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Weather Nerd

A tropical trio

September 2nd, 2008 - 11:02 am

There’s a bunch of good analysis in the weatherblog-o-sphere this late morning on the trio of active Atlantic storms: Hanna, Ike and Josephine.

First, Hanna. Dr. Jeff Masters writes that “the location of final landfall has a much higher uncertainty than usual,” but adds that this morning’s weakening has clarified one thing with regard to the intensity forecast: “Category 1 strength is probably the maximum the storm has time to achieve before landfall.”

Alan Sullivan agrees. The hype-averse South Floridian, who was once uncharacteristically bullish about Hanna, has turned bearish in light of Hanna’s encounter with land interaction and wind shear:

At this point I see three possible scenarios, in this order of likelihood: (1) NW track to US landfall as a minimal hurricane in Georgia or SC, as most models indicate; (2) overland weakening in eastern Cuba, and landfall in Florida as a tropical storm; or (3) complete dissipation from shear and land interaction.

The Sun-Sentinel‘s Ken Kaye is also blogging about Hanna, as is my friend Brian Neudorff. Neudorff notes that AccuWeather’s Joe Bastardi — who is, um, not “hype-averse” — thinks Hanna will “bounce back like Rocky.” Bastardi writes, “The call for the major hit between Hilton head and Wilmington for Friday holds from this forecaster.”

For what it’s worth, Sullivan’s first scenario — a Category 1 landfall in South Carolina — is the one reflected in the official forecast. This would involve a landfall on Friday, with the onset of bad weather potentially beginning late Thursday.

That makes me think: although such an event would (barring unexpectedly severe strengthening) lack the attendant fear of calamity that preceded Gustav’s strike, one presumes that the Republicans, having essentially canceled the first day of their convention because of Gustav, might not want the big climax — John McCain’s acceptance speech — to occur on an evening when yet another hurricane, potentially, is imminently threatening the coastline. Perhaps McCain should consider accepting the nomination on Wednesday?

Anyway… Dr. Masters posts a remarkable five-day precipitation forecast showing the expected rains from both Hanna, right, and the remnants of Gustav, left:

gustav-hanna-rain.png

Unfortunately, this forecast shows the heaviest rains missing some of the areas where rain is most sorely needed, including East Tennessee, where I live. Hopefully that changes.

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Beyond Hanna lies Ike — which, in light of Hanna’s weakening this morning, as well as the possibility that Josephine may never reach land, now seems the most likely candidate for a potential major-hurricane threat to the U.S. coastline (albeit a still rather distant threat).

4storms2.png

The always level-headed Dr. Masters says Ike “has the potential to become a major Cape Verde-type hurricane.” And the computer models are very tightly clustered around a five-day track that does not lend itself to harmless recurvature out to sea.

The Houston Chronicle‘s Eric Berger, for one, is concerned about Ike. He observes:

Once the storm reaches the eastern end of Cuba [on Day 6 of the forecast], anything could happen. It could finally find a weakness in the high-pressure ridge to its north [which would send it toward either the East Coast or the Gulf Coast, depending on the exact location of recurvature] or it could head due west toward Mexico.

How’s that for narrowing things down?!?

The European global model has what at this point can probably be considered a reasonable take, shown in this loop. That’s right — the model brings a large hurricane to the Gulf coast between Louisiana and the Florida Panhandle in 10 days time.

I have about as much faith in 10-day model runs as I do in David Carr as a starting quarterback, but the bottom line is that Ike is a potential threat to the U.S. Gulf Coast and it’s a system I’ll be watching.

Additionally, if I were on the U.S. East coast I’d be monitoring the system, especially in areas like New York and Massachusetts, which rarely get hurricanes. The climatology tells us a strike there is possible, albeit not probable.

Keep in mind, we’re talking about a “threat” that’s more than a week away — which the GOP is surely grateful for; imagine if the Republicans had to talk about “Ike’s devastation” at their convention! — so there’s no reason for anyone to get too exercised about Ike at this point. But, as Berger says, it’s certainly worth watching.

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Finally, Josephine. I mentioned earlier that Josephine seems more likely than the other storms to “never reach land.” You can see this on the computer models, many of which foresee early recurvature. Berger writes, “This system has a better chance than Ike of becoming a fish storm, that is, moving harmlessly into the open Atlantic.”

But of course, it’s much too early to say with any certainty what will happen. Indeed, Dr. Masters thinks it’s so early that it’s not even worth talking about: “The tropics are too busy to spend much time on Josephine. I’ll say more on it later this week.” Berger agrees: “Ike’s worth much closer attention than Josephine right now.”

Oh, and one last thing, even more remote. Dr. Masters mentioned that Josephine “formed today off the coast of Africa, just like the long-range GFS model has been predicting for the past week. The GFS has done very well forecasting up to a week in advance the recent string of African tropical waves that have developed.” Having said that, he later added: “There’s a tropical wave over Africa behind Josephine that the GFS model forecasts will develop into a tropical storm next week.” Kyle??

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