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Long-Range Models Hinting at Florida Hurricane Potential Early Next Week

15,000 members of the media gathered in Tampa for next week’s RNC, The Republican National Convention? Talk about a target. What can possibly go wrong?

1946: last time Tampa saw a direct hit from a hurricane.

Hurricane Isaac? O.K. This system is nearly a week away from threatening the U.S. mainland, but with the Republican National Convention kicking off next Monday in Tampa, what can possibly go wrong? Organizers have been paranoid about a possible hurricane impacting the Tampa-St. Pete area for years now, and there is a 1 in 3 chance their worst fears may come true. The track will almost certainly change over time, as new data initializes the computers and each successive computer run fine-tunes the path of this storm. Wind shear over the Caribbean may shred the storm, preventing it from intensifying. Bottom line: it’s too early to tell. But if you have friends in Florida you may want to encourage them to pay attention in the coming days…just in case. GFS model above courtesy of Ham Weather.

Watching The Tropics. Here is the GFS model, showing gradual intensification of a tropical wave as it passes south of Cuba, turning north toward Florida late in the weekend and early next week. Too early to panic, but we are overdue for a land-falling tropical storm or hurricane.

Getting Organized. NOAA’s enhanced IR loop shows the circulation of “94L” becoming better organized over time – there’s a chance this westward-tracking tropical wave may strengthen into Tropical Storm Isaac as early as today.

Tropics Becoming More Active. After an extended lull we’re seeing a conga-line of tropical systems in the Atlantic. The system east of the Lesser Antilles has a 90% probability of becoming a tropical storm. Map: NHC.

Projected Track. Continuity is fairly strong, a tight grouping of predicted paths for what may shortly become “Isaac”. Will Isaac’s storm impact the USA? Too early to tell. A path over the Dominican Republic and Cuba would limit intensification, robbing the storm of some of it’s energy (derived from warm ocean water). Map courtesy of Ham Weather.

Republicans Prepared For Long-Shot Hurricane At Tampa Convention. The odds of a hurricane strike are still small (but growing with each passing computer run). No, you just can’t make this stuff up. Here’s an excerpt from an article at Bloomberg Businessweek: “Four years after a hurricane in Louisiana forced Republicans to make changes to their convention 1,300 miles away in Minnesota, they’ll nominate their next presidential candidate in Florida, among the most hurricane- prone states in the country. Few hurricanes have hit Tampa, home to the Republican National Convention that starts Aug. 27, and odds are low it will happen during the four-day event when the party nominates Mitt Romney as its challenger to Democratic President Barack Obama. In one projection, a low-pressure system moving across the Atlantic develops into a tropical storm and makes landfall in Tampa during the convention, said Jeff Masters, founder of the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Weather Underground. Meteorologists say predictions are unreliable more than a week in advance.”

Mississippi River: Closed Until Further Notice. From a USA Today article: “The U.S. Coast Guard says 97 boats and barges are waiting for passage along an 11-mile stretch of the Mississippi River that has been closed because of low water levels.”

Photo credit above: “A winch and a crane keep a dredging apparatus steady as it sucks up sand from the bottom of a navigation channel on the Mississippi River on Monday, Aug. 20, 2012 near Memphis, Tenn. The Mississippi River from Illinois to Louisiana has seen water levels plummet due to drought conditions in the past three months. Near Memphis, the river level was more than 12 feet lower than normal for this time of year.” (AP Photo/Adrian Sainz)


Drought Exposes Sandbars Along Rivers, But Experts Warn Of Quicksand-Like Problems. Quicksand, along the banks of the Mississippi River? Good grief. Here’s an excerpt from The Washington Post: “A lack of rain in the United States’ midsection in recent months has reduced water levels in some of the nation’s biggest rivers, exposing sandbars that experts warn could be deadly quicksand. Rivers such as the Mississippi and Missouri are typically low in August, but this year’s drought has them at their lowest point in decades. The sandbars that are revealed look like beaches, inviting boaters, fishermen and hikers to venture out. Experts agree that can be a very bad idea.”

Photo credit above: “A plume of water at the end of the discharge pipe aboard the Dredge Potter on the Mississippi River near St. Louis, Aug. 17, 2012. The river is affected by the ruinous drought across much of the Midwest, with some stretches nearing the record low-water levels experienced in 1988.” (John Schwartz/The New York Times).

Today’s Weather Map. The WRF model, valid 4 pm today, keeps a stationary front draped over the southeastern USA, with more flash flooding for the Panhandle of Florida into South Carolina; a few spotty instability late-day showers over the Ohio Valley and the Dallas area. Otherwise most of America looks dry.

The Cost Of Cool. I’m feeling better about my busted A/C unit. It’s a fact of life: human productivity seems to suffer when air temperatures exceed 78-80 F. People tend to become easily distracted. As the planet warms more people (worldwide) are turning on air conditioners, which requires more electricitiy, more burning of fossil fuels to keep people comfortable, which releases more emissions which warm up the atmosphere even more. Another unpleasant “feedback effect” which has scientists concerned. Here’s an excerpt of an article at The New York Times (subscription may be required): “Fact 3: Scientific studies increasingly show that health and productivity rise significantly if indoor temperature is cooled in hot weather. So cooling is not just about comfort. Sum up these facts and it’s hard to escape: Today’s humans probably need air-conditioning if they want to thrive and prosper. Yet if all those new city dwellers use air-conditioning the way Americans do, life could be one stuttering series of massive blackouts, accompanied by disastrous planet-warming emissions. We can’t live with air-conditioning, but we can’t live without it.”

NASA Drones To Investigate Hurricanes. Meteorologists do a good job predicting the track of hurricanes, but forecasting hurricane intensity is still very problematic. Our biggest fear? A Category 1 hurricane just offshore mutates into a Category 4 or 5, virtually overnight. All those coastal residents who decided to stay put, because it’s “only a category 1” wake up to a monster, and there’s no way to get everyone off the barrier islands in time. That’s why unmanned drones may help to revolutionize hurricane research, doing what no manned aircraft can do. Details from “NASA’s Hurricane Severe Storm Sentinel Mission, or HS3, will be studying hurricanes at the end of the summer, and there will be two high-altitude, long-duration unmanned aircraft with different instruments flying over the storms…Using unmanned aircraft has many advantages. Hurricanes present an extreme environment that is difficult to sample. They cover thousands of square miles in area, and can also extend up to 50,000 feet in altitude. Second, they involve very high winds, turbulence and heavy precipitation. Third, ground conditions (high winds that create heavy seas or blowing materials) make surface observations difficult.

Photo credit above: “NASA’s Global Hawk No. 871 cruises over low cloud layers above the Dryden Flight Research Center on Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. This was the first Global Hawk built in the original Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration program, joining NASA’s other Global Hawk, No. 872, for high-altitude, long-endurance environmental science missions.” (NASA/Lori Losey)


20 Years Later: The Children Of Hurricane Andrew. Many Floridians were understandably traumatized by Category 5 “Andrew”, which swept ashore with 200 mph. wind gusts on August 24, 1992. CBS Miami has the story of children who survived the storm, but now have life-long anxieties; here’s an excerpt: “Surviving Hurricane Andrew was traumatic for most of those who lived through it, but especially for the children of Andrew who lost some of their innocence in the storm. In the months and years after the hurricane, some would run for cover in their homes when thunderstorms struck while others would have nightmares of another hurricane threatening South Florida. Dante Diaz had just turned 9-years old and lived in Cutler Ridge when Hurricane Andrew roared across South Florida on August 24, 1992. Diaz said it took him many years to desensitize from sudden surges of wind, and bad thunderstorms. Annie Lofredo was 10-years old and lived in East Kendall near the Falls. She described her experience with Andrew as powerful. “It also showed me how quickly everything can change.” Hurricane Andrew time lapse sequence courtesy of NASA.


“Ask Paul”. Weather-related Q&A:


“With the string of possible tropical storms starting to line up across the Atlantic, I was starting to wonder if there have ever been any remnants of hurricanes or tropical storms that have made it as far north and west as Minnesota? Obviously most would go up the east coast, but it is possible that if a storm landed in the Gulf of Mexico that it’s remants could make it here?”


Peter Short

Minneapolis, MN

Peter – thanks for a great question. Once every 10-20 years, on average, a gently used Gulf of Mexico land-falling hurricane accelerates north and reaches Minnesota and Wisconsin. By the time it reaches this latitude there is no warm-core tropical circulation – it’s merely a counterclockwise-rotating swirl of heavy showers. Even though we are 1,000 miles too far inland to experience hurricane winds, we do, from time to time, see the sloppy dregs of an ex-hurricane in Minnesota.

Subject: nearing record low for arctic ice


My reading of the chart from Cryosphere indicates that we are not nearing a record low for arctic ice; we have reached a record low for arctic ice. Is that correct or am I misreading the chart?


Jeffery L. Bineham

Professor of Rhetoric

Department of Communications Studies

St. Cloud State University

New Arctic Sea Ice Minimum. Jeff, you are correct: at last report: Arctic ice has shrunk down to an area of 2.87743 million square kilometers, which is a new record low for arctic ice. A recent storm (unusually strong for August) helped to break up additional ice, accelerating the downward spiral. Most troubling: another 2-4 weeks of ice loss is likely. Arctic ice usually reaches a minimum in mid-September. Data courtesy of Cryosphere.

The Simple Things

My teenage nieces flew out from D.C. last week to take in a little Minnesota magic. We did the predictable stuff: Mall of America, fishing, tubing, biking & hiking. As they got on the plane I asked what they liked best.

“The campfire and smores” they answered in unison.

“But the BEST thing was seeing shooting stars out on the beach!”

And then it hit me: some of the things I take for granted, getting a glimpse of the Perseids, or the Northern Lights, is the source of utter amazement for a kid growing up in the light pollution of the east coast megalopolis. Sometimes it’s the simple (free) moments that are most memorable.

A stunning Tuesday gives way to more 80s this week, the first chance of thunder Thursday. I wouldn’t let this (small) risk deter you from heading to the State Fair.

A dying cool front may stall out nearby Sunday; a period of steadier rain can’t be ruled out. Saturday looks like the better day right now.

Mother Nature has a wicked sense of humor. Long range models hint at a tropical storm or hurricane impacting Florida early next week. Folks in Tampa must be holding their breath. The Republican National Convention kicks off on Monday. What are the odds?


Climate Stories:


Another Economic Impact Of Climate Change: Drought Is Draining The Mississippi River. Here’s an excerpt from “…Currently, near record low river levels requires that the Army Corps of Engineers work non-stop to keep the Mississippi River passable for cargo ships and transport by dredging out 60,000 cubic yards of sediment each day. The river conditions are forcing companies to decrease the number of barges on the river and the ones that are traveling up and down the river have decreased their loads. Even with these efforts, 60 vessels have run aground in the lower Mississippi since May. Plus, while the Corps has kept the main navigation channel open, harbors along the river have been closed. Four have closed so far and if the drought continues, eight more are likely to be closed- leaving 12 out of 19 harbors closed. These difficulties will increase transportation costs that will likely be passed on to consumers.”

Photo credit above: “Cottage Grove, Minn., — Employees with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District use mechanical dredging to clear the Mississippi River 9-foot navigation channel near Cottage Grove, Minn., June 8. The Corps uses both mechanical and hydraulic dredging to maintain the channel.”


Climate Extremes Reexamined: Can We Quantify The Straw That Breaks The Camel’s Back? Here’s a snippet from a story at Think Progress: “….What this shows first of all is that extreme heat waves, like the ones mentioned, are not just “black swans” – i.e. extremely rare events that happened by “bad luck”. They might look like rare unexpected events when you just focus on one location, but looking at the whole globe, as Hansen et al. did, reveals an altogether different truth: Such events show a large systematic increase over recent decades and are by no means rare any more. At any given time, they now cover about 10% of the planet. What follows is that the likelihood of 3 sigma+ temperature events (defined using the 1951-1980 baseline mean and sigma) has increased by such a striking amount that attribution to the general warming trend is practically assured. We have neither long enough nor good enough observational data to have a perfect knowledge of the extremes of heat waves given a steady climate, and so no claim along these lines can ever be for 100% causation, but the change is large enough to be classically ‘highly significant.”



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Welcome to the WeatherNation blog. Every day I sift through hundreds of stories, maps, graphics and meteorological web sites, trying to capture some of the most interesting weather nuggets, the stories behind the forecast. I’ll link to stories and share some of the web sites I use. I’m still passionate about the weather, have been ever since Tropical Storm Agnes flooded my home in Lancaster, PA in 1972. I’ve started 5 weather-related companies. “EarthWatch” created the world’s first 3-D weather graphics for TV stations – Steven Spielberg used our software in “Jurassic Park” and “Twister”. My last company, “Digital Cyclone”, personalized weather for cell phones. “My-Cast” was launched in 2001 and is still going strong on iPhone, Android and Blackberry. I sold DCI to Garmin in 2007 so I could focus on my latest venture: WeatherNation. I also write a daily weather column for The Star Tribune And if you’re on Twitter, you’ll find me @pdouglasweather


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