to be problems. I expect rain, flooding and even mudslides in Cuba. Still, if you didn’t know there was a hurricane there you wouldn’t know there’s a hurricane there.

Before the advent of satellites we might still be waiting for the “P” storm to form!

Is There Bias In Forecasting Hurricane Earl?

In nearly every case Earl tracked west of the forecast!

If this remains the case Earl snuggles a little closer to Connecticut than has been said. Not good!

My friend Bob at Florida State took all the official fixes for Earl (since Earl became a tropical depression through this evening) and plotted them on a map. Then he added the official Hurricane Center forecast. Click the map on the left to make it large enough to read.

There is an unfortunate inconsistency to this data. In nearly every case Earl tracked west of the forecast!

If this remains the case Earl snuggles a little closer to Connecticut than has been said. Not good!

The Hurricane Center is populated with some of the smartest minds in tropical weather. Hopefully they’ll catch on or there’s a method to their madness I just don’t see.

Respect For Hurricane Earl

I am surprised by the Hurricane Center’s forecast. The ‘out days’ center of the track is well offshore, though the Maryland shore to the Canadian Maritimes are all within the cone of uncertainty.

Radar — that was my first step this morning. I needed to check the radar from Saint Maarten. As I type this the southern eyewall of Hurricane Earl is touching the coast of Anguilla in the Caribbean. The eye is well defined on radar.

The Hurricane Center says the top winds are 125 mph. If that’s true they’re in an extremely small area. I usually feel NHC’s estimated maximum wind is higher than warranted. It’s all academic. You don’t need 125 mph to rip a Caribbean island to shreds!

There have been no official observations from the Anguilla airport since yesterday afternoon. In Saint Maarten just to the south winds are sustained at 33 mph with gusts to 53 mph. Anguilla is getting it worse.

At St. Thomas the wind is gusting to 49 mph. Earl isn’t there yet. The Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico get their run-in later this afternoon.

These storms tend to wobble. They are not fully symmetrical. There is uneven friction from nearby landmasses and the interaction with other weather systems. This current path is north of where I thought it would be as recently as last night, but reasonably close.

Hurricane Earl is definitely a threat to the US East Coast. Will it hit? Too early to say, but it’s certainly enough of a possibility that I’m watching its every move.

I am surprised by the Hurricane Center’s forecast. The ‘out days’ center of the track is well offshore though all of the East Coast from the Maryland shore to the Canadian Maritimes are within the cone of uncertainty. How helpful is a forecast when it has to alert Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston? There’s lots of fudge factor still at work.

Based on the GFS past few runs I’d shift the track even farther west (left) than they have. I’m sure there’s a little “better safe than sorry” in my thoughts as well.

From the latest Hurricane Center discussion:

EARL IS FORECAST TO TURN NORTHWARD...THEN NORTHEASTWARD AHEAD OF A MID-LATITUDE TROUGH THAT MOVES ACROSS THE GREAT LAKES AND INTO THE NORTHEAST UNITED STATES IN 4-5 DAYS. THE TRACK GUIDANCE HAS SHIFTED WESTWARD AGAIN AND THE OFFICIAL FORECAST HAS BEEN ADJUSTED IN THAT DIRECTION. THE UPDATED TRACK FORECAST IS NEAR THE MIDDLE OF THE TIGHTLY CLUSTERED GUIDANCE.

THIS IS A GOOD TIME TO REMIND EVERYONE THAT NHC AVERAGE TRACK FORECAST ERRORS ARE 200 TO 300 MILES AT DAYS 4 AND 5. GIVEN THIS UNCERTAINTY...IT IS TOO SOON TO DETERMINE WHAT PORTION OF THE U.S. EAST COAST MIGHT SEE DIRECT IMPACTS FROM EARL.

There’s a full workweek of this still to come! I will become enveloped in the storm. Actually I already have.

Not A Good Night On Saint Maarten

Wind rushes inward toward the hurricane’s centerr. Yes–hurricane’s suck!

I captured the radar image above a little before midnight. You’re looking at Hurricane Earl on the heretofore unknown St Maarten radar. St Maarten is in the middle. On the left is Puerto Rico. The Virgin Islands sit between the two.

Hurricanes are the Gisele Bundchen of meteorology! They are stared at and studied. They are incessantly photographed. They are penetrated by flying meteo labs. All the stops are pulled for hurricanes.

Hurricanes obey the laws of physics. All weather does. Still, hurricanes are distinct.

At its simplest a hurricane moves heat from the equator where there’s an overabundance to the poles where there’s a paucity. The Earth appreciates it. This would be a very different world without hurricanes to transfer heat.

Wind rushes inward toward the hurricane’s centerr. Yes–hurricane’s suck!

As the wind moves friction turns it right. That rightward turn translates into the storm’s counterclockwise spin. As the wind gets closer to the center it gets faster until it finally reaches the eye where it is carried aloft!

The base of a hurricane sucks. The top of a hurricane blows.

A BROAD UPPER-LEVEL TROUGH IS CURRENTLY SITUATED TO THE NORTHWEST OF EARL. GLOBAL MODELS ARE IN GOOD AGREEMENT THAT THIS TROUGH WILL SHIFT WESTWARD AND WEAKEN. THIS SHOULD CREATE A ENVIRONMENT CONDUCIVE FOR INTENSIFICATION AND THE OFFICIAL FORECAST...LIKE THE PREVIOUS ONE...SHOWS EARL BECOMING A MAJOR HURRICANE OVER THE NEXT DAY OR SO. THE NHC WIND SPEED FORECAST IS ABOVE THE INTENSITY MODEL CONSENSUS BUT BELOW THE LATEST GFDL HURRICANE MODEL GUIDANCE.

Pretty standard stuff from Dr. Richard Pasch at the Hurricane Center. The storm is his responsibility tonight.

I keep looking at the long range guidance because this storm has been modeled to pass very close to Connecticut. The 00z (8:00 PM EDT) run of the GFS isn’t in yet, but yesterday’s 18z shows Earl brushing past Cape Hatteras then hooking northeasterly south of Long Island and possibly striking Cape Cod.

Right now on St Maarten the wind is out of the northnortheast at 14 mph. There’s a thunderstorm in progress–not unusual on a tropical island. Tomorrow will be different.

When Hurricane Earl hits (or goes a little south of the island) every single person on St. Maarten will feel threatened! No one goes through a hurricane in any kind of shelter without fear. It’s well founded.