Hurricane Irene of 2011 now rated history's 6th most damaging hurricane

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:33 PM GMT on May 03, 2012

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New damage estimates released last month by NOAA now place the damage from 2011's Hurricane Irene at $15.8 billion, making the storm the 6th costliest hurricane and 10th costliest weather-related disaster in U.S. history. Irene hit North Carolina on August 27, 2011, as a Category 1 hurricane with 85 mph winds, and made landfalls the next day in New Jersey and New York City as a tropical storm. Most of the damage from Irene occurred because of the tremendous fresh water flooding the storm's rains brought to much of New England. Irene is now rated as the most expensive Category 1 hurricane to hit the U.S. The previous record was held by Hurricane Agnes of 1972, whose floods did $11.8 billion in damage in the Northeast. NOAA also announced that the name Irene had been retired from the list of active hurricane names. Irene was the only named retired in 2011, and was the 76th name to be retired since 1954. The name Irene was replaced with Irma, which is next scheduled be used in 2017.


Figure 1. True-color MODIS image of Hurricane Irene over North Carolina taken at 11:35 am EDT August 27, 2011. At the time, Irene was a Category 1 hurricane with 85 mph winds. Image credit: NASA.

At last month's 30th Conference on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology of the American Meteorological Society, Paul Ruscher of Florida State University explained how Irene's storm surge came within 8 inches of flooding New York City's subway system, which would have caused devastating damage. At the current global rate of sea level rise of 3.1 mm/year, a repeat of Irene 65 years from now would be capable of flooding the subway system, if no action is taken. Since sea level rise is expected to accelerate as the planet warms in coming decades, an Irene-type storm surge would likely be capable of flooding the NYC subway system much sooner than that. To read more about New York City's vulnerability, see Andrew Freedman's analysis at Climate Central, Climate Change Could Cripple New York’s Transportation, or my November 2011 blog post, Hurricane Irene: New York City dodges a potential storm surge mega-disaster.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting Grothar:


You should read up on this one. Very interesting articles published for it, including the mummy Oetzi they found in Switzerland a few years back from this period.
I still have the Discovery Magazine on that. Found him with his knife, bow, arrows, food and most of his clothing intact.
Quoting nigel20:
Hey Grothar and hydrus. What did I miss over the past couple of days?
It has been fairly quiet past couple days weatherwise. This thing in the gulf is interesting.
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Quoting Neapolitan:
Indeed. And just as predicted. A week or two ago, many contrarian types were speaking of a sea ice "recovery"; some of us explained over and over that what they thought they were seeing isn't what they thought they were seeing, and it would go away quickly. (On the DMI Arctic Sea ice extent graph, for instance, it's easy to see that 2012 is now running below three of the past four years; and sea ice area has dropped by more than half a million square miles in the past week alone, a fairly rapid rate for this time of the year.)


Yes, extent and area were nearly "normal" (vs the 30 year average,) but average thickness is so far below historical normal that volume is still about the same it was on last year's curve.

Volume will likely drop below last year's curve at any time now.

If you have normal extent, as we had a few days ago, but below normal area, which we did, then that is not a recovery. It is evidence that the ice is breaking up and melting.
Member Since: January 25, 2012 Posts: 33 Comments: 1520
Quoting Neapolitan:
Indeed. And just as predicted. A week or two ago, many contrarian types were speaking of a sea ice "recovery"; some of us explained over and over that what they thought they were seeing isn't what they thought they were seeing, and it would go away quickly. (On the DMI Arctic Sea ice extent graph, for instance, it's easy to see that 2012 is now running below three of the past four years; and sea ice area has dropped by more than half a million square miles in the past week alone, a fairly rapid rate for this time of the year.)


Sea ice recovering to almost normal levels during the maximum in winter, followed by a drastic fall during the melt season is becoming the pattern when you look at the year long graphs. I wonder what the implications are of having such a contrast in the extent of ice over the seasons.
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77. MississippiWx 12:06 PM EDT on May 03, 2012

Sitting here in Tallahassee watching all the cloud cover building I can say this.... If this was July, and sheer levels were in the 10-15 knot range, I would be paying more attention........ :)
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So when President Obama suddenly starts talking -- quite voluntarily -- about global warming as a campaign issue, you know something’s up. What’s up, it turns out, is public concern over climate change after years of polling in which Americans claimed to be ever less worried about the phenomenon. Link
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Quoting Neapolitan:
Indeed. And just as predicted. A week or two ago, many contrarian types were speaking of a sea ice "recovery"; some of us explained over and over that what they thought they were seeing isn't what they thought they were seeing, and it would go away quickly. (On the DMI Arctic Sea ice extent graph, for instance, it's easy to see that 2012 is now running below three of the past four years; and sea ice area has dropped by more than half a million square miles in the past week alone, a fairly rapid rate for this time of the year.)


faster and faster

would i scare ya if i told yeah we are past the point of no return

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Quoting bluheelrtx:

215 here in Hockley.


13' in Orange County. Although not technically a coastal county when a hurricane's headed my way I start hearing Pink Floyd in my head. Lol.
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 682
Quoting wilsongti45:
Arctic sea ice extent taking a dive after reaching almost normal extent. Thin arctic ice seems to be melting away quickly.

http://nsidc.org/data/seaice_index/images/daily_i mages/N_stddev_timeseries.png
Indeed. And just as predicted. A week or two ago, many contrarian types were speaking of a sea ice "recovery"; some of us explained over and over that what they thought they were seeing isn't what they thought they were seeing, and it would go away quickly. (On the DMI Arctic Sea ice extent graph, for instance, it's easy to see that 2012 is now running below three of the past four years; and sea ice area has dropped by more than half a million square miles in the past week alone, a fairly rapid rate for this time of the year.)
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MESOSCALE DISCUSSION 0674
NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER NORMAN OK
1034 AM CDT THU MAY 03 2012

AREAS AFFECTED...ECNTRL WI...LOWER MI

CONCERNING...SEVERE POTENTIAL...WATCH POSSIBLE

VALID 031534Z - 031700Z

PROBABILITY OF WATCH ISSUANCE...60 PERCENT

SUMMARY...THUNDERSTORMS ARE EXPECTED TO INCREASE ALONG A CORRIDOR
FROM ECNTRL WI INTO LOWER MI LATE THIS MORNING INTO THE EARLY
AFTERNOON. LARGE HAIL AND GUSTY WINDS MAY BE NOTED.

DISCUSSION...REMNANT MCV IS LIFTING NEWD ACROSS SWRN WI AND
CONVECTION IS BEGINNING TO INCREASE A BIT JUST AHEAD OF THIS FEATURE
ACROSS ADAMS/SAUK COUNTIES IN SWRN WI. THIS TREND IS EXPECTED TO
CONTINUE OVER THE NEXT FEW HOURS AND THERE IS INCREASING CONCERN
THAT AN ELONGATED CORRIDOR OF CONVECTION WILL EVOLVE...INITIALLY
SOMEWHAT ELEVATED TO THE NORTH OF THE WARM FRONT...ACROSS ECNTRL WI
INTO LOWER MI. THE STRONGEST BOUNDARY LAYER HEATING IS OCCURRING
FROM SERN WI INTO SRN LOWER MI AND THIS WILL AID DESTABILIZATION FOR
ROBUST NEAR-SFC BASED STORMS NEAR THE WARM FRONT. CLUSTERS OF
THUNDERSTORMS WILL GRADUALLY INCREASE IN AREAL COVERAGE/INTENSITY
INTO THE EARLY AFTERNOON AND THE PROBABILITY OF A SEVERE
THUNDERSTORM WATCH NEEDED ACROSS THIS REGION IS INCREASING.

..DARROW.. 05/03/2012

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The mid-level spin just west of Florida in the Gulf is very interesting. I doubt much comes of it, but it's cool to watch. It's attached at the end of a trof which is attached to a weak mid-upper level low over Tennessee. If it breaks off from the trof and is able to survive, then we might have to pay it more attention. Even if that were to happen, wind shear probably wouldn't allow anything more to happen.



You can also see there isn't much happening at the 850mb level. The only indication of vorticity at 850mb is way off to the west:



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Arctic sea ice extent taking a dive after reaching almost normal extent. Thin arctic ice seems to be melting away quickly.

http://nsidc.org/data/seaice_index/images/daily_i mages/N_stddev_timeseries.png
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Quoting MississippiWx:


Yeah, that's not good at all. I'm still banking on El Nino sometime this year. If not, at least it won't (shouldn't) be La Nina which steers most all rain away from Florida during the winter. It won't be long before your rainy season helps out.


I'm hoping but that hope is fading as it seems everytime we are expecting a big system to dump lots of rain on FL it never materializes.
Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
Quoting RitaEvac:


I'm seeing cracks along my fence line where no grass is because I spray round up, can't believe it's doing that already with the all the good rains, but I guess no rain since April 20th with warm/hot sunny days will do that.


Seems like you guys got a few, very heavy rains rather than an extended rainy season.

If that's true then you might not have had much absorption into the soil, a lot of the rain would have run off. If there was little moisture penetration then super dry soil should appear early in the season.

If few-heavy is going to be your new rain pattern then it might be time to start building absorption ponds. Get some of that water back into the aquifer.
Member Since: February 22, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 1344
Quoting RitaEvac:


I'm seeing cracks along my fence line where no grass is because I spray round up, can't believe it's doing that already with the all the good rains, but I guess no rain since April 20th with warm/hot sunny days will do that.


The problem for you guys is not much rain fell in 2011 so eventhough you have gotten some good rains earlier this year it has only put a small dent into a multi year drought you guys are experiencing. Hopefully TX and FL can see some tropical systems this summer to erase the drought fears. In FL lakes are nearing all-time record lows after a year that had near record rains last year. so it goes to show that several months of hardly any rain in the south with all the extreme heat we have seen lately can cause the soil to dry out rapidly.
Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
Quoting bohonkweatherman:
Beyond dead and the cracks in the ground are getting pretty wide, I am a landscaper who takes care of several yards and things are bad again right now. We get a dry and windy day and then we have major fires, last rain here more than a trace or so was March 20th plus we are 90 or above every day.


I'm seeing cracks along my fence line where no grass is because I spray round up, can't believe it's doing that already with the all the good rains, but I guess no rain since April 20th with warm/hot sunny days will do that.
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9628
Quoting nigel20:

Hopefully you can get some rain...maybe some rain would give you some joy


Nice "cool" overcast over the Big Bend right now but only a 30% chance of rain.....Hoping some heating later will spin up a few t-storms.
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Quoting MississippiWx:


Not much, Nigel. Just stopping by before going about the rest of my day! Hope you're doing well.

Here in Mississippi we have been fortunate for most of this year with plentiful rains. It had been dry for about 2 weeks until yesterday.

Good to know
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Quoting RitaEvac:


Wall Street closes


Wall Street no longer takes place on Wall Street.
Member Since: February 22, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 1344
Here is why I'm saying we need an El Nino:



Pair it up with the map below and it makes sense:

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Quoting Krycek1984:
I've perused a few studies and read a few articles that present the premise that European cooling due to a slowing or shutdown of the Gulf Stream and associated flows would not be nearly as drastic as people assume.

The belief that European temperatures would NOT plummet actually makes sense (at least on the surface, pun not intended). Logically speaking, the prevailing ocean currents on the Western side of North America are of the cold type, yet the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia/SE Alaska enjoy extremely mild temperatures with a strong maritime influence.

Whether the ocean is cool or warm, the ocean will always have a moderating effect, especially near the costs and on islands (i.e. the British Isles). I don't understand the alarm that Europe would be plunged into an ice age, although studies have shown that in the past, Europe has experience profound cooling in very short periods of time. And those periods of cooling haven't necessarily been accompanied by drastic cooling in other areas of the globe. One would assume the interior of Europe would end up being much cooler as opposed to the coast line.

I think the jury is still out on this issue and the alarmists on both sides should take a second look at their beliefs and panic.



Those cold Pacific currents cool us off quite a bit along the coast. Remember what Mark Twain had to say about summer in San Francisco?

Interior Europe might be little affected were the currents to stop, but the isles and west coast could suffer.

Just go inland a few miles, especially on the eastern side of the coastal mountains in the PNW and you'll understand the cooling effects of the California current.



Member Since: February 22, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 1344
48) According to 3), those northern yellows, may be disappearing soon. Anyone have an answer for my question on '93?
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Quoting StormTracker2K:


Driest I've ever seen it here in C FL and this is after 66" of rain last year. The problem as been there's only been 8" since last November at my location.


Yeah, that's not good at all. I'm still banking on El Nino sometime this year. If not, at least it won't (shouldn't) be La Nina which steers most all rain away from Florida during the winter. It won't be long before your rainy season helps out.
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Quoting RitaEvac:
I haven't had rain since April 20th, getting concerned here in SE TX even though we are outta the drought. I'm sure Central TX is dead brown out there now.
Beyond dead and the cracks in the ground are getting pretty wide, I am a landscaper who takes care of several yards and things are bad again right now. We get a dry and windy day and then we have major fires, last rain here more than a trace or so was March 20th plus we are 90 or above every day.
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Quoting nigel20:

You guys need a tropical storm like Nicole to break the drought. What's up Mississippi?


Not much, Nigel. Just stopping by before going about the rest of my day! Hope you're doing well.

Here in Mississippi we have been fortunate for most of this year with plentiful rains. It had been dry for about 2 weeks until yesterday.
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Quoting weathermanwannabe:


Hey Mon. Actually up here in Tallahassee starting to see the clouds start to roll in and hoping for some rain. I am on the outside North end of that Gulf moisture off of Florida but not looking too promising.

Also a bit down because our local NWS office is having their Annual WeatherFest today at the Regional Airport and they have some NOAA planes there and I cannot get out of work. I love their office and local forecasters but why they decided to have this event on a Thursday (when all of the past years have been on a Saturday) is beyond me(and with all the kids in school). I suspect they got excited to add the airplane dimension to it but the airport is much more crowded on the weekend with commercial traffic so they opted for a Thursday.............I am not a happy camper as a result today..... :(

Hopefully you can get some rain...maybe some rain would give you some joy
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Ok, here's some figures.

Assuming an average albedo of 0.5 for sea ice (mean, rather than max albedo).

At 66N having no ice vs ice.

Summer Solstice gives plus 365 watts/ meter square of missing ice.

Equinox gives plus 203 watts/meter square of missing ice.

Winter solstice gives plus 8 watts/meter square missing ice, which is still larger than the global greenhouse effect.


For 75N latitude:

Summer solstice gives 307 watts/meter square missing ice.

Equinox gives plus 129 watts/meter square missing ice.

Winter solstice is in the dark, so irrelevant.


As you can see, forcing from positive albedo feedback is actually orders of magnitude larger, locally, than forcing from GHG feedback.

Numbers assume local astronomical noon. Other times of the day are too complicated for me to do by hand in a reasonable amount of time.
Member Since: January 25, 2012 Posts: 33 Comments: 1520
Quoting MississippiWx:


The Southern part of the country badly needs an El Nino. If not this summer, then it needs to happen this fall and winter.
I agree with this big time, Especially Central Texas to Calif and the Southeastern part of the USA. Our drought here is worsening, back in water restrictions and burn bans, 87 fires in Travis County alone in April, 44 days here with less than .10 of rain plus temps in 90s every day. The problem is the grass is so tall and brown now, get a windy day here and things will get really bad unless we get a flood or 2 soon.
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59. JeffMasters (Admin)
Quoting RTSplayer:
At the current global rate of sea level rise of 3.1 mm/year, a repeat of Irene 65 years from now would be capable of flooding the subway system,

===

That assumes a linear melt rate for glaciers, while evidence suggests the melt rate is presently increasing exponentially, doubling every 5 to 10 years.

This means 8 inches of mean sea level rise is more like 25 years out, at the most, not 65 years.

The disappearance of early and late season snow packs for N. America and Asia will be both dramatic and shocking during the next 10 years.


Thanks for the comment, I added this to my post:

"Since sea level rise is expected to accelerate as the planet warms in coming decades, an Irene-type storm surge would likely be capable of flooding the NYC subway system much sooner than that."

Jeff Masters
Quoting MississippiWx:


The Southern part of the country badly needs an El Nino. If not this summer, then it needs to happen this fall and winter.


Driest I've ever seen it here in C FL and this is after 66" of rain last year. The problem as been there's only been 8" since last November at my location.
Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
Sorry I was trying to post a pic of a radar image.
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I haven't had rain since April 20th, getting concerned here in SE TX even though we are outta the drought. I'm sure Central TX is dead brown out there now.
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9628
Quoting MississippiWx:
First it was exceptional warmth and now most of the country is experiencing abnormally dry to drought conditions. I really believe it is hard to deny that our climate isn't in a highly variable state right now. You can blame the cause on whatever, but I believe it's hard for anyone to say it's not happening at this point. I'm not sure I've ever seen the drought monitor map look like this:


You guys need a tropical storm like Nicole to break the drought. What's up Mississippi?
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Quoting MississippiWx:
First it was exceptional warmth and now most of the country is experiencing abnormally dry to drought conditions. I really believe it is hard to deny that our climate isn't in a highly variable state right now. You can blame the cause on whatever, but I believe it's hard for anyone to say it's not happening at this point. I'm not sure I've ever seen the drought monitor map look like this:



Drought is expanding everywhere even in TX again which saw a lot of rain earlier this year.
Member Since: October 26, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2651
radar5
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Quoting nigel20:

What's up wannabe?


Hey Mon. Actually up here in Tallahassee starting to see the clouds start to roll in and hoping for some rain. I am on the outside North end of that Gulf moisture off of Florida but not looking too promising.

Also a bit down because our local NWS office is having their Annual WeatherFest today at the Regional Airport and they have some NOAA planes there and I cannot get out of work. I love their office and local forecasters but why they decided to have this event on a Thursday (when all of the past years have been on a Saturday) is beyond me(and with all the kids in school). I suspect they got excited to add the airplane dimension to it but the airport is much more crowded on the weekend with commercial traffic so they opted for a Thursday.............I am not a happy camper as a result today..... :(
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Quoting nigel20:
The Climate Prediction Center is predicting ENSO neutral conditions through out the northern hemisphere's summer
Link


The Southern part of the country badly needs an El Nino. If not this summer, then it needs to happen this fall and winter.
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Looks like its trying to get a spin going.
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Hey Grothar and hydrus. What did I miss over the past couple of days?
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First it was exceptional warmth and now most of the country is experiencing abnormally dry to drought conditions. I really believe it is hard to deny that our climate isn't in a highly variable state right now. You can blame the cause on whatever, but I believe it's hard for anyone to say it's not happening at this point. I'm not sure I've ever seen the drought monitor map look like this:

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Quoting aspectre:
694 Grothar: I have always been interested in this event, which still has little explanation and occured about 5200 years ago.

Thanks! Didn't connect that the events were (near)simultaneously happening worldwide, or that they signaled a ClimateChange until you posted that article.


You should read up on this one. Very interesting articles published for it, including the mummy Oetzi they found in Switzerland a few years back from this period.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25476
The Climate Prediction Center is predicting ENSO neutral conditions through out the northern hemisphere's summer
Link
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http://www.weathertap.com/hub/SAT_GULH_VIS
This is
This is getting interesting.
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Quoting jeffs713:

If we get storm surge flooding up where I am... we have bigger problems. (my house has an elevation of 155' ASL)

215 here in Hockley.
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Quoting RTSplayer:


Yeah, their reasoning is flawed.

Global warming is not going to cause an ice age, regardless of ocean currents.

In a few more decades, the north Atlantic between 40N and 60N will warm so much from the greenhouse effect that ocean currents will be irrelevant.

In about 10 years, summer time sea ice will be totally gone in the Arctic, and winter time sea ice volume will be about 25% less than what it is now, except whatever ice bergs are calving off Greenland and Iceland faster than they actually melt.

The positive albedo feedback for N. America and Eurasia, both on land and over water will be much greater than it is now for spring and autumn, and for latitudes below 66N, it will even be a factor in the deep of winter.

The real warming starts when Greenland and Antarctica finish melting. Right now, the ice buffers global temperature increase due to the heat of fusion.
Good posts coming back on this. I do believe even if" the conveyor " shifted right now in the most drastic way possible to somehow cool the Earth, cooling would take a long time to actually affect the cryosphere. More episodes of severe weather would seem possible due to temperature extremes. I think things will continue to warm up for quite some time regardless of any changes in the ocean currents. If there was if fact a sudden change, it could very well make regional climate changes for certain areas of the world..We all know how fast weather can switch gears so to speak.
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I haven't seen this many plusses since my last stress test. Some good comments people. Nice blog,Doc. A lot of people in the rest of the country did not realize the impact Irene had.

Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25476
Quoting weathermanwannabe:
Thanks Dr. M. So New York has 65 years to build a sea wall or structure of some kind to protect the subways, all things being equal, from a "tropical storm" with a similar surge it seems. However, what happens if a Cat 1 or higher hits there before then?


Wall Street closes
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9628
15. StormTracker2K 2:17 PM GMT on May 03, 2012 1
Interesting little feature. Too bad it will likely die out before coming here


Actually ECFL has a 50% chance of thunderstorms this weekend, highest it's been in a while.


Sure looking pretty pathetic on Water Vapor Loop though.
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Quoting Chucktown:


Yawn....


I know. It's hard to understand, so that bores you.

Wait a few more years and you'll get it.

Poor guy.
Member Since: January 25, 2012 Posts: 33 Comments: 1520
33) Because more rain coming and grass already 3", ruts would be only in back, so will avoid those areas. Really was speaking if got a spot this afternoon before I could get to it. Wouldn't really mow if it would rut. If this keeps up though, will have to borrow a bud's commercial that I can set higher than mine, or just bale it, lol!
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Quoting weathermanwannabe:
Thanks Dr. M. So New York has 65 years to build a sea wall or structure of some kind to protect the subways, all things being equal, from a "tropical storm" with a similar surge it seems. However, what happens if a Cat 1 or higher hits there before then?

What's up wannabe?
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I've perused a few studies and read a few articles that present the premise that European cooling due to a slowing or shutdown of the Gulf Stream and associated flows would not be nearly as drastic as people assume.

The belief that European temperatures would NOT plummet actually makes sense (at least on the surface, pun not intended). Logically speaking, the prevailing ocean currents on the Western side of North America are of the cold type, yet the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia/SE Alaska enjoy extremely mild temperatures with a strong maritime influence.

Whether the ocean is cool or warm, the ocean will always have a moderating effect, especially near the costs and on islands (i.e. the British Isles). I don't understand the alarm that Europe would be plunged into an ice age, although studies have shown that in the past, Europe has experience profound cooling in very short periods of time. And those periods of cooling haven't necessarily been accompanied by drastic cooling in other areas of the globe. One would assume the interior of Europe would end up being much cooler as opposed to the coast line.

I think the jury is still out on this issue and the alarmists on both sides should take a second look at their beliefs and panic.

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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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