Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Typhoon Megi Slated For 2nd Landfall in East China; Taiwan not totally out of woods
October 21, 2010

Note Typhoon Megi ragged, off-center eye at 18:30Z 10.21.10 on West Pacific Rainbow IR image (click for most recent loop)

Typhoon Megi JTWC Forecast Track 10.21.10

Typhoon Megi:  4 days ago, prior to then Super Typhoon Megi’s landfall on the Philippines, I had mentioned in my long term analysis that “… if the trof is fast and very deep, it could conceivably turn the storm north and then northeast.  While there may not be sufficient room in the sea for this to occur without striking land, that scenario would put Taiwan at risk of a hit from the Southwest…”  At the time, the forecast from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center called for the storm to track well to the Southwest of Hong Kong, perhaps toward the South China island of Hainan.  As it turns out the trof that was expected to turn the storm northwest was, in fact, deeper than forecast and Typhoon Megi turned North-Northwest not long after it emerged in the South China Sea. 

Typhoon Megi Visible Satellite 10.21.10

The damage from then Super Typhoon Megi to thePhilippines was largely to agricultural concerns. (Image Gallery) While the current agricultural outlook for the Philippines is stable, longer term consequences could result.  The loss of life was limited, considering that prior to landfall Megi had hit nearly 167 kts (190 mph) sustained winds with gusts to 220 mph.  It weakened a shade at landfall but was still an extremely strong super typhoon.  But, it moved across the island at a steady clip and had its greatest impact on less populated parts of the nation so flooding and loss of life was limited.

10.21.10 TPW image clearly shows Typhoon Megi nearing the Taiwan Strait (click for real time previous 72 hour loop)

Map of South China and Vicinity

At 15 UTC (Z) October 21, 2010 Typhoon Megi was about 250 nm southeast of Hong Kong moving North-Northeast at just 4 kts.  The trof in Southeast Asia dug so deep that it created a contraction in the steering ridge over the Western Pacific and the storm is now moving around the periphery of that ridge.  It is moving into cooler water which will hamper any further development but its got such a good outflow to the North that the decreasing intensity trend will be slower than what might otherwise occur.  Nevertheless, as it interacts with southwesterly flow aloft as it runs up along the trof to the northeast, it will begin to get ripped apart.  As I had mentioned a few days ago, if it weren’t for land getting in the way, this guy may have been a threat to Taiwan but the Chinese coast should get into the way. 

Note 7 day rainfall total related to Typhoon Megi ending 15 UTC (Z) 10.21.10 From NASA TRMM

In all likelihood, China will experience a weakening typhoon making landfall across the Taiwan Strait from Taiwan somewhere in between Shantou and Xiamen.  It is possible that the winds may have fallen to below typhoon strength by then.  I would think that the greatest concern would be for flooding as the storm, while dissipating, will have the potential to bring very heavy rains and the flooding threat will increase should the remnant of Megi move at a snails pace, which is not uncommon for a dissipating tropical cyclone.  Still, it is not totally out of the question that this guy gets so caught up in the trof that it tracks a bit more northeast, as some models suggest.  Should that occur, then Taiwan may be under the threat of a dissipating tropical cyclone from the Southwest.  As it stands, the time frame of ultimate landfall would be about 6 UTC (Z) October 23, 2010 and I suspect that would be the case if it follows the current forecast track or if it wandered farther north or northeast.

Weather Bottom Line: Our weather is lame. Nice…but lame.  Highs in 70’s lows in 40s  tonight.  A rain chance does show up by the second half of the weekend, but we’ll talk about that tomorrow.  Only caveat is that we had a little boundary come through and cooler drier air will filter in taking us down into the 30’s in some spots.  Frost possible in some areas but if the breezes persist, it may not get as chilly as some may think and the wind would also tend to limit frost.

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Super Typhoon Megi Set To Strike Philippines With Extreme Intensity
October 17, 2010

Super Typhoon Megi Cast an Impressive Multispectral Image at 2330Z Oct 16, 2010

For a more recent update regarding Typhoon Megi’s approach to China CLICK HERE

Japan Meteorological Agency Forecast Track Super Typhoon Megi (Juan)

The Philippines is making preparations ahead of a powerful Super Typhoon set to strike the island nation Monday morning with effects being felt on Sunday. The storm, known locally as Juan, is feared to have the same flooding potential as Typhoon Ketsana in Sept 2009. Typhoon Megi (a.k.a. Typhoon Juan) has behaved exactly as expected and it is now a very powerful storm designated as Super Typhoon Megi, Super Typhoon Juan or Super Typhoon 15W.  Whichever moniker you choose, it is a force to be reckoned with as its energy release compares favorably to an excess of the global electric generating capacity or as an equivalent to the largest yield atomic weapon every minute.  Another estimate puts a well developed tropical cyclone energy release on par with 500,000 Hiroshima style atomic bombs per day

Super Typhoon Megi Graph of Central Pressure Progression

In any event, the inhibiting factors to the storm have gone by the wayside as anticipated and the central pressure has dropped to 908 mb, which is extremely low.  To provide a frame of reference of how that compares to intense hurricanes in the North Atlantic,  Hurricane Camille in 1969 bottomed out at 909 mb and had winds approaching 200 mph.  Hurricane Andrew in 1992 had a minima pressure of 922 mb and the lowest that Katrina had in 2005, well before landfall, was 920 mb.   Super Typhoon Megi is not too far from the all-time lowest recorded atmospheric pressure which occured in 1979 with Typhoon Tip, which had a remarkable central pressure of 870 mb.  Previously, Typhoon Ida held the record of 879 mb when it was 750 miles east of Luzon (very close to the current location of Megi-450 miles NE of Manila) in 1958.  So, extremely intense storms in the region are not totally uncommon.  The clouds that had been obscuring the center have gone by the way-side and a well defined, relatively small eye has developed. 

West Pacific IR Rainbow Satellite Featuring Typhoon Megi-Click Image for Most Recent Loop

Super Typhoon Megi (Juan) JTWC Forecast Track 00Z 10.17.10

A pressure approaching 900 mb can easily support higher winds than the 3 UTC (Z) Oct 17 2010 analysis of 140 kt sustained winds of 140 kts and gusts to 170 kts, which translates to sustained winds of 161 mph or 259 kph and gusts to 195 mph or 315 kph.  Some further intensification is possible as the forecast calls for sustained winds to increase to 145 kts and gusts to 175 kts.  While the pressure can support even higher winds than that, at this point, they are so strong that it almost becomes academic in relation to the destruction potential and the ultimate intensity at landfall will most likely be subject to eyewall replacement cycles.  When a tropical cyclone goes through an eyewall replacement cycle, central winds typically fall off but the breadth of gale force winds expands.  That was the case with Hurricane Katrina which “only” had winds of 125 mph at landfall as it headed  into Mississippi but 100 mph winds were felt all the way to Mobile.  Another factor that may inhibit substantial intensification would be a slight disruption of the northern outflow.  This is an example of why it is difficult for an extremely intense tropical cyclone to maintain its maxima for long as environmental conditions must be perfect and perfect conditions rarely last long.  Nevertheless, as it stands, the official forecast from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center puts the winds around 140 kts at landfall sometime after 00 UTC (Z) October 18, 2010 north of Palanan and east of Tuguegarao.  It would not be out of the question for winds to exceed forecast levels at some point in time.  The timing of eyewall replacement cycles, however, is beyond current forecast abilities until the beginning of the cycle change is actually observed.

West Pacific Total Precipitable Water Latest 72 hours-Click Image for Loop

West Pacific IR Satellite with Wind Barbs (Isotachs)

As was anticipated, the trof of low pressure near Okinawa that was causing a weakness in the steering ridge to the North has moved northeast and the ridge filled in.  Consequently, the previous west northwest track of Megi has shifted westward at 12 kts.  The ridge is expected to continue to build such that the westward track should change around the time that the storm gets to the coast of Luzon such that it moves west-southwest.  That track would take Megi over the mountainous regions of northern Luzon but well north of Manila.  The storm surge on the eastern, northeastern and northern part of the island will be extreme but exact levels will be determined by the geogrpahy of the coast.  The mountains will enhance the rain totals which will most likely be extreme.  Even as it loses intensity rapidly over the mountains, the circulation will be such that there will be an onshore flow off of the South China Sea toward Manila for a period of time so rain totals will most likely be high on both sides of Luzon. 

Super Typhoon Megi Morphed Integrated Microwave Imagery with max Wind Velocity-Click Image for Loop

If there is any good news to report it is that the forward speed may increase a bit and so the center of the storm may be over Luzon for only about 12 hours.  That’s plenty of time to do plenty of damage but at least its not going to crawl across the Philippines and extend the high risk for catastrophic flooding.  By 12UTC (Z) October 18, 2010 Typhoon Megi should re-emerge over the ocean in the South China Sea with winds forecast to have been reduced to 95 kts.  However, once over the warm waters of the ocean, Typhoon Megi will regain some strength but most likely will not get back to it’s former self…that would be extremely rare and there simply will not be time nor will the environmental conditions support such a scenario.  Even so, It is expected to get back to 115 kt sustained winds by 00UTC (Z) October 22, 2010. 

Super Typhoon Megi Graph of Wind Speed Progression

Previously, the extended forecast track had suggested a second landfall on the South China island of Hainan followed by a final landfall after crossing the Gulf of Tonkin in Vietnam.  Modeling data though has formed a consensus though of another trof coming down through Asia. 

Map SE Asia

That trofiness is expected to influence Megi northwest after it enters the South China Sea.  The depth of that trof will determine the fate of Megi.  If it is slow or not so strong, then Megi may run into China south of Hong Kong, though it would still be close enough to affect that city.  If the trof is a little deeper, then it could turn Megi for a more direct affect on Hong Kong and if the trof is fast and very deep, it could conceivably turn the storm north and then northeast.  While there may not be sufficient room in the sea for this to occur without striking land, that scenario would put Taiwan at risk of a hit from the Southwest and potentially even Japan after that.  It’s way too soon to tell.  One thing seems invevitable:  the Northern Philippines will be affected adversely of the effects of a major tropical cyclone by 00UTC (Z) 18 October 2010.

Typhoon Megi Probable Super Typhoon Threatens Philippines
October 16, 2010

23:30 UTC (Z) Rainbow IR image of Typhoon Megi Not totally impressive but it should become better defined over next 48 hours (Click image for most recent loop)

Typhoon Megi 17:30Z IR Satellite 10.15.10

CLICK HERE FOR MORE RECENT UPDATE ON SUPER TYPHOON MEGI

Typhoon Megi continues to intensify and is expected to be a significant threat to the northern Philippine province of Luzon by late this weekend.  Americares is making preparations to bring relief.   Typhoon Megi is currently the only tropical cyclone anywhere on earth but it could be one of the strongest of the year to affect land.  While it is very likely that the storm will go well beyond the threshold of Super Typhoon status with winds in excess of 100 kts, the specific track seems to be a little problematic and that could mean all the difference for the Philippines.  By 18 UTC (Z) October 17, 2010 the typhoon is expected to have sustained winds of 135 kts with gusts to 165 kts.  Roughly, that would be just shy of the North Atlantic Category 5 classification.  Environmental conditions are such that intensification from the 18 UTC (Z) October 15, 2010 95 kt level to the loftier, stronger classification is likely.  Megi is the name of a catfish in South Korea and is related to the feeling of getting wet, according to the Hong Kong Observatory

Equatorial Total Precipitable Water-Click Image for latest 72 hour loop As Typhoon Megi Develops

Typhoon Megi JTWC Forecast Track 18UTC (Z) 10.15.10 (click to enlarge)

Typhoon Megi was about 1000 miles east of Manilla at 18 UTC (Z) 10.15.10 moving WestNorthwest at about 17 kts with a central pressure of 955 mb which will in itself support higher winds than the current estimates.   The pressure trend has continued to be down.  The typhoon has been traveling around a big ridge of high pressure to the north but has taken the more northwesterly track over the past 24 hours due to a weakness in the ridge just south of Okinawa, Japan.  The general model consensus and analysis of the Joint Typhoon Warning Center is for that weakness to get squished out and the ridge reassert itself.  As that happens, Typhoon Megi will resume a more westerly course around the ridge.  However, previous forecasts had been calling for that turn more to the west to have already occured.  Since it has not, the landfall point on Luzon has been shifted farther north to somewhere near or north of Palanan and east of Tuguegarao.  The northern part of the island is very mountainous and the terrain is anticipated to do a number on the storm and it should rapidly fall apart with the land interaction.   However, the rising terrain of the mountains will provide for a lifting mechanism that will tend to enhance rainfall.  It is for that reason that in the Philippines and other island nations with central mountain ranges that flooding and mudslides are often the greatest threat as rainfall totals can be exceptionally extreme in a relatively short period of time.  Given the counterclockwise flow of a typhoon in the northern hemisphere, even locations on the other side of the island such as Laoag can expect and onshore flow from the north that will also provide adverse conditions of wind and heavy rain.

Typhoon Megi Morphed Intergrated Microwave Imagery 00Z 10.16.10 (Click for Loop)

The thinking now is that the storm will run across the northern part of the Philippines in 48-72 hours and lose much intensity, but not completely.  It is expected to re-emerge in the South China Sea as a 75 kt typhoon where it will continue west and regain some strength over the following day or so back to 90 kts.  From that point, it is expected to make a second landfall, perhaps on the South China island of Hainan.  From there, it could move across the Gulf of Tonkin and make a 3rd landfall in North Vietnam.  While it will certainly have lost considerable intensity by then, it is not uncommon for typhoons on the downside of life to prove a risk to life and property in Vietnam due to flooding concerns. 

Map SE Asia

I would think that the fly in the ointment is the weakness in the ridge.  It is caused by a shortwave trof that came off the Asian continent.  As mentioned it is forecast to be squished, or more correctly, it is expected to lift to the northeast as the ridge fills in.  However, if that trof does not lift out in a timely manner or slower than currently anticipated, then it is plausible that Megi proceeds on its current west northwest track a bit longer than forecast before making its turn more toward the west.  Should that happen to a great enough degree, then the typhoon could run over the islands in the Luzon Strait.  That would also bring Hong Kong into the picture as a potential threat to receive at least adverse effects of a major typhoon.

Bottom line is that this is going to be a serious typhoon.  It will affect the northern Philippines to some degree.  The current forecast calls for a landfall in Northern Luzon.  However, unanticipated but possible changes in the atmospheric conditions to the north that are steering the storm give rise to a degree of uncertainty as to the ultimate story of Typhoon Megi.

Hurricane Earl Set For Brush With US Coast From Hatteras to Cape Cod
September 2, 2010

Hurricane Earl IR Rainbow Image 1915Z 09.02.10 Click for real time loop

Hurricane Earl Spaghetti Model 18Z 09.02.10

If you recall a few days ago I had talked about the challenges for Hurricane Earl maintaining its ferocity.  One of the main concerns that I had was a huge amount of dry air that Earl was getting ready to move in to.    I was a bit surprised that the NHC didn’t mention it more often and it appeared that Earl was able to fend off the dry air.  However, it seems apparent now that dry air did indeed work its way into the storm and Earl rapidly decreased in intensity on Thursday evening.   The dry air intrusion seems to have coincided with what so often seems to be the case which is that Hurricane Earl began an eyewall replacement cycle during the late morning on Thursday, prior to a potential Outer Banks of North Carolina landfall.   Most likely, Earl yesterday reached its maxima when it topped out at 145 mph with gusts to 165 and a central pressure somewhere in the neighborhood of 930 mb.  If you look at the satellite loop, you will note that the eye seems to fill in.  That was not an indication that the storm is dying, but instead was indicative of a very healthy hurricane.  What typically happens with an eyewall replacement cycle is that the maximum winds near the eye decrease somewhat, but the overall energy gets dispersed throughout the storm.  Hence, a broader field of strong winds results.  At 3:30 PM EDT Earl essentially had two eyes.  The old eye was collapsing and a new, much larger,  eyewall was developing around it.  So, winds decreased and the pressure rose to 943 mb but its a much larger storm.  By 5 pm Earl’s maximum winds had dropped to 115 mph and the pressure was up to 947 mb.   We saw that with Hurricane Katrina.  As it made landfall, the winds dropped off to 125 mph in far western Mississippi and near the mouth of the Mississippi River yet, all the way east over to Mobile, AL winds were in excess of 100 mph.  So, regardless of exactly where the eye of the storm runs in relation to North Carolina, the winds on the Outer Banks and even for some distance inland will be hazardous.

Hurricane Earl Spaghetti Model Intensity Forecast 18Z 09.02.10

On Thursday afternoon, another potential problem was that, if the replacement cycle was complete before it got to North Carolina, then it could have been in a re-intensification stage and perhaps deepening back toward a category 4 hurricane.   At this point, that is not only unlikely but also rather irrelevant.  As of 3:30 pm EDT on Thursday, Earl was moving at about 355 degrees, or just slightly west of due North.  It had crossed just west of 75 degrees West Longitude.  Cape Hatteras is at 75 degrees 15 minutes W. Long and 35 degrees 30 minutes North Latitude.  I believe that there is a fair chance that Cape Hatteras will take a direct hit though if Earl is just off shore, then it could be in the western eyewall.  If you look closely at the 2PM forecast discussion, the NHC forecast position at 2AM is 75 degrees West Long and 33.5 degrees North Lat, or right over Cape Hatteras.  At two AM on Saturday, the storm is forecast to have maximum winds of nearly 100 mph and is located at 40.o N and 75.8 W or almost exactly over Marthas Vineyard.   Keep in mind a wobble to the right by 25 miles would spare the eye passing over these locations but it would still be close enough to be potentially destructive.  By 8PM EDT Earl’s maximum winds had decreased to 110 mph and the liklihood of the trend of winding down is rapidly diminishing.  It would appear from the satellite depiction that upper shear is starting to work on Earl as well as dry air from the Eastern United States.

N. Atlantic IR 1945Z 09.02.10 Click For real time loop

Hurricane Earl NHC Forecast Track 2PM 09.02.10

Once it passes Cape Hatteras, three things will start to work in conjunction to turn it North Northeast and then Northeast.  First, there is the Coriolis Force, which is the force that wants to turn a cyclone to the right of its path in the Northern Hemisphere.  That force increases as the storm moves poleward.  Then there are the mid lattitude prevaling westerlys.  That is the general persistent wind flow in the mid lattitudes of the Northern Hemisphere.  Finally, there is a frontal boundary that is progressing Eastward.  As of 3:30 PM EDT it was just west of the Ohio Valley.  That is some distance from the coast and not moving as fast as we might like.  But, as it approaches, winds ahead of the front or trof will increase from the Southwest.  That will increase Earl’s forward speeed and also serve to knock up the upper air support of the hurricane.   As mentioned earlier, by 8PM EDT the satellite imagery appears to indicate that the southwesterly shear was already taking a toll on Earl.

Structure of a hurricane

Essentially, a hurricane is a warm-core area of low pressure that is a giant heat engine, drawing its energy from warm ocean water.  The ocean has to be at least 80 F.  Not every surface low over the ocean becomes a hurricane though.  It is essential that a hurricane get what I call a “hat” or an anticyclone aloft.  That would be a big area of high pressure.  That is why when you look at a satellite loop, you see clouds going clockwise, yet at the surface, the hurricane winds go counter clockwise.  The upper level high serves to vent the storm.  The structure of a hurricane is such that, at the surface, the flow is toward the center in a counter clockwise fashion.  When the air reaches the center it has nowhere to go but up.  Aloft, the high pressure features air that sinks and goes outward in a clock wise fashion.  The high aloft helps push out the rising air below and as it does, it allows for a more even flow of air rising from below.  When these winds from the southwest kick in, it will disrupt the ventiing flow aloft which will limit the rising air below.  All of that should start to occur in earnest once Earl gets past the Outer Banks.  At that same time, it will start to cross over water that is either near or below 80 F and eventually will get over water that is definitely too cold to support a tropical system.

Atlantic Sea Surface Temperatures-Click for Loop

So, look for rapid weakening of the storm beginning off the North Carolina coast and thereafter.  It will also lose its tropical characteristics probably before it gets to Cape Cod.  Nevertheless, winds of at least hurricane force will continue as the storm moves north.  The forecast track takes it very close to Long Island and even over Cape Cod.  While it may lose its hurricane classification, it will also provide a very healthy storm surge and a high tide will only aggravate the situation.  Click here to find the storm surge forecast for your location.  The storm will also be moving very very quickly so, on the one hand, the effects will not last as long but the conditions will also deteriorate very rapidly.  No one can tell with exact certitude where the center of Earl will travel.  That should not surprise anyone when one considers that the earth is 25,000 miles around;  a margin of error of say 50 miles represents just a fraction of a percent but, it can be the difference between terrible conditions and horrific conditions.  Most of the time, people who try to ride out a storm vow they will never do so again.  Sometimes, they lose their lives and by that time it is obvious they made a mistake.  With hurricanes you do not get a second chance.  Getting out of the way is the better part of valor.  Also, Earl’s interaction with the front may enhance rain fall inland greatly.  Flooding will be a concern from not only the surge, but also rainfall.

N. Atlantic Basin Total Precipitable Water Image-Click For Loop That Clearly Indentifies Cyclone in the N. Atlantic

Gaston NHC Forecast Track 2PM 09.02.10

Gaston Spaghetti Model 18Z 09.02.10

Behind Earl is Fiona which should not be an issue for the United States and perhaps no one.  What is of greater concern is Tropical Storm Gaston.  It is much farther south than Danielle was, or Earl or Fiona.  Fiona will get picked up by the same trof that is picking up Earl and Danielle also got picked up by a trof.  But, Gaston is so far south that it will most likely sneak under any trof and westerly flow around  an Atlantic high should drive Gaston in a westerly fashion.  Most models put Gaston either near or South of the Dominican Republic in about a week and most develop it into a hurricane.  It will not be traveling over any water that has been worked over by Danielle, Earl or Fiona so it should be plenty warm enough and conditions should be conducive for development, perhaps even enough to support a major hurricane.  Its location will offer scenarios for it to enter the Gulf of Mexico as well as potentially affecting the East Coast. 

HURRICANE EARL DISCUSSION NUMBER  34
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL   AL072010
500 PM EDT THU SEP 02 2010

DATA FROM A RECONNAISSANCE PLANE INDICATE THAT EARL HAS WEAKENED A
LITTLE BIT THIS AFTERNOON.  THE CENTRAL PRESSURE ROSE TO 947
MB…AND A BLEND OF THE SFMR MEASUREMENTS AND FLIGHT-LEVEL WINDS
SUGGEST THAT THE INITIAL INTENSITY HAS DECREASED TO 100 KNOTS. EARL
SHOULD CONTINUE TO WEAKEN GRADUALLY AS THE SHEAR INCREASES AND THE
HURRICANE SHOULD WEAKEN EVEN FASTER AFTER 24 HOURS AS IT MOVES OVER
A COLDER OCEAN.  AFTER CROSSING CANADA IN 48 HOURS…EARL SHOULD
BECOME POST-TROPICAL/EXTRATROPICAL AND THEN DISSIPATE AS IT IS
ABSORBED BY A MUCH LARGER EXTRATROPICAL CYCLONE.

SATELLITE AND RECONNAISSANCE FIXES SHOW…AS ANTICIPATED…THAT EARL
HAS TURNED NORTHWARD AND IS MOVING 360 DEGREES AT 16 KNOTS. THE
STEERING PATTERN CONTROLLING THE MOTION OF EARL…AND THE
CONSISTENCY IN TRACK GUIDANCE…HAVE BEEN ADEQUATELY DESCRIBED IN
PREVIOUS DISCUSSIONS. EARL IS ABOUT TO BECOME EMBEDDED IN THE
MID-LATITUDE FLOW AND IT IS READY TO GRADUALLY TURN TO THE
NORTH-NORTHEAST AND NORTHEAST WITH AN INCREASE IN FORWARD SPEED.

ALTHOUGH THE MAXIMUM WINDS IN THE CORE HAVE DECREASED…EARL
CONTINUES TO BE A LARGE AND POWERFUL HURRICANE.

FORECAST POSITIONS AND MAX WINDS

INITIAL      02/2100Z 32.5N  75.2W   100 KT
12HR VT     03/0600Z 34.8N  74.8W    95 KT
24HR VT     03/1800Z 38.0N  72.7W    85 KT
36HR VT     04/0600Z 41.7N  69.0W    75 KT
48HR VT     04/1800Z 46.5N  64.5W    50 KT…POST-TROP/EXTRATROP
72HR VT     05/1800Z…DISSIPATED

$$
FORECASTER AVILA

Hurricane Earl Eyes US: Hurricane Warning Flags Flying on East Coast
September 1, 2010

Hurricane Earl 1915Z IR Rainbow Image 09.01.10-Click Image for Real time Loop

Click Here For The Most Recent Update Regarding Hurricane Earl’s Brush with the US East Coast

Hurricane Earl 1915Z Visible Satellite Image 09.01.10-Click Image for Real Time Loop

If you recall, yesterday I mentioned that one aspect of the forecast regarding Hurricane Earl was the dry air in which Earl was moving into.  I had thought that perhaps dry air might work its way into the circulation of the hurricane and perhaps limit its intensity potential or even bring it down a notch or two.  At 5 AM on Wednesday September 1, 2010 the National Hurricane Center included this bit of information near the end of it’s discussion: ” …WATER VAPOR IMAGERY SHOWS A TONGUE OF MID/UPPER-LEVEL DRY AIR WRAPPED MORE THAN HALFWAY AROUND THE CYCLONE.”  I honestly had been surprised that they had not mentioned that potential earlier because the the scale of the dry air ahead of the storm was rather large.   Nevertheless, by Wednesday afternoon, the outflow symmetry of Earl looks to have improved  and the dry air looks to have been absorbed without a whole lot of disruption; perhaps it hurt Earl a bit.  But, Earl overcame the dry air and at 5pm EDT on Wed Sept 1 had maximum winds of 135 mph with gusts to 160 mph.  Central pressure was 941mb and was moving at 310 -320 degrees (NW) at 17 mph.    The dry air was one of the “challenges” that I referred to that I felt Earl would face in maintaining its intensity.  There are other issues at play as well that suggest the storm has seen its better days and its ferocity will not be as great as it once was, or even feared it would be, when it affects the US Coast.  Nevertheless, I would not take the storm lightly and it would be advisable to get out of its way if you may be in the path of Earl.

N. Atlantic Basin Total Precipitable Water Image-Click For Loop That Clearly Indentifies Cyclone in the N. Atlantic

18Z Hurricane Earl Spaghetti Model Track 09.01.10-Note Model track or two suggest a mainland landfall

As of 5 PM EDT Wednesday, Hurricane Warning flags have been hoisted from  Bouge Inlet, North Carolina to the North Carolina/Virginia.  A Hurricane Watch extends from the North Carolina/Virginia border to Cape Henlopen, DE and from Woods Hole, MA to Sagamore Beach, MA.  Tropical Storm Warnings are posted from the North Carolina/Virginia border to Sandy Hook, NJ.  A Tropical Storm Warning means tropical storm conditions are likely within 36 hours, A Hurricane Watch and a Tropical Storm Watch means that those conditions are possible within 48 hours.  A Hurricane Warning means that hurricane conditions are expected in the warned area with the onset of tropical storm force winds expected within 36 hours.  Tropical Storm winds are considered to be 40 to 73 mph and winds are considered hurricane force at 74 mph.  Remember, these are sustained winds, not gusts.  Winds can gust to at least 20% higher than the sustained winds.  It is not uncommon with a hurricane for a region to experience continuous hurricane force winds for many hours.  Most people who survive “riding out” a hurricane swear they will never do so again.  Wind is only part of the story as torrential rain is always a part of a hurricane and the storm surge associated with any hurricane is typically the gravest life taker.  People generally have no idea just how powerful the sea can be.  Click here for to find the storm surge probability forecast for your region.

Note the Trof in N. Central US on 1845Z Atlantic IR Rainbow Image 09.01.10-Click Image for Real Time Loop

18Z Hurricane Earl Spaghetti Model Intensity Graph 09.01.10

By midday on Wednesday,  Hurricane Earl had continued its gradual curvature around a big fat ridge extending from the Atlantic.  As the ridge continues to move eastward,  Earl will continue its right hand shifting and will eventually be moving due North.  By late Thursday, the long anticipated trof moving across the northern United States will be close enough to pick up Earl.  The result will be an increase in forward speed as well as a turning of the storm; first North-Northeast and eventually Northeast.  The timing of the trof will be the determining factor as to the precise track of Earl up the East Coast, particularly off of New England.  The variable is so slight that no one can say with certainty how it will play out.  An hour or so timing difference of the trof’s influence on Earl can make the difference between the storm staying offshore or running over land.  Suffice it to say, it will be at least a close call and no one along the NE Coast of the United States will escape some affect of Hurricane Earl. 

Atlantic Sea Surface Temperatures-Click for Loop

While the shearing winds from the Southwest ahead of the trof and the dry air trying to work its way into Earl may serve to limit its intensity,  forecasts continue to call for a major hurricane with winds of 100 to 120 mph running just off the North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware coasts.  By the time its off the New England coast, it will be probably scooting along at least at 30 mph and winds will have diminished from weakening due to the shearing winds that mess up its upper support as well as colder water. Tropical Cyclones need surface water temperatures of at least 80 F current coastal conditions from off of Delware northward fall below that level.  Farther out though, in the Gulf Stream, waters remain above 80 F extend a shade farther north.   However, hurricane conditions may still be probable for Long Island and Cape Cod, if not the mainland of the New England states.  The official track keeps the storm offshore but it would not take much of a deviation, say 20 miles, for the eye of the hurricane to run right over Long Island and perhaps Cape Cod or Nantuckett Island.  While its not entirely likely, it is not totally out of the question for Earl to actually make at least a partial landfall on some portion of the mainland. 

NHC Hurricane Earl Forecast Track 5PM EDT 09.01.10

While the winds may back off as it heads farther North, the increase in forward speed may serve to enhance the storm surge to the right of the storm.  Further, given that Earl was a big bopper, the sea will not necessarily react as quickly to diminishing winds so the surge may be on the top end of the normally expected storm surge associated with a minimal hurricane running up the East coast.  So, when you hear the forecasts call for a category 1 hurricane off the Jersey shore of off of the New England coast, it would be advisable not to pooh-pooh it as the destructive potential of a  category 1 hurricane can be somewhat excessive. 

18Z Tropical Depression 9 Spaghetti Model Track 09.01.10

Behind this is Tropical Storm Fiona which has been experiencing some difficulty as the outflow from Earl has been disrupting its outflow.  Aside from its intensity, the same trof that is picking up Earl will most likely pick up Fiona as well, regardless of its strength, and should turn it north well before it threatens the US coast.  Behind Fiona is a Tropical Wave (Invest 98) and Tropical Depression 9 which was designated at Tropical Storm Gaston at 5pm EDT September 1.  Invest 98 appears to be running over the same worked-over water as Danielle, Earl and Fiona and may have a difficult time developing.  However, Tropical Storm Gaston is farther south and the initial modeling data suggests its track will be more westerly and as it will be far enough south as to not be influenced by any trofs farther North.  While there is no data currently showing a rapid intensification, a few models do indicate that it will develop into a hurricane and the general track would suggest the potential exists for it to some day affect the US coast from the Gulf of Mexico to the East Coast.  It’s a long way out and there are many scenarios so there will be time to monitor its development. 

HURRICANE EARL DISCUSSION NUMBER  30
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL   AL072010
500 PM EDT WED SEP 01 2010

VISIBLE SATELLITE IMAGES INDICATE THAT THE EYE HAS BECOME VERY
DISTINCT…WITH OJECTIVE T-NUMBERS OSCILLATING AROUND 6.0 FOR THE
PAST FEW HOURS. AN AIR FORCE PLANE MEASURED FLIGHT-LEVEL WINDS OF
138 KNOTS AND A MINIMUM PRESSURE OF 941 MB IN THE LAST FIX.
HOWEVER…SFMR MEASUREMENTS WERE A LITTLE LOWER. A COMPROMISE OF
THESE DATA SUPPORTS AN INITIAL INTENSITY OF 115 KNOTS.
HOWEVER…EARL COULD FLUCTUATE IN INTENSITY DURING THE NEXT 12 TO
24 HOURS BUT SHOULD BEGIN TO GRADUALLY WEAKEN AS IT REACHES
COOLER WATERS AND MOVES INTO HIGHER SHEAR BEYOND 36 HOURS. BY DAY 5
THE HURRICANE SHOULD HAVE BEEN ABSORBED BY A LARGE EXTRATROPICAL
CYCLONE WELL NORTH OF CANADA.

SATELLITE AND RECONNAISSANCE AIRCRAFT FIXES INDICATE THAT EARL
HAS BEEN MOVING RELENTLESSLY TOWARD THE NORTHWEST OR 310 DEGREES
AT 15 KNOTS. THE HURRICANE IS ABOUT TO REACH THE WESTERN EDGE OF
THE SUBTROPICAL RIDGE AND SHOULD BEGIN TO TURN MORE TO THE
NORTH-NORTHWEST AND NORTH LATER TONIGHT AND THURSDAY. IN ABOUT 36
HOURS OR SO…THE HURRICANE WILL ENCOUNTER THE BASE OF THE
MID-LATITUDE WESTERLIES AND SHOULD BEGIN TO RECURVE OR TURN TO THE
NORTHEAST WITH AN INCREASING FORWARD SPEED. THIS IS THE SOLUTION
CONSISTENTLY PROVIDED BY TRACK MODELS…WHICH HAVE EARL PASSING TO
THE EAST BUT NOT FAR FROM THE OUTER BANKS OF NORTH CAROLINA ON
THURSDAY NIGHT. ONLY A SMALL WESTWARD DEVIATION OF THE TRACK TO THE
WEST WOULD BRING THE CORE OF THE HURRICANE TO THE COAST.

GIVEN THE FORECAST TRACK…THE LARGE SIZE OF THE WIND FIELD…AND
THE EXPECTED INCREASE IN FORWARD SPEED WATCHES AND WATCHES HAVE
BEEN EXTENDED NORTHWARD ALONG THE EAST COAST OF THE UNITED STATES.

FORECAST POSITIONS AND MAX WINDS

INITIAL      01/2100Z 26.3N  73.3W   115 KT
12HR VT     02/0600Z 28.4N  74.7W   115 KT
24HR VT     02/1800Z 31.7N  75.4W   110 KT
36HR VT     03/0600Z 35.1N  74.7W   100 KT
48HR VT     03/1800Z 38.5N  72.2W    90 KT
72HR VT     04/1800Z 46.5N  63.5W    60 KT
96HR VT     05/1800Z 58.0N  57.0W    40 KT…POST-TROP/EXTRATROP
120HR VT     06/1800Z…DISSIPATED

$$
FORECASTER AVILA

Hurricane Earl Faces Challenges, Still Major Threat to US East Coast
August 31, 2010

Hurricane Earl Visible Satellite 1945Z 08.31.10 In Midst of Eyewall Replacement Cycle; Dry Air May Be Trying to Work In-Click Image for Real Time Loop

Note Great Lakes Trof and Huge Area of Dry Air Over Mid Atlantic States: Click Image for Real Time North Atlantic IR Rainbow Loop

CLICK HERE FOR MORE RECENT UPDATE CONCERNING HURRICANE EARL, HURRICANE WARNINGS AND WATCHES ALONG THE US EAST COAST AS FAR NORTH AS MASSACHUSETTS

Hurricane Earl has been behaving like a well developed hurricane as during the day on Tuesday it has been going through an eyewall replacement cycle.   Typically, the old eyewall collapses and a new eyewall forms.  During this time, any given storm’s maximum winds will typically decrease in response to a rise in the central pressure.  However, the energy tends to get dispersed throughout the storm, thus winds in the extremities may be higher than normally expected as the gradient is not quite as steep.  This is what happened with Hurricane Katrina:  it was going through an eyewall replacement cycle when it made landfall and so it was only a category 3 hurricane but, winds in excess of 100 mph were experienced well away from the center.  I believe that the winds were about 125 mph at the point of landfall in Western Mississippi but winds of 108 mph were felt near Mobile Alabama.  In any event, Earl should complete this cycle by Tuesday afternoon and thereafter some moderate strengthing is possible, though most models do not take it to category 5 status.    So, it may max out at around 140 mph and not 155.  What’s 15 mph amongst friends?  It’s still an extremely formidable storm.

NAM 850mb 12Z Thu 09.02.10 Note Movement of Trof East

NAM 12Z 850mb Wed 09.01.10 Note Trof Over Great Lakes

We had a big high pressure ridge over the Eastern United States last week and another ridge in the Atlantic with a trof in between.  Hurricane Danielle followed the trof that split the two ridges and stayed well out in the open waters of the Atlantic.  By this weekend, that weakness between the two ridges filled in and formed generally one large ridge from the mid Atlantic to the Eastern US with a slight weakness in the ridge along the US East Coast.  Now, as hurricanes traverse farther north from the equator, the coriolis parameters become greater.  The coriolis force is the apparent motion caused by the rotation of the earth.  Any hurricane in the Northern Hemisphere will want to move to the right due to the rotation of the earth.  Until the last day or so, the ridge to the north was strong enough to for the most part overcome the coriolis parameters and keep Earl moving generally westward.  However, as Earl moved north of the Virgin Islands, it began to get toward the edge of the strongest part of the ridge and now is moving to the right of a westward track.  Midday Monday it had a vector of 285 degrees and by the evening it was running at 300 degrees.  This however is not the expected turn north.

NAM 12Z Fri 850mb 09.03.10 Note Relation of Trof on East Coast Vs. Earl Position

That turn north will not occur until a trof moving across the northern part of the United States moves eastward to the US East Coast.  When it does, it will provide the channel for Earl to turn north and run up the trof.  A c0uple of things will happen at that time.  The southwesterly flow ahead of the trof will pick up the storm and turn it north and then eventually north-northeast and then northeast and the forward speed of Earl will also increase.  By the time its up to about 35 degrees North Latitude, it will most likely be scooting along at about 30 mph.  That southwesterly flow will not only turn it and increase its forward speed, it should also disrupt the outflow aloft and that would tend to limit any intensification potential or even lead to a decrease in intensity.  Even though there is a high probability of that coming about, it will still be a very strong storm with a high storm surge potential and its even possible that the forward speed might enhance the surge potential in the front right quadrant. 

1845Z Water Vapor-Huge Area of Dry Air Looks As if it is trying to wrap into Earl: Click Image for Real Time Loop

With regard to the intensity there is another potential fly in the ointment that could prove beneficial.  I noticed yesterday a huge area of dry air on the water vapor imagery to the north of Earl.  That dry air is not quite as large in scale today but it’s still there and is moving south.  Earl will be moving right into that environment and I think that there is a fair chance that Earl may have some of that dry air wrap into it.  If that happens, then the dry air will tend to weaken the storm.  Hurricane Opal got a shot of dry air and it actually acted as a steroid shot for a few hours and the intensity jumped unexpectedly but then it fell quickly when that dry air got into the core.  I believe that there is a chance that some dry air intrusion may take place. If so , that  would be good news.  Nevertheless, I believe the big story with Earl will be the ultimate track.

08.31.10 18Z Hurricane Earl Spaghetti Models Intensity

The spaghetti models have been consistently keeping the storm off the coast, though some recent runs had a model or two taking the storm inland in Maine or one even had it going in farther south in New England.  The National Hurricane Center has been inching the official forecast ever so slightly westward for each of the most recent forecast tracks and has been pretty consistent in keep their forecast track  to the left of the model consensus track.  No one can say for certain at this point because it comes down to a matter of hours in regard to the trof digging into the East Coast.  6 hours difference in the timing would result in the difference of a major hurricane running right along the coast or running up say 80 miles offshore.  While both scenarios would bring significant effects to the East Coast, a storm running just off the coast would be probably the worst case scenario.  In that worst case scenario in my mind, the eye of the hurricane would remain over water so the intensity would not drop all that quickly.  Meantime, coastal residents from North Carolina to Maine would feel the effects of a major hurricane, storm surge, winds and all. 

18Z 08.31.10 Hurricane Earl Spaghetti Model

There remain many scenarios as there are still several days for this to play out.  However, I think its safe to say that residents of the Eastern Seaboard will feel the effects of a hurricane by the end of the week.  The question is how much of an effect and no one can say with certainty what the answer to that question is.  However, places like the outerbanks of North Carolina, the Virginia Coast, Long Island and Cape Cod will get the worst of whatever Earl has to offer.  The history of hurricanes running up the East Coast is filled with examples of storms that weren’t too terrible, but there are also some glaring examples of storms that brought extreme devastation and loss of life.  While we can’t avoid any devastation, there is no reason for loss of life as the potential is great enough with this storm for everyone to know that the better part of valor is to get out of the way.  Remember, estimates suggest that a hurricane at its peak can release 10 to the power of 15 watts of total energy which equates to about 500,000 Hiroshima-type atomic bombs every day.  Hurricane Earl quite literally is the most powerful force on the face of the earth right now and that is a battle man cannot win.


Hurricane Earl NHC Forecast 5PM 08.31.10

WTNT42 KNHC 312043 TCDAT2 HURRICANE EARL DISCUSSION NUMBER 26 NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL072010 500 PM AST TUE AUG 31 2010 ALTHOUGH THE SATELLITE PRESENTATION IS NOT AS IMPRESSIVE AS IT WAS EARLIER...A RECONNAISSANCE PLANE AROUND 1700 UTC REPORTED A MINIMUM PRESSURE OF 940 MB AND MAXIMUM FLIGHT-LEVEL WINDS OF 128 KNOTS. THESE DATA SUPPORT AN INITIAL INTENSITY OF 115 KNOTS. CURRENTLY...THERE IS SOME SOUTHWESTERLY SHEAR DISRUPTING THE UPPER-LEVEL OUTFLOW OVER THE WESTERN SEMICIRCLE OF EARL. THIS SHEAR IS CAUSED BY A WEAK UPPER-LOW OR TROUGH OVER THE EASTERN BAHAMAS AS OBSERVED ON WATER VAPOR IMAGES. HOWEVER...MODELS WEAKEN THE UPPER LOW AS EARL MOVES AROUND IT...RESULTING IN A MORE FAVORABLE ENVIRONMENT. EARL IS EXPECTED TO MAINTAIN ITS CATEGORY FOUR INTENSITY FOR THE NEXT DAY OR TWO. EARL HAS BEGUN TO MOVE TOWARD THE NORTHWEST OR 305 DEGREES AT 12 OR 13 KNOTS DURING THE PAST FEW HOURS. THE SUBTROPICAL HIGH THAT IS STEERING EARL TOWARD THE WEST-NORTHWEST OR NORTHWEST IS FORECAST TO GRADUALLY SHIFT EASTWARD AS A BROAD TROUGH BECOMES ESTABLISHED OVER THE EASTERN UNITED STATES. THIS PATTERN WILL FORCE EARL ON A MORE NORTHWESTERLY AND NORTHERLY TRACK FOR THE NEXT DAY OR TWO. THEREAFTER...EARL WILL REACH THE BASE OF THE MID-LATITUDE WESTERLIES AND WILL LIKELY TURN SHARPLY TO THE NORTHEAST WITH AN INCREASE IN FORWARD SPEED. THIS IS THE SOLUTION UNANIMOUSLY PROVIDED BY TRACK GUIDANCE. ONCE AGAIN THE OFFICIAL FORECAST HAS BEEN SHIFTED A FEW MILES TO THE WEST BEFORE 48 HOURS FOLLOWING THE TRENDS OF THE ECMWF AND THE GFS. GIVEN THE LARGE AREA OF TROPICAL STORM FORCE WINDS ASSOCIATED WITH EARL...AND THE NEW DEFINITION OF WATCHES AND WARNINGS...A HURRICANE AND TROPICAL STORM WATCH HAS BEEN ISSUED FOR A PORTION OF THE MID- ATLANTIC COAST. INTERESTS FROM VIRGINIA NORTHWARD TO NEW ENGLAND SHOULD MONITOR THE PROGRESS OF EARL. FORECAST POSITIONS AND MAX WINDS INITIAL 31/2100Z 22.0N 68.8W 115 KT 12HR VT 01/0600Z 23.3N 70.5W 115 KT 24HR VT 01/1800Z 25.6N 72.8W 115 KT 36HR VT 02/0600Z 28.0N 74.5W 115 KT 48HR VT 02/1800Z 31.0N 75.5W 115 KT 72HR VT 03/1800Z 36.0N 73.5W 95 KT 96HR VT 04/1800Z 44.0N 65.0W 75 KT 120HR VT 05/1800Z 56.0N 55.0W 50 KT...POST-TROP/EXTRATROP $$ FORECASTER AVILA

Hurricane Katrina Should Not Have Been A Surprise
August 29, 2010

View of New Orleans from Air Force One following a Hurricane; but it's NOT the Hurricane that You May Think

Flooding In New Orleans' Lower 9th Ward Well After A Hurricane. Note the Era of the Rescue Helicopter

On This Date in History:  When a category 4 hurricane approached the Southeast Coast of Louisiana, residents who did not leave the city of New Orleans were urged to stock up on food that did not have to be cooked as well as plenty of water.    They were urged to have an emergency radio and flashlights with fully charged batteries and make certain that gas tanks were topped off.  Residents who had small boats were told to make sure that their boats were secured.   As the hurricane roared toward shore, 8 offshore oil rigs were lost, including one owned by the former company of President George H. W. Bush.  Even though the hurricane weakened to a category 3 storm at landfall, a huge storm surge pushed west up the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet.  Levees along the Mississippi Gulf River Outlet and along the Industrial canal failed.  Water in the Lower Ninth Ward reached the roofs of several homes and some residents drowned as they were trapped in their attics, attempting to escape the rising waters.  The levee breaches not only flooded the Ninth Ward, but also Chalmette, Gentilly and parts of St. Bernard Parish.  

Flooding In New Orleans From a Hurricane 40 years before Katrina

After 10 days, the water receded and left behind were over 164,000 homes  flooded by the hurricane.   Rumors persisted that levees were intentionally breached in an effort to protect more valuable property than that in less affluent areas such as Chalmette and Lower Ninth Ward.  However, evidence suggests that the failure of the levees was the result of substandard construction and poor maintenance.  The President of the United States had a busy schedule and had no plans to visit the devastated region.   The influential Senator from Louisiana called the President and told him, “…we have really had it down there, and we need your help.”  The President replied, “you got it.”   The Senator asked the President to visit New Orleans so he could see the devastation for himself.  But, the President explained that his schedule was full but said, “Let me look and see what I can back out of and get into and so on and so forth and let me give you a ring back if I can’t go, I’ll put the best man I got there.”  The Senator said he didn’t want his “best man.” 

Hurricane Betsy's Erratic Storm Track Was blamed by some on aircraft research missions flying into the storm

The Senator reminded the President of the political benefits of the President of the United States visiting the region.  The Senator was up for re-election and reminded the Commander-In-Chief of what a presidential visit would mean to his own re-election prospects to the US Senate.  “When I run for office next time, I’m going to be on the same dodge you’re going to be on. And frankly, if you go to Louisiana right now, you might be . . . just make it a stopover. We’ll [unclear]. You go to Louisiana right now, land at Moisant Airport.”   He then added a little extra flair by illustrating an imaginary news story:   “The President was very much upset about the horrible destruction and damage done to this city of New Orleans, lovely town. The town that everybody loves.”  The President first flew over the city in Air Force One before he eventually landed at Moisant Airport in New Orleans.

LBJ Gave Orders Better Than He Took Them But He Listened to Russell Long

The name of that hurricane was Hurricane Betsy in 1965 and the President of the United States was Lyndon B. Johnson. Hurricane Betsy was the first hurricane to cause damage worth over $1 Billion (1965 dollars), thus it was tabbed “Billion Dollar Betsy.”  The White House Tape Recording of the phone call from Sen. Russell Long to President Johnson and his response to Hurricane Betsy reveals that Long also reminded the president that he had lost Louisiana in the 1964 election and if he just came by for a visit, then “… they couldn’t beat you if Eisenhower ran.”  It is absolutely amazing of the similarity in several aspects surrounding Hurricane Betsy in 1965 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  Meteorologists were well aware of the lessons of Betsy but the media was completely ignorant and largely remain so today.  After Hurricane Betsy, the levee system was expanded and improved around the city of New Orleans but the same issues arose regarding construction and also maintenance.  But, even though Betsy was a stronger storm at landfall than Katrina, Katrina proved to be even more devastating to the Crescent City than had Betsy 40 years before.

Result of Storm Surge Through the Gulf Outlet From Hurricane Betsy 1965

Winds with Betsy in New Orleans were much higher than they were with Katrina as Katrina had weakened substantially prior to landfall as it went through and eyewall replacement cycle and Betsy actually hit New Orleans whereas Katrina did not.  However, Katrina still maintained its formidable storm surge associated with a category 4 or 5 hurricane.  Perhaps the greatest difference between the two storms was the angle of attack.  Hurricane Betsy came from the Southeast and moved Northwest.  It moved just south of the city and the city actually experienced both the north and east eyewall.  Katrina approached from the South-Southwest, very similar to Hurricane Camille in 1969 and the city was never affected by the eyewall.  Most computer models create a worst case scenario for a hurricane affecting New Orleans as a category 5 approcahing from the Southwest.  I’ve seen SLOSH models that put 30 feet of water in downtown New Orleans in association with a category 5 hurricane making landfall around Houma.  Like Katrina, Betsy was a category 5 hurricane that declined to category three level at landfall but its attack from the Southeast meant that the storm surge pushing west up Lake Bourne and into the Gulf Outlet or into Lake Pontchartrain was limited.  A storm approching fromm the Southwest has all of the Gulf of Mexico to grab and push into the region while a storm like Betsy threw much of its surge on Alabama and Mississippi and the orientation of the Gulf Coast relative to its approach also limited the water available for a surge.  Hence,  Katrina had a bigger surge than Betsy.

Katrina Storm Track

It is also important to recognize that Hurricane Betsy hit New Orleans.  Hurricane Katrina did not hit New Orleans; it hit Mississippi. The track was very similar to that of Hurricane Camille in 1969.  It could have been much worse and unless we do not understand what happened with Katrina and Betsy 40 years before, then the same thing will happen again.  However, should a category 5 hurricane make a landfall near Houma heading North-Northeast, then I suspect that any effort man makes will help but will not offer full protection.  While Katrina was far worse than Betsy for New Orleans, the lessons from 40 years before should have been heeded.  Some tried.  The New Orleans Times Picayune eerily published a story called “Washing Away” in 2002 that outlined the disasterous effect of even a moderate hurricane on New Orleans.  No one listened.

hurricane-katrina-51On This Date in 2005 New Orleans, Louisiana was under water.  It had been affected by Hurricane Katrina, but there are some things to remember from Katrina. As I mentioned, Katrina was only a category three hurricane when it made landfall on Monday morning August 29, 2005. Its winds had diminished just prior to landfall due a natural (and well timed)  eyewall replacement cycle. That is a natural process for a hurricane when new eye forms as the old one collapses. The maximum winds decrease typically and the energy gets dispersed somewhat. So the result was that 100 mph winds went beyond Mobile but the top winds were down to 120-130 mph. But, remember, the storm previously had winds of 175 mph and just because you reduce the winds does not mean the sea will react immediately so the storm surge remained what would be associated with a category 5 storm.

Katrina Surge in MS over 8 meters

Katrina Surge in MS over 8 meters

The surge in Mississippi was well over 30 feet in places. That is because it swept up the water from the mouth of the Mississippi, which is the Mississippi Trench. The water there is about 8,000 feet deep, give or take. The water along the shelf of the Mississippi coast is about 90 feet. There is no place for the water to go but on the land.  Hurricane Betsy did not draw on the same deep source for the surge and also had a vector heading that spread much of the surge along the coast.  Nevertheless, Lousiana still did not get the main surge with Katrina either.  Mississippi took the full brunt of the Katrina’s surge.  Mississippi was hit by the main force of the hurricane’s wind and water with New Orleans being on the western edge. The surge to the west of the eye was still substantial and actually went up Lake Bourne with the winds ahead of the storm coming from the East and shoving the water up the intercoastal waterway and then to the Industrial Canal and finally to the wall that collapsed into the Lower 9th Ward. I am told that the flood wall was designed to be weaker on that side of the canal so that if there was a huge force that threatened the integrity of the wall, the main part of the city would be protected. The Lower 9th Ward is in a natural marshy area and not a higher area like the French Quarter.   With Hurricane Betsy, the flood wall along the Industrial Canal did fail on both sides.

Storm Tide up Lake Bourne From Easterly Wind Ahead of Katrina about 5 meters

Storm Tide up Lake Bourne From Easterly Wind Ahead of Katrina about 5 meters

As a review, the New Orleans Times Picayune has a site that shows the progression of flooding of New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina which includes a timeline. When you get to the flooding of Jefferson Parish, its important to note that the pumping station had been abandoned prior to the storm by order of the Police Jury President. The workers wanted to stay but politicians ordered them out. The defense of the police jury is that they said it was part of a “doomsday plan” devised years before to send workers 100 miles north in the event of a major hurricane. They say that they were prepared for a direct hit from a Category 5 hurricane. But, many residents say they would not have been flooded had the workers been allowed to stay at their posts. Further, at 11pm CDT on the 27th, the National Hurricane Center Forecast was not for a direct hit on New Orleans, but instead a Mississippi landfall.  Had the public officials not ordered the pumping station abandoned, its possible that many millions in property damage would not have happened.

The true story of Katrina, in my mind, has not been accurately portrayed in the press. In fact, I recall seeing a national news reporter saying from the French Quarter that the city had “dodged a bullet” when, in fact, the timeline shows that the levees on the east side of town had been over-topped hours before and the eastern suburbs were under water. Even when flooding had become known,  many news outlets used the same tired phrase that “New Orleans had dodged a bullet.”    Not surprisingly, most of those stories have been removed from internet archived files.  The fiasco that was the Superdome during Katrina was also not something that should have been a surprise as during Hurricane Georges, a similar situation resulted. The result of 14,000 people seeking shelter from Georges in 1998 was that evacuees stole furniture and damaged property that resulted in thousands of dollars in losses, and there were difficulties supplying the people living temporarily in the dome with necessities.  The procedures were not changed and the media had no clue that it had happened before.  From my experience, there are far more ignorant and uncreative people in television news than the public knows.  Way too many “journalists” are more interested in being on TV than in actually getting to the bottom of a story.  Often, they are incapable of understanding the nuts and bolts of a story or those who are competent become lazy or simply ignore facts that do not fit their world view.   For that reason, the true story may be years in being revealed to the public as true academics unravel the whole story.

Blanco Shows Leadership Skills Following Katrina

Blanco Shows Leadership Skills Following Katrina

In spite of my general feelings regarding the press, there are some who are willing and able to tell a full story.  On Sept 5, 2005 the Washington Post reported that the Governor of Louisiana refused to ask or allow for Federal Troops and takeover of relief efforts, partly due to political concern over how it would look for a Democrat Governor needing the help of President Bush. We have a federation and the Federal Government cannot just willy nilly send in troops into a state unless it falls under the guidelines of the Insurrection Act. By the time the governor had allowed the Feds in on that level, the city was already cut off. Other reports point to the Washington Post story stating that Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco had not declared a state of emergency prior to the storm (which was false, she did) as proof that none of that is true.

Gulfport MS: What a Direct Hit from a Major Hurricane Really Looks like..there's nothing left

Gulfport MS: What a Direct Hit from a Major Hurricane Really Looks like..there's nothing left

However, historian Douglas Brinkley wrote in his book Deluge that, while Blanco did declare a state of emergency, she only filled out a legal form that requested Federal assistance after the storm. Brinkley says, “If Blanco’s message to Bush had been an emphatic letter or frantic telephone call, and not merely a legal form—if it had actually communicated what wasn’t happening in Louisiana (i.e., evacuation)—various U.S. government agencies might have mobilized more quickly. Just as New Orleans wasn’t properly communicating with Baton Rouge, Baton Rouge wasn’t properly communicating to Washington, D.C. There was a chain of failures.” Brinkley does find fault with FEMA director Mike Brown for his lack of urgency. The fact that Brown was a little laid back is a bit odd since he had generally led hurricane relief efforts for Hurricane Ivan, Wilma, Charlie and Jean in Florida just the year before and the post storm criticism never seemed to come from Mississippi where the storm actually hit…it was just Louisiana. But, Brinkley also points out how a member of the Louisiana legislature tried to get Mayor Ray Nagin to understand the grave situtation but that they mayor was watching Little League Baseball less than 48 hours before the storm.

Hurricane Katrina as Cat 5 Hurricane Well Before Landfall

There is plenty of blame to go around.  From my experience in the media, it is no surprise at all that collectively they knew nothing about Hurricane Betsy nor that they initially had no clue about the flooding.  The way that they reported Katrina made it sound like the Lower 9th Ward and Chalmette had never been flooded like that before and both areas suffered similar flooding with Hurricane Betsy.  The newsfolks made it sound like the problems at the Superdome were unprecedented when, in fact,  a nearly identical situation with evacuees at the Superdome had happened in the past.  When people started charging that levees were purposely destroyed, no one thought to remind people that in 1965 similar charges were made.   Nevertheless, what is so terrible about this is not so much the nitwittery of the media, but instead the public officials.  They had some plans that simply didn’t work the way they were supposed to or should have worked.   But there were other concerns from previous storms that were never addressed nor corrected.  Political considerations were also an unnecessary and unhelpful part of Hurricane Betsy and Hurricane Katrina.  Elections matter.  I have always speculated that had Mike Foster still been the Governor of Louisiana, the aftermath of Katrina in New Orleans may not have been so devastating.   However, while it could have and should have been better, it was going to be a disaster no matter what regardless of whether Lyndon Johnson was President or George W. Bush or whether Mike Foster or Kathleen Blanco was Governor. Man proposes, God disposes.

Weather Bottom Line:  The humidity levels have increased again so it will be a little more uncomfortable with lows in the upper 60’s.  Highs will be in the lower 90’s.  I told you that I thought that we had turned the corner on the excessive heat and humidity but that did not mean there would be no more 90 degree days.  It will be dry for the next several days, though an errant afternoon t’shower can’t be totally ruled out.

Hurricane Alex Spaghetti Models, Satellite Loops and Discussion
June 30, 2010

Click on Image for Latest Loop of Hurricane Alex IR Rainbow Image

Hurricane Alex Visible Satellite Click for latest loop image

Sometimes, we react too weakly to the prospects of a hurricane.  But, since the damage wrought by Wilma, Charlie, Ivan, Gustav, Ike and Katrina over the past few years it seems that the pendulum has swung the other way.  I believe that it is better to be very prepared so an over reaction would be preferable to lack of preparation.  However, I am concerned that we may end up with a chicken little syndrome.  The memories of Katrina and Ike and all the rest are so fresh that it’s not likely that people will become complacent soon, but recently I saw evidence that the pump may be getting primed for the public to perhaps get back into the “boy who cried wolf” state of mind. 

Hurricane Alex Spaghetti Model track 12Z June 30 2010

At the end of last week,  Alex came meandering off of the Yucatan and was intact sufficiently for it to regain its Tropical Storm status pretty quickly.  Now, it was well over 1000 miles from Houston yet the message signs on the freeways of Houston read, “Hurricane forming in Gulf. Fill your tanks.”  Now, I understand the need to alert motorists so that the city could avoid the last minute gasoline shortages that occured when Hurricane Ike was approaching the area.  But, all indications were that the storm that was so far away was going to move into Northern Mexico with the far reaching possibility being South Texas, which is still hundreds of miles away from the Houston-Galveston area.  When I first encountered those signs on Sunday, I thought “I wonder if the forecast data has changed?”  It had not.  In fact by then the modeling data had become more concentrated for a Northern Mexico landfall. 

Hurricane Alex Spaghetti Model Intensity 12Z June 30 2010

I read in the newspapers of how Alex could enter the oil spill zone.  That was not in the official forecast.  By the end of last week it was apparent that a ridge in the Gulf would not break down sufficiently or soon enough to allow the storm to turn North and if it did turn North it would be most likely to do after it made landfall in Northern Mexico as it went around the ridge.  Now, Alex is a pretty broad storm so its wind field is a bit larger than a conventional tropical storm or hurricane of its intensity so the winds did shift in the Northern Gulf region and start pushing the oil in a different direction.  And with a cold front approaching, the winds picked up resulting in some containment operations to be suspended.  But all over the radio the news was saying that Alex was the cause and that is not entirely accurate.  The approaching cold front was the real catalyst.  Then, all day long the radio news reports were saying that it was going to be a hurricane at any moment.  The word “hurricane” raises the old blood pressure a little more than “tropical storm.”  Alex did not gain hurricane status until early Wednesday morning.

Hurricane Alex NHC official Forecast Track 10AM June 30 2010

It’s good to be cautious and prepared. It’s necessary in fact.  However, there is a danger of over hyping potentialities to the point that, when its really warranted, no one will listen.  Someone asked me where Alex was going about 4 days ago and I had said that I thought that Tampico Mexico seemed like a good bet.  Then I added the caveats and the person says “so ‘they” don’t know.”   Well, “I” am not “they” and there was a fairly good probability that Mexico would be the target.  Its just that when a storm is that far out and there is so much time that variabilities in the longer term solution tend to become greater and so certainty is diminished to some degree.  But, the Gulf Ridge was so strong anything dramatically different would be really tough to have come about.  All I am saying is that it would be wise to read beyond the headlines this hurricane season.  Often, the headline does not match reality.

N. Atlantic Total Precipitable Water-Note The Dry Air coming from Africa in contrast to huge moisture available with Hurrcane Alex

The cold front that came through the Ohio Valley and knocked about 10-15 degrees off the temperatures and lowered humidity greatly is not expected to make its way all the way to the Gulf Coast.  That is tough to do this time of year and the Gulf ridge of high pressure will not break down enough for that.  The trof extends into East Texas but it really gets weak.  By early Wednesday morning, Hurricane Alex was nearly stationary as a result of it being stuck between two ridges.  It was on the western edge of the Gulf ridge with a ridge in Nebraska coming down behind the front to replace it.   That little weakness between the ridges allowed Alex to edge a bit farther Northwest as it began to gain some forward speed after sunrise.  What  will happen is that the Nebraska ridge will nose further to the South, more or less wash out the boundary over East Texas and steer Alex with a more westward trajectory.    Its not going to get to Tampico but I doubt that it gets to Brownsville.  I would think about 100 miles south of the Rio Grande River seems about right.

NASA TRMM Radar 1348Z June 30-Heavy Hurricane Alex Rain Well offshore

As mentioned before, its a very broad storm so, even though it has a central pressure in the neighborhood of 960 mb, the models really don’t intensify it that much or to the level that such a pressure has the capability to support.  Is it possible that it has a rapid intensification before landfall if it consolodates?  Yes, which is why its good to be cautious.  But its running out of time.  Hurricane Ike had a pressure that would support a much stronger hurricane but it remained a very broad storm so its maximum winds were relativley weak but the strong wind field was very large.  I suspect that will be the case with Alex.  It’s winds might get to a maximum of  say, 90 mph in isolated areas but the 45-50 mph winds may be several hundred miles away.

Parts of South Texas Have More Cows that People

Below is the official Alex discussion from the National Hurricane Center for 10AM on Wednesday June 30 2010.  Port Isabel is a lovely place on South Padre Island near Brownsville but the region is certainly not a major metropolitan area.  The counties north of Brownsville are sparsely populated with the single highway servicing places like Encino, Armstrong and Raymondville well away from the coast.  The Padre Island National Seashore is off limits to any development so once you get north of Port Isabel on Padre Island, no one lives there.  About half way between Corpus Christi and Brownsville is Kleberg County which probably has more cows than people as that county is almost entirely made up of the King Ranch.  There is a sign on the one highway that warns of no gas for many miles because it passes through the ranch.    Bottom line is that, barring some unforseen weird alteration, Alex will cause beach erosion, disruption of lives for the July 4th weekend and probably bring some damage.  I would think that the biggest threat will be inland flooding and also tornadoes, which are always a concern with a landfalling hurricane.  Its not good, its not a great thing and will be an issue for those in its path and the storm surge may cause some problems for coastal beaches and coastal marine interests…but this is no Katrina.

.

HURRICANE ALEX DISCUSSION NUMBER  20
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL   AL012010
1000 AM CDT WED JUN 30 2010

SATELLITE PRESENTATION HAS IMPROVED THIS MORNING WITH T-NUMBERS FROM
TAFB AND SAB REACHING 5.0 AND 5.5 ON THE DVORAK SCALE AND THE
MINIMUM PRESSURE HAS BEEN OSCILLATING BETWEEN 958 MB AND 961 MB.
HOWEVER…BOTH FLIGHT LEVEL WINDS AND SFMR DATA SUPPORT AN
INITIAL INTENSITY OF ONLY 70 KNOTS AT THIS TIME. LATEST
RECONNAISSANCE DATA SHOW THAT THERE ARE TWO WIND MAXIMA ON THE
NORTHEAST QUADRANT OF THE HURRICANE AND WINDS ARE SPREAD OUT IN
OTHER QUADRANTS. GIVEN SUCH A LOW MINIMUM PRESSURE…THE CURRENT
SATELLITE PRESENTATION AND A FAVORABLE ENVIRONMENT FOR
INTENSIFICATION…THE WINDS SHOULD INCREASE TODAY AND ALEX COULD
REACH CATEGORY TWO BEFORE LANDFALL.

FIXES FROM THE AIRCRAFT INDICATE THAT ALEX IS MOVING TOWARD THE
NORTHWEST OR 320 DEGREES AT 6 KNOTS. THE CURRENT WEAKNESS IN
THE SUBTROPICAL RIDGE TO THE NORTH OF THE CYCLONE SHOULD BE
REPLACED BY A RIDGE SOON. THIS FLOW PATTERN SHOULD FORCE ALEX
ON A MORE WESTWARD TRACK LATER TODAY AS INDICATED IN THE OFFICIAL
FORECAST. IN FACT…MOST OF THE DYNAMICAL GUIDANCE FORECAST A SHARP
TURN TO THE WEST OR EVEN SOUTH OF DUE WEST DEPENDING UPON THE
FORECAST STRENGTH OF THE RIDGE IN EACH MODEL. THIS TRACK SHOULD
BRING THE CORE OF THE HURRICANE TO THE COAST WITHIN THE WARNING
AREA LATE TONIGHT OR EARLY THURSDAY. HOWEVER…ALEX IS A LARGE
HURRICANE WITH TROPICAL STORM FORCE WINDS EXTENDING A GREAT
DISTANCE FROM THE CENTER.  RADAR DATA SHOW THAT STRONG SQUALLS AND
GUSTY WINDS ARE ALREADY NEARING THE SOUTH TEXAS AND NORTHERN MEXICO
COASTS.

FORECAST POSITIONS AND MAX WINDS

INITIAL      30/1500Z 23.8N  95.5W    70 KT
12HR VT     01/0000Z 24.1N  96.7W    85 KT
24HR VT     01/1200Z 24.5N  98.5W    45 KT…INLAND
36HR VT     02/0000Z 24.5N 101.0W    25 KT…INLAND
48HR VT     02/1200Z…DISSIPATED

$$
FORECASTER AVILA

Beyond BP Oil Spill: Water pollution problematic 41 yrs after river caught fire
June 22, 2010

Cuyahoga River Ablaze in 1952

Cuyahoga River Ablaze in 1952

Cuyahoga River Lit Up Again in 1969

Cuyahoga River Lit Up Again in 1969

On this date in history: In 1969, the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland was a mess. All sorts of stuff spilling into the river made it a muck of sewage and chemicals. It was yuckadoo. It was so bad that on this date in 1969, the Cuhahoga River caught fire. It’s a great example of what I complain about often today. That is, we know that our water is polluted, yet we don’t do much about it. Even Chinadaily opined in 2008 that unclean water was a global threat. But, instead, for the most part, we make jokes and post signs. This is what the story was with the Cuyahoga River. The joke in Cleveland in 1969 was that if you fell into the Cuyahoga River, you would decay before you drowned. In fact, the jokes had gone on for years because the Cuyahoga River had caught fire on previous occasions but no one did a thing. This time though, the event served as a catalyst as it finally got the attention of legislators. Global Warming may be happening, but we know that water pollution is killing the fish and wildlife in places like the Ohio River, Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico (and I’m not talking about the current oil spill), where there is a “dead zone” all around the mouth of the Mississippi River. I think its up to about 10,000 square miles at its peak. Yet, we push our attention toward the possible in Global Warming and do very little for the factual, which is water pollution.

1 out of 6 people do not have clean water

1 out of 6 people do not have clean water

The issue of water pollution in the Mississippi Watershed and others was made worse by the push toward ethanol. Increased corn production resulted in an increase in fertilizer run-off into the river. Ethanol is a zero sum game or worse when it comes to energy efficiency and global warming “causing” pollutants but is a big negative when it came to water pollution. Water makes up 68% of our bodies and is an essential part of life, yet we focus instead on the unknown. According to Charity Water, 1 in 6 people in the world do not have clean drinking water. I’d encourage you to help a family who is devoting their life to bringing water to the impovershed in the Dominican Republic. Get involved, get a tax break and maybe win a house while you help others. Let us hope that we don’t have another Cuyahoga River type disaster to get our attention regarding water pollution. Unfortunately, in many regions, the wake-up call has been made, its just that no one seems to be listening.

Water Pollution Comes From Many Sources

Water Pollution Comes From Many Sources

Anyway, as I said, the river had caught fire several times between 1936 and 1969. In the famous 1969 incident, the cause is unknown aside from the attrocious conditions of the river. Some sources say the fire was started by spontaneous combustion. Others say that definitely it did not start that way. The one below says that the cause is unknown but it suspects sparks from a passing train….I didn’t know diesel electric motor trains caused sparks. Anyway, it points out that this was the 10th time the river had ignited.

The different sources also give different dates….some say the 22nd others say the 23rd. My guess is that it started on the night of the 22nd and burned all day on the 23rd though I found one source that claimed the 1969 fire only lasted 30 minutes.   No matter. It happened and again, is an example of what can happen if one ignores pollution of waterways. This was an eye opening event and the leaders of Cleveland did more than simply post signs. They got together and worked to clean up and stop the problem.

Dead Zone Summer 2008

Dead Zone Summer 2008

Many historians point to this event as the one that got the ball rolling for the 1972 Clean Water Act. Things have improved but not enough. While,it is rather uncommon today for rivers to catch fire as they did frequently in the late 19th century, what we can’t see is killing our planet and we need to do something. Maybe if Al Gore makes a movie, then someone will wake up.

This final link of Cuyahoga River Fire facts has some interesting tid bits, including a Randy Newman song they claim is linked to the big fire.

Global Warming has been in the front burner for some time yet there are many experts (more than the media has led you to believe) who dispute much of the “consensus” opinions. About 15 years ago, the topic was ozone depletion. A couple of laws were passed and suddenly that debate left the headlines, but has the problem or risk really gone away? Hit the previous link and see the answer may be “no” its just that you don’t hear about it.

Global Warming and Ozone depletion issues are fueled by speculation and some of that speculation may have very strong merit. But, in my view, we are whistling past the graveyard regarding an issue that is real and is affecting us right now.

If you walk down along the river near the Belle of Louisville, you will see a sign warning of the pollution of the river following a rainstorm. Apparently, a heavy rain causes an overflow of contaminated water up and down the river. Our news department tells me they have reported on the problem. You can find numerous reports of all sorts pollution into the river from raw sewage to other items as pointed out by the Local Government Environmental Assistance Network:

Water is Under Attack Around the World

Water is Under Attack Around the World

Solvent cleaners and paints, mercury switches and lamps, lubricants and other wastes from operations and facility maintenance activities.
Disinfection by-products, i.e. trihalomethanes.
Corrosion by-products.
Leaking or broken lead from service lines, goose neck or service connections.
Radon in wells.
Pesticides and herbicides rinse waters and containers.
Industrial, commercial and household chemical discharges.

http://www.lgean.org/html/p2-11.cfm

Here’s the deal. We know of these problems. Most people I know who fish laugh when you ask if they eat any fish taken from the Ohio River. Report after report confirms the pollution and where its coming from. Its not speculation that marine species are disappearing due to pollution in fresh water and oceanic ecosystems. That could affect the entire water cycle. It deserves more immediate attention and action than other more publicized “crises” and certainly more than merely posting a sign.

Some other time I’ll talk about the problem of a lack of water. Its a bigger problem than you think. Hydrologists know it and so do investors who are buying up water rights and investing in private efforts to create water resources.

Note the sharp dive of the 700mb flow line from Iowa to Louisville

SPC Severe Weather Outlook Tue June 22 2010

Weather Bottom Line:  On Monday, a big MCC was rolling from west to east across Central Indiana and then suddenly took a right hand turn and ran over Cincinnati and into Central Kentucky.  The right edge of the big storms went from say Oldham County through Shelby County and then south and east.  There have been severe weather reports the last few days in Montanat, Wisconsin and around Chicago land which is how the storm track generally has been flowing around the periphery of a ridge.  When you get to Indiana, it swings more southeast and that  pattern persists today with the 700 mb flow lines looking a little more promising today than yesterday as they seem to run from Iowa straight down to Louisville.  For that reason, I would be a bit apprehensive about this afternoon and evening.  There are several shortwaves running across the plains and the orientation of the flow seems just a shade sharper down through the Ohio Valley than Monday.  Given that the Monday storms were so close, I suspect that we may have a little better chance of getting caught in the flow of one of these shortwaves or MCC’s that develop through the afternoon.  The SPC has Louisville on the edge of a broad slight risk area that traverses the plains and arcs a bit southeast. 

SPC Severe Weather Outlook Wednesday June 23 2010

Otherwise, it will be hot again.  With a  cold front approaching on Wednesday, compressional factors will probably elevate the afternoon temperatures to the highest point of the season..most likely in the upper 90’s for Wednesday.  Wednesday night the front comes through bringing a chance for t’storms.   For a day or so, our temperatures back off a little but but the boundary really doesn’t get too far South.  So, with the boundary near the vicinity, I would think that t’storm chances will carry through the end of the week.  Then, the extreme heat returns as the front moves back well north of the area.

Effective Clean-Up Method For Gulf Available for 20 Yrs Still Ignored
June 4, 2010

The Birds Are Crying For Help

Relief Wells Have Been Started But It will take well into July to reach 18,000 Feet

There has been much talk about how to clean up the oil in the Gulf of Mexico.  Yet, so far there there seems to have been more talk than action. There is a potential partial solution and I have no idea why it has not been implemented.   

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal wanted to build sand berms to keep the oil away from coastal regions but he has been denied in most instances. Something about waiting for an environmental impact study.  Meanwhile, the environment is getting impacted.  Relief wells have been started but may not be complete until the end of July.  In the meantime,  there is a proven technology to more effectively remove the oil from the Gulf of Mexico.  It was used 20 years ago but kept a secret.  In the last few weeks, many people  have become aware of it including all of the principals in this ecodrama; those in industry, military, political.  Yet, so far, no one seems to have lifted a finger to make this maxium effort.  There has been no reason given why no one seems to want to act. Okay…I do have one idea about why no one has called on the proven technology but its so cynical I refuse to believe it. In any event,  the lack of action may be changing…about 5 weeks behind schedule. 

Iraq Let the Oil Flow Into the Persian Gulf In 1990

The largest oil spill in world history is generally recognized to be that which resulted from the Persian Gulf War in 1990.  The Iraqis were concerned about a potential amphibious invasion by the United States Marine Corps.  They let loose a strategy of opening the valves at the Sea Island oil terminal so that the oil would foul that water to such an extent that it would limit the American’s ability to conduct amphibious operations.  The Americans reacted by bombing the island facility to stop the flow of oil but there were also a couple of damaged oil tankers and a damaged Kuwaiti oil refinery that added to the pollution.  In most oil spills, it is almost impossible for anyone to give a concrete number relating to amounts of oil lost, yet the media always demands one.  In general, the estimates for the Persian Gulf oil spill run around 11 million barrels.  The Exxon Valdez spill was estimated at 11 million gallons.  So, this was 42 times bigger.  A few weeks ago I reported on the Ixtoc I oil well blowout and it put out something on the order of about half that of the Persian spill. 

Oil Spill Containment Efforts Have Been Creative But Ineffective So Far

In 1993, the New York Times reported that a study sponsored by many nations concluded that the spill produced “little long term damage.”  It said that half the oil evaporated, about a million barrels was recovered and 2 or 3 million barrels washed up on the shore.  But, in 2010, Dr. Jaqueline Michel said that studies indicated that oil remains in the wetland areas of the Persian Gulf and that oil had penetrated deeply into the intertidal sediment.  Hence, the belief is that the area will take decades to recover.  Here’s the funny thing.  While the New York Times was reporting on the study regarding the 1990 Persian Gulf Oil spill, oil was flowing into the Persian Gulf.  When Dr. Michel reported on the long term effects of the Gulf War spill, nothing was said about how it was determined the oil found was indeed from the 1990 spill and not perhaps another large spill.  Perhaps no one asked the question and the New York Times was silent because no one knew about the very large spill in the Persian Gulf in 1993.

Containment Booms Have Limited Effectiveness Especially in Comparison to Efforts Used by Saudis in 1993

The Unknown Oil Spill:  It is very difficult to find answers regarding the spill because the Saudi government kept it quiet and told those working with Saudi Aramco to keep quiet.  That means that Royal Dutch Shell kept it under wraps.  The Exxon Valdez resulted in 11 million gallons of oil into the Alaska waters.  There is no way that anyone could hide that, right?  Well, either the Saudis are a bunch of Houdinis or they paid a lot of people to look the other way because this spill was estimated to have dumped some 800 millon gallons of oil into the Persian Gulf.  Yet, who knew?  Those who did know kept it quiet.  Tiger Woods should have hired the Saudis for public relations because they managed to keep their little disaster out of the press.  However, part of the reason that no one heard about it was that action was taken.

Popular Mechanics Wrote About the "Sea Clean" Technology in 1991 But Politicians and the Oil Industry Turned Their Back After the Glow of the Exxon Valdez Story Faded

The Unknown Supertanker Skimmers:  Saudi Arabia is the largest owner of supertankers in the world.  Apparently, what they did was develop a method in which super tankers act as giant vacuums to draw in millions of gallons of seawater.  Oil is separated from the water.  The water is put back in the ocean and the oil is recovered for production.  In this particular case, apparently about 85% of the oil lost was eventually recovered.  Much of the rest probably evaporated or otherwise broke up.  From an observer, the results would match with those associated with a relatively minor spill and not the gigantic catastrophe that was reality.    To be certain, this was not a quick fix.  According to an article from Esquire, the initial skimming operation took about 6 months and the total clean up effort lasted for several more years.  

Former Shell Honcho John Hofmeister Is Telling Anyone Who Will Listen About Proven Skimming Technology Available Now; Trouble Is No One Is Listening But That May Finally Be Changing

Now, the former CEO of Shell and a former engineer with Saudi Aramco have been try to get media attention regarding the potential clean up method.  They also have tried to get the US Government and BP’s attention of anyone else who will listen.  Esquire reported late in May that President Obama is aware of the methodology because ABC’s Jake Tapper asked him a question regarding the procedure at a recent press conference.  Apparently the response was not comprehensive.   BP is aware of the procedure because the article claims that BP is now actually considering the strategy.  Esquire also says that a leading oilman from Houston, Matthew Simmons, has been out beating the bushes urging someone to utilize the technology currently available.  And, Esquire has made certain that the US Coast Guard is aware of the procedure and supertanker skimming capability because the magazine actually sent a letter to the Coast Guard asking about possible implementation.  Communities along the Alabama Coast inquired about the procedure and first contacted Esquire for details;  not the government, BP or the Coast Guard.  I suppose they figure that if someone else won’t use what is available to protect their coast, the wildlife and many jobs then they will go out and find out how to do it themselves.

Popular Mechanics Illustration of Environmental Battleship that Could Be Cleaning the Gulf Today But Remains on the Drawing Board

Environmental Battleship:  This whole idea even goes back before the 1993 Saudi spill.  After I first reported a month ago on the history of the IXTOC I blowout in the Gulf of Mexico and how it related to the current Deepwater Horizon incident, I received a press release (followed by a second)  from an outfit in South Louisiana.  In my mind, clearly they are trying to use this incident to promote their project.  But, if one is to believe the release, following the Exxon Valdez accident, the government called for new methods to respond to oil catastrophes.    Herman J. Schellstede & Associates, Inc. said in their release that Mr. Schellstede responded with the design of a ship dedicated to the skimming and processing of sea water similar to that of Aramco.  I’m not certain if its quite the same because it’s hard to determine if the supertankers process the water on board whereas Mr. Schellstede says that his “Sea Clean” vessel would process 38,000 gallons of water per minute for on-board treatment.  I think the supertankers can take on more water but they can’t treat the water on board, which is an advantage for the “Sea Clean.”   The release says that in the early 90’s, the South Louisiana company received the proper permits to begin building the ship when suddenly interest waned.  There was no more push from the government and the oil companies apparently felt that it was hard to justify spending tens of millions of dollars for a ship that they may never need.  After all, there have been thousands of oil wells drilled in the Gulf and there have been very few that have blown out.  This boat was not a secret either.  There is a  new Youtube video of the “Sea Clean” as well as an article in a 1991 edition of Popular Mechanics that touted the potential of Mr. Schellestede’s vessel.   Before that, in  November 1989, just months after the March 24, 1989 Exxon Valdez accident, the New York Times said in an article that “a huge vessel now on the drawing board could someday serve as what its designers call an environmental battleship, attacking oil spills like the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska.”  It’s still on the drawing board.

"Hello! Why Not?" Now, Even Larry King Knows About the Supertanker Skimmers But Still Nothing Happens

So, in 1989 the government asked for new methods to react to large offshore oil disasters. An American company in South Louisiana came up with a solution.  The birds chirped.  A big oil disaster in the Persian Gulf was averted in 1993 by using a similar technology but no one knew about it because of a Public Relations effort of the Saudi Arabians.  The Saudis have the largest fleet of supertankers in the world and the US has certainly come to the security of interests of that nation enough times that they could spare a few tankers for awhile.  So, the tankers could be made available.  The technology is proven and available.  We know for certain now that BP knows about it, the US Coast Guard knows about it, the US Government knows about it, the President of the United States knows about it and even Larry King knows about it.  Yet, the birds continue to chirp….those who can chirp as others struggle to lift their oil soaked heads. 

Some Folks Are Getting Help But More Can Be Done

I’m not sure why it can’t be done but it seems an easy plan would be for BP to handle the plugging of the well.  That should be their only focus because its extremely difficult at such bone crushing, frigid depths.   The Coast Guard could be in charge of the clean up and containment and use the influence of the state department to help persuade the Saudis to get those supertankers over here.  The Energy Department can be talking to the folks in South Louisiana about what it would take to build the vessel proposed.  The Justice Department and Congress should stand down for a while.  It used to drive me crazy when, during a difficult TV show, people would start yelling at each other over problems while the show was still  in progress.  That disrupted more of the show.  I would always urge that we get through the show and then start pointing fingers afterward.  So far, the “action” we’ve seen has been hearings, finger pointing and lawsuits, threats of lawsuits and threats of criminal trials with very little “action” concerning fixing the problem and finding the answers later. No one has considered that this was no one’s fault…that there is an inherent danger at drilling at such water depths.  Regardless,  we need to get this thing stopped….and  it won’t be easy…it took 9 months at IXTOC I and that was only a few hundred feet of water, not over 5000 feet.   Lets put 100% of the resources toward plugging the hole then maybe the birds will chirp again.  Hopefully theywill chirp because emergency planning will not just be talked about but followed through with this time.