Wednesday, July 20, 2005


Emily at Mexico Coast

6:35 am, Emily makes landfall and appears to be slowing or stalling near the coast. Although storms like this can have two landfalls, I think it is ironic that Mexico was struck by the same major hurricane....twice. First a Category 4 at Cozumel, then a Category 3 along the north Mexico coast. Near catastrophic flooding will occur in the areas surrounding Monterrey, Mexico as the mountainous terrain is going to enhance rainfall and runoff. This storm has continued exhibited a diverse personality over it's lifespan...with a sharp rise to Cat 4 early on, then faded back to 2, then back to 4, then a slow lessening to 3 before reaching Cozumel. Once in the Gulf, it took the usual 36 or so hours to reorganize, and re-established major hurricane status in the day prior to landfall. Coming right on the heels of Dennis, this storm snagged the claim Dennis just had... that of the strongest July hurricane on record in the Atlantic basin. Kind of makes you wonder what August and September hold?

The futures market is weighing in on this, as MSNBC reports that college professors in Miami have developed a program that allows futures trading on where a hurricane is most likely to strike. If a trader is correct in their prediction, I suppose it is possible to have financial gain from a hurricane landfall. That just makes me uncomfortable thinking about it. This also inserts an element of market forces into evacuation decisions, where people living in an area the futures program has pegged as a "winner" now have more than just the local government saying they should leave. As you would expect, the National Hurricane Center is none-too-amused at this "game" as they see it. Read the full article linked above for a good overview of this latest controversy with the weather.

Emily 2

A view of Mexico bounded by two tropical systems, T.S. Eugene on the left, Emily on the right. Isn't that odd the Eastern Pacific and Atlantic spawned storms on the same alphabet sequence? This is shaping up to be quite the tropical summer for many, from multiple U.S. and Mexico landfalls so early, to a stalled hurricane remnant that's dumped monsoon like rains fro the Midwest to New England. I'm sure many are looking forward to a much needed quiet person in the tropics, which I expect to last for another 2 weeks. Once August gets underway, it is going to get very very busy again. The previous post outlines my forecast for the second half of summer.

Sunday, July 10, 2005


Dennis 6

As feared, Dennis intensified to Category 4 shortly before landfall along the Florida/Alabama coastline. The devastation and heartache will far exceed anything we've seen in a hurricane since Andrew. Oil markets this week will react with extreme volatility, sending prices past $70 a barrel. The impacts from this storm will be wide-reaching, affecting everything from the home heating oil market to gas prices surging another 10-15 cents as we approach Labor Day, to a sharp rise in the price of plywood, to an increase in homeowner's insurance premiums next year. A new chapter in history will have been written on July hurricanes. We are likely to see a serious re-examination by insurers on the feasibility of rebuilding in areas twice ravaged by a major hurricane. Some coastal areas will take 5 years or more to recover. The debris will take 2 or more years to remove, and life for some will never get back to normal.

This is my last report on Hurricane Dennis possibly until next Saturday, as I will away with family. I pray that all the families in this storm will be safe, make the right decisions and seek comfort in the everlasting arms.


Dennis 5
This is the final update of the evening. After seeing this picture on Steve Gregory's blog at, I had to post it. By the time we wake up on this soon-to-be fateful Sunday July 10, we may be looking at a Category 5 or nearly so. The destruction and havoc to be wreaked on this date will give new meaning to the numbers "7-11" for the people of Pensacola and the surrounding areas, including Mobile and it's bay. When they wake up on Monday, July 11, it will look and feel to them they just went through their own 9/11.


Brace for Impact


Dennis 3

POST FROM 3:35 pm: The end of innocence has arrived, and words just cannot express how dire the situation is and will be in the north Gulf Coast between New Orleans and Pensacola, over the next 24 hours and in the days and months beyond. With waters running at or above 85 F, and a low shear environment, it seems all but certain this storm will come onshore at least a Category 3 if not a baseline 4. Remember that in the eywall, winds are stronger at higher elevations, so buildings in excess of 50 feet will experience more damage than those at ground level, even if the storm is a weak 2 at landfall. If you look at the satellite image above, you can see the western eyewall has closed in. This indicates there is a favorable environment for strengthening, as the storm is not currently entraining drier air from landmasses to the north. As the Weather Channel has been reporting well, a sign a storm will weaken is when the pressure rises, the false-color image cloud tops lighten, and the western eyewall begins to decay. Landfall may in fact be almost exactly where Ivan came on shore.

Some notable north Gulf coast storm tracks: Compare Dennis thus far to Betsy 1965, Camille in August 1969, Frederick 1979, Elena 1985, Opal 1995, and Georges 1998.

Our storm with the already overused "menace" moniker is gathering steam as you read this. View the current radar loop and current satellite loop. The latest tracking information is available at or at the National Hurricane Center. The Pensacola News Journal, again in the bullseye, is providing up-to-the minute reports on local preparations. The NHC will continue to post updates every 2-3 hours, and their analysis is available in the discussion link.

Tomorrow morning, I will attempt to complete and post my "Similarities and Differences" overview between Dennis and Ivan. This much I am sure: The damage, heartache and recovery will be worse, because of the existing unfinished repairs. Now we just wait uneasily for the clock to tick down.

Friday, July 8, 2005


Dennis 2

I go away from the TV for 2 hours this morning, and Dennis goes from low Category 3 to nearly a Category 5! Absolutely unbelievable. This storm continues to bewilder forecasters with it's abilty to surprise at every turn. Concern is now directed at Havana, because it would appear the storm will make a direct hit from southwest to northeast later tonight. On Tuesday, the NHC predicted that by day 5, the winds would be perhaps 80 mph, but they did indicate this was likely a conservative estimate and long range intensity forecasts are notoriously problematic. But did anyone ever imagine that this thing would knock on the door of Cat 5? In fact, 155 mph+ winds HAVE been observed in the northeast quadrant, but the TPC did not accept the wind speed as valid because the pressure would suggest a slightly lower wind. Now that is it nearly certain a U.S. landfall will occur, some questions remain:

1. How will interaction with the mountains of Cuba weaken the storm? Will frictional effects cause Dennis to meander along the coastline, as Isidore did along the Yucatan in September 2002, weakening it from a 3 to a 1. Will we luck out and have a Cat 4 reemerge as a Cat 1?

2. If Dennis reemerges as a Cat 4 in the Gulf, would it be able to maintain that strength as it approaches the coast? In all of meteorological records, a Category 4 storm HAS NEVER struck the U.S. in July. And there's no evidence of Global Warming? As if.

3. How serious will the population of New Orleans take an evacuation order? Will memories of Cindy be enough to make most people leave? Or will the grazing they received from Ivan be a cause for overconfidence because it is so unlikely for New Orleans to get a southeast direct hit? It would seem city officials are crossing their fingers that luck is on their side again. Escambia County in the Florida panhandle is not counting luck on their side, and has issued an evacuation order to take effect starting at 5:45 PM today, the earliest they say this has been done. If any of these cities were to wait for the TPC for a Hurricane Watch, it would be too late.

4. How will the aftermath of this storm and those the rest of this season affect homeowner policies for those owning waterfront in hurricane alley? Can you imagine the angst and heartache of people in Pensacola who have not even returned to their homes. What about all the debris not still picked up from Ivan?

5. Will the tropical wave that may become Emily follow a similar path? Take a look at the East Atlantic satellite loop and see that this wave is holding together and may develop once reaching the Caribbean by Monday or Tuesday.

Regarding the website format, for some reason the site will only allow one post to view at a time. Otherwise the links get dumped to the bottom of the posts, and it is very annoying to have to scroll down and find a link when it should be right up top. This means if you want to view previous posts, you'll have to go to the July archives.

On a planning note, the family and I are leaving for vacation Sunday, and won't be back until probably Saturday the 16th. I cannot guarantee I will be able to post during this time. Hopefully it will be a quiet period in the tropics, and Lord knows it will be the start of a long road of recovery for those who have or will have faced Dennis by then.

I will continue posting on Saturday, and do a pre-landfall overview of estimated damage, and a final post Sunday morning. Feel free to continue commenting throughout the period I'm away. It will make for interesting reading of everyone's thoughts when this is all over. I know the folks in Pensacola wished all this mess had never started in the first place

Thursday, July 7, 2005


Very Big Trouble

In no way do I mean to ignore the terrible disaster in London. It is horrific and truly barbaric as Tony Blair has said. Our prayers go out to the families of the victims and the people of England, who has withstood many trials and will overcome this one. It somehow makes natural disasters a little easier to deal with, because at least something like a hurricane you have time to prepare. No one could have prepared themselves for what London commuters faced this morning, and I hope the many workers will confidently go about their business tomorrow as best they can, to show the terrorists that the battle may have been lost, but the war will be won.

In regards to my predictions for Dennis, I do not intend to come across as alarmist. If you have read the planner's reports about what a major hurricane strike can do to New Orleans, then you would know that my estimates are conservative. Anyone living in SE Louisiana, southern Alabama, southern Mississippi or the Florida panhandle should have already begun their preparations. If you have family in New Orleans or the surrounding areas, I highly recommend contacting them and making sure they are planning to leave immediately. The botched evacuation of Ivan and Georges in 1998 should remind many that because of the limit escape routes, and the proximity of Lake Ponchatrain, flooding from surge and rain will occur hours if not 12 or more hours before the storm arrives. The concern is that thousands trapped in traffic jams will drown in their cars, and thousands more who decided to stay in the city will be cut off from rescue for several days. These are not my imaginations, these are real scenarios examined and discussed by city planners. Now the nightmare scenario may be coming true, as I said in last week's post: "The End of Innocence Is Upon Us."

I just heard that Dennis has crossed the Category 2 boundary, with winds of 105 mph. View the the menacing-looking satellite loop. This is a significant development for several reasons:

1. The hurricane appears to be strengthening faster than TPC projections. We will see in the morning discussion an increase in max wind estimates, currently at 105 knots (roughly 115-120 mph). I think it is becoming evident that Dennis has Category 4 potential given this 15 mph jump in speed.

2. A turn to the NW has occurred, and this may indicate the storm will jog around Jamaica to the north, not to the south as originally believed. This could be due to frictional effects of the northeast quadrant interacting with Haiti. As a result, the counter-clockwise wind flow coming around from the southwest and southeast quadrants is stronger. This in turn puts directional imbalance in the movement, with the northern portion slightly weaker and the southern portion stronger. The storm responds by turning more NW. Further evidence of this is a TPC comment from yesterday indicating the western portion of outflow was unusually consistent. Western fringes of westward moving storms can be more ragged and uneven.

3. The most important observation is that slight changes in the track now have major implications 3 and 4 days from now. If Dennis jogs around Jamaica to the north, then could frictional effects temporarily weaken the southern quadrants and allow a more westward track? This small change in movement now could mean the difference between an apocalyptic landfall in New Orleans, or an equally devastating impact on the weary Florida panhandle and surrounding states.

Wednesday, July 6, 2005


Dennis 1

As of 6:00 PM, the TPC has upgraded Dennis to a hurricane with max sustained winds of 80 mph. It is now just a matter of time before it reaches Category 3 status and the press begins jumping all over itself. If you live in the southeast, we would be expecting you to jump all over yourself as the strength and direction of this storm means that many, many lives are going to be forever altered by this time next week.

Continue monitoring news reports from the New Orleans Times-Picayune and the Pensacola News Journal, arguably the two newspapers who will get a front row seat to this monster. It is just now beginning to dawn on many watching this unfold that the Cindy-Dennis one-two punch will be catastrophic for some areas of the northern Gulf Coast. While damage was relatively minor in Cindy, there were considerable power outages in SE Louisiana, tornadoes on going in Miss, Alabama and Georgia, and the heavy rain that caused extensive flooding. For some, it is possible that power will have just been restored before Dennis arrives to take it away again.

It is going to be a bad, bad situation, but a great opportunity for prayer. Start praying tonight.

Our next culprit lurking in the East Atlantic seems to be showing signs it wants to stick around. Take a look at the latest infrared loop on what could become Emily.
Could this be "The One" for New Orleans ?
As for the Florida Panhandle...
talk about hitting a guy when he's down.


"The One" refers to an unofficial moniker assigned to certain types of storms that spell certain disaster for specific areas. My family, with our 100 year old cottage on the northern Chesapeake, saw Isabel as a Category 5 making the dreaded turn northwest. They collectively gulped, said to each other, "this could be the one" and began putting furniture waaayy up in the attic 5 days before the storm arrived. That move turned out to be the right one, and though life for us will be better in the long run, it sure has been painful in the short run for many people still recovering from Isabel, Ivan, Charley, Francis and Jeanne. Can you just imagine how someone living in Pensacola must feel looking at this forecast? The Pensacola News Journal is already on the story.

"The One" for New Orleans is known simply as "The Hurricane." This has been long feared to be the storm to end all storms, and could end the city as we know it. That sounds very alarmist if you have not read the Army Corps of Engineers study on what a Category 3, 4 or 5 storm would do to the Big Easy if it approached from the worst possible angle..the southeast. Let's hope and pray Dennis gets menaced by Fidel's stogies and loses his mojo over Cuba before reaching the Gulf. The TPC (Tropical Prediction Center) is resigned to the likelihood that
Dennis will be the first major hurricane of the season. The New Orleans Times-Picayune has been temporarily disrupted from Cindy, but did post this brief article today.

As for Cindy, she has plans to become a major rainmaker in the Southeast, southern Appalachians, Mid-Atlantic and all the way into New England. Friday and Saturday will be dominated by tropical downpours and very muggy conditions that will remind you of, well, the tropics. Dennis will start making bigger news once he reaches hurricane strength, expected later today.

Until then, here's some big news. I thought I'd just take a glimpse at what the East Atlantic is up to. And what to my wondering eyes did appear, but a giant tropical wave with an apparent outflow, dear. TPC is not saying much about this yet, in fact the image shown is only the last frame in an 8 frame satellite loop, so this wave could easily fade in the next few hours. That aside, this is the most impressive looking tropical wave I've seen emerge off the African coast since Gloria. It is awfully symmetrical for being a wave that just left the coast. I'm sure there have been other waves that looked just as ominous, but for early July, this one sure does look interesting. The next update on all this at 5 PM following the TPC advisory.

Atlantic 7-6-05

Tuesday, July 5, 2005


Bears Watching 1
Tropical Storm Cindy will be nearly onshore by the time you read this, but not before pumping up the volume to near hurricane force. Since official records have been kept about Atlantic Basin, this is the earliest known occurance of 4 NAMED tropical cyclones this early in the season. Excluding the storms of colonial times, this is the first time in recorded history we have had so many storms so early. It could mean nothing, or it could mean everything. If this season follows the pattern of last season, then the next 40 days will keep forecasters and bloggers very busy.

I came up with the graphic idea above this weekend while vacationing with family on the Chesapeake Bay. We own waterfront property that was severely damaged in Hurricane Isabel, and though rebuilding will take place this fall, we are always a-tune to the slightest hiccups of the tropical Atlantic, even in July. The phrase "bears watching" is often used by Weather Channel meteorologists when they are indicating there is going to be more to the story than they have time or need to explain on the air. Where to get the final word on that story? Here of course. Dennis indeed does bear watching over the next 10 days, as warm Caribbean waters, a low shear environment and the effects Cindy will have on the Atlantic ridge all will dictate where Dennis heads next.

The season is so far following what I expected... a THREE ACT pattern. I outlined this in a post back in May, but here is a recap with an update. I have added "ACT IV" to the list.

ACT I: I originally predicted that the first round of tropical systems would first make landfall in the central Gulf and southern Caribbean. I believe we are currently in ACT I which should last another 1-2 weeks. The outcome of Dennis will be the end point for this phase of the season, followed by a quiet period of perhaps 2 weeks.

ACT 2: By late July/early August, landfall focus would shift away from the central Gulf to Florida and the Southeast US Coast for a 3 week period, followed by another lull in activity lasting until the end of August. I expect 2 major hurricanes to occur during this time frame.

ACT 3: Starting in mid September, landfalls would shift to the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast and New England. This phase will last until mid October, with at least one Cat 2 or 3 hurricane making landfall.

ACT 4: (NEW) Following climatological norms, landfalls will shift back to the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean, where the season ends the way it started...with low-latitude storms starting west then turning sharply north.


CINDY: Will continue to drench the parishes of SE Louisiana for another 12-18 hours, and put the pumps in New Orleans to test. Remnant rainfall will streak up the Eastern seaboard and energize an already juiced up atmosphere, resulting in widespread and frequent downpours of rain. As we saw with Arlene, Cindy could hold together longer than anticipated once making landfall, and still be an extratropical little swirl of rain that will race up the east coast, grabbing Atlantic moisture as it goes merrily along. This will no doubt enhance local rainfall totals, and make for a rainy end of the week for places from Virginia north to New York.

DENNIS: Okay, fine, call it The Menace. You know the press will anyway. This little chip off the block has a lot of warm water yet to soak up, and if you've see the SST map recently, you know that water water everywhere is 2 deg C or warmer throughout the central/western Atlantic, Gulf and Caribbean. TPC has said their windspeed esimates for late in the forecast period are conservative. At Day 5 they predict a Category 1 storm with winds at 75 knots. I think we will be surprised at how quickly this storm will develop, reaching Category 3 by the time TPC says it will be a 1. I also wonder out loud if the influence of Cindy on the Atlantic ridge will cause a piece of it to cut under the coastal surface Low and reemerge west of Bermuda. This could put weak easterlies in place to guide Dennis along a more west by north track, missing Cuba as Ivan did. This was also part of the prediction I made in May about the scope and behavior of Caribbean systems this season.


1. COASTAL AND INLAND INTERESTS FROM GALVESTON TO TAMPA need to closely monitor the path of Dennis. (Like I needed to remind them of something they already know?) A weakening Atlantic ridge would put higher odds for a landfall between New Orleans and Tampa than Texas. A re-strengthening ridge would put areas from New Orleans west to Galveston at higher risk.

2. DENNIS WILL BE THE FIRST MAJOR HURRICANE OF THE SEASON. Remember that Camille (1969) and Opal (1995) exploded in wind speed in the final 12 hours before landfall. The trend from last summer is that monster storms either maintained or weakened right before landfall, but had made their intentions clear early on they were not to be ignored. With painful memories of the 2004 storms fresh, residents are not likely to disregard Dennis once it reaches Category 3 even if still in the Caribbean.

3. THE GOOD NEWS IS THAT AFTER CINDY, DENNIS WILL BE THE ONLY GAME IN TOWN for a while. Dennis will dominate low and mid-levels of the atmosphere throughout the Caribbean and the Gulf will be quiet prior to and following his arrival. The next area for caution will be to start watching the west African coast for tropical waves. This is why I think Dennis will be followed by a 10 day to 2 week lull before anything can develop again.

Saturday, July 2, 2005

1 comment:

End of Innocence

Two systems of note are churning through different parts of the Atlantic. The first is located south of Cuba today, and has been undergoing some southwest shear for a couple days. However, the system appears to have been holding together well, and is expected to enter the southern Gulf by late in the weekend.

The second system is a series of waves departing the west African coast. It would be unusual to have a Cape Verde system develop in early July. Rather computer models show this system or a reorganized version of it reaching the lower Caribbean by the middle of next week, and developing into a "nameable" tropical cyclone by Thursday.

Either system has the potential to become the next named storm. This could be the beginning of the second phase of the season.. with landfall in the Gulf Coast or SE Atlantic Coast, and the end of an mostly innocent summer so far. Interestingly enough, the last time TWO named storms formed in June (Adrian, Bret) in the Atlantic basin was 1986. So already the 2005 season has made a name for itself.

Monday, June 13, 2005

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Atlantic 6-13-05
What many believe will promise to be an active season is continuing to pump out tropical waves that can easily develop into the next storm. This large area of disturbed weather off the S. American coast is heading west north west and will be in the southern Carribbean by Tuesday, and near Cuba by Friday. Keep an eye on this one, if named it would be Bret. A persistent upper level trough in the MidWest will push east and the Atlantic ridge responsible for the current stretch of heat and humidity will ease east. This setup might enable system # 2 to start curving more toward the north by the time it reaches it's northern Caribbean destination.

That means Cuba, eastern Florida and perhaps even the Carolinas could be at risk from this system by early next week.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

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Arlene 2

Atlantic 1

Ivan 1


Arlene 3

As for yesterday (Friday, June 10)...those are piles of debris left over from the IVAN cleanup! Read about the agony and determination of Florida residents in the Pensacola News Journal. Arlene will bring heavy rain to the entire Southeast, and winds near 75 mph will produce extensive tornadoes to the right of the center throughout Florida and Georgia, probably extending into the Carolinas. The Mid-Atlantic will see widespread thunderstorms and more juicing of the humidity over the next several days. The Mississippi and Ohio Valley will also get drenched Sunday into Tuesday as Arlene's remnants merge with a frontal boundary moving in from the MidWest.

Hurricane Season is here and off with a bang. Hope you are ready. Pennsylvania residents learned first hand how much damage can be caused by a weakening tropical system even when the victims were hundreds of miles from the actual storm.

Friday, June 10, 2005

No comments:

Arlene 1


1. IT IS A MINIMAL TROPICAL STORM, SO WON'T BECOME A HURRICANE, RIGHT? The NHC continues to up the landfall intensity forecast to a current near-hurricane force of 70 mph. With upper level shear weakening as the storm enters the Gulf, and water temperatures 2 deg F above normal, and slow movement, I believe it is just as likely the storm reaches hurricane strength as it does not.

2. HEAVY RAINS FOR 2 DAYS IN ADVANCE OF LANDFALL WILL SOAK GROUNDS. This will allow for a greater than anticipated rish for downing of trees due to 50-70 mph winds, thus power lines and many headaches for areas recovering from Ivan.

3. PATH OF ARLENE MEANS THAT AREAS IN EASTERN QUADRANT WILL BE IMPACTED THE GREATEST. That is from Mobile Bay, AL eastward to Pensacola. Onshore winds combined with forward motion speed will mean these areas experience hurricane force winds by default.

4. REMNANTS WILL MERGE WITH A FRONTAL BOUNDARY COMING EAST FROM ROCKIES. This will make for heavy flooding rains in the Mississippi into the Ohio Valleys from Sunday into Tuesday.

AS FOR THE AGNES QUESTION? Arlene will stay away from the Atlantic moisture source, so it cannot generate the kind of 1000 year flooding that Agnes caused.

Friday, June 3, 2005

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Two systems show signs of being first out of the gate for the Atlantic Basin Hurricane season. The NHC tropical weather discussion indicates the SE Caribbean system has been showing some circulation. Here is the comment:


The second system in the southern Gulf has been interacting with land for two days now, but continues to show what appears to an outflow-like arrangement to it's northern and eastern quadrants.

Here is the NHC comment:


I am sorry that I have not yet posted the hurricane forecast. I will do this as soon as I can, trying to get a few other large projects moving along before I can refocus on final touches to the summer-fall forecast. Thanks for your patience.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

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SST 5-25-05

I will elaborate on this phenomena in the next several days. However, I am becoming increasingly concerned that the widening gap in sea surface temperature anomalies between the tropical and northern Atlantic is a prelude to a very significant hurricane season. There is a lot of research and speculation online about the impact of a gradual freshening of the North Atlantic Current and how it may affect development of hurricanes. You'll notice the Gulf of Mexico has warmed at least a degree this month, whereas the coastal western Atlantic has cooled several degrees, and areas of much above normal water temps have expanded on either side of Greenland, as well as in the tropical Atlantic. What does it all mean? Plenty, and I will explain my thinking on this significant development over the next several days. June 1 marks the calendar start of what will promise to be a very busy and interesting tropical cyclone season in the Atlantic basin.

Friday, May 20, 2005

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SST 5-19

Granted that Hurricane Adrian is a Pacific storm, but it is the first of it's kind in recorded history to strike El Salvador, packing 85 mph winds. Read the full story on MSNBC. It's remnants will leak into the southern Caribbean, where you can plainly see that ocean surface temperatures are much above normal. This is an unusual start to what I believe will be another suspense-filled, unusual season of hurricanes that will surprise us at every turn.

Who is to say that the remnants of Adrian WON'T redevelop? Remember Ivan, which was written off after charging across the Southeast and out the Del-Mar-Va. It cycled back around across Florida, and became a tropical storm again in the Gulf of Mexico!

Other big weather news is of course NOAA's hurricane forecast for an above-normal season of activity, and the pending legislation in Congress which would limit online access of the NWS data.

My hurricane forecast is nearly ready for release. I hope to post it this weekend. In the meantime, compare the current SST map above with the one from early May....notice the differences?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

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Part 1: Analysis of climate trends since 2002
Part 2: Climate indices and hurricane development
Part 3: A timeline of events for this season


Category 2/3 Hurricane Isabel making landfall on Thursday, September 17, 2003 along the Outer Banks of North Carolina. While the intensity of this storm rivaled Hurricane Ivan's Category 5 status at one point, it would never cause nearly as much widespread damage as any ONE of the FOUR hurricanes which impacted Florida last summer. The cleanup from that unprecedented season continues to this day and will so for years, even as some families in the Mid-Atlantic are still regaining parts of their lives shattered by Isabel. The long term effects of so many storms in such a short time may never be fully known or understood. However, the silver lining is that mountains of scientific data were generated as a result of last summer's tropical reign of terror. This data has proven invaluable in helping forecasters improve computer modeling and even begin to make more accurate long range predictions on climate trends which given rise to hurricane seasons of monstrous, or minor, porportions.

Part 1: Analysis of climate trends since 2002

Everyone who follows storms, especially hurricanes, has the same questions on their minds as you: "Will there be a repeat of last season?" "Will Florida see such a barrage of storms again anytime soon?" The answer my friend is blowing in the wind, or more rightly put, over the water.

My seasonal forecast for tropical cyclone activity is partly based on water temperature anomaly patterns over the past several years. I realize that "anomaly patterns" is a misnomer of sorts, but I believe as many others in meteorology also do, that changes in the water temperature profile over time reveal a lot of information on how the atmosphere and oceans interact and affect each other in ways we still don't fully understand. As Dr. William Gray of Colorado State University has masterfully demonstrated in his 21+ years of hurricane forecasting, there is an amazing complexity of variables which factor into what type of hurricane season will unfold. I will be tackling in the short term just the water temperature profile issues, and later move on to some of the atmospheric factors such as the North Atlantic Oscillation, the Southern Oscillation Index, influence of El Nino and other data.

The next set of graphics referred to as the SST anomaly for the past three years, recorded in the first week of May by satellite analysis and bouy data worldwide. SST stands for "Sea Surface Temperature" anomaly, meaning the amount of deviation in degrees Celsius from the climatological norm which surface water temperatures were at the time of the analysis. These unclassified maps are available for use by the general public on the Navy's Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center, known as the FNMOC.

While I know you want me to get right to the forecast, I have to take you through the analysis FIRST this time. If you want to skip the analysis, then scroll directly to Part 3 at bottom of this post. More information and detail will be added to that section with time.


SST 5-3

To adequately understand what this map is telling you, we must review the evidence presented in the climatological archives from previous hurricane seasons.

The quiet spring and non-event summer exploded into a 50-day, 50-night deluge of tropical storms, starting July 31 and continuing almost uninterrupted to early October. The last tropical storm faded away on December 2 in the far northern Atlantic. Most of the Gulf Coast, from New Orlean west to Mexico, were spared any major problems, while the East Coast and Florida were besieged for weeks on end. The answer is: Water temperatures. Unless you live in Florida, you might find this video and image archive of 2004's amazing storm parade fascinating.

SST 5-6-04

You'll notice from this map that as of May 2004, the entire Florida peninsula is surrounded by water that was at least 1 degree C above normal, as was most of the western and central Atlantic. Contrast that with the western Gulf of Mexico...where temperatures were 1-2 degrees below normal. You'll also notice the large swath of much below normal water off the coast of Peru extending into the eastern Equatorial Pacific. This mini "La Nina" (cooling of Pacific waters) has the effect of lessening the intensity of the westerlies blowing across North America. As a result, tropical cyclones under this wind regime can just drift along until they strike land. Weak westerlies and strong easterlies are the reason why Ivan headed north west and then recurved back into the Gulf instead of going out to sea, and Jeanne/Frances both struck along the same portion of coast in a 3 week period. There was no strong force of wind to redirect them out to sea. If your memories of the destruction wrought by Ivan on the central Gulf coast have faded, prepare to grimace and clench your teeth as you view these before and after photos of coastal damage. Below is a big picture composite of all the major storms to impact North America last hurricane season...why it has been called the parade is easy to understand. Credit for this photo goes to Hays Cummin's Tropical Weather Page.

Parade of Storms 2004

Hurricane Ivan about to wreak havoc on the Alabama-Florida coastline

Ivan 1


What should stand out to the careful observer of this map is the extremely large coverage of much above normal water in the western and central Atlantic. This is water that was 2-3-4 degrees C warmer than normal heading into the start of the 2003 hurricane season. Looking at the tracking chart of storms from that summer, it should be clear to understand that strong westerlies and weak easterlies combined with warm ocean surface temperatures made for a busy season. However, much to the benefit of coastal areas, almost all the storms stayed offshore. The westerlies coming across the Gulf of Mexico were strong and persistent enough to serve as a shield against many storms charging up the coast. Except of course for Isabel.

SST 5-8-03

That storm somehow slipped through the gates, or formed at a time when the westerlies were slackening for a brief time in the seasonal transition toward winter. You'll also notice the swath of dark blue off the Peruvian coast is not nearly as extensive in 2003 as it was in 2004. This indicates water was warmer overall, allowing for a more active than normal westerly wind which tends to block movement of storms toward the U.S. East coast.

PART 1 SUMMARY: Pre-season Global SST anomalies indicate that changes in sea surface water temperature trends as a result of a previous hurricane season activity may play a major role in determining the frequency and intensity of storms in the following season. Evidence suggests that the U.S. Southeast Coast, including Florida, is much less likely to experience the number of landfalling systems in 2005 as was observed in 2004. Based on observed SST since 2002, the most probable areas of above normal landfall of tropical cyclones in 2005 is focused on the eastern seaboard from North Carolina to Maine, and the western Gulf Coast from New Orleans to Galveston. Tropical activity in the southern and western Caribbean is also expected to be above normal. Development of the first system is projected to be as early as the first 2 weeks of June, and the first area of landfall may be in the central Gulf Coast.

Part 2: Climate indices and hurricane development

As briefly discussed above, there are a wide range of other factors which have a role in the frequency, intensity and duration of tropical cyclone development in the Atlantic Basin. This list are among the major factors to be included in the final hurricane forecast. The part 2 analysis will focus on just the climate indices.


- Disparities in the Gulf of Mexico, below normal in the Western Atlantic, above normal Caribbean and Southeast Atlantic, expansive area of below normal in central and Norther Pacific.


- Extent and duration of Monsoon in India and Southeast Asia, seasonal rainfall in central Africa, persistence of offshore winds from central Africa to the Southeast Atlantic.


- The North Atlantic Oscillation, the Arctic Oscillation, the Pacific-North American Index, the Madden-Julian Oscillation, the Southern Oscillation Index


- The ENSO (El Nino-Southern Oscillation Index) Cycle of multi-year differences in Sea Surface Temperature of Eastern Equatorial Pacific waters in coastal Peru.

Please note that the data analysis for Part 2 is in development and will be posted soon.

Part 3: A timeline of events this hurricane season

I believe the overall hurricane season will unfold like a play with three acts. ACT I will be the inaugural storms to affect the central Gulf and southern Carribbean as those areas feature the warmest SST's at present. Atlantic waters are still too irregular to support anything beyond a fledgling tropical storm until at August.

ACT II will take shape after the mid-point of summer. I believe we will see the westerlies begin to slacken heading into late July, as cooling in equatorial pacific dampens previous warming. This has been alluded to in the Climate Prediction Center's El Nino report as of May 5. Equatorial Pacific cooling will coincide with the seasonal, gradual warming of the western Atlantic and the Gulf. I believe the persistent cooling of water in vicinity of Florida is going to force a westward migration/expansion of the Bermuda High. Cooler-than-normal waters tend to promote high pressure becoming established above. With the westerlies reduced because of a neutral El Nino/Southern Oscillation, and nature abhoring a vacuum, the western Atlantic ridge will take over, reinforcing the easterlies, channeling any Southern Caribbean storms right into the central Gulf much like Ivan's path in mid September 2004.

ACT III will take shape past the climatological mid-point of hurricane season, generally known to tropical meteorologists as September 10. On any given year, records show this point on the calendar, there are one or more tropical cyclones in the Atlantic basin. As waters in the eastern Gulf and western Atlantic warm, the Bermuda High will back off. This is also the time when the NAO can be in a strongly positive phase. With the westerlies picking up again in September, and the Bermuda High eases a bit, a storm is already in development at the time of this transitionary period could get caught between the changing air masses, and get funneled up the eastern seaboard. This scenario happened in 1985 with Gloria and in 1938 New England's "Long Island Express" (as pointed out by loyal reader terpboy). Thus the third area at risk in the latter half of the season will be the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast...from September 10 to mid October.

I am working on a review of my 2004 forecast and a month-by-month summary of what I believe is in store for the Gulf and East Coasts this coming summer. As you have figured out, hurricane forecasting is much more complex and heavy reading that winter storm forecasting. And I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.

Friday, April 15, 2005



Another view of those wonderful Peach tree blossoms in Dundalk, MD for you to enjoy on this gorgeous and stunning Tax Day Friday. These trees are right across my street and they are just delightful to see this time of year. If you've spent any time outdoors in this recent string of sunny days, you know that the April burn can be worse then the September sizzle. The high sun angle, low humidity combined with refreshing breezes mask the burn you receive from the Spring sunshine. Walk back inside after a couple hours of gardening, yard work or sports practice and you will discover a bright pink shade to uncovered skin!

Speaking of pretty Spring colors, you should see the local NWS map for PA and MD. It is lit up with all kinds of nice pastels and deep primary hues. There's a Royal-Fushcia blue for a FREEZE WATCH in the I-95 corridor. There's a Pinto Red Geranium for a RED FLAG WARNING in south central Pennsylvania (that's for wildfire potential), and other nice colors like your ever-popular Beige Special Weather Statement. Don't forget Forest Green for a Coastal Flood Statement. But seriously I do like the colors and it shows that someone in the government is trying to make it look interesting if not pleasant.

On a colder note, temperatures east of the Blue Ridge and through central PA will drop into the low 30's and upper 20's tonight, west of the Chesapeake Bay at least. So get out there and COVER THOSE PLANTS. Even folks in Chester and Lancaster counties had better be concerned about a hard freeze on their arboretums and nurseries. A large high pressure system parked in Quebec combined with a strong low pressure off the coast is funneling cold air into the Northeast. When the winds slacken tonight, under clear skies temps will plummet and you'll probably see frost on your cars tomorrow early morning. Should make for some nice pictures if you can get up early enough to see it.

After the freeze passes, Saturday through who knows when look to be absolutely mahvelous! Sunshine and blue skies to rule the days, which I adore but the allergy sufferers despise, so stock up on the Alleve and get outside to enjoy this showerless April so far.

Sunday, April 10, 2005



That's the picture we've been waiting for...gorgeous sunshine, light breezes and cherry blossoms. What a wonderful weekend it has been, a nice reward for the tough times of late. There will be a cool down over the next few days, with some splatterings of rain here and there. The good news is that as the temperature stays a bit below normal, this lowers the likelihood of severe weather as day and night contrasts are not as great. So unless you are an allergy sufferer, in which case the worse days are coming up, get out there and enjoy it! I hope the flowers are blooming where you are too.

Thursday, April 7, 2005


A quick look at the satellite and water vapor imagery shows that the atmosphere is getting primted for a round of thunderstorms in the DC-Baltimore region later today and Philly-NYC tonight. This will not help areas that are still drying out from last weekend's monsoon. South winds are advancing ocean moisture ahead of an vigorous low and cold front coming out of the Tennessee Valley. If there is any sun peeking through ahead of this front, the solar radiation will enhance heating and evaporation, triggering rapid development of the moisture into "popcorn" variety thunderstorms from 4pm to 8pm. This poses a threat to afternoon practice and games, which may be able to START but may get cut short due to rain or thunder or lightning or all of the above.

Check your latest radar for the best indicator of when the storms will arrive. When you see little green and yellow blobs and starting to litter the radar field just to your west, that is a clear sign thunderstorms are developing independently of the front and will arrive sooner than expected. I have found that Mid-Atlantic Radar / Northeast Radar from intellicast are the most reliable. Click the "animate" feature for a loop.