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Karl hits the Yucatan; two simultaneous Cat 4s in the Atlantic for 2nd time in history

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:37 PM GMT on September 15, 2010

The Atlantic hurricane season of 2010 kicked into high gear this morning, with the landfall of Tropical Storm Karl in Mexico, and the simultaneous presence of two Category 4 hurricanes in the Atlantic, Igor and Julia. Tropical Storm Karl's formation yesterday marked the fifth earliest date that an eleventh named storm of the season has formed. The only years more active this early in the season were 2005, 1995, 1936 and 1933. This morning's unexpected intensification of Hurricane Julia into a Category 4 storm with 135 mph winds has set a new record--Julia is now the strongest hurricane on record so far east. When one considers that earlier this year, Hurricane Earl became the fourth strongest hurricane so far north, it appears that this year's record SSTs have significantly expanded the area over which major hurricanes can exist over the Atlantic. This morning is just the second time in recorded history that two simultaneous Category 4 or stronger storms have occurred in the Atlantic. The only other occurrence was on 06 UTC September 16, 1926, when the Great Miami Hurricane and Hurricane Four were both Category 4 storms for a six-hour period. The were also two years, 1999 and 1958, when we missed having two simultaneous Category 4 hurricanes by six hours. Julia's ascension to Category 4 status makes it the 4th Category 4 storm of the year. Only two other seasons have had as many as five Category 4 or stronger storms (2005 and 1999), so 2010 ranks in 3rd place in this statistic. This year is also the earliest a fourth Category 4 or stronger storm has formed (though the fourth Category 4 of 1999, Hurricane Gert, formed just 3 hours later on today's date in 1999.) We've also had four Cat 4+ storms in just twenty days, which beats the previous record for shortest time span for four Cat 4+ storms to appear. The previous record was 1999, 24 days (thanks to Phil Klozbach of CSU for this stat.)

Figure 1. A rare double feature: two simultaneous Category 4 hurricanes in the Atlantic, for only the second time in recorded history.

Tropical Storm Karl made landfall as a strong tropical storm with 65 mph winds and a central pressure of 991 mb at 8:45am EDT this morning on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, just north of the Belize border. Karl took advantage of nearly ideal conditions for intensification, and in just fifteen hours intensified from a tropical disturbance to a strong tropical storm with 65 mph winds. Had Karl managed to get its act together just one day earlier, it could have been a major hurricane at landfall this morning. Fortunately, Karl has a relatively small area of strong winds--tropical storm force winds extend out just 45 miles from the center of the storm, and wind damage is not the main concern. Heavy rains are the main concern, and Belize radar shows heavy rain bands from Karl spreading ashore over northern Belize near the border with Mexico. Cancun radar shows that heavy rains are relatively limited, though, near the tourist havens of Cancun and Cozumel.

Figure 2. Radar image of Karl at landfall this morning near the northern Belize/Mexican border. Image credit: Belize National Meteorological Service.

Forecast for Karl
Karl will traverse the Yucatan Peninsula today and emerge into the Gulf of Mexico's Bay of Campeche Thursday morning as a much weakened tropical storm, with perhaps 40 - 45 mph top winds. Once in the Gulf, conditions for intensification are ideal, with wind shear is expected to be low, 5 - 10 knots, SSTs will be warm, 29°C - 30°C, and the atmosphere very moist. These conditions, combined with the topography of the surrounding coast which tends to enhance counter-clockwise flow, should allow Karl to intensify into a strong tropical storm or a Category 1 hurricane before making landfall between Tampico and Vercruz, Mexico on Saturday morning. However, since Karl is a small storm, it is possible that passage over the Yucatan will disrupt the storm enough so that it will be much weaker. The ridge of high pressure steering Karl westwards is quite strong, and it is very unlikely that the storm will turn northwest and hit Texas. NHC is giving Brownsville, Texas, an 10% chance of receiving tropical storm force winds of 39+ mph.

Hurricane Igor put on a burst of intensification last night to put it at its strongest yet, a top-end Category 4 hurricane with 155 mph winds. Igor has weakened slightly this morning, but remains a formidable presence in the Central Atlantic with its 145 mph winds. Igor continues to show the classic appearance of a major hurricane on satellite imagery, with a well-formed eye, symmetrical cloud pattern, plenty of low-level spiral bands, and solid upper-level outflow on all sides.

Figure 3. Hurricane Igor as captured at 18 UTC Tuesday September 14, 2010, from the International Space Station. Image credit: Douglas Wheelock, NASA.

Intensity forecast for Igor
Wind shear is low, 5 - 10 knots, and is expected to remain low for the next 2 - 3 days. Waters are warm, 29°C, and will remain 29°C for the next 2 - 3 days. Igor is well armored against any intrusions of dry air for at least the next three days. These conditions should allow Igor to remain at major hurricane status for the next three days. The hurricane will probably undergo one of the usual eyewall replacement cycles intense hurricanes commonly have, where the eyewall collapses and a new eyewall forms from an outer spiral band. This will weaken the hurricane by 10 - 20 mph when it occurs, and may be responsible for the 10 mph weakening Igor experienced early this morning. Igor may regain its lost intensity over the next 36 hours. By Saturday morning, 36 hours before the core of Igor is expected to pass Bermuda's latitude, the trough of low pressure steering Igor northwestwards should bring moderate wind shear of 10 - 20 knots to the storm, weakening it. The SHIPS models predicts shear will rise to the high range, 20 - 30 knots, during the final 24 hours of the storm's approach to Bermuda. Igor will also be tracking over cooler 28°C waters during this period, and substantial weakening by perhaps 20 - 30 mph can be expected. Igor will still probably be at least a Category 2 hurricane on its closest pass by Bermuda on Sunday. NHC is giving Bermuda a 13% chance of experiencing hurricane force winds from Igor, but this probability is likely too low. The Bermuda Weather Service is calling for Category 1 or 2 hurricane conditions for the island on Sunday, with 20 - 25 foot waves in the offshore waters.

Track forecast for Igor
The track forecast for Igor remains unchanged. Igor has made its long-anticipated turn to the west-northwest, in response to the steering influence of a broad trough of low pressure moving across the Western Atlantic. This trough will steer Igor several hundred miles to the northeast of the Lesser Antilles, and high waves should be the only impact of Igor on the islands. Igor appears likely to be a threat to Bermuda, and that island can expect tropical storm force winds as early as Saturday. Igor will be moving at about 12 - 15 mph as it approaches Bermuda. Tropical storm force winds of 39+ mph will probably extend out about 250 miles to the north of Igor on Saturday, so Bermuda can expect 18 hours of tropical storm force winds before the core of Igor makes its closest pass. In all, Bermuda is likely to experience a very long pounding of 24 - 36 hours with winds in excess of tropical storm force.

The models have been in substantial agreement over multiple runs that Igor will miss the U.S. East Coast, and the danger to the U.S. will probably only come in the form of high waves. Large swells from Igor have arrived in the Northern Lesser Antilles Islands, and will spread westwards over the next few days, reaching the U.S. East Coast on Friday. By Saturday, much of the East Coast from northern Florida to Cape Cod Massachusetts can expect waves of 3 - 4 meters (10 - 13 feet), causing dangerous rip currents and significant beach erosion. These waves will continue through Sunday then gradually die down. The latest NOAA marine forecast for Cape Hatteras, North Carolina calls for 8 - 10 foot waves on Saturday, and 9 - 12 foot waves on Sunday.

Igor may pass very close to Newfoundland, Canada, but it is too early too assess the likelihood of this happening.

Hurricane Julia put on a remarkable and unexpected burst of intensification this morning to become the season's fourth Category 4 storm. Julia's 135 mph winds make it the strongest hurricane on record so far east; the previous record was held by the eighth storm of 1926 which was only a 120 mph Category 3 hurricane at Julia's current longitude. Julia's intensification was a surprise, since SSTs in the region are about 27.5°C, which is just 1°C above the threshold needed to sustain a Category 1 hurricane. Julia is headed northwest, out to sea, and it is unlikely that this storm will trouble any land areas. SSTs will steadily cool to 26.5°C today, and further intensification today is unlikely. Shear will be moderate, 10 - 20 knots, over Julia during the next two days, then rise sharply to 30 knots 3 - 5 days from now, as Julia moves within 1000 miles of Igor and begins to experience strong northwesterly winds from her big brother's upper level outflow. This should substantially weaken Julia.

Elsewhere in the tropics
The GFS and ECMWF models develop a new tropical depression a few hundred miles off the coast of Africa 3 - 6 days from now. The GFS also develops a tropical depression in the eastern Caribbean 6 - 7 days from now.

Portlight's 2-year anniversary
On September 14, 2008, the devastation wrought by Hurricane Ike on Texas and Louisiana moved members of the wunderground community to put into action their own impromptu relief effort. From this humble beginning has grown a disaster-relief charity I have been proud to support--Portlight.org. We've been blessed this hurricane season with relatively few landfalling storms, so Portlight's new disaster relief trailer (Figure 4), financed with a $21,500 grant from the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, has yet to be deployed. With five weeks of peak hurricane season still to come, the new trailer may yet get a call to action. The mobile kitchen in the trailer will be able to feed several hundred people per day, and the trailer is equipped with portable ramps to help with shelter accessibility, as well as durable medical equipment to facilitate mobility and independence for survivors. The trailer is mobile, and Portlight is willing to load it up and fly it to Bermuda, if Igor ends up making a mess there!

The lack of landfalling storms has allowed Portlight to continue to concentrate their efforts on Haiti, where their assistance has been a tremendous boost for those most in need, the disabled. Portlight is working on constructing steel shelters out of shipping containers for homeless Haitians, as detailed in the Haitian Relief Recap blog post. Please visit the Portlight.org web site or the Portlight blog to learn more and donate. A few other items of note:

Portlight has been able to facilitate providing assistance to people with disabilities in Pakistan, where the worst natural disaster in their history has left 4 million homeless. While not directly involved in delivering relief, Portlight has been able to connect local Disabled People's Organizations with important sources of food, water, filtration systems, and medical equipment.

ABC News4 in Charleston broadcast a story about the Portlight relief trailer, and Portlight has also been featured on the Pacifica Radio Network.

Portlight launched a quarterly newsletter, The Portlight View, which can be seen on the newly redesigned website.

Figure 4. The new Portlight disaster relief trailer, funded by their $21,500 grant from the Christopher and Dana Reeve foundation.

I'll have an update Thursday morning.

Jeff Masters

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

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Quoting cat5hurricane:
It happens. Give her 5 to 7 days approx. Oh wait, she'll be gone by then...

actually it's probable that she'd be a CAT 1/TS by that time
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Bonedog, FTW!!! Hilarious.
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Quoting ConsejoBelize:

I was a bit concerned when it looked like he was going to form south of Jamaica on Monday. I had Andrew's eye pass over in the Bahamas, and was 30 miles from Dean's landfall here in Belize. I've had enough of Cat 4 and 5 hurricanes!

09:00 CST
Conditions in Consejo, Belize
Est. Winds 35mph gusts to 45mph.
Steady rain, Heavy at times
Power is flickering, will probably go out soon.

Glad it's not to bad and didn't form last weekend south of us for everyone in it's path..
I don't think the North Coast of Mexico really needs another hurricane so hope it weakens over Yucatan to not redevelop.
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I was talking about the one over the Atlantic. It seems to extend out past Igor now where it was allowing him North earlier.
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Just taking a brief look back at the first 55% of the 2010 Atlantic Hurricane Season..

Alex, on Jun 30th becomes a CAT 2 that covers 1/2 of the GOM,with a pin hole eye and a central pressure of 947MB. That right there told me we'd have an interesting season.

Into July and early August, I must it admit, I was beginning to wonder about this season, with another TD that fizzled, TS Bonnie & Colin and lil' 92L this flooded southern LA and made a complete loop back into the GOM. Both Bonnie & Colin looked sad, worse than last years terrible storms.

Enter the 3rd week of August. The jet stream patterns returned to a more normal pattern, after flooding Pakistan for weeks and making N Europe and N Russia bake in a horrific heat wave, along with severe weather in N Germany and A tornado in the Netherlands.

WOW, amazing and shocked. We had Danielle become a CAT 4 and safely missed any land mass, but wreaked havoc for shipping interests, becoming a CAT 4 monster.

Then Earl scared the Caribbean & Eastern Seaboard, becoming a CAT 4, weakening and turning NNE and plowing into Nova Scotia.

Then Fiona and Gaston could not get past the Minimal TS stage, Fiona falling victim to the outflow from Earl and Gaston getting choked be y the SAL.

Hermine, the lil' stinker, moved from the Pacific side as a TD, causing many deaths from landslides in Guatemala, sneaks into the BOC, becomes a strong TS and causes massive, major flooding from TX, dropping up to 16" of rain in 2 days, then moves into OK, MO and AR, and spawning 7 tornadoes in North Texas, just as we all thought the worst was over.

Igor and Julia are amazing, both going through RI, become CAT 4 storms. Igor, with 155MPH at his peak and Julia with peak winds of 135MPH. It appears that Bermuda may get a visit from a weakened Igor and Julia will menace the shipping interests in the NE Atlantic.

Karl, the lil' Invest waits till the last minute, becomes a strong TS and moves inland over the Yucatan at 7:45AM CDT today, to later emerge and become our seasons 6th hurricane.

Just think, we're at 11-5-4 now and 45% of the season remains!!
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Quoting ILwthrfan:

Intersting point, He's got hot water to his north, west, & east, like Katrina did to her south, west, & east. I don't think he's going to strengthen but he doesn't have the like comparison of Katrina when she moved over the swamp of Florida. Land is fairly flat down in the Yucatan, but I see Karl weakening although be it slowly until get back into the tub agian unless he keeps jogging wsw he may disapate.

I hope that Karl just fizzles (hope that's not too much to ask).
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Julia is looking like she's going through a ragged period
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Looks like the high moved slightly east and weakened a bit. Trough aligned roughly the same and about as deep.
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Quoting P451:

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Quoting P451:
Quoting CTSkywatcher:
Storm isn't disregarding climatology. He is pointing out WHEN said change is going to happen. The REASON he states this is because he knows AFTER the change happens someone other than Bermuda will be running for cover. We have an above average season on our hands and things will get messy sooner or later. Storm isn't here for props, nor is he always correct. And last I checked, our fine host Dr. Masters has him as a featured blogger. What gives folks? Do we need a Hurricane to attack us so we stop attacking one another???

DJ, I need to borrow your kit now.....Blog Therapy.


I am not attacking anyone and I referred to nobody by name I was speaking in general terms. If someone wishes to try to link my posts to a specific individual and label it an attack I cannot change that no matter how incorrect they are.

Now here is my gripe all in one for whoever chooses to read: It is a long read but is necessary now that I'm being personally attacked by a few who are misinterpreting the reasoning of my posts.

All season long we have heard of pattern changes. Just wait 7 more days. We heard it every week the past 14 weeks and nothing evolved as a result. Some of our knowledgeable bloggers kept calling for a pattern change, an upward MJO in our octants, and a blocking high that would force storms westward into the US coastline. We never saw this evolve beyond once this season (Earl). It had become a tired forecast echoed by the same individuals over and over. Wait 7 days. The MJO will enter our octant with strong rising motion. The A/B high will set up a blocking scenario forcing storms into the US coast.

While I know they have their reason for expecting these changes to occur, and many backed up their forecasts with all kinds of maps and models, and I do not question their expertise, the bottom line is the factors did not and still have not happened and therefore such forecasting was incorrect. There is no reason why anyone cannot question a now 15th week in a row where we've heard the same forecasting for the 15th time. If people are upset that their reasoning is questioned or debated then a public forum is not for them.


Climatology has indeed been thrown out the window by many who expected a dangerously active landfalling season. We had warmer water. We had lower shear. We had a moist environment. We had plentiful AOIs. The MJO was favored for us. The A/B blocking high was expected. We were waiting for something to take advantage of all of this. Yet, nothing did but each and every week, all we were shown was how next week things were going to really take off, only to see nothing of consequence evolve. Then that week came around, nothing happened, yet again, "Wait 7 days". Again, nothing. Over and over all season long. Yet nothing popped until we reached our climatologically favored point in time, one of which rises rapidly from nearly zero development to a basin filled with multiple storms in barely a weeks time. However, once it did, then we hear the same tired "Where are those who said this year was a bust? See, this is what I was trying to tell everyone!". Exclamations of vindication that were just unneccesary and unfounded.

Once things did pop we all knew they would take advantage of the warmer water and all have a chance to be very strong storms. In fact early in the year I speculated instead of 14-23 storms forecasted it should be 14-18, however I stressed time and again that the number is not important but that each Hurricane had the chance to become very intense due to the warmer water and favorable environment. I also said that if the steering and upper level conditions permit, that a very intense hurricane had a red carpet right until landfall and would not lose intensity. That was my fear. While I was and still do expect "It just takes one" to possible put it's stamp on this season - many, including the knowledgeable, wanted us to believe time and again week after week "give it 7 more days" and we'd be seeing landfalling major after landfalling major. It did not happen but the forecasting kept calling for it. So, again, do I not have a right to question such forecasting? Don't others? Without being called attackers? I beleive we do.

That aside now we're hearing again about a pattern change, and ___ model in ___ hours shows a major hurricane hitting ____. We've heard it all season long and we got next to nothing out of it. Earl is about the only system that found himself in this much anticipated pattern and nearly took too much advantage of it to our liking. One system, one week, out of 15 weeks worth of "just wait 7 more days we're in trouble". Seems to me the forecasting has been on the poor side this season so far.


We've also heard model bashing from the same individuals...yet those same individuals use models of steering layers and the MJO and wind shear to base their predictions on. Seems to be a contradiction to me there but that's not the point of my post.

As to the model bashing, another thing thrown out the window is that we all know when a model initalizes it has trouble. It is usually wrong until several runs are made on a well established system and then the models come more into line. Instead the moment an invest was initialized the models were posted and laughed at repeatedly.

As to the models time and again we saw the CV systems given a northern bias and a call for an early re-curvature only for the systems continue west. Many of us saw this evolution and expected westward movement. We then saw this and expected the next system to have the same model bias and they did. There's no magic involved here only common sense. Yet some put this on their shoulders as if only they knew. However, once these systems did begin to re-curve, the models were very good if not then showing a westward bias (note: Earl) as the systems turned more northerly. Yet the same aforementioned bloggers continued to discount the models, showed steering maps, and called for further westward progression of those same systems, Igor most recently, yet none came as the storms even headed east of some forecast points after turning but mostly followed the model consensus very closely. Then, again, we hear nothing of the models or the system thereafter, we'd only be shown the first few initial runs on the system when it was an invest and told "see, models are wrong."

So, again, it's just been a constant tiresome echo of the same exact recycled forecasting from week 1....which has not yet panned out.

Now, of course, we're still reading the same forecasting, and we're also entering a climatologically favored point in time for such forecasting to verify, so as I said I don't want to read "See, this is what I've been trying to show you guys." When, well, after 15 or 16 weeks, it finally does verify.


I have attacked no-one, I have given my opinion, and have named no-one in my posts until now. If you believe my posts are directed as an attack on Storm or others that have forecasts that agree with his you are incorrect. The posts are merely debating the validity of such forecasting that so far this season has not panned out. Yet since you named Storm I will bring up once instance: 99L. Models predicted NW movement and dissipation. Storm posts the map with a big "LOL" after it as he seems to now do every time every update. Well? That invest went NW and dissipated. Heard nothing after that about 99L did we? Of course not.

Again, I have attacked no-one, if anything Storm's ego seems to have been bruised because his reasoning has been questioned by many recently, getting upset for no reason I might add as forecasting is a mix of knowledge and guesswork and we still know very little about the atmosphere, yet he now responds to posts such as mine with snippy little "???" and "OH PLEASE" and "POOF" comments to anyone he disagrees with. That is what is causing the rifts in this blog. This is why you do see some attacking him in defense of themselves. I don't work that way but some seem to want to lump me into that pool. I have not named him or any other blogger by name at all but several bloggers try to attach my posts to his and then others pile on. Now I can see why several good bloggers continue to leave this site because of this type of dynamic. Such as Weather456 for example.

I cannot convince people they are misinterpreting my posts. I see nothing wrong with questioning a forecast or debating a point which is what I have done in a respecful manner. Misconstrueing my posts as being an attack on specific individuals? That's not on me that's on those who view it as much. Yet you can believe if I am to be called out in such a manner I will respond even if it was a big waste of time.

You forgot the part about the posters that will trounce a 3-day or 5-day cone as inaccurate, but will jump on a model showing a tropical storm FOURTEEN days out.
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118. 7544
morning all is igor trying to go west again at this hour ?
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Quoting xcool:

look out la -tx

so the hurricane completely ignores that trough over florida and the east coast
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Not experienced enough with steering to make any bold statements but I think it shows why NHC has WNW track next couple of days.
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114. xcool

look out la -tx
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Centex, I'm not good at reading these yet but did that High bulge to the W?
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ConsejoBelize, that was a great photograph! You have a beautiful view there.
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Quoting mnborn:
Umm, you forgot your "lol" to humor us...

No, I intentionally left the LOL off to see who would catch on.
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Steering layer now

Steering layer 6 hours prior
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is that a strong wave, thats just moved off africa....
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Quoting hcubed:
Is it possible that Karl pulls a Hermine (?) and intensifies over land?

Moist conditions, still pulling moisture from the hot-tub, etc?

Might just carry some more strength than expected.

Intersting point, He's got hot water to his north, west, & east, like Katrina did to her south, west, & east. I don't think he's going to strengthen but he doesn't have the like comparison of Katrina when she moved over the swamp of Florida. Land is fairly flat down in the Yucatan, but I see Karl weakening although be it slowly until get back into the tub agian unless he keeps jogging wsw he may disapate.
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101. 7544
two cat 4 in the atlantic at the same time will all the others after do the same they are strong ones this year and with the pattern change coming could there be majors close to home
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Quoting FatPenguin:
I know this is tough concept for some of you to wrap your head around, but heat = energy.

More energy in the ocean = more potential for hurricane development and intensification.

really not that complicated, but I guess some of you have to politicize the prism through which you view science.

agreed, i think they pull that factoid from there _____.( I'll let everyone else fill in the blank)
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Quoting Floodman:

While I have kept my diatribes to minimum this year it's been quite a struggle...when one as naturally verbose as myself feels the urge, it's nearly impossible to quash. On the other hand, one does want to follow the wise old saw "'Tis better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt"...LOL

And, of course, to not be accused of being too much intoxicated with the exuberance of one's own verbosity
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0920 CST
Current Conditions at Consejo, Belize

Est. Wind. WSW 35-40mph gusts ~50mph

Here is a photo out my front door during what I estimate as a 45-50mph gust.

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Hurricane Igor, Hurricane Julia, TS Karl.

Click for loop.
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I know this is tough concept for some of you to wrap your head around, but heat = energy.

More energy in the ocean = more potential for hurricane development and intensification.

really not that complicated, but I guess some of you have to politicize the prism through which you view science.
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Quoting oracle28:
four Cat 4's, this is clearly due to man-made global warming.
Umm, you forgot your "lol" to humor us...
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93. MTWX
The storms this year make excellent "Research Storm". Large, strong, and move close enough to the CONUS to be bombarded with all kinds of research equipment/instruments.
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Quoting Floodman:

Thank you...saved me having to say it, as everyone knows I am a man of very few words LOL
Good Morning Flood..Just sayin hey....Man of few words....cough, hack, lol.....;)
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Quoting Bonedog:
thanks flood, its from the other blog. I posted it and in the mean time Doc made a new blog. Figured i would pull it over.

Give FLDewy the props too though, it was his idea LOL

You're my hero.
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@Bonedog LOL Nice, nice.

I do prefer "Posse On Broadway" though :-)
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Quoting Bonedog:
takes bow

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To all those that good morning'ed me, Good morning!

Okay, got to get back to work...BBL
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Category 6™


Cat 6 lead authors: WU cofounder Dr. Jeff Masters (right), who flew w/NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990, & WU meteorologist Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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