Dr. Jeff Masters looks at why the hurricane-season predictions were so wrong.
Who will be Max Mayfield’s successor at the National Hurricane Center? We’ll find out tomorrow. (Hat tip: WXNation.) The rumored front-runner is Bill Proenza, whose last name sounds like a prescription drug. (Ask your doctor if Proenza is right for you.) Margie Kieper has more:
Not only was Max Mayfield’s retirement unexpected, but things have not gone that smoothly in the search for a new director. There is speculation that the current appointment may be a short-term one. Proenza has around 40 years of service — more than the retiring Mayfield, who has 34. In the mid-sixties, Proenza worked at the NHC and with hurricane reconnaissance. And the response of someone in the field who was recently interviewed, when asked if he was a candidate for the position, was that he didn’t apply “this time,” and that he was “keeping his options open.” …
Max has so completely excelled at the position of director, in both the public and internal aspects of the job, that it is hard to imagine anyone else filling those shoes. Subsequent speculation about who could, and who would also be willing to do so, has included many candidates, some far afield, even though there is a tradition of promoting from within at NHC. And it has been kept a tight secret outside the community, as this morning’s Miami Herald was still speculating about who would be the new director. After the initial announcement [of Mayfield’s retirement] on August 25th, it became clear there was no obvious first choice, and NOAA bought time by extending the job opening for an additional month after the original closing date for applications, and suggesting that Ed Rappaport would be the heir apparent (he declined for personal reasons and the extensive amount of travel required). …
[E]veryone is sorry to see Max leave. With the potential for more active seasons looming, the idea of a change at the helm of the NHC, from such capable hands, was not welcomed. But things change. After tomorrow, the spotlight will be on the new director, who will have almost six months to become a trusted presence on the national scene before next year’s Atlantic hurricane season.
On a related note… what with all the football madness, Daily Trojan kerfuffles and other stuff going on last week, I failed to make note of the official end of the 2006 hurricane season last Thursday. In fact, the last two hurricane-related posts on my blog were by Jay Johnson and Briandot. I haven’t blogged about hurricanes since October 1!
There’s a reason for that, of course. It was, as it turns out, a rather anticlimactic year in the tropical Atlantic, especially after all the hair-on-fire warnings of a hyperactive season with hurricanes hitting the East Coast. There were, in the end, nine tropical storms, five hurricanes, and two major hurricanes — making for a slightly below-average season, in stark contrast to all the forecasts of a significantly above-average season. (Hat tip: Andrew Leyden.) Then again, we shouldn’t be too stunned that the forecasts were wrong; after all, it’s not like they correctly predicted 28 storms in 2005 right, either! Long-range forecasts are notoriously shaky, and the media really paid way too much attention to them this year.
Anyway, my politically minded readers will doubtless ask, what does this tell us about global warming? Answer: Precisely nothing. Just as those people who said that the 2005 season clearly proves that OMG OMG EVERY SINGLE SEASON WILL BE LIKE THIS FROM NOW ON BECAUSE OF GLOBAL WARMING, AAAAHHH!!! were idiots, likewise those who now claim that the relatively inactive 2006 season disproves global warming are also idiots. Climate change is measured over decades and centuries, not individual years (let alone individual storms). The larger point is that, whether because of global warming or not, it’s clear that we are in a generally active hurricane cycle right now — but even active cycles have inactive years, and this was one of those, thanks in part to El Niño. Thank goodness. Coastal residents should count their blessings and then make sure they’re prepared for next year, because it won’t always be like 2006. The peace and quiet this year is no reason to become complacent.
It’s not “peace and quiet” everywhere, by the way. In the Philippines, the death toll from Typhoon Durian is well over a thousand, making it the worst tropical cyclone of 2006 anywhere in the world.
And now a bit of news from the “oh yeah, something exists outside of football in LA” file: a typhoon has totally beat the crap out of the Philippines — the fourth in as many months. Over 300 people have been killed in the past few days, and the toll keeps rising. From CNN:
MANILA, Philippines (CNN) — The deadly typhoon that slammed into the Philippines has killed at least 303 people and injured 163 others, officials said Saturday.
The National Disaster Coordinating Council said another 293 people were missing in the wake of Typhoon Durian, which triggered massive flooding and volcanic mudslides.
Officials said 38,473 were being housed in evacuation shelters.
You can now return to chatting about how the USC ‘powerhouse’ lost to a team with a barely better-than-50% win record.
Leading the way on Drudge this morning is this article from the Tampa Tribune website.
Basically, it seems like there was a bit of crow eating from a number of forecasters, with a copious sprinkling of “dry Saharan dust.” Seems that this dust may have taken some of the oomph out of any prospective tropical storms/hurricanes, leaving us with a very quiet season this year.
Whatever the cause, I can’t say that a quiet hurricane season is anything other than a good thing. I’m personally quite glad that Brendan hasn’t had that much foul weather about which to go all geeky.
I haven’t posted about Hurricane Isaac since it was a mere twinkle in the Atlantic’s eye. Well, it’s now a Category 1 hurricane with 80 mph winds, as of 2pm EDT, and a Tropical Storm Watch is up for the Avalon Peninsula in southeastern Newfoundland. Track map here. Dr. Jeff Masters says, “Isaac’s impact on Newfoundland will probably be similar to that caused by the remains of Hurricane Florence in September–Florence destroyed one home and caused scattered power outages and minor damage.”
The really big story in the tropics, though, is Typhoon Xangsane, which slammed the Phillippines last week and then Vietnam yesterday. Dr. Masters has been following Xangsane closely: see here, here, here, here, here and here.
Typhoon Xangsane is currently pounding the Phillipines with Category 4 winds today. It was a tropical storm just 24 hours ago, and has intensified to a Category 4 typhoon. This was definitely not expected since the the typhoon was hugging the coast overnight. It had previously been anticipated to make landfall as a Category one at best! Worse yet, it is anticipated to hit Manila, the most populated area. It is forecast to weaken before that, however.
Jeff Masters has more.
There also is a new wave about 500 miles to the east of the northern Lesser Antilles islands, and 96L has strengthened and it is close to tropical depression status. Both disturbances are expected to turn out to sea. Again, Jeff Masters has more on this as well.
Margie Kieper was blogging about hurricanes, and a round of adorable Saturday catblogging broke out.
UPDATE: Southern Girl offers Sunday catblogging.
After weakening to a tropical storm last night, Helene has made a mighty comeback, and is again a hurricane — with 90 mph winds! It probably won’t last too long, however; “SLOW WEAKENING IS FORECAST DURING THE NEXT 24 HOURS AS HELENE GRADUALLY LOSES TROPICAL CHARACTERISTICS.” Margie Kieper has the scoop.
Maybe Helene is just trying to stick around long enough to welcome proto-Isaac into the world.
Last night, I dreamed that I was in Florida with a large tour group (possibly a school trip?), and as part of our tour, we were all going to blast off into space for a while. I’m not sure whether we were going to use the Space Shuttle or some other vehicle, but regardless, in the dream there was nothing particularly unusual or extraordinary about what was happening — it was perfectly logical and reasonable that we’d all (there were like 60 of us) get to spend some time in space as part of our trip. In fact, there was a long line of other people waiting their turn as well.
I was very excited about the impending voyage, and I remember stuffing my pockets with extra batteries and memory cards, just to be sure that my camera wouldn’t die during the trip. Apparently, even in my dreams, I’m a camera-nerd. :) Alas, I woke up before we actually got to the launch pad, let alone blasted off from it, so I didn’t get to what would have presumably been the really cool part of the dream — actually going into space! But I remember talking beforehand to some of my fellow would-be space travellers about what to look for, and mentioning that we should be sure to get a load of Hurricane Helene out in the Atlantic, because it’s freakin’ huge, and since we were lifting off from Florida, I figured we’d get to see it on our way up.
In point of fact, orbital vehicles like the Shuttle and the ISS don’t get the sort wide, ocean-encompassing view that I was envisioning; here are some examples of what they see. But hey, c’mon, it was a dream, people!
The National Hurricane Center has issued its final advisory on Tropical Storm Gordon, which has become extratropical as it gets sucked up into a cold front approaching the British Isles and Europe.
Says the 5pm discussion:
AFTER NEARLY 10 DAYS TRAVELING ACROSS THE ATLANTIC…TENACIOUS GORDON IS FINALLY BECOMING EXTRATROPICAL AS A STRONG COLD FRONT INTERACTS WITH THE CYCLONE’S CIRCULATION. THE EXTRATROPICAL STORM WILL CONTINUE RACING ON A GENERAL EAST TO EAST-NORTHEAST TRACK UNTIL IT BECOME ABSORBED BY THE COLD FRONT. THIS WILL BE THE LAST ADVISORY ISSUED BY THE NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER ON GORDON. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON THIS SYSTEM CAN BE FOUND IN HIGH SEAS FORECASTS ISSUED BY METEOFRANCE UNDER WMO HEADER FQNT50 LFPW.
Meanwhile, huge Hurricane Helene continues to dominate the central Atlantic.
Maximum sustained winds are 105 mph, and — perhaps more impressively — tropical-storm force winds extend out 175 miles from the center. That’s a diameter of 350 miles. Margie Kieper discussed this yesterday, noting “just how impressive Helene’s circulation is. Helene is still huge. I don’t know why this hasn’t received more mention. Remember how large Katrina was last year in the [Gulf of Mexico]…how it seemed that Katrina almost filled the eastern 2/3 of the [Gulf]? Well, Helene is larger.” And the best part is, Helene isn’t going to hit anybody, so we weather nerds can admire it without guilt!
Hurricane Gordon appears to have spared the Azores any serious damage.
Authorities in Portugal’s Azores Islands said they received no reports of major damage or injury as weakened Hurricane Gordon passed the mid-Atlantic group of islands Tuesday night.
Gordon lost strength and veered slightly south as it approached the sparsely populated islands, bringing only light rain and a moderate wind, Ricardo Barros, vice president of the Azores Civil Protection Service, said.
“There’s been nothing unusual so far,” Barros said.
The “moderate wind” did reach 56 mph sustained with a gust to 82 mph at Santa Maria Airport, according to the 5am NHC discussion.
Avast! Hurricanes Gordon and Helene be tearin’ up the sea with their monstrous winds:
Here be a closer view of Helene, a storm so mighty she could strike fear into the heart of Blackbeard himself:
Steer clear of these fearsome gales, fellow pirates, or you’ll wind up at the bottom of Davy Jones’ locker!
It would be an understatement to say that the Atlantic hurricane season of 2006 hasn’t been much like the incredible season of 2005. Whereas in ‘05, every storm seemed to get stronger than expected, stay alive when weakening was forecast (remember Epsilon?), and break records whenever there were records to be broken, the ‘06 season has had more fizzle than sizzle. From Alberto to Chris to Ernesto and beyond, the storms of ‘06 have — much to relief of coastal residents, insurance companies and FEMA — generally stayed away from land, and have also generally underperformed their forecasts, unexpectedly weakening rather than unexpectedly strengthening. But now, we finally have an exception to that rule: Hurricane Gordon, which was supposed to weaken to a tropical storm by today, but has instead stubbornly held together, and indeed strengthened, as it approaches the Azores. As a result, Hurricane Warnings have just been issued for the islands, which Gordon is expected to plow through as either a Category 1 hurricane, a strong tropical storm, or a powerful extratropical gale, about 24 hours from now.
Here is what the 11pm EDT discussion says:
GORDON IS AN IMPRESSIVE HIGH-LATITUDE HURRICANE. IT HAS BEEN MAINTAINING A MOSTLY SOLID RING OF DEEP CONVECTION AROUND THE CENTER… WHILE THE EYE RECENTLY HAS BEEN CONTRACTING. SUBJECTIVE DVORAK ESTIMATES ARE AT LEAST 77 KT… WHILE IN-HOUSE OBJECTIVE ESTIMATES ARE NEAR 93 KT. A WELL-TIMED HIGH-RESOLUTION QUIKSCAT MICROWAVE OVER THE HURRICANE AT 2215 UTC SHOWED MAXIMUM WINDS OF 85 KT. THUS THE INTENSITY IS BUMPED UP TO 85 KT IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE ABOVE ESTIMATES. THE ONLY FACTOR THAT WOULD SUPPORT THE HURRICANE MAINTAINING ITS INTENSITY IS COOLING UPPER-LEVEL TEMPERATURES… WHICH WOULD GENERALLY KEEP A MORE UNSTABLE ENVIRONMENT THAN NORMAL… AS DIAGNOSED BY SHIPS GUIDANCE. HOWEVER… IT DOESN’T SEEM LIKE GORDON CAN KEEP UP THIS INTENSITY FOR TOO MUCH LONGER BEFORE INCREASING SHEAR… COOLER SSTS… AND AN APPROACHING COLD FRONT TAKE THEIR TOLL. ALL OF THESE EFFECTS WILL PROBABLY NOT WEAKEN GORDON VERY QUICKLY… AND IT IS BECOMING MORE AND MORE LIKELY THAT THE SYSTEM WILL BE A HURRICANE AS IT MOVES CLOSE TO THE AZORES. THEREFORE… A HURRICANE WARNING HAS BEEN ISSUED FOR THOSE ISLANDS.
Landfall in the Azores wouldn’t be as historic as Hurricane Vince hitting Spain last year. The Azores do periodically get hit by hurricanes, though it’s been 14 years since the last time it happened. The NHC discussion says: “HURRICANES ARE RARE BUT NOT UNPRECEDENTED IN THE AZORES. A QUICK CHECK OF THE 1851-2005 BEST TRACK DATABASE SHOWS THAT NINE HURRICANES HAVE IMPACTED THE AZORES DURING THIS TIME… THE MOST RECENT BEING CHARLEY OF 1992.”
Margie Kieper has a massive update on Gordon and his big sister, Hurricane Helene (Cat. 3 at 115 mph and expected to strengthen), which was making forecasters nervous earlier today, but which now appears to be of no concern:
Well, if there was ever any worry that Helene could affect the East Coast or even Bermuda, that worry should be put to rest now. The NHC is calling for a track that will take Helene, now a strong hurricane, out to sea and away from land areas. It looks like Helene will pass well to the south of Newfoundland on its way out so no worries there either. The rest of the tropics are quiet but I think we will see additional development off the coast of Africa before the week is out- and from the looks of things on the longer range models, the end of the month in to early October could continue to be busy as well.
Alan Sullivan has more detail on that latter point:
The 16-day GFS model is now showing tropical development in the western Caribbean for the first days of October. This could mean a tropical storm or hurricane for some part of Florida. I have suspected that such a scenario would unfold, as premature cold fronts go stationary from the Bahamas to Belize. Late season tropical storms often begin this way between Cuba and Central America.
Long-range computer models have a massive margin for error, of course. But they actually did an excellent job of predicting the formation of both Florence and Gordon (not sure about Helene).
Anyway, here’s a big-picture look at both Gordon (above) and Helene (below):
The Atlantic has its second major hurricane of the 2006 season: Hurricane Helene, now a Cat. 3 with 115 mph winds. Like Gordon before it, Helene appears unlikely to threaten land — though folks on the east coast should keep one eye open, and Bermuda may want to keep both eyes open, just in case.
Gordon (top) and Helene (bottom), swimming with the fishes.
Brian Neudorff has more on Helene, observing that the computer models “leave the door open for some debate on where the storm will end up and what impact (if any) this storm will have. Could it cause problems for the Northeastern United States?” The answer: maybe, but probably not. Mark Sudduth agrees. But Margie Kieper thinks next weekend could get interesting.
As for the rest of hurricane season, Dr. Jeff Masters says:
Given that the current jet stream pattern that favors recurving storms and shear-producing upper level lows over the Bahamas and central Caribbean is forecast to continue until the end of September, plus Bill Gray’s September 1 forecast of only two named storms and one non-major hurricane in October, I don’t believe any major hurricanes will affect the U.S. or Caribbean the remainder of hurricane season. I expect one or two tropical storms or Category 1 hurricanes will form in October from the remains of old cold fronts that push off the coast of the U.S. A hurricane of this nature is most likely to affect the west coast of Florida or the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and rarely has enough time over water to make it to Category 3 status. In total, I expect 5 more named storms, 3 hurricanes, and 1 major hurricane this season.
The 2006 Atlantic hurricane season is looking a bit like the 2006 Notre Dame football season, really. After the unexpected insanity of 2005, what with its [devastating landfalls and record-shattering storm counts/unexpectedly good record and historic near-win against the dynastic Trojans], a lot of people bought into the hype and thought that [things would only get worse/Notre Dame would only get better]. The season got off to an underwhelming start with [Alberto/Georgia Tech], but still the hype continued… and [early Ernesto forecasts/the Penn State win] suggested that maybe the hype was justified. Now, however, after the debacle that was [Ernesto’s unforecasted fizzle/the Michigan game], folks are beginning to catch on that the much-hyped 2006 season may not be anything so incredibly special after all… much to [Max Mayfield’s delight/Charlie Weis’s chagrin]. :)