Here Comes Bertha

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It takes a while for the Atlantic hurricane season to get going. The real action is still far ahead.

Meanwhile, out in the Tropical Atlantic a cluster of thunderstorms is being eyed by the National Hurricane Center. It is Atlantic Invest 93. It will become Bertha.

This “Invest” stuff is a recent addition to the hurricane info deluge. It’s a heads up more than anything.

The storm is probably headed to the northern islands of the Caribbean–possibly the Virgin Islands, then northwest into the open ocean. There’s a lot of wiggle room between now and the weekend.

Intensity forecasts say tropical storm, possibly low end hurricane. Intensity forecasts are notoriously awful.

Up the East Coast? There’s that potential, though the most common track would is well offshore.

It will be watched closely.

Graphics from the math geeks at UW Madison.

Hurricane Sandy: NWS Assesses Itself

www.nws.noaa.gov os assessments pdfs Sandy13.pdf-1

The Weather Service just released its Hurricane Sandy “Service Assessment.” Publications like this aren’t unusual. Every named or numbered storm gets some sort of after-the-fact scrutiny. Of course, Sandy is a special case, having affected so many people and so much property. This is a beefy report touching lots of bases.

The Weather Service and Hurricane Center did a good job–not good enough. There were weak points. That’s me speaking, though the report acknowledged them too.

I was on-the-air at FoxCT for Sandy. We used lots of NWS/NHC raw data and forecast products. A huge part of my job was assimilating the immense treasure trove of data available. Some of what we used was so esoteric, co-workers didn’t know it existed!

If there’s ever been a time my years of experience and nerdy curiosity came in handy, it was during Sandy.

Once Sandy moved north of Cape Hatteras the National Hurricane Center passed off much of its responsibilities to local forecast offices. That was a big mistake which served to confuse more than inform.

www.nws.noaa.gov os assessments pdfs Sandy13.pdfI said it then. Even worse, I’d said it before, having complained loudly and traded emails with the Hurricane Center’s director Ed Rappaport after Hurricane Noel received the same pass-off in 2007.

This Hurricane Center policy will be changed going forward. It’s about time!

For future storms like Sandy, NHC should be the principal point of contact responsible for the event, including delivery of a consistent suite of products and a unified communications protocol within NOAA, to key NOAA federal partners, and the media. NOAA/NWS websites should consistently reflect all watch/warning/advisories on websites, regardless of organizational structure or office/center responsibility. Web page design should ensure the most important message is quickly evident.

The are other recommendations, including a some having to do with coastal flooding and the current lack of definitive storm impacts. Giving a tidal flooding range in feet is worthless to most people. More important would be to say, “Lower Manhattan will be under water,” or similar specifics.

The truth is most non-professionals need a trusted voice. There’s too much for you to wade through.

I hope I was your trusted voice, leading you in the right direction. If you were watching us on FoxCT you weathered the storm without any big surprises. It goes without saying I will miss being that voice for you in the future.

The NWS assessment and its findings and recommendations should help all of us do better next time. There will be a next time.

There’s No Tropical Storm Beryl… Yet

From the National Hurricane Center: ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED TO BECOME MORE CONDUCIVE FOR DEVELOPMENT ON SATURDAY OR SUNDAY…AND THIS SYSTEM HAS A HIGH CHANCE…80 PERCENT…OF BECOMING A TROPICAL OR SUBTROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS.

The Hurricane Season doesn’t begin until next week. We’ve already had Alberto. Now we might be getting Beryl.

From the National Hurricane Center: ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED TO BECOME MORE CONDUCIVE FOR DEVELOPMENT ON SATURDAY OR SUNDAY…AND THIS SYSTEM HAS A HIGH CHANCE…80 PERCENT…OF BECOMING A TROPICAL OR SUBTROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS.

As I wrote during Alberto, there’s a reason we don’t usually get tropical systems this time of year. When conditions are conducive for intensification they’re only marginally conducive and only in a very small area.

Unfortunately one of the long range computer models brings Beryl up-the-coast by next Friday.

Likely? No. Possible? Yes.

Long range forecasting of tropical systems is notoriously poor. I’ll keep my eye on it.

NHC Admits Alberto Is Weak… And It’s Actually Weaker

Residents of Connecticut (Hey, that’s us!) have every right to be sensitive to weather systems like Tropical Storm Alberto. We know tropical storms can raise hell! Any romance in tropical weather is gone for us.

Breath easy. The trends I wrote about early this morning continue. The Hurricane Center continues to admit Tropical Storm Alberto is weaker than their official pronouncement.

Residents of Connecticut (Hey, that’s us!) have every right to be sensitive to weather systems like Tropical Storm Alberto. We know tropical storms can raise hell! Any romance in tropical weather is gone for us.

Breath easy. The trends I wrote about early this morning continue. The Hurricane Center continues to admit Tropical Storm Alberto is weaker than their official pronouncement.

From NHC: OBJECTIVE AND SUBJECTIVE INTENSITY ESTIMATES ARE ALL SUGGESTING AN INTENSITY AROUND 35 KT…BUT THE ADVISORY INTENSITY IS ONLY BEING LOWERED TO 40 KT FOR NOW.

That’s not unusual. There really isn’t a single wind speed that can be used to accurately identify a system.

More important, Alberto will be a victim of his own premature birth.

From NHC:ALBERTO APPEARS TO HAVE AT LEAST THREE STRIKES AGAINST ANY RE-INTENSIFICATION. FIRST…DEWPOINTS OVER SOUTHEASTERN U.S. ARE ROUGHLY 50 DEGREES FAHRENHEIT…AND THE CYCLONE IS LIKELY INGESTING SOME OF THIS DRY AIR. SECOND…THE CENTER IS MOVING WEST OF THE GULF STREAM OVER COOLER SHELF WATERS NEAR THE SOUTH CAROLINA/GEORGIA COAST. AND THIRD…UPPER-LEVEL WESTERLY WINDS ARE EXPECTED TO INCREASE OVER THE SYSTEM DURING THE NEXT 24 HOURS.

Anyone getting breathless about Alberto is engaging in hype. ‘Nuff said.

Tropical Storm Alberto

You’re not the only one surprised to see a named tropical storm so early. Joe Furey said the GFS model had something like this ten days ago, but it wasn’t anything I was concentrating on. This afternoon the National Hurricane Center turned a low off South Carolina into Tropical Storm Alberto.

The Hurricane Center’s is on the case. Their latest discussion is three long paragraphs saying, “We really don’t know.”

This afternoon the National Hurricane Center turned a low off South Carolina into Tropical Storm Alberto. You’re not the only one surprised to see a named tropical storm so early.

Joe Furey said the GFS model had something like this ten days ago, but it wasn’t anything I was concentrating on.

The Hurricane Center’s on the case. Their latest discussion is three long paragraphs. Conclusion: we really don’t know.

Here’s an example:

THE INTENSITY GUIDANCE REMAINS SPLIT WITH THE DYNAMICAL GUIDANCE SUGGESTING SOME WEAKENING…AND THE STATISTICAL TOOLS SHOWING STRENGTHENING.

Weakening and strengthening! Where is Miss Cleo when you need her?

The official call is 50 mph, but satellite and radar observations imply it’s weaker. I can’t imagine how it could strengthen.

There’s a reason the hurricane season starts later than this. Tropical systems only exist under very specific conditions. Tonight those conditions only exist marginally and in a very small areas.

By midweek Alberto should be out in the Atlantic, getting raggedy and losing its tropical characteristics.

Inside Baseball: Hurricane Igor

Cat 4 we say, because saying cat instead of category makes us sound cooler.

A little tropical weather inside baseball tonight.

I’ve been spending lots of time with Hurricane Igor. You would expect that. It might threaten Bermuda over the weekend, but right now it’s all alone out in the wide open ocean. Top sustained winds are estimated at 155 mph with higher gusts. Cat 4 we say, because saying cat instead of category makes us sound cooler.

Tonight in its 03Z technical discussion Robbie Berg the National Hurricane Center’s on-duty specialist said,

SO THE OFFICIAL FORECAST MAINTAINS THIS INTENSITY FOR THE NEXT 12-24 HOURS. GRADUAL WEAKENING IS EXPECTED THEREAFTER WHEN IT IS LIKELY THAT INTERNAL DYNAMICS…WHICH ARE NOT WELL UNDERSTOOD…WILL INFLUENCE THE INTENSITY.

Huh? Really?

In essence NHC is saying Igor will weaken… just because.

I agree!

When a hurricane reaches 155 mph there’s only so much faster it can spin. It’s possible for hurricane speeds to reach 200 mph, but that’s very rare. In reality there are many, many more factors that can diminish the storm than can intensify it. Betting on a 155 mph storm weakening almost always wins.

Almost, not always!

The Hurricane Center knows there’s only so long any storm can maintain this nearly perfect form. At some point something… anything will intrude. It doesn’t have to be a major factor to upset the balance and lessen the storm’s efficiency in maintaining strength. It always happens. At some point the water temperature will be a little cooler or there will be a frictional force from some other nearby weather feature.

Of all the things the Hurricane Center predicts wind speed is most problematic and subject to the largest errors.

NHC is betting on climatology or what’s happened before to predict what’s going to happen now. That’s reasonable. Out in the open ocean the downside to guessing wrong is less.