Invest now to improve tornado warnings; an early start to hurricane season?

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:24 PM GMT on May 27, 2011

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The Atlantic hurricane season officially begin on Wednesday, June 1, and recent computer model runs predict that we may have some early-season action in the Central Caribbean Sea to coincide with the start of this year's season. The GFS, NOGAPS, and ECMWF models have all indicated in some of their recent runs that a tropical disturbance may form between Jamaica and Central America sometime in the May 31 - June 2 time frame, as a lobe of the Eastern Pacific Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) pushes across Central America into the Caribbean. Up until now, wind shear has been too high to allow tropical storm formation in the Caribbean, due to the presence of the Subtropical Jet Stream. However, this jet is expected to push northwards over Cuba over the coming week, allowing a region of low wind shear to develop over most of the Caribbean. Water temperatures in the Central Caribbean are about 1°C above average, 29°C, which is plenty warm enough to support development of a tropical storm. The main impediment to development will probably be lack of spin, as we don't have any African tropical waves that are expected to enter the Caribbean Sea next week, to help get things spinning. Stay tuned.


Figure 1. Satellite image of Typhoon Songda.

Typhoon Songda heads for Okinawa and Japan
Typhoon Songda brushed the Philippines yesterday, bringing heavy rains that killed at least two people. Fortunately, the brunt of this year's first Category 5 storm missed the islands, and Songda has weakened slightly to a Category 4 storm with 145 mph winds. Songda is turning northwards and will threaten the island of Okinawa on Saturday. Sea surface temperatures decline rapidly north of the Philippines, and Songda is expected to weaken significantly before reaching Okinawa, where sea surface temperatures are approximately 26°C. Wind shear will also increase to high levels by Saturday, and Songda should be at most a Category 2 typhoon by the time it reaches Okinawa. On Sunday,

Invest now for better tornado warnings
National Weather Service forecasters issued a tornado warning 24 minutes in advance of the Joplin, Missouri tornado this.week, which is now being blamed for at least 132 deaths--the deadliest U.S. tornado since at least 1947. However, we can do better, and the National Weather Service Employees Organization (NWSEO) put out a press release on May 23, arguing that investments in weather service forecasting technology are needed to reduce loss of life in future violent tornadoes:

"The 24-minute lead time is a great improvement over the average lead time of 13 minutes for tornado warnings. The meteorologists in the Springfield Weather Forecast Office are commended for their lifesaving work," said Dan Sobien, NWSEO President. "But in our age of advanced technology and communication, when new radars and modeling opportunities exist that can provide more lead time to get people out of the path of a storm, hundreds of people do not have to die because of a tornado event."

Sobien says the Joplin and Tuscaloosa tornadoes are examples of how the government's neglect to invest in NWS related infrastructure over the last 10 to 15 years has failed to provide the tools necessary to protect lives and property. He says that the tools forecasters use to issue tornado warnings are woefully inadequate and that the technology exists to provide lead times so far in advance of the storm that it would make the need for tornado warnings as we know them obsolete. "The much touted Doppler Weather Radar, also known as the Weather Service Radar or WSR-88D, was developed in 1988. Since that time, technological advances, including phased array radars developed by the Department of Defense, have been shown to increase the current lead time on tornado warnings by almost 50 percent."

"The much touted Warn on Forecast process utilizes Meso-scale modeling and has the potential to let forecasters know hours in advance where a thunderstorm would form and if it is likely to contain strong winds, hail, or even a tornado. With adequate staffing, local National Weather Service forecasters who understand local terrain and the model output, could be embedded with emergency managers and decision makers. In the event of a storm, the forecaster could provide emergency managers with the tornado track with some margin of error and people in the way of the storm could be evacuated hours before the tornado hits. This technology is being developed and tested right now, however without funding it will never be available."

"The art and science of severe weather warnings made considerable progress during the 1980s and 90s, going from almost zero lead time to average of about 13 minutes for tornado warnings. However, in recent years, that progress has stalled, even while the technological advancements have accelerated. If the country made the type of investment in the National Weather Service that it did in the 1980s, scenes like the ones in Missouri this week and in Alabama and Mississippi last month could be a thing of the past."

"I am very proud of my co-workers at the National Weather Service this tornado season. They saved many lives and having been there myself, I can assure you, they feel personally about every lost life," said Sobien. "I know that budgets are tight and there are many priorities, but if you put investing in the National Weather Service up to a vote today in tornado alley, I think the approval would be a landslide."


I wholeheartedly agree with this view--investments in better tornado forecasts and tornado observing technology will potentially give us a huge return in lives saved. Have a great holiday weekend, everyone, and I'll be back Monday or Tuesday with a new post.


Jeff Masters

Tornado Power (Betty2)
Sunday, LaCrosse, WI a tornado hit. This is a photo of a 2x4 board that slammed through a tire.. and, freaky, but it left the air in the tire! Photo was taken by my neighbor, Lori Hines, Gays Mills WI.
Tornado Power
25 May, (rdjgonzo)
May 25, 2011 at 7:10pm. Picture taken from Bartlett (Shelby County) TN.
25 May,
What A Storm (llpj04)
What A Storm

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Still doesn't show much this many days out. These features are not that unusual this time of year.

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XX/XX/XL



Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 173 Comments: 54310
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Quoting Levi32:


It really shows just how uncertain the track situation is when even the ECMWF jumps wildly around from run to run.
Can you do and update of this system and what you think is gona happen?Doesnt need to be a video ^^
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Quoting Hurricanes101:


that is one of those statements that could really get the blog going lol

Kind of like during Andrew when the special statement came up on the Weather Channel that said the pressure in Andrew had decreased to 926mbs


*knocks on wood*

Let's hope we never see another Andrew.

When I saw(or should I say heard) the freezer video from Joplin, I totally caused me to have a flashback/panic attack from Andrew.
Anyone who wants to know what being in the eyewall of a Cat 5 should watch that vid. The only difference being that Andrew went on for 4+hours instead of 2 minutes. And that there was no roof, freezer or otherwise.

Still, I'll take a hurricane anyday over the suddenness of a tornado.
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Quoting Levi32:


It really shows just how uncertain the track situation is when even the ECMWF jumps wildly around from run to run.


Lol. Looks like this one's gonna drive everybody nuts. :)
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Quoting Bitmap7:
anticyclone appears to have moved into the caribbean now. Will have to wait for the update at cimss though.




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72 hour forecast:

Member Since: April 29, 2009 Posts: 75 Comments: 14311
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
hey xcool! It's been a while. Looks like another busy season ahead...

At 168 hours the ECMWF not only splits the system into 2, but a third area of low pressure appears to be left behind from a trough in the Gulf of Mexico. Interesting...



It really shows just how uncertain the track situation is when even the ECMWF jumps wildly around from run to run.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26652
626. xcool
MiamiHurricane ya ;(
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Quoting reedzone:
If it does become a TS, which is looking likely, should only reach 40-45 mph. Maybe this storm could bring rains to areas that need it. I am impressed with the satellite today, haven't seen convection organized and this deep in the Caribbean since 2010.


When you get a chance read up on Global Weather Oscillations, Inc.'s predictions for 2011. They seem to think there will be impact to the US and that the general areas impacted in 2004/2005 will be the affected areas in 2011. They claim to have a 90% accuracy record.
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Quoting xcool:
MiamiHurrica heyy
Hey xcool! It's been a while. Looks like another busy season ahead...

At 168 hours the ECMWF not only splits the system into 2, but a third area of low pressure appears to be left behind from a trough in the Gulf of Mexico. Interesting...

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623. xcool
MiamiHurrica heyy
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If it does become a TS, which is looking likely, should only reach 40-45 mph. Maybe this storm could bring rains to areas that need it. I am impressed with the satellite today, haven't seen convection organized and this deep in the Caribbean since 2010.
Member Since: July 1, 2008 Posts: 13 Comments: 7396
12z ECMWF appears to be leaning towards the 12z GFS solution, splitting the system into 2.
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I'm surprised hypuwether hasn't noticed this.Usually one of their blog reporters will talk aboput it.
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 17073
619. IKE
Broad low, centered south of Jamaica @ 144 hours....


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Quoting rmbjoe1954:


Hello Reed-

I look forward to your analyses this hurricane season.


Hey Joe, looks like another active season, shouldn't be too boring. May get a bit more activity threatening the USA then last year.
Member Since: July 1, 2008 Posts: 13 Comments: 7396
617. xcool
home brew year maybe who knows
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616. xcool
reedzone hey.i agree with you :)
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Quoting xcool:
This is a classic setup of a develping syatem down there.I've seen it many times.It's not surprsing to see a storm tyring to develop now.And it wouldn't surprise me to see an active July.Neutral years tend to get off to a fast start.
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 17073
anticyclone appears to have moved into the caribbean now. Will have to wait for the update at cimss though.
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Quoting reedzone:


Well defined broad low! Could be tagged at anytime, most likely late tonight or tomorrow.


Hello Reed-

I look forward to your analyses this hurricane season.
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WindSat pass from this morning reveals a surface trough embedded within the convective activity in the southern Caribbean.

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Probability of TC Formation within 24 Hours

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Quoting xcool:


Well defined broad low! Could be tagged at anytime, most likely late tonight or tomorrow.
Member Since: July 1, 2008 Posts: 13 Comments: 7396
Quoting CybrTeddy:
cricket.. cricket..
Ello!
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608. xcool
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Quoting IKE:
120 hours...




GFS/EURO seem to have it right, a broad low/TS

I say there is a very good chance we will have our first named storm next week, perhaps on June 1st.
Member Since: July 1, 2008 Posts: 13 Comments: 7396
Quoting roatangardener:
its not even official hurricane season yet and im watching with everyone here this system developing in the sw carrib. we have not had rain here on roatan since feb 17. so i would love some rain but - im being very careful what i wish for. have a safe holiday weekend everyone


I know exactly how you feel. It's been crispy around here forever! Our NWS discussions basically say, "Lather rinse repeat." But I'd rather have some gentle soaking rains end this drought as opposed to how they've ended in the past. Hope things don't get too rocky down there. You have a good weekend too. :)
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cricket.. cricket..
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604. IKE
120 hours...


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603. IKE
96 hour 12Z ECMWF....


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Precipitable Water in the Area..
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CARIBBEAN SEA...
THE UPPER TROUGH OVER THE W ATLC COVERING THE E GULF OF MEXICO
DOES NOT EXTEND INTO THE NW CARIBBEAN BUT IS PRODUCING A WEAK
JET STREAM WITH WINDS 70 TO 80 KTS FROM JUST N OF THE CAYMAN
ISLANDS NEAR 20N82W ACROSS CUBA AND THE S BAHAMA ISLANDS TO
23N68W. THE UPPER FLOW FROM GULF OF MEXICO IS FORCING DRY STABLE
AIR OVER THE NW CARIBBEAN W OF LINE FROM E CUBA TO THE GULF OF
HONDURAS AND S BELIZE. THE REMAINDER OF THE CARIBBEAN IS
DOMINATED BY AN UPPER RIDGE ANCHORED OVER W VENEZUELA. A SURFACE
TROUGH IS DEVELOPING ACROSS THE SW CARIBBEAN AS INDICATED BY THE
LATEST WINDSAT PASS EXTENDING FROM NEAR 13N74W TO PANAMA NEAR
9N81W AND WILL PLACED ON THE 28/1800 UTC MAP. SCATTERED/HEAVY
SHOWERS WITH SCATTERED THUNDERSTORMS COVER THE AREA S OF 13N TO
INLAND OVER COLOMBIA BETWEEN 72W-79W AND SCATTERED SHOWERS/
ISOLATED THUNDERSTORMS DOT THE AREA S OF 13N BETWEEN 79W-84W.
ISOLATED SHOWERS ARE POSSIBLE FROM 13N-17N BETWEEN 74W-85W
LEAVING THE REMAINDER OF THE CARIBBEAN UNDER FAIR CONDITIONS
THIS AFTERNOON. WINDS WILL INCREASE OVER THE CENTRAL AND E
CARIBBEAN THIS AFTERNOON THROUGH WED BETWEEN DEVELOPING SURFACE
TROUGH IN THE SW CARIBBEAN AND SURFACE RIDGE OVER THE W ATLC.
THE TROPICAL WAVE ALONG 56W WILL MOVE ACROSS THE WINDWARD
ISLANDS TONIGHT BRING SHOWERS TO THE ISLANDS THE EVENING.
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If model guidence is correct it looks like "Arleane" will make her debut next week.I'll say the strongest it'll ever get is a 50-60mph tropical storm.That's a guess.....
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 17073
Quoting roatangardener:
its not even official hurricane season yet and im watching with everyone here this system developing in the sw carrib. we have not had rain here on roatan since feb 17. so i would love some rain but - im being very careful what i wish for. have a safe holiday weekend everyone
I wish I could donate some of my rain to you.Everytime it rains we're under a floodwatch.And the river is awfully high.The trees though are love'in it and so is the plant and vegetatin life.The grass has grown rapidly.
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 17073
LMAO, I accidentally clicked the sort button. I thought that the good doc had changed the Blog format.



It will soon be time for the nhc to move.
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This system that could form next week will probably be similar in looks to Alberto, Barry and Arlene (2005) sheared with most of the convection to the east and NE of the circulation. This setup is very common for early-June systems.
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its not even official hurricane season yet and im watching with everyone here this system developing in the sw carrib. we have not had rain here on roatan since feb 17. so i would love some rain but - im being very careful what i wish for. have a safe holiday weekend everyone
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Quoting tropicaltank:
Could enter the Gulf?
. It might...like Arlene of 2005. There are lots of possibilities.
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Quoting Hurricanes101:


certainly seems like the models are latching on to "Arlene"

what makes this pretty intriguing is the different tracks


Maybe. It's still pretty broad on every model.

The key to the track here will be how fast it moves north after formation. If it stays south like the latest CMC and UKMET runs have it, then I think it will be less likely to leap into the trough to the northeast, and may get trapped under the ridge. That said, this is a retrogressive ridge, and I doubt the low will find a way towards the United States through that. It would probably be destined for central America if it gets trapped, and then perhaps the Bay of Campeche.
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593. JRRP
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Cyclogenesis?

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Quoting KoritheMan:

That's certainly possible. Actually, that might be a good thing in the grand scheme of things, given the rampant drought across that area.

Obviously, it's much too early to pinpoint the ultimate track of this system, but I do think it has a better chance of striking the United States mainland than it did three days ago.


that is one of those statements that could really get the blog going lol

Kind of like during Andrew when the special statement came up on the Weather Channel that said the pressure in Andrew had decreased to 926mbs
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The only "good" that could come out of that system in the carribean is some good rains for the southeast.Really bad drought going on down there.Hopefully for them some of that tropical moisture comes up and give them a few good downpours.
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 17073

Quoting tropicaltank:
Could enter the Gulf?
That's certainly possible. Actually, that might be a good thing in the grand scheme of things, given the rampant drought across that area.

Obviously, it's much too early to pinpoint the ultimate track of this system, but I do think it has a better chance of striking the United States mainland than it did three days ago.
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Whoa guys the blog just went to reverse order.
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Quoting Levi32:
12z UKMET 144 hours:



certainly seems like the models are latching on to "Arlene"

what makes this pretty intriguing is the different tracks
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Everyone Have a Great Day and I'll be back on here later this weekend....Be Safe All :o)


Taco :o)
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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