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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Quoting 769. SouthTampa:
Oh man, we're having a good one in S. Tampa. Lots of big boomers!
On the other side of the bay from you, seems like every ambulance and fire engine is responding to something.
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models?twins.move.into.w.carib.
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784. Siker
Quoting 781. GTstormChaserCaleb:
Nice! :D


She's either going to go one way, or in the exact opposite direction :P.
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ZCZC MIATWOEP ALL
TTAA00 KNHC DDHHMM

TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
500 PM PDT WED AUG 7 2013

FOR THE EASTERN NORTH PACIFIC...EAST OF 140 DEGREES WEST LONGITUDE..

THE NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER IS ISSUING ADVISORIES ON HURRICANE
HENRIETTE...LOCATED FAR TO THE EAST OF THE HAWAIIAN ISLANDS.

1. AN AREA OF DISTURBED WEATHER SEVERAL HUNDRED MILES SOUTHWEST OF
ACAPULCO MEXICO IS MOVING WESTWARD AT 10 TO 15 MPH. ENVIRONMENTAL
CONDITIONS ARE CONDUCIVE FOR GRADUAL DEVELOPMENT OF THIS
DISTURBANCE DURING THE NEXT FEW DAYS. THIS SYSTEM HAS A LOW
CHANCE...20 PERCENT...OF BECOMING A TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE
NEXT 48 HOURS AND A MEDIUM CHANCE...50 PERCENT...OF BECOMING A
TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 5 DAYS.

FIVE-DAY FORMATION PROBABILITIES ARE EXPERIMENTAL IN 2013. COMMENTS
ON THE EXPERIMENTAL FORECASTS CAN BE PROVIDED AT...

HTTP://WWW.NWS.NOAA.GOV/SURVEY/NWS-SURVEY.PHP?COD E=ETWO

FORECASTER LANDSEA
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Nice! :D

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nav=10%..good.rains.jamaica
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.
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18z NAVGEM:

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Ryan Maue
Canadian Regional Model (10km) shows Arctic warm-core, secluded polar low as it matures -- near surf temp:
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Up to 10%.

TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
800 PM EDT WED AUG 7 2013

FOR THE NORTH ATLANTIC...CARIBBEAN SEA AND THE GULF OF MEXICO...

CLOUDINESS AND SHOWERS HAVE CONTINUED IN ASSOCIATION WITH AN AREA OF
LOW PRESSURE MOVING WESTWARD OVER THE EASTERN CARIBBEAN SEA.
ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS ARE ANTICIPATED TO BE UNFAVORABLE FOR
DEVELOPMENT OVER THE NEXT SEVERAL DAYS. THIS SYSTEM HAS A LOW
CHANCE...10 PERCENT...OF BECOMING A TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE
NEXT 48 HOURS...AND A LOW CHANCE...10 PERCENT...OF BECOMING A
TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 5 DAYS.

&&

FIVE-DAY FORMATION PROBABILITIES ARE EXPERIMENTAL IN 2013. COMMENTS
ON THE EXPERIMENTAL FORECASTS CAN BE PROVIDED AT...

WWW.NWS.NOAA.GOV/SURVEY/NWS-SURVEY.PHP?CODE=ETWO

$$
FORECASTER LANDSEA

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Quoting weatherlover94:
The US has went 7 years without a major Hurricane with the exception of Sandy....I hope we can make it 8 this year


Sandy was not a Major at landfall, Sandy wasn't even a Hurricane at landfall, it was a Post-Tropical Cyclone.

Two AOI in the ATL.

10% That the NHC has given to this one....


This T-wave in the CATL

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These are cool!

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Current storms in the southeastern US.

New BBC weather video focuses on the US weather.

Sting in the tail for US golf?
7 August 2013 Last updated at 14:02
Tornados, gusty winds and large hail - the weather is wild in the Ohio valley, but will these weather systems affect the PGA golf in New York State later this week? Susan Powell has the forecast.

With this short nightly hello from an uneventful weather day in Germany a good night to everybody!

Edit: And don't forget poor Shanghai!

'It's Too Hot': Shanghai Wilts In Record-Setting Heat Wave
August 07, 2013

Temperatures Wednesday in Shanghai hit an all-time high: 105.4 degrees, according to officials here. It was the hottest day in 140 years, since the government began keeping records.

The Chinese megacity is in the midst of its hottest summer ever.

Usually bustling streets are near empty at noon and thousands have gone to hospitals for relief. To get a feel for how people are handling the heat wave, I waded into a public pool in the city's Hankou district. By early afternoon, the temperature was 98 degrees in the shade, according to the thermometer I brought along. ...

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06z HWRF

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Quoting 769. SouthTampa:
Oh man, we're having a good one in S. Tampa. Lots of big boomers!
The East Coast seabreeze is doing its job. ;)

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Oh man, we're having a good one in S. Tampa. Lots of big boomers!
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The Caribbean is starting to moisten up a bit as the drier air is getting squeezed out.

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Toronto Pearson Int'l Airport
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH IN EFFECT
Date: 7:00 PM EDT Wednesday 7 August 2013
Condition:Partly Cloudy
Pressure:29.8 inches
Tendency:falling
Visibility:15 miles
Temperature:80.4°F
Dewpoint:68.2°F
Humidity:66%
Wind:SW 13 mph
Humidex: 94
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Quoting 757. TropicalAnalystwx13:
Sea surface temperatures in the East Atlantic are rising again.



The Caribbean may be starting a warm-up trend again following this SAL outbreak. We'll see.

Well that was rather fast.
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Quoting 759. yqt1001:


The arctic stole our summer. >:| Here in Ontario the hottest it's gotten this summer is 24C, 75F!
not in Toronto was hot but now cooler last two weeks come Friday
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Quoting 758. SLU:


Absolutely.


HI SLU. What does the 18z GFS has in long range?
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Quoting 761. Bluestorm5:
Ike and Sandy were so bad because of storm surge. Sandy had a support of the highest tide of season during landfall to make surge about several feet higher. I think the categories need a major adjustment to include the surge, rainfall, etc. This saying... our luck with majors can't keep up forever.


Right, so far we are holding on pretty good this season
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Quoting 755. Bluestorm5:
We had no landfalling major hurricane in USA since Wilma in 2005. Ike, Gustav, Sandy, Irene, and few more were a major hurricane at one point in their lifetime but none of them landfalled in USA as a major.
Good evening everyone...feeling much better now, went outside and mowed the lawn and got some fresh air :)...Sorry if I came off negative earlier...Did the NHC ever do a re-analysis of Ike to determine if he was a major at landfall in the northwest Texas coast? I have heard from some of the bloggers on here that as Ike was nearing landfall the hurricane hunters left the storm.
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Quoting 756. weatherlover94:


Ike did about as much damage as a cat 3 or 4 ...Gustav weakened to a cat 2 a couple hours before landfall....our luck has go to run out eventually
Ike and Sandy were so bad because of storm surge. Sandy had a support of the highest tide of season during landfall to make surge about several feet higher. I think the categories need a major adjustment to include the surge, rainfall, etc. This saying... our luck with majors can't keep up forever.
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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


Kugluktuk Airport
Date: 5:00 PM MDT Wednesday 7 August 2013
Condition:Mainly Sunny
Pressure:30.2 inches
Tendency:falling
Visibility:10 miles
Temperature:81.1F
Dewpoint:48.0F
Humidity:31%
Wind:WSW 8 mph
Humidex: 83

Normals
Max:57F Min:41F
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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


The arctic stole our summer. >:| Here in Ontario the hottest it's gotten this summer is 24C, 75F!
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758. SLU
Quoting 749. JLPR2:


Yes seems to be dancing around it, once the other stronger and larger vort moves away to the west, this one could finally move off the coast.



Absolutely.
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Sea surface temperatures in the East Atlantic are rising again.



The Caribbean may be starting a warm-up trend again following this SAL outbreak. We'll see.

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Quoting 755. Bluestorm5:
We had no landfalling major hurricane in USA since Wilma in 2005. Ike, Gustav, Sandy, Irene, and few more were a major hurricane at one point in their lifetime but none of them landfalled in USA as a major.


Ike did about as much damage as a cat 3 or 4 ...Gustav weakened to a cat 2 a couple hours before landfall....our luck has go to run out eventually
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Quoting 753. weatherlover94:
The US has went 7 years without a major Hurricane with the exception of Sandy....I hope we can make it 8 this year
We had no landfalling major hurricane in USA since Wilma in 2005. Ike, Gustav, Sandy, Irene, and few more were a major hurricane at one point in their lifetime but none of them landfalled in USA as a major.
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...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
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The US has went 7 years without a major Hurricane with the exception of Sandy....I hope we can make it 8 this year
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Here's a good example...

Here's SAL on August 17, 2010.



A week later...

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Quoting 746. weatherlover94:



Things will have to blow up like crazy to get that by November but it's not out of the question....I am sticking with my 10-6-3


we could get it 3 before end of august 6 in sept and 4 in October 1 in nov then its over
now if this was sept 7
then I might say
half of that is possible


things can happen fast sometimes real fast


like everyone else we watch wait and see
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Quoting 745. TropicalAnalystwx13:
If you're bored, I recommend reading past blogs during early August 2010 (archive here). You'll find posts of the East Atlantic filled with SAL and dry air, how poorly the GFS is supposedly doing because of its upgrade, and statements of a horribly busted season due to little activity. :)
I always suggest that during these lulls folks go back and read the Katrina archives, especially the 48-120 hours before landfall. There's more positives to be found there...instead of looking for gotcha's on what was said about a season during a lull.
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749. JLPR2
Quoting 727. SLU:


It's probably being influenced by the large cyclonic gyre to its west.


Yes seems to be dancing around it, once the other stronger and larger vort moves away to the west, this one could finally move off the coast.

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Quoting 742. TimSoCal:


Is that a polar cyclone I see the edges of?
ya that's actually the second one this season but the first did little or none affect on the ice maybe this one will move things around a little looks stronger than the last one
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Quoting 741. KEEPEROFTHEGATE:


I really havn't tracked anyone yet
but soon
if you ask about numbers what I saw earlier in the year in may has changed
and I have lowered my expectations slightly
still think we may see a total of 16 too 18 system
we have had 4 so far that leaves 12 to 14 to come
with the time left that's possible like anything



Things will have to blow up like crazy to get that by November but it's not out of the question....I am sticking with my 10-6-3
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If you're bored, I recommend reading past blogs during early August 2010 (archive here). You'll find posts of the East Atlantic filled with SAL and dry air, how poorly the GFS is supposedly doing because of its upgrade, and statements of a horribly busted season due to little activity. :)
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with accuweather talking about Texas being impacted POSSIBLY by a weak tropical cyclone or tropical rains brings back memories of this....imagine what the blog would be like if this formed in the gulf

Link
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Quoting 739. weatherlover94:
The wave near Africa just coming off the coast may have a chance....I am beginning to wonder about what the rest of the season is going to be like though


Now and later...apples and oranges.
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Quoting 733. KEEPEROFTHEGATE:


Is that a polar cyclone I see the edges of?
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Quoting 736. VR46L:


How is your forecast for the season going ?


I really havn't tracked anyone yet
but soon
if you ask about numbers what I saw earlier in the year in may has changed
and I have lowered my expectations slightly
still think we may see a total of 16 too 18 system
we have had 4 so far that leaves 12 to 14 to come
with the time left that's possible like anything
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TOMORROW A LIGHT AMOUNT OF SAHARAN DUST WILL RETURN TO THE AREA
AND LAST THROUGH SATURDAY AT LEAST.

Don't need that, need rain!
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The wave near Africa just coming off the coast may have a chance....I am beginning to wonder about what the rest of the season is going to be like though
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New blog post!

A Firsthand Experience with a 50mph Tropical Storm: Claudette
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got severe storms moving in from the north gonna be a little wet soon
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736. VR46L
Quoting 729. KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
naw its not bad yet i'll tell ya when


How is your forecast for the season going ?
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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