Which Hurricane Forecast Model Should You Trust?

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:05 PM GMT on August 07, 2013

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) set a new record in 2012 for accuracy of their 1, 2, 3, and 4-day Atlantic tropical cyclone track forecasts, but had almost no skill making intensity forecasts, according to the 2012 National Hurricane Center Forecast Verification Report, issued in March 2013. The new records for track accuracy were set despite the fact that the season’s storms were harder than average to forecast. The average error in a 1-day forecast was 46 miles, and was 79 miles for 2 days, 116 miles for 3 days, 164 miles for 4 days, and 224 miles for 5 days. The official track forecast had a westward bias of 10 - 17 miles for 1 - 3 day forecasts (i.e., the official forecast tended to fall to the west of the verifying position), and was 38 and 75 miles too far to the northeast for the 4- and 5-day forecasts, respectively.


Figure 1. Verification of official NHC hurricane track forecasts for the Atlantic, 1990 - 2012. Over the past 15 - 20 years, 1 - 3 day track forecast errors have been reduced by about 60%. Track forecast error reductions of about 50% have occurred over the past ten years for 4- and 5-day forecasts. Image credit: 2012 National Hurricane Center Forecast Verification Report.

NHC Intensity Forecasts: Little Improvement Since 1990
Official NHC intensity forecasts did better than usual in 2012, and had errors lower than the 5-year average error for 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5-day forecasts. However, 2012's storms were easier to predict than usual, due to due to a lack of rapidly intensifying hurricanes. These rapid intensifiers are typically the source of the largest forecast errors. The skill of official NHC 24-hour intensity forecasts made in 2012 for the Atlantic basin were only about 15% better than a "no-skill" forecast; 2, 3, 4, and 5-day intensity forecasts had no skill.


Figure 2. Verification of official NHC hurricane intensity forecasts for the Atlantic, 1990 - 2012. Intensity forecasts have shown little to no improvement since 1990. Image credit: 2012 National Hurricane Center Forecast Verification Report.

Which Track Model Should You Trust?
As usual, in 2012 the official NHC forecast for Atlantic storms was almost as good as or better than any individual computer models--though NOAA's GFS model did slightly better than the NHC official forecast at 12, 24, and 48-hour periods, and the European model forecast was slightly better at 12-hour forecasts. Despite all the attention given to how the European Center (ECMWF) model outperformed the GFS model for Hurricane Sandy's track at long ranges, the GFS model actually outperformed the European model in 2012 when summing up all track forecasts made for all Atlantic named storms. This occurred, in part, because the European model made a few disastrously bad forecasts for Tropical Storm Debby when it was in the Gulf of Mexico and steering currents were weak. For several runs, the model predicted a Texas landfall, but Debby ended up moving east-northeast to make a Northwest Florida landfall, like the GFS model had predicted. However, the best-performing model averaged over the past three years has been the European Center model, with the GFS model a close second. Wunderground provides a web page with computer model forecasts for many of the best-performing track models used to predict hurricane tracks. The European Center does not permit public display of tropical storm positions from their hurricane tracking module of their model, so we are unable to put ECMWF forecasts on this page. Here are some of the better models NHC regularly looks at:

ECMWF: The European Center's global forecast model
GFS: NOAA's global forecast model
NOGAPS: The Navy's global forecast model (now defunct, replaced by the NAVGEM model in 2013)
UKMET: The United Kingdom Met Office's global forecast model
GFDL: The Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory's hurricane model, initialized using GFS data
HWRF: The intended successor for the the GFDL hurricane model, also initialized using GFS data
CMC: The Canadian GEM model
BAMM: The very old Beta and Advection Model (Medium layer), which is still useful at longer ranges

If one averages together the track forecasts from the first six of these models, the NHC official forecast will rarely depart much from it. As seen in Figure 3, the HWRF and UKMET were well behind the ECMWF and GFS in forecast accuracy in 2012, but were still respectable. The simple BAMM model did well at 3, 4, and 5-day forecasts. The GFDL and CMC models did quite poorly compared to the ECMWF, GFS, UKMET, and HWRF. The Navy's NOGAPS model also did poorly in 2012, and has been retired. Its replacement for 2013 is called the NAVGEM model.


Figure 3. Skill of computer model forecasts of Atlantic named storms in 2012, compared to a "no skill" model called "CLIPER5" that uses just climatology and persistence to make a hurricane track forecast (persistence means that a storm will tend to keep going in the direction it's current going.) OFCL=Official NHC forecast; GFS=Global Forecast System model; GFDL=Geophysical Fluid Dynamic Laboratory model; HWRF=Hurricane Weather Research Forecasting model; UKMET=United Kingdom Met Office model; ECMWF=European Center for Medium Range Weather Forecasting model; TVCA=one of the consensus models that lends together several of the above models; CMC=Canadian Meteorological Center (GEM) model; BAMM=Beta Advection Model (Medium depth.) Image credit: National Hurricane Center 2012 verification report.

Which Intensity Model Should You Trust?
Don't trust any of them. NHC has two main statistical intensity models, LGEM and DSHP (the SHIPS model with inland decay of a storm factored in.) In addition, four dynamical models that are also use to track hurricanes--the GFS, ECMWF, HWRF, and GFDL models--all offer intensity forecasts. With the exception of the GFS model, which had a skill just 5% better than a "no-skill" intensity forecast for predictions going out 36 hours, all of these models had no skill in their intensity forecasts during 2012. The ECMWF and HWRF models were the worst models for intensity forecasts of 3, 4, and 5 days, with a skill of 20% - 60% lower than a "no-skill" forecast. The LGEM model, which was a decent intensity model in 2011, tanked badly in 2012 and had near-zero skill. The only model that was any good in 2012 was the IVCN "consensus" model, which averages together the intensity forecasts of two or more of the intensity models such as LGEM, GFDL, HWRF, and DSHP.

Some Promising Models From the Hurricane Forecast Improvement Project (HFIP)
Last year was the fourth year of a ten-year project, called the Hurricane Forecast Improvement Project (HFIP), aimed at reducing hurricane track and intensity errors by 50%. The new experimental models from HFIP generally performed poorly in 2012. However, the new FIM9 15-km global model was competitive with the ECMWF and GFS models for track, and the new CIRA Statistical Intensity Consensus (SPC3) model for intensity performed better than many of the traditional intensity models.

For those interested in learning more about the hurricane forecast models, NOAA has a 1-hour training video (updated for 2011.) Additional information about the guidance models used at the NHC can be found at NHC and the NOAA/HRD Hurricane FAQ.

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

Quiet in the Atlantic
There are no tropical cyclone threat areas in the Atlantic to discuss today, and none of the reliable models for tropical cyclone formation is predicting development during the coming seven days. I plan on having a detailed update on Friday to discuss the latest long-range forecasts for the coming peak part of hurricane season.

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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1236. LargoFl
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Quoting 1227. Tropicsweatherpr:
NOAA continues to see an active 2013 North Atlantic Season

13 to 19 named storms (top winds of 39 mph or higher), including %u25E66 to 9 hurricanes (top winds of 74 mph or higher), of which
%u25E63 to 5 could be major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of at least 111 mph)


Good call, some here are just impatient to see action. The possibility exists that they may regret this impatience a month from now.


It is entirely possible that we could say go almost the whole month of August without a sign of life in tropics, then followed by explosive activity in September lasting into October.

I'm not saying it will happen that way, since models seem to be indicating a shot at increasing activity for the second half of this month. However, my point is we could go through most of August with little to no activity and still have a violent and busy season.
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1234. Grothar
Quoting 1195. Sfloridacat5:



I teach 6 grade science and I've had this discussion with them. It's funny that they think WWE is real. I ask them "how can they punch each other in the face 50 times during a match and they don't have one mark on their face?

Where as MMA, their faces start bleeding with the first elbow or solid punch.

And I have to teach these kids about Plate tectonics, weather and climate (and yes global warming), etc.
It's not easy.


Good Luck. I'm glad those days are over.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
.
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1232. LargoFl
this huge moisture blob in the gulf seems to be headed to Texas...
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Quoting 1218. Grothar:


Aha, you did see that movie!!!!!


You know, considering I'm not sure what you're implying, I probably didn't see whatever movie it is that you speak of, lol.
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1230. Skyepony (Mod)
Watch for cars from Hurricane Sandy showing up on dealer lots



In NC, a few years ago, I somehow ended up at a sale of post Katrina Fema trailers..after Fema had reclaimed them. It wasn't advertised as such...it really just looked like a party & had the attractiveness of a hoopla frenzy...there was some scary campers there.
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1229. Patrap
Quoting 1217. Skyepony:
'It's a real mess': Rescues and evacuations as deadly floods hit Missouri

Authorities conducted 25 rescues and evacuated 100 people from their homes overnight Thursday as more heavy rain fell on the saturated ground of Missouri, where the governor called out the National Guard to deal with deadly floods.





..when the Levee Breaks, Momma you got to move, ahh ooooooh'
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Quoting 1223. GTstormChaserCaleb:
That's not necessarily true.
GT , I totally agree with you , doubt if at all on recurves this year , do you think the season truly and honestly begins next week?
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NOAA continues to see an active 2013 North Atlantic Season

13 to 19 named storms (top winds of 39 mph or higher), including %u25E66 to 9 hurricanes (top winds of 74 mph or higher), of which
%u25E63 to 5 could be major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of at least 111 mph)
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
Quoting 1118. Stormchaser121:

Anywhere from Brownsville to FL needs to watch
Good Morning All ! I would agree , but probally Florida gets it ! Back at the hospital , a little better , but not out of the woods yet ! Maybe as a weak hurricane !
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Quoting 1171. opal92nwf:

Well when the Bermuda high migrates north, then that makes fish storms :p
That's not necessarily true.
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1222. Patrap
Seems the Basin is ...Under Pressure... to produce?

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1221. LargoFl
showers in the gulf seem to be moving westward........
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Quoting 1213. SouthernIllinois:

Oh yeah that's true it's only a couple steps the other way. Okay I feel better. :)


Just pump in some fish, seaweed, brown water, a shark or two....
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1219. Skyepony (Mod)
Campground evacuated, some water rescues in SW Mo.

(HOLLISTER, Mo., AP) — Flash flooding is prompting water rescues and damage to buildings in southwest Missouri.

Flash flooding was reported in southern Barry and Stone counties, including Roaring River State Park, after an estimated 6 inches of rain fell early Thursday.

Western Taney County Fire Chief Chris Berndt told KYTV (http://bit.ly/13lZ0Wr) rescue workers have evacuated three areas along Turkey Creek, where waters washed one or two mobile homes downstream. Berndt says several businesses and homes in Hollister have water damage.

The Southern Stone County Fire Protection District reports it has evacuated 22 people from a campground near Blue Eye. Campgrounds in Roaring River State Park in Barry County also are being evacuated. No injuries have been reported.

Interstate 44 near Jerome reopened Thursday. More than 40 roads, mostly in central Missouri, are closed.
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1218. Grothar
Quoting 1210. Jedkins01:



Such things should never be spoken here :0




Aha, you did see that movie!!!!!
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1217. Skyepony (Mod)
'It's a real mess': Rescues and evacuations as deadly floods hit Missouri

Authorities conducted 25 rescues and evacuated 100 people from their homes overnight Thursday as more heavy rain fell on the saturated ground of Missouri, where the governor called out the National Guard to deal with deadly floods.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
NAM at 84 hours trying to spin something up just off the Texas coast.
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Quoting 1185. SouthernIllinois:

Yup. Bring it! I want my 2-3".


I hope it is a good soaker for you guys. I'd settle for .2 even here lol.
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Quoting 1200. beell:


Like camping out on a weather blog. (me included)


:)
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Quoting 1209. SouthernIllinois:

Hey at this rate as long as that pool with that swim up bar in your avatar don't dry up we're good. If that happens then I cry.


That's what the ocean water is for...
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1211. Skyepony (Mod)
Flash Flood in USA on Thursday, 08 August, 2013 at 14:30 (02:30 PM) UTC.
Description
Torrential rains shortly before dawn Thursday triggered widespread street flooding across Wichita, authorities said. The National Weather Service reported 1.59 inches of rain fell in about an hour, starting shortly after 4 a.m. "It just came down so fast our drainage systems couldn't handle it," said Scott Smith, a meteorologist at the Wichita branch of the weather service. Flooded streets were reported throughout downtown Wichita as well as numerous locations around the city, a Sedgwick County dispatch supervisor said. While no water rescues were necessary, several cars became stranded at flooded intersections - including a reported five at 13th and St. Paul in west Wichita alone. Westar Energy reported more than 1,300 customers without power just before 7:30 a.m., most of them small clusters scattered across west Wichita north of Kellogg. Much of south-central and southern Kansas received at least 1 1/2 inches overnight, Smith said, which will only aggravate flooding in the saturated region. Light rain is projected to fall across Wichita and much of the area the rest of the morning, Smith said. A lull will set in until tonight, when another round of heavy rain is expected to move through.
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Quoting 1181. RitaEvac:
Ke$ha



Such things should never be spoken here :0


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I'm sure this has already been posted this morning.
GFS is hinting at possible development from all the left over mositure in the western Caribbean.
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1207. Skyepony (Mod)
Forest / Wild Fire in USA on Thursday, 08 August, 2013 at 08:15 (08:15 AM) UTC.
Description
An out-of-control wildfire growing with great speed in Southern California mountains Wednesday night burned homes, forced the evacuation of several mountain communities and left three people including two firefighters injured, two of them firefighters. The fire broke out about 2 p.m. near Banning and surge to at least 6,000 acres, or more than 9 square miles, within a few hours, state fire officials said. One civilian was burned and airlifted to a hospital, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said in a statement. Two firefighters were also injured and both were taken to hospitals by ambulance. Officials would give no further details on the injuries. Fire officials said about a dozen structures were damaged or destroyed, but could not say how many were homes. Footage from TV news helicopters and photos from the scene showed several houses in flames. They include the Twin Pines home of Dave Clark, whose parents were killed in a house fire in Riverside in April 2012 the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported. Prosecutors alleged Clark's sister Deborah Clark set the fire, and she was awaiting a mental-competency hearing to see if she was competent to stand trial for her parents' murder in a case that has received extensive local media coverage. A photograph taken by the Desert Sun newspaper showed Clark talking on his cellphone with the home fully engulfed in flames behind him. "He said he lost everything, he couldn't talk," brother Jeff Clark told the Press-Enterprise. More than 500 firefighters, helped by five helicopters and five air tankers, were working to protect homes and get ahead of the flames. All but three helicopters were grounded after night fall but were set to return to the air Thursday morning. Evacuations orders were given for the rural communities of Poppet Flats, Twin Pines, Edna Valley and Silent Valley, and evacuation centers were set up at high schools in Hemet and Banning. The communities are in the San Jacinto Mountains some along Interstate 10 some 80 miles east of Los Angeles. It's not clear how many people or homes were affected by the evacuations.
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
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Quoting 1195. Sfloridacat5:



I teach 6 grade science and I've had this discussion with them. It's funny that they think WWE is real. I ask them "how can they punch each other in the face 50 times during a match and they don't have one mark on their face?

Where as MMA, their faces start bleeding with the first elbow or solid punch.

And I have to teach these kids about Plate tectonics, weather and climate (and yes global warming), etc.
It's not easy.


Thanks for the laugh :) I am sending this to a dear friend who left the corporate world for an 'easier' job of teaching. She's been teaching now for the last 12 years, 9th grade science. She's constantly entertaining me with horror stories. I think she'll enjoy this.
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1203. Skyepony (Mod)
Drought in Namibia on Thursday, 08 August, 2013 at 08:17 (08:17 AM) UTC.
Description
A severe drought that sparked a state of emergency in Namibia has left 400,000 people facing hunger, the government said. The government has been criticised for failing to do enough to provide relief to people during the worst dry spell to hit the country in decades. But the chairperson of the Disaster Risk Management Committee defended the government's performance as he announced the new figure late on Tuesday. "We are trying to do the best we can to make sure that the food goes to the intended people. So far so good," he said. Namibia is the driest country in sub-Saharan Africa, and only two percent of land receives sufficient rainfall to grow crops. The southern African country has seen several droughts in the recent decades. The number of people at risk from hunger has risen from 300 000 in May, when President Hifikepunye Pohamba declared a state of emergency. In May, the government started handing out maize meal bags to rural areas in a central part of the country and authorities are appealing for international support. Unicef says more than 778 000 people including 109 000 children under the age of five are at risk of malnutrition. The organisation says it needs about $22m to support those people. The dry spell has destroyed grazing land and raised concerns about the country's spectacular wildlife, which attracts vital tourist income.
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Quoting 1198. SouthernIllinois:

A stupid .85" yesterday morning.


lol, welcome to the club
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1201. 62901IL
Quoting 1199. TampaSpin:
Ok here it is.


That is so cool!
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1200. beell
Quoting 1184. Jedkins01:


... And by the amount of time people spend watching T.V. It seems practically everyone I've ran into has seen every movie and watches every show on T.V.

I would have to agree, its sad with life being as short as it is that people waste so much of their life time with such unbelievably trivial things.


Like camping out on a weather blog. (me included)
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Ok here it is.

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Quoting 1193. SouthernIllinois:

Ugh. lol


How much rain so far?
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Quoting 1191. Grothar:


It was a fake???



I teach 6 grade science and I've had this discussion with them. It's funny that they think WWE is real. I ask them "how can they punch each other in the face 50 times during a match and they don't have one mark on their face?

Where as MMA, their faces start bleeding with the first elbow or solid punch.

And I have to teach these kids about Plate tectonics, weather and climate (and yes global warming), etc.
It's not easy.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
1194. 62901IL
There's a fire starting in my heart.
reaching a fever pitch that's bringing me out of the dark...


Enough of that...we're gonna get rain
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My Daughter snapped this shot while on Vacation! AMAZING I think!


OK...I can't get the photo to post...What the heck!

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1191. Grothar
Quoting 1165. sar2401:

Good Morning Gro. Hey, I used to like "Friday Night Wrestling" when I was kid. Gorgeous George and all, you know. At least we all knew it was fake.

The newest WC-130J is now approaching 25 years old, older than many bloggers here...and there's no replacement...except another WC-130J, which they aren't making any longer. I can see the time when it will be like the B-52. It's now been five years since the newest B-52 was younger than its oldest crew member. They expect them to continue flying until 2020, which proves that old guys still do pretty good. :-)


It was a fake???
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Quoting 1094. biff4ugo:
looks like my cloudless gyre is heading for the Bahamas today. Lots of spin but no big storm. Why is it cranking so fast?


Not as dry as you might think, already had a shower here in Nassau this morning and looks like more rain will be moving through in the next few hours.
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1189. Grothar
Quoting 1184. Jedkins01:


... And by the amount of time people spend watching T.V. It seems practically everyone I've ran into has seen every movie and watches every show on T.V.

I would have to agree, its sad with life being as short as it is that people waste so much of their life time with such unbelievably trivial things. Junk food and junk T.V.


I know what you mean. After I watch all my soaps in the afternoon and Judge Judy, I watch the game shows and then all the reruns of my old favorites and the Matlock and Murder, She Wrote Marathons.

I think of the of all the poor people doing the same.
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Quoting 1183. SouthernIllinois:

Summertime sadness came over me today so had to get that OUTTA MY HEAD!!!


What about Acapella? lol "we went to Olive Garden, my little Itallllllllyyy!!!"
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Henriette up to 85kts.

HURRICANE HENRIETTE DISCUSSION NUMBER 21
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL EP082013
800 AM PDT THU AUG 08 2013

SOMEWHAT SURPRISINGLY...HENRIETTE HAS STRENGTHENED THIS MORNING.
ENHANCE IR IMAGERY SHOWS AN EYE EMBEDDED IN A SMALL CDO WITH CLOUD
TOPS COLDER THAN -50 DEG C. SUBJECTIVE DVORAK INTENSITY ESTIMATES
RANGE FROM 77 KT TO 90 KT AND THE ADVISORY INTENSITY IS INCREASED
TO 85 KT. SINCE THE HURRICANE IS EXPECTED TO MOVE OVER MARGINAL
SEA SURFACE TEMPERATURES AND WEST-SOUTHWESTERLY SHEAR IS LIKELY TO
INCREASE...THE OFFICIAL INTENSITY FORECAST SHOWS WEAKENING. THIS
IS IN GOOD AGREEMENT WITH THE LATEST GFDL HURRICANE MODEL
PREDICTION AND NOT FAR FROM THE INTENSITY MODEL CONSENSUS.

CENTER FIXES ARE IN GOOD AGREEMENT...AND THE MOTION IS NOW WESTWARD
OR 280 AT 9 KT. A NARROW MID-TROPOSPHERIC RIDGE IS FORECAST BY THE
GLOBAL MODELS TO DEVELOP NORTH AND NORTHWEST OF HENRIETTE IN A DAY
OR TWO. THIS SHOULD CAUSE THE MOTION TO TURN A LITTLE SOUTH OF
WEST WITH AN INCREASE OF FORWARD SPEED DURING THE FORECAST PERIOD.
THE OFFICIAL TRACK FORECAST IS VERY CLOSE TO THE PREVIOUS ONE AND
ALSO SIMILAR TO THE MULTI-MODEL CONSENSUS.

ON THE CURRENT FORECAST...HENRIETTE SHOULD CROSS 140W INTO THE
CENTRAL PACIFIC HURRICANE CENTER AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY WITHIN
12 TO 18 HOURS.


FORECAST POSITIONS AND MAX WINDS

INIT 08/1500Z 17.2N 138.4W 85 KT 100 MPH
12H 09/0000Z 17.3N 139.7W 75 KT 85 MPH
24H 09/1200Z 17.0N 141.6W 65 KT 75 MPH
36H 10/0000Z 16.5N 143.8W 55 KT 65 MPH
48H 10/1200Z 16.0N 146.3W 45 KT 50 MPH
72H 11/1200Z 15.0N 152.3W 35 KT 40 MPH
96H 12/1200Z 14.0N 158.5W 25 KT 30 MPH...POST-TROP/REMNT LOW
120H 13/1200Z...DISSIPATED

$$
FORECASTER PASCH
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
1186. sar2401
Quoting TampaSpin:
has anyone used the WU enhanced feature linking to FaceBook....I don't wanna do something I will regret.

I tried Facebook once. I regretted it ever since. :-)
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Category 6™

About

Cat 6 lead authors: WU cofounder Dr. Jeff Masters (right), who flew w/NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990, & WU meteorologist Bob Henson, @bhensonweather