California fires and global warming; 90L lashes Puerto Rico

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:38 PM GMT on October 26, 2007

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A surface low pressure system (90L) moved over Puerto Rico this morning, and is now centered just west of the island. The surface low is entangled with an upper-level low pressure system that is bringing about 30 knots of wind shear, so no development is likely today. Long range radar of of Puerto Rico shows isolated bands of heavy rain that are not well-organized. Satellite loops show most of the heavy thunderstorm activity is to the east of the low's center of circulation, and the high wind shear is keeping this thunderstorm activity disorganized. This morning's QuikSCAT pass showed a large, vigorous circulation. Top winds were about 30 mph to the north of the center, and 90L is close to tropical depression status.


Figure 1. Latest satellite rainfall estimate of 90L.

The surface low is separating from the upper level low today, and will move west-southwest at about 10 mph. This will bring heavy rains and the threat of flash flooding and mudslides to Puerto Rico. Heavy rains of 2-4 inches in just two hours hit the Virgin Islands this morning (Figure 1), prompting flash flood warnings there. Heavy rains also hit many of the islands of the northern Lesser Antilles. Rain amounts as high as 3-5 inches are expected today over eastern Puerto Rico. Several mudslides have already been reported on the island.

The action shifts to the Dominican Republic on Saturday and Haiti on Sunday, as 90L tracks just south of the island of Hispaniola. These nations can expect rains of 3-6 inches, which could trigger life-threatening flash floods and mudslides. It is possible 90L could intensify into a tropical depression on Sunday, as wind shear will slowly fall to 20 knots. The Hurricane Hunters are on call to fly Sunday afternoon, if necessary. On Sunday, 90L will be approaching Jamaica, and the ECMWF and NOGAPS models predict that wind shear will drop to 10-20 knots. These models develop 90L into at least a strong tropical storm as it moves slowly into the Western Caribbean. The GFS model keeps wind shear 20-30 knots through the period, and does not develop 90L. The HWRF model also does not develop 90L. The GFDL is not keen on developing the system either, but does suggest that a weak tropical storm may form a week from now. I believe the most reasonable solution is the NOGAPS and ECMWF solution, and 90L will intensify into hurricane in the Western Caribbean late next week. The long-term path of such a storm is very uncertain, with the NOGAPS and ECMWF suggesting a track north into the Gulf of Mexico to threaten the U.S., and the GFDL predicting 90L will get trapped in the Western Caribbean and perform a counter-clockwise loop. If you have travel plans that take you to Jamaica or the Cayman Islands Sunday through Tuesday, or Cancun/Cozumel/Western Cuba Tuesday through Saturday next week, be prepared for the possibility of disruptions.

California's smoke
The worst of the air pollution hazard from California's fires has now passed. The smoke has thinned some, as seen on satellite images (Figure 2). The smoke made it yesterday to Fresno, in California's Central Valley, and is moving northward into Nevada and northwest Arizona today. Most of this smoke is aloft at altitudes of about 15,000 feet, but some mixing down to the surface has occurred, thanks to an upper-level low pressure system. Increases in particulate matter pollution due to smoke are expected to affect Las Vegas this weekend (Figure 1). However, the smoke will be dilute enough to keep pollution levels in the Moderate range--below the federal air quality standard.


Figure 2. Visible satellite image at 11:15 am PDT Thursday October 25, showing thinning smoke over the Pacific Ocean and much of California. Low stratus clouds are visible over the ocean, and these clouds have moved ashore into Los Angeles and San Diego this morning, triggering Dense Fog Advisories. Image credit: NASA and EPA.

Were the California fires worsened by global warming?
Dr. Ricky Rood points out in his latest wunderblog that the California fires were mostly a land-use and land-management issue. In a previous blog, he had this to say about the link between climate change and Western U.S. fires:

We do know that drought and floods, heat waves and cold snaps are all part of nature. Like the problem of urban heat waves, we have an event that already exists, and there should be a change associated with global warming. I have already mentioned that some studies have attributed the pinyon pine die off in the U.S. Southwest to the fact that the temperature in the recent drought years is higher than in previous droughts. Therefore, ground water is reduced; there is more stress on the plants. (And perhaps it is really the warmer nighttime temperatures that matter?)

There have also been papers which make a compelling argument that wild fires in the western U.S. are increasing in intensity and duration. In the paper of Westerling et al. (Science, 2006), the conclusion is drawn that this is directly related to snow melt occurring earlier in the year, a hotter and drier forest, and hence, a longer burning season. Plus they isolate the impact to be at mid-elevations in the Rockies, and hence, relatively free of land-use changes. While many newspapers reported that this work showed an increase of wild fires due to climate change, I quote directly from their paper: "Whether the changes observed in western hydroclimate and wildfire are the result of greenhouse gas-induced global warming or only an unusual natural fluctuation is beyond the scope of this work".


Jeff Masters

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795. Drakoen
1:41 AM GMT on October 27, 2007
Its ok StormW we believe you anyways LOL.
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794. 0741
1:32 AM GMT on October 27, 2007
i remember very well i was luck that my trailer was not damage
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793. CaneAddict
1:39 AM GMT on October 27, 2007
Courtesy of Jeff Masters.....I believe a hurricane is possible.

I believe the most reasonable solution is the NOGAPS and ECMWF solution, and 90L will intensify into hurricane in the Western Caribbean late next week.
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791. extreme236
1:39 AM GMT on October 27, 2007
Well folks looks like the organization process may begin to take off soon with 90L...here is the shear tendency (and the color shows the actual shear):

Member Since: August 2, 2007 Posts: 19 Comments: 19234
789. BahaHurican
9:28 PM EDT on October 26, 2007
Cone,

Just looked at that forecast map, and I have to say the UKMET and CMC have it in for Nassau this run . . . I mean hooking back to get us! LOL

On a serious note, though, none of these tracks seem highly implausible, although I don't see the logic behind the BAMD track.

In the Bahamas people will be watching this system VERY carefully . . .
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788. extreme236
1:38 AM GMT on October 27, 2007
0720 Faxai is now a STS (remember wind speed is in 10-min sustained)

STS 0720 (Faxai)
Issued at 00:50 UTC, 27 October 2007

Scale -
Intensity -
Center position N28°35'(28.6°)
E135°35'(135.6°)
Direction and speed of movement NE 50km/h(27kt)
Central pressure 990hPa
Maximum wind speed near the center 25m/s(50kt)
Maximum wind gust speed 35m/s(70kt)
Area of 30kt winds or more E330km(180NM)
W190km(100NM)
Member Since: August 2, 2007 Posts: 19 Comments: 19234
787. Patrap
8:35 PM CDT on October 26, 2007
Its a common thing. My recollection of Katrinas 5:15 am arrival and Passage around 2:30 pm is Quite a Blur Still..save for a few distinct moments that stand out. Its a common occurence from the Professional Medical Folks whom Ive discussed it with. A form of PTSD..in a way. Stress induced amnesia.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127536
786. TheCaneWhisperer
1:29 AM GMT on October 27, 2007
Fresh in my head Zoo! Never forget trying to do what they tell you not to do, go outside during the eye, and realizing that the deadbolt is bent and I can't open the door. Once I started to take it apart and fix it to get out, my polishness faded away and realized, what if I can't fix it and I have no door for the second half. I lasted for about 10 minutes in the backside then I was in the hallway. Never seen glass bow like that without breaking.
785. extreme236
1:36 AM GMT on October 27, 2007
QS hasnt finished processing that area yet JFV, but we should get the data soon if it shows 90L
Member Since: August 2, 2007 Posts: 19 Comments: 19234
784. zoomiami
1:32 AM GMT on October 27, 2007
Thanks Pat - amazing you can forget weather like that. Must be getting old :}
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781. Patrap
8:32 PM CDT on October 26, 2007
Wilma Footage

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127536
780. extreme236
1:30 AM GMT on October 27, 2007
yea I cant seem to get the UKMET shear map to work either StormW...it was working earlier so I was able to view the 12Z run
Member Since: August 2, 2007 Posts: 19 Comments: 19234
779. Drakoen
1:29 AM GMT on October 27, 2007
Tropical storm Wilma. A baby in this image compared to the monster it becomes.
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775. zoomiami
1:28 AM GMT on October 27, 2007
JFV: what was it like? All of the storms that year have gotten mushed in my head. lol
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774. extreme236
1:28 AM GMT on October 27, 2007
I noticed the 12Z full run of the UKM showed generally favorable conditions through the run, so it will be interesting to see what the 00Z run shows
Member Since: August 2, 2007 Posts: 19 Comments: 19234
770. TheCaneWhisperer
1:23 AM GMT on October 27, 2007
Nothing like a weekend nailbiter, sighs! There goes my last fingernail of the season. Need time to regrow soon, slim pickins.
769. zoomiami
1:23 AM GMT on October 27, 2007
with the anniversary of Wilma this past week, we were talking about it at work. Everyone remembers the weather after, and no electric, but few people actually remember the storm. Does anyone who went through Wilma remember the storm itself?
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768. extreme236
1:20 AM GMT on October 27, 2007
762. StormW 1:20 AM GMT on October 27, 2007
754. extreme236 9:15 PM EDT on October 26, 2007
StormW Im just curious, but I noticed the GFS seems to be persistant in showing unfavorable conditions for a certain time period, however the other models have been persistant in favorable conditions. So should we lean toward the other three reliable models shear forecasts rather than the GFS?


Well, I've discounted the NOGAPS because almost all season it's had blue (favorable) painted on it, and we know better. Which site are you using for the wind shear models? The GFS doesn't really show unfavorable until around the time I mentioned. I know the CMC shows unfavorable conditions to take affect and hold in about 24 hours...just looked at it.


I just use the FSU model page to show the shear forecast. So if we discount the NGPS solution then that would mean that the shear forecast is even more uncertain, as some show favorable for the entire period for the most part and the other two show some unfavorable shear for a time period
Member Since: August 2, 2007 Posts: 19 Comments: 19234
767. InTheCone
9:21 PM EDT on October 26, 2007
Thanx guys -

Got the Miami video - very interesting....
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766. Patrap
8:23 PM CDT on October 26, 2007
90L Should be a interesting one to watch thru time StormW.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127536
764. Patrap
8:19 PM CDT on October 26, 2007
90L the weekend Player...
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127536
761. stormybil
1:18 AM GMT on October 27, 2007
also if you notice the cmc runs keep getting closer and closer to so fla and not going out to sea as all the other eairler runs
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760. SouthernLady
8:17 PM CDT on October 26, 2007
The old reliable M8B - Can't beat it with a stick (or you get blue fluid all over).

ROTFL!!!
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759. extreme236
1:18 AM GMT on October 27, 2007
18Z cyclone phase GFDL forecast.

Member Since: August 2, 2007 Posts: 19 Comments: 19234
758. UYA
1:16 AM GMT on October 27, 2007
Can't beat it with a stick (or you get blue fluid all over).

Oh.....I see you have tried also! LMAO!
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757. HIEXPRESS
1:14 AM GMT on October 27, 2007
The old reliable M8B - Can't beat it with a stick (or you get blue fluid all over).
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756. Drakoen
1:16 AM GMT on October 27, 2007
GFDL 18z cyclone phase diagram.
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755. zoomiami
1:13 AM GMT on October 27, 2007
Because we talk a lot about the storms and their effects, but most storms are nothing more than bad weather that causes minimal damage. When we have a few years of really bad storms, everyone expects them to be that, and worries needlessly. I think that we should say that once in a while, so people who read don't think the worst if a storm does head their way.
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754. extreme236
1:13 AM GMT on October 27, 2007
StormW Im just curious, but I noticed the GFS seems to be persistant in showing unfavorable conditions for a certain time period, however the other models have been persistant in favorable conditions. So should we lean toward the other three reliable models shear forecasts rather than the GFS?
Member Since: August 2, 2007 Posts: 19 Comments: 19234
753. stormybil
1:14 AM GMT on October 27, 2007
here you go in the cone

Link
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752. hurricane23
9:11 PM EDT on October 26, 2007
Don noe video!
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751. InTheCone
9:14 PM EDT on October 26, 2007
Hmmm, if this thing gets going, could be VERY interesting!!!

"=
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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.