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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The National Hurricane Center's Tropical Cyclone Report for the East Pacific's Tropical Storm Alvin is out today.

Changes:

- Maximum intensity increased from 45kt to 50kt
- Minimum pressure dropped from 1003mb to 1000mb
- Formation time moved up from 1500 UTC May 15 to 0600 UTC May 15
- Accumulated Cyclone Energy index increased from 0.97 to 1.0175 units
- Dissipation time moved up from 0900 UTC May 17 to 0600 UTC May 17

Noteworthy:

- Alvin was the second lowest-latitude tropical cyclone to form in the East Pacific during the satellite era

P.S. there's a new format for TCRs as well

Link
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Quoting 929. moonlightcowboy:



...are these in the factory yet? ;)


I believe...encountered the swamp version in the Big Cypress one hunting season.
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934. beell
Dallas, TX 9PM CDT. Night time temps almost hot enough to brag about.

Current conditions at
Dallas Love Field (KDAL)
Lat: 32.86 Lon: -96.85 Elev: 440ft.

Fair
99°F
37°C
Humidity 29%
Wind SpeedS 13 mph
Barometer 29.78 in (1007.5 mb)
Dewpoint 61°F (16°C)
Visibility 10.00 mi
Heat Index 100°F (38°C)
Last Update on 7 Aug 8:53 pm CDT
Member Since: December 31, 1969 Posts: Comments:
..
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I thought Sandy would have hit New York City harder if she had gone just a little to the north and be a bit closer than Atlantic City with lower pressure in New York City. A Tom's River area landfall.
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Quoting 801. carla961:
Dont know why the NHC even bothers to put a 0% chance on a system, and then put a 0% chance on it for the next 5 days !! If it's not gonna develop, dont put a freaking circle around it !! just my 2$..
Getting you warmed up for action soon.
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...are these in the factory yet? ;)
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expect watch #485 there at any time
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Quoting 923. Walshy:


It's scary to think what could happen if the hurricane seasons start to last longer. What if Sandy had went further south-west post landfall? What if the cold air was just a little bit stronger?


if Sandy would have gone a little more south than it did at landfall, almost all NYC's Manhattan would have been flooded and the entire subway system... a major disaster.

All coastal Long Island and NY Harbor... just catastrophic.

remember how large the storm was.
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HURRICANE HENRIETTE DISCUSSION NUMBER 19
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL EP082013
800 PM PDT WED AUG 07 2013

THE OVERALL STRUCTURE OF HENRIETTE HAS CHANGED LITTLE OVER THE PAST
FEW HOURS. WHILE AN EYE IS NOT SEEN IN GEOSTATIONARY IMAGERY...A
2134Z AMSR-2 PASS FROM THE GCOM-W1 SATELLITE SHOWED A SMALL MID-
LEVEL EYE. HOWEVER...THE MICROWAVE IMAGERY ALSO INDICATED AN
EASTWARD TILT OF THE CIRCULATION WITH HEIGHT CONSISTENT WITH
MODERATE WESTERLY SHEAR INDICATED BY UW-CIMSS ANALYSIS. THE INITIAL
INTENSITY REMAINS 75 KT BASED ON THE LATEST DVORAK CI-NUMBERS OF
4.5 FROM TAFB AND SAB. STEADY WEAKENING SHOULD BEGIN SOON AS THE
CYCLONE MOVES OVER COOLER WATERS DURING THE NEXT COUPLE OF DAYS.
AFTER THAT TIME...HENRIETTE WILL BE MOVING OVER SLIGHTLY WARMER
WATERS...BUT IN A DRIER ATMOSPHERE. THIS ENVIRONMENT SHOULD RESULT
IN SLOW WEAKENING TO REMNANT LOW STATUS BY THE END OF THE PERIOD.
THE NHC FORECAST IS SIMILAR TO THE PREVIOUS ONE AND IS CLOSE TO A
BLEND OF THE DECAY SHIPS AND LGEM MODELS THROUGH THE PERIOD.

THE INITIAL MOTION ESTIMATE IS 295/09. A NARROW SUBTROPICAL RIDGE
BUILDING TO THE NORTH OF HENRIETTE WILL RESULT IN A TURN TOWARD THE
WEST IN THE NEXT DAY OR SO FOLLOWED BY A TURN TOWARD THE WEST-
SOUTHWEST. THIS WEST-SOUTHWESTWARD MOTION IS EXPECTED TO CONTINUE
THROUGH THE REMAINDER OF THE PERIOD AS THE CYCLONE BECOMES A
SHALLOW SYSTEM STEERED BY THE LOW-LEVEL TRADE WIND FLOW. THE NEW
NHC FORECAST IS LARGELY AN UPDATE OF THE PREVIOUS ONE...BUT HAS
BEEN SHIFTED A BIT TO THE SOUTH THROUGH 72 HOURS TO ACCOUNT FOR THE
INITIAL POSITION AND MOTION AND AN ADJUSTMENT TOWARD THE LATEST
TVCE MULTI-MODEL CONSENSUS.


FORECAST POSITIONS AND MAX WINDS

INIT 08/0300Z 17.0N 136.5W 75 KT 85 MPH
12H 08/1200Z 17.4N 138.0W 70 KT 80 MPH
24H 09/0000Z 17.4N 139.7W 60 KT 70 MPH
36H 09/1200Z 17.2N 141.7W 50 KT 60 MPH
48H 10/0000Z 16.7N 144.0W 45 KT 50 MPH
72H 11/0000Z 15.5N 149.5W 35 KT 40 MPH
96H 12/0000Z 14.0N 156.0W 30 KT 35 MPH
120H 13/0000Z 13.0N 162.5W 25 KT 30 MPH...POST-TROP/REMNT LOW

$$
FORECASTER BRENNAN
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BULLETIN
HURRICANE HENRIETTE ADVISORY NUMBER 19
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL EP082013
800 PM PDT WED AUG 07 2013

...HENRIETTE MOVING WEST-NORTHWESTWARD AND EXPECTED TO WEAKEN...


SUMMARY OF 800 PM PDT...0300 UTC...INFORMATION
----------------------------------------------
LOCATION...17.0N 136.5W
ABOUT 1235 MI...1985 KM E OF HILO HAWAII
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...85 MPH...140 KM/H
PRESENT MOVEMENT...WNW OR 295 DEGREES AT 10 MPH...17 KM/H
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...984 MB...29.06 INCHES
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924. SRQfl
Looks like a bit of moisture getting stuck in the Gulf, ITCZ reaching the N coast of S America, also quite a bit of water leaving the African Coast.
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It's scary to think what could happen if the hurricane seasons start to last longer. What if Sandy had went further south-west post landfall? What if the cold air was just a little bit stronger?
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922. Skyepony (Mod)
The launch contrail tends to make one too if it's the right time of day. Not sure if the noctilucent dragon was spotted down in Palm Bay..but here it was from Melbourne. We have had brighter.



The last Delta launch was loud. Wonder if they changed them. This one would have been a fun one to go see, just for the sound.
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921. DDR
Quoting pottery:

BAH !!
4mm here....

Plenty in Brasso Seco though, the road was like a river.....

Hey pottery good to see you,still working up in braso are we?Hows is the road to Blanchisseuse?
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Quoting 911. Grothar:


The sad part is, I'm not kidding. :)


I thought you'd really like the "Grothargonianbytes" as in alot - that's more than Terabyte,Petabyte,Exabyte,Zettabyte,Yottabyte! :)
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Is the coast clear?
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Night-Shining Clouds Surprisingly Common, Thanks to Rocket Launches

Becky Oskin, LiveScience Staff Writer | June 06, 2013 03:51pm ET


Night-shining clouds, an ethereal type of cloudknown to ripple across the edge of space, were expected to be rare this year, but a new study finds these specters are actually quite common and thicker than predicted.
...

The explanation for the extra clouds? Water vapor pumped into the high atmosphere from rocket and space launches...

Google "noctilucent clouds"

http://www.space.com/21468-rocket-launches-night- shining-clouds.html
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Quoting 906. palmbaywhoo:



now we know what it is you photograph pretty cool nice capture
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Quoting 890. palmbaywhoo:



YOU GOT IT! :)

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Crazy, never seen it before... The launch rumble was alos much longer than usual. Had no clue what it was till I turned on the news. Good to know it isn't a portal to another dimension... Dont need no Pacific Rim junk around here! haha
Quoting 913. Skyepony:


I have othesr of these in my my WUPhotos.. That wasn't the first.. it's noctilucent. The rocket puts the cloud material higher up than where cloud vapor usually gets. So it's dark out but the sun can reflect off this vapor & such really high up. They say these clouds weren't around 100 years ago or before. I like your capture of that one better. Here is mine..


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Quoting 908. trHUrrIXC5MMX:


it was a major hurricane at landfall? you were filming it?
how did the 100 mph winds were?

what is your location in regards to Wilma's landfall area?


At the time, I was living in Coral Springs, Florida (about 20 miles NW of Ft. Lauderdale). Sustained winds were probably in the 60-75mph range, with much higher gusts, though can't be sure as I didn't have an anemometer. Wilma's eye came over us and the backside of the storm (which wasnt filmed), actually seemed to have higher sustained winds.

On a side note, i gotta head to the gym but i should be back on at around 12AM or so
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913. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting 893. palmbaywhoo:
Had to trim it a bit... but thanks to MLC for their help figuring it out haha... Lived in Mel/PB my whole life and never saw a cloud like that before. Didnt move with the other clouds, moon wasnt out to reflect that much light either


I have othesr of these in my my WUPhotos.. That wasn't the first.. it's noctilucent. The rocket puts the cloud material higher up than where cloud vapor usually gets. So it's dark out but the sun can reflect off this vapor & such really high up. They say these clouds weren't around 100 years ago or before. I like your capture of that one better. Here is mine..

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Quoting 909. unknowncomic:




TCHP is lower this year in Caribbean and Gulf.

Its higher this year in the Central Atlantic.

Better for early CV development.
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Quoting 872. moonlightcowboy:


ROTFL! ;) You're aight, Gro!


The sad part is, I'm not kidding. :)
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TCHP is lower this year in Caribbean and Gulf.

Its higher this year in the Central Atlantic.

Better for early CV development.
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Quoting 904. yankees440:


I actually have a 25 minute video where one of my friends filmed me out in the storm at its worst.. Maybe ill post it day.


it was a major hurricane at landfall? you were filming it?
how did the 100 mph winds were like?

what is your location in regards to Wilma's landfall area?
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NHC scared to change the 5 day from the 2 day.
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Quoting 864. palmbaywhoo:
Thanks Skye, just did that



Ok, palmbaywhoo, here's your pic:




I'm a tad disappointed unless you can explain what we're seeing, please. ;P j/k. I'm sure it's a great pic of something.

Ok, you've almost got it. But, uuummm, how about a pic of, say, oh maybe Dr John Hope, or even better - Heidi Klum! Yeah, that's it, she's tropical, I'm sure. I'm sure the mods will let you slide on that since you're just getting started and we're in this lull.
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Quoting 896. trHUrrIXC5MMX:


you had your "fun" I guess


I actually have a 25 minute video where one of my friends filmed me out in the storm at its worst.. Maybe ill post it day.
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Hope you feel chipper tomorrow Doppler.
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Quoting yankees440:
I am still in Awe from Superstorm Sandy




Me too. I'm only 19 but pretty sure that was a once in a lifetime event to get that much snow from a tropical system in western NC.
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Nice little thunderstorm to round out the night. Not feeling particularly well right now so I am going to hit the sack early. Goodnight everyone
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Quoting 754. CaicosRetiredSailor:
...here's a weather report for you; the high temperature yesterday in Croker River was 84 F.  Now that seems reasonable, hot but not terribly hot.  Laredo TX was 108 F, and they would gladly take an 84 degree high.  

However this is news because of where Croker River is located, western most Nunavut, Canada, about where the orange circle is located, and as you can see that's above the Arctic Circle.  The normal high temperature for these parts would be a sweltering mid-50 degrees.  This time of year it would rarely get above 65 F.  No wonder all that sea ice and tundra's permafrost are melting.  

It's been a long time since it was this warm this far north, probably about 54 million years ago, when at the beginning of the Eocene warm temperate vegetation grew as far north as the Arctic Circle.  That's right magnolias at the Arctic Circle; see the current treeline (yellow) on the map?  And you can bet the climate deniers will have nunuvit.





- See more at:
http://phytophactor.fieldofscience.com/2013/08/he at-wave-pushes-north-way-north.html


Disturbing!

'It's Too Hot': Shanghai Wilts In Record-Setting Heat Wave (courtesy of Barbamz's blog)

40.8C will be a new record if confirmed. Those poor people!
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899. Skyepony (Mod)
The scene when I heard the rumble..DeltaIV contrail..
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Heading out for a bit.. Ill be back on later though
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Quoting 890. palmbaywhoo:

that was an after launch cloud
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Quoting 891. yankees440:


You along with like 30 million others..!! But not me here in South Florida (I have Wilma though)


you had your "fun" I guess
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Quoting 871. SuperStorm093:
Seems like I have heard the word NEXT alot, trust me the NEXT wave will be the one, trust me by NEXT week we will have something brewing. Lots of excuses going on here with the LULL, we need to just say, none of us expected this.
I don't think any rational blogger is making any excuses though, we kind of expected this, lulls happen in every season and I don't think we expected anything to develop this week, I know I certainly did not, next week and towards the 20th I think we will have something to track, if not I will be the first to take a bite out of the crow pie.
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Had to trim it a bit... but thanks to MLC for their help figuring it out haha... Lived in Mel/PB my whole life and never saw a cloud like that before. Didnt move with the other clouds, moon wasnt out to reflect that much light either
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Quoting 886. gator23:


Why?


The conditions required for that to come together and move in the direction it did is practically almost impossible (not literally, but still)
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Quoting 882. trHUrrIXC5MMX:


I felt its rage on that Monday evening... never to forget it.


You along with like 30 million others..!! But not me here in South Florida (I have Wilma though)
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Quoting 883. Chicklit:

no, I didn't know that with respect to the SAL satellite pic. Michael's blog says the SAL creates the dry air, so guess what's there is from the big dust cloud he describes.
Though WV doesn't look all that dry near Cape Verde
as they're coming off the continent

by the time they get to central ATL there's plenty of dry air to choke development.






SAL is the Saharan Air Layer. It blows westwards nearly all the time. It's hot, dry air mostly. And, there are various amounts of dust that's picked up - sometimes not so much, other times heavy. In either case, any amount of dust is accompanied by grothargonianbytes of dry air. That's a lot! ;)

I hate the CIMSS SAL graphic. I like what you do with water vapor to determine moisture/dry air. And, then I like to use the EUMETSAT dust product to discern the density of dust. :)
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Quoting 884. Chicklit:

okay sufficiently tired to call it a day.
adios amigos
Good night Chicklit.
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Quoting 875. beell:


psst...the rooster.

you are a trouble maker lol!
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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