Which model do you trust? And, Arctic sea ice reaches a record minimum

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 7:33 PM GMT on August 17, 2007

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Hurricane Dean, now a major Category 3 hurricane with 125 mph winds, continues to intensify and grow larger in size. Dean pounded Martinique and St. Lucia this morning, and claimed its first victim when a 62-year old man died on St. Lucia while trying to save his cow from raging flood waters.

Dean's eye is now visible on long range radar out of Puerto Rico. Buoy 42059 is in Dean's path, and should be interesting to watch.

We're fairly confident of the 1-2 day forecast, which has Dean headed west to west-northwest over the Central Caribbean, very close to Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, then into the Western Caribbean. After that, things become murkier. The latest 12Z runs of the NOGAPS, UKMET, GFS, and HWRF computer models all show Dean hitting the Yucatan Peninsula, and continuing on into the Gulf of Mexico towards a second landfall near or south of the Texas border. The HWRF run is slower, and does not take Dean to the coast at the end of its forecast period. The big outlier is the GFDL model, which now takes Dean northwest into central Louisiana. Which model is correct? The problem is that each model has a different solution for the behavior of an upper-level low pressure system expected to be over the Gulf of Mexico early next week. Which model should we trust?

In 2006, the official NHC forecast performed better than any of the individual computer forecast models. However, several "consensus" forecasts made using an average of the "big four" computer models (GFDL, GFS, UKMET, and NOGAPS), slightly outperformed the official forecast at some time periods (Figure 1). The Florida State Super-Ensemble (FSSE), for example, combines the "big four" models on the basis of past performance in an attempt to correct for biases in those models. (The FSSE is owned by a private company, which makes it available to NHC but not the general public). The Florida State Super Ensemble slightly out-performed the official NHC forecast at most forecast times.

The "big four" models are plotted on wunderground.com's computer model page for Dean, (along with the inferior BAMM model, which is plotted since it is always available quickly, and has done well at longer range forecasts in the past). We do not get tracking points for the ECMWF or HWRF models at this point, so you'll have to go the raw plots to see those forecasts. Note that three of the "big four" models performed well in 2006, with the GFDL and GFS performing the best. The UKMET had a very poor showing in the Atlantic in 2006. However, the UKMET was the best-performing model in the Eastern Pacific in 2006, along with the GFDL and BAMM models.

The European Center's model (ECMWF) outperformed the "big four" consensus models for 72, 96, and 120 hours forecasts in the Atlantic. However, the ECMWF model was generally not available in time to be used by forecasters. Efforts are being made to make the ECMWF available in a more timely fashion for the 2007 season, which would be a big help. We also have the new HWRF (Hurricane Weather Research Forecast) model this year. In tests done on a number of hurricanes for past years, the HWRF performed about as well as the GFDL (Figure 2).



Figure 1. Track forecast skill in 2006 of the official forecast and the various models, compared to a "zero skill" forecast using NHC's CLIPER5 model. The CLIPER model (short for CLImatology and PERsistence) is a model that makes a forecast based on historical paths hurricane have taken, along with the fact that hurricanes tend to keep moving in the direction they are going (i.e., their current motion persists). Note that many models had a negative skill for their 120 hour (5 day) forecast. The official NHC forecast had about 10% skill at 5 days. Image credit: NHC.

Figure 2. Track errors for 48-hour forecasts from the 2006 version of the GFDL model (black) and the new HWRF model (red). The HWRF model performed better on some hurricane than the GFDL, and worse on others. Overall, the two models had about the same performance on the cases tested. Image credit: Naomi Surgi, NOAA Environmental Modeling Center.

In conclusion, the official NHC forecast outperforms all the individual models, particularly at long ranges. Looking at the individual model plots can be helpful to determine the uncertainty in the forecast, but it's tough to beat the NHC. In the case of Dean, where one model is an outlier from the rest, it is usually better to believe the consensus of the other models.

If you want to look at plots of the individual models, I've written a description of the various models and where to find these plots on our tropical weather page.

Arctic sea ice shrinks to record low
The National Snow and Ice Data Center announced today that Arctic sea ice has just surpassed the previous single-day (absolute minimum) record for the lowest extent ever measured by satellite. Satellite measurements began in 1979. Sea ice extent has fallen below the 2005 record low absolute minimum and is still melting. Sea ice extent is currently tracking at 5.26 million square kilometers (2.02 million square miles), just below the 2005 record absolute minimum of 5.32 million square kilometers (2.05 million square miles). This new record was set a full five weeks before the usual late September minima in ice extent, so truly unprecedented melting is occurring in the Arctic. The most recent images from the North Pole webcam show plenty of melt water and rainy conditions near the Pole.


Figure 2. Current extent of the polar sea ice, compared to the normal for this time in August (pink line). Image credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center.

I'll have an update Saturday morning.
Jeff Masters

Hurricane Dean near the island Puerto Rico (Hector777)
the ciclonic surge hard mind in Salinas,Puerto Rico mines the Community Las Ochenta in the south of Puerto Rico
Hurricane Dean near the island Puerto Rico

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235. JLPR
8:43 PM GMT on Agosto 17, 2007
i would say its at 15.0 15.1
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234. CFL
8:43 PM GMT on August 17, 2007
WTNT24 KNHC 172038
TCMAT4
HURRICANE DEAN FORECAST/ADVISORY NUMBER 19
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL042007
2100 UTC FRI AUG 17 2007

A HURRICANE WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FOR GUADELOUPE AND ITS
DEPENDENCIES. THE WARNING WILL LIKELY BE DISCONTINUED LATER
TONIGHT.

A TROPICAL STORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FOR THE U.S. VIRGIN
ISLANDS AND PUERTO RICO.

A TROPICAL STORM WARNING ALSO REMAINS IN EFFECT FOR THE FOLLOWING
ISLANDS OF THE LESSER ANTILLES...MONTSERRAT...ANTIGUA...NEVIS...ST
KITTS...BARBUDA...AND ANGUILLA AND THE BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS. THE
WARNING WILL LIKELY BE DISCONTINUED LATER TONIGHT.

A TROPICAL STORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT ALONG THE SOUTH COAST OF
THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC FROM CABO ENGANO TO THE HAITI/DOMINICAN
REPUBLIC BORDER. A HURRICANE WATCH ALSO REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM CABO
BEATA TO THE HAITI/DOMINICAN REPUBLIC BORDER.

A TROPICAL STORM WARNING AND A HURRICANE WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT FOR
HAITI FROM THE HAITI/DOMINICAN REPUBLIC BORDER TO PORT-AU-PRINCE.

AT 500 PM AST...2100 UTC...THE GOVERNMENT OF JAMAICA HAS ISSUED A
HURRICANE WATCH FOR JAMAICA. A HURRICANE WATCH MEANS THAT
HURRICANE CONDITIONS ARE POSSIBLE WITHIN THE WATCH AREA...GENERALLY
WITHIN 36 HOURS.

AT 500 PM AST...2100 UTC...THE GOVERNMENT OF CUBA HAS ISSUED A
TROPICAL STORM WATCH FROM THE PROVINCE OF CAMAGUEY EASTWARD TO THE
PROVINCE OF GUANTANAMO. A TROPICAL STORM WATCH MEANS THAT TROPICAL
STORM CONDITIONS ARE POSSIBLE WITHIN THE WATCH AREA...GENERALLY
WITHIN 36 HOURS.

AT 500 PM AST...2100 UTC...THE HURRICANE WARNING FOR MARTINIQUE AND
DOMINICA HAS BEEN DISCONTINUED.

AT 500 PM AST...2100 UTC...THE TROPICAL STORM WARNING FOR ST.
LUCIA...SABA...ST. EUSTATIUS...ST. MAARTEN HAS BEEN DISCONTINUED.

INTERESTS ELSEWHERE IN THE CENTRAL AND WESTERN CARIBBEAN...INCLUDING
THE CAYMAN ISLANDS...SHOULD CLOSELY MONITOR THE PROGRESS OF DEAN.

HURRICANE CENTER LOCATED NEAR 15.0N 64.5W AT 17/2100Z
POSITION ACCURATE WITHIN 15 NM

PRESENT MOVEMENT TOWARD THE WEST OR 280 DEGREES AT 18 KT

ESTIMATED MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE 961 MB
EYE DIAMETER 15 NM
MAX SUSTAINED WINDS 110 KT WITH GUSTS TO 135 KT.
64 KT....... 25NE 20SE 20SW 25NW.
50 KT....... 60NE 60SE 30SW 70NW.
34 KT.......160NE 120SE 60SW 160NW.
12 FT SEAS..300NE 200SE 60SW 150NW.
WINDS AND SEAS VARY GREATLY IN EACH QUADRANT. RADII IN NAUTICAL
MILES ARE THE LARGEST RADII EXPECTED ANYWHERE IN THAT QUADRANT.

REPEAT...CENTER LOCATED NEAR 15.0N 64.5W AT 17/2100Z
AT 17/1800Z CENTER WAS LOCATED NEAR 14.8N 63.6W

FORECAST VALID 18/0600Z 15.5N 67.4W
MAX WIND 115 KT...GUSTS 140 KT.
64 KT... 25NE 20SE 20SW 25NW.
50 KT... 60NE 60SE 30SW 70NW.
34 KT...160NE 120SE 60SW 160NW.

FORECAST VALID 18/1800Z 16.4N 70.8W
MAX WIND 120 KT...GUSTS 145 KT.
64 KT... 30NE 20SE 20SW 30NW.
50 KT... 75NE 50SE 30SW 75NW.
34 KT...160NE 120SE 75SW 160NW.

FORECAST VALID 19/0600Z 17.3N 74.0W
MAX WIND 125 KT...GUSTS 155 KT.
64 KT... 30NE 20SE 20SW 30NW.
50 KT... 75NE 50SE 30SW 75NW.
34 KT...160NE 120SE 75SW 160NW.

FORECAST VALID 19/1800Z 18.0N 77.0W
MAX WIND 130 KT...GUSTS 160 KT.
50 KT... 80NE 50SE 50SW 80NW.
34 KT...160NE 120SE 80SW 160NW.

FORECAST VALID 20/1800Z 20.0N 84.0W
MAX WIND 130 KT...GUSTS 160 KT.
50 KT... 80NE 50SE 50SW 80NW.
34 KT...160NE 120SE 80SW 160NW.

EXTENDED OUTLOOK. NOTE...ERRORS FOR TRACK HAVE AVERAGED NEAR 225 NM
ON DAY 4 AND 300 NM ON DAY 5...AND FOR INTENSITY NEAR 20 KT EACH DAY

OUTLOOK VALID 21/1800Z 22.0N 90.0W
MAX WIND 100 KT...GUSTS 120 KT.

OUTLOOK VALID 22/1800Z 24.5N 96.0W
MAX WIND 105 KT...GUSTS 130 KT.

REQUEST FOR 3 HOURLY SHIP REPORTS WITHIN 300 MILES OF 15.0N 64.5W

NEXT ADVISORY AT 18/0300Z

$$
FORECASTER AVILA/MAINELLI

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233. thewebisode
8:42 PM GMT on August 17, 2007
Florida is completely out of the woods now. Let's focus on the states in the Gulf.

Last time I checked the map, Florida was a state in the gulf.
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232. sporteguy03
8:37 PM GMT on August 17, 2007
No matter where Dean hits if it hits on the Gulf it will effect FL to Maine to Idaho to the small town in Indiana. The aftermath of a Cat 3-5 would be horrific, gas prices just skim the surface lets not get beyond that yet please thank you...hope it weakens.
Member Since: July 7, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 5120
230. extreme236
4:42 PM EDT on August 17, 2007
yep winds are still 110kts, but it was expected, because if winds were to increase to the next step up (115kts) then it would end up being a cat 4 already. maybe tonight
Member Since: August 2, 2007 Posts: 19 Comments: 19234
229. Metallica1990
8:42 PM GMT on August 17, 2007
still at 125
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228. JLPR
8:40 PM GMT on Agosto 17, 2007
the eye is aso visible in then RGBSat
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226. PalmHarbor
8:33 PM GMT on August 17, 2007
Posted By: diabeticstorm at 8:20 PM GMT on August 17, 2007.
Florida is completely out of the woods now. Let's focus on the states in the Gulf.


Is it?
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225. Xion
8:39 PM GMT on August 17, 2007
110 knots still.
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224. hurricane10
4:35 PM EDT on August 17, 2007
does anyone see on sat-img the more nw turn
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223. fldude999
8:39 PM GMT on August 17, 2007
Posted By: coffeecrusader at 8:37 PM GMT on August 17, 2007.

Here are my odds for an eventual landfall (for what it's worth): Mainland Mexico: 25%, Texas 45%, Louisiana 25%, Florida (panhandle and east) 5%. Only time will tell.


For what its worth i think the ULL will greatly influence Dean and I go along with GFDL-LA 25%, MS, 25%, FL panhandle (Pensacola) 40%..parts east of there 10%
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222. Relix
8:37 PM GMT on August 17, 2007
Posted By: DestinJeff at 8:36 PM GMT on August 17, 2007.
if dean gets to 16 before midnight, then something is fishy... looks to be 15.5 maybe 15.4 right now.


Actually, its around 15.2-15.3N. 15.6 would be too high right now. I still say that we might see a shift to the north in the 8PM advisory (not 5). The surroundings are changing, and some forecasted things don't seem to be going the way the NHC and models wanted. I am still waiting, I am confident its not coming to PR but I don't want winds over 40MPH or flooding rains.
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220. Crisis57
8:38 PM GMT on August 17, 2007
Posted By: nola70119 at 8:37 PM GMT on August 17, 2007.

Pretty much so Welsh I think the test will be around Jamaica thats where the big divergence is.....but who knows, maybe Dean will tip his hand in advance?

Florida is unlikely TV weathermen like ratings and they will exaggerate to get viewers-- its called a "tease."


guess Max Mayfield and Brian Norcross like to tease
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219. Rick54
3:31 PM CDT on August 17, 2007
Florida meteorologists are saying to keep a close eye on the storm... and the best way to do that is to watch me live at 5 cause if my ratings go way up they will give me a raise.
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218. DeepintheHearta
8:38 PM GMT on August 17, 2007
Why are people freaking out about this? I understand and agree that preparation well ahead of time is always advisable when thinking about hurricanes, and I also know full well that hurricanes, like weather in general, are nonlinear dynamical systems and are thus inherently unpredictable. (I grew up in S. Florida and had Andrew destroy my house).

Nevertheless, the best evidence we have right now -- which admittedtly is still quite imprecise beyond a 48-hr window and somewhat imprecise within that window -- suggests that landfall near the Houston/Galveston area is certainly not the likeliest possibility. The consistency and convergence of the models on the southward solutions buttresses this claim.

Just to be clear, none of this is to argue that preparation is inadvisable. But I am astonished to hear so many people alredy making disaster plans for a full-on Houston/Galveston hurricane.

(I live in Houston and am a full-time student in Galveston).
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216. CHAM0EBIAN
8:36 PM GMT on August 17, 2007
you can really see how quickly Dean's growing when you watch the satellite loops in rock mode...and yeah, the arctic sst anomalies are very scary...
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215. nola70119
8:32 PM GMT on August 17, 2007
Pretty much so Welsh I think the test will be around Jamaica thats where the big divergence is.....but who knows, maybe Dean will tip his hand in advance?

Florida is unlikely TV weathermen like ratings and they will exaggerate to get viewers-- its called a "tease."
Member Since: June 16, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1559
214. coffeecrusader
8:31 PM GMT on August 17, 2007
Here are my odds for an eventual landfall (for what it's worth): Mainland Mexico: 25%, Texas 45%, Louisiana 25%, Florida (panhandle and east) 5%. Only time will tell.
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213. H2PV
8:36 PM GMT on August 17, 2007
Clobber-Time in TAIWAN. Your electronics gadgets just went up in price.

Typhoon SEPAT, Category 3/4 borderline, 132 mph winds, 161 mph gusts.

WATER VAPOR, IR. Look at the Greenhouse Gases!!!

http://www.h2-pv.us/wiki_100mpg/img/wiki_up/20070817.1856.SEPAT.jpg

JSL colorized version optimized to highlight rainfall intensity. Everything red is drowned. Philippines has had four days of flooding from this weather system and it was never directly hit.

http://www.h2-pv.us/wiki_100mpg/img/wiki_up/20070817.1856.SEPAT_jsl.jpg
http://www.h2-pv.us/wiki_100mpg/img/wiki_up/20070817.1856.SEPAT_jsl.jpg
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212. Metallica1990
8:34 PM GMT on August 17, 2007
the only people safe from this thing are people living east of 60 degrees long. call ing anyone west of that 70% safe or more is out of there mind
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211. guygee
8:36 PM GMT on August 17, 2007
I think all this talk of a "strong hurricane creates its own environment" is highly overrated. If a hurricane encounters a strong ridge or trough associated with a atmospheric planetary wave (Rossby wave) in the jetstream, the hurricane will be redirected or destroyed no matter how strong it is. "Creating its own environment" was the excuse for the failed recurvature forecasts for 1988 Hurricane Gilbert, but the fact is that that storm slid underneath any strong mid-latitude systems. Look at how easily Katrina and Floyd were weakened and brushed aside by troughs coming down from the mid-latitudes.
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209. auminer68
8:28 PM GMT on August 17, 2007
Dropsonde wrote: I would say it's 99.5% likely that Florida is in the clear from a direct hit. I'm more worried at this point about Dean passing west of NOLA or making a direct hit on Houston.

100% agree.

I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that most folks here are mature enough to ponder the economic aftermath. OF COURSE I'm concerned about the human cost, but there are realities of the aftermath, too.

I'd say a direct hit on Houston is the worst case scenario right now overall.... I don't think people realize just how important that port is to the economy.

The oil&gas infrastructure (refineries especially) there is so fragile, that a direct hit from a cat5 would put gasoline prices up to $5 or higher... not to mention natural gas prices if enough gulf platforms are wiped out.


MAN I hate hurricane season.......
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207. obxrox
8:27 PM GMT on August 17, 2007
pure speculation based on one model track, but assume the last gfdl comes to pass with landfall Tues evening in between what looks like Morgan City and Houma. Surfact winds look to be 130k in the NE quadrant, so Houma probably bears the brunt according to that model grid. Looks like 50-70k E winds across Lake Borgne into Lake P...What would that mean for NO and Laplace?

I hope none of this comes to pass and I'll be the next model run will have shifted.
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206. TX
8:28 PM GMT on August 17, 2007
looks like anyone on a cruise to Labadee, Haiti should be o.k.
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205. nolesjeff
8:30 PM GMT on August 17, 2007
Posted By: StSimonsIslandGAGuy at 8:30 PM GMT on August 17, 2007.

Actually, since Dr. Master's talked about the melting polar ice in his blog, it is appropriate to talk about it in his blog.

Everytime the earth burps, the world is coming to an end due to the impact of man. I think it is pretty arogant to think WE make that kind of impact. And oh my god, we have been studying the impact of man soooo long that it is a proven fact. As Al Gore and the hollywood bandwagon makes millions on the crap he spews. sickening
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203. wahooskipper
8:31 PM GMT on August 17, 2007
There are two reasons the Florida mets are saying we need to keep an eye on this.

The legit reason: If things change to such a degree that we are in for some trouble there won't be a lot of time for preparations.

The real reason: They need to justify their existence since for the past 3 months they have gotten away with "highs near 90...chance of rain 50%."
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202. diabeticstorm
8:32 PM GMT on August 17, 2007
I agree with you welshcayman
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201. cormit
8:32 PM GMT on August 17, 2007
Does anyone have a link to the recon flight data in real-time besides the report that comes out? I used one last year at weathermatrix.net/tropical/recon.shtml, which show the data from the plane every minute or so but it does not seem to be working this year. Thanks for your help.
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200. AndyN
8:23 PM GMT on August 17, 2007
Gulf 90 degrees 64 nm south of dauphin Island...Incredible!!Link
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199. fldoughboy
8:25 PM GMT on August 17, 2007
Thanks for the Hurricane Allen graphic, this looks to follow that track almost exactly..as did Gilbert within 50-100 mile error on the right and left side of its track.
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198. Melagoo
8:32 PM GMT on August 17, 2007
...eye is visable here

vapor
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197. bocaman
8:30 PM GMT on August 17, 2007
Michael, that storm is slowing down a little bit, I remember Dean hauling a$$ around 27-29mph yesterday afternoon, today its moving 18-20mph now, which is still moving fast but a decrease in speed is definitly being noticed.
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196. cantstopthinking
8:32 PM GMT on August 17, 2007
LOL, people are so funny, go ahead and listen to the so called experts. Predicting weather is about as accurate as predicting the stock market, were you can also find many so called experts. I have been in the computer field for 15 or so years and the models used to predict storm paths are only as good as the programmers (some more so called experts). There are no experts in life just well educated guessers!! My novice advice says be prepared for the worse, stock up on supplies and keep in contact with family. Keep a close eye on exact storm positions not someone’s prediction.
Most of all be safe!!!

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194. welshcayman
8:31 PM GMT on August 17, 2007
Previous positions of Dean

8am 14.4N 61.7W
11am 14.6N 62.6W
2pm 14.8N 63.6W

So Dean is moving approximately 0.2 degrees North and 1 degree West every 3 hours.

If Dean keeps moving in the exact same direct he has been all day and the same speed then at 8am tomorrow he would be at 16.0N 69.6W. The NHC forecast for 8am tomorrow is that Dean will be at 15.8N 69.0W. This is just slightly North and slightly West of the forecast position in 18 hours time.

This post was just to get across to everyone who keeps stating that Dean is moving 'way NW' or 'much more North than the forecast' that this is not in fact the case.

The NHC may adjust the track at 5pm, or at any other time in the future. But right now, based on Dean's speed and direction of movement over the past day, Dean is moving exactly where the NHC said he would.

193. benirica
8:30 PM GMT on August 17, 2007
Link

stil looks to me like its going due west now... it did wobble but the wobble is over. i do agree that its going to be a bit closer then expected
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192. Dropsonde
8:28 PM GMT on August 17, 2007
The bottom line for Florida is this: When Dean gets into the GOM, it'll be a HUGE storm. I'm thinking Ivan, Katrina, Gilbert size. That itself means that Florida is likely to feel an impact from the feeder bands. If Dean landfalls on East TX or (heaven forbid) LA, then the Panhandle could see tropical storm force winds.

I really and truly think that the biggest threat to Florida is from tornadoes spinning out of the thunderstorms in the feeders.
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190. floridafisherman
8:28 PM GMT on August 17, 2007
diabetic, if fla isnt in danger, why is key west, marathon, and a few other FLORIDA cities the only us cities listed in wind probabilities?

and local met on tv here have been talking about the ULL and how it will effect where dean goes. they say until it passes south of fla, we still have to watch.
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189. diabeticstorm
8:29 PM GMT on August 17, 2007
Well I'm almost certain we're out of the woods here in Florida. I trust what NHC has to say, and they're not indicating anything about Florida. People here seem to want it to hit florida, thus making up senarious. Just let it go.
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187. Relix
8:29 PM GMT on August 17, 2007
Benirica, I am still seeing the more northern movement... kinda like WNW, it definitely got higher than the expected track, which would bring stronger winds and maybe some more rain to PR.
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186. sporteguy03
8:28 PM GMT on August 17, 2007
i disagree with you floridafisherman, none of the models indicate that Dean will hit florida, none of them since a few days ago. if there was a hint of dean hitting florida, it would be in the forecast cone and at least one of the models would show it. but i dont see any of them doing that. why do some people still think that florida Is NOT safe yet?? and if florida is not 100% safe, then why don't forecasters on the news say so, etc.



I've heard a few mets keep an eye on it.
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About JeffMasters

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