Archive for Atlantic Basin

National Tropical Weather Conference kicks off next week in Texas

National Tropical Weather Conference

National Tropical Weather Conference

It’s getting closer to hurricane season. Yes, despite the harsh winter that the Lower 48 endured, hurricane season still begins on June 1 for the Atlantic Basin. Therefore, it is time to start planning and preparing for what may lie ahead. One effort to do just that begins next week in south Texas: the National Tropical Weather Conference.

This particular conference focuses on the broadcast meteorology field, an important ally in relaying hurricane information to the public.

The conference director, Alex Garcia, told me in a recent email interview that the conference officially began last year as a continuation of what was the Bahamas Hurricane Conference – put on by the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism. Here is that interview:

MARK: When did the National Tropical Weather Conference begin and why?

ALEX GARCIA: In years past The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism would sponsor a three day conference focused on Tropical Meteorology for Broadcast Meteorologists.  It was a great way to get a complete update for the upcoming hurricane season.  Topics included, storm surge modeling, forecasting, watches/warnings dissemination, mitigation programs, forecasting and much more.  Additionally, it provided an opportunity to meet and interview the top names in tropical meteorology, mitigation and preparedness.  In, 2010, the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism announced they would not have the 2011 conference.  Tim Smith and I felt we had to find a way to bring it back and the National Tropical Weather Conference was born.

MARK: Who benefits from the conference?

ALEX GARCIA: The primary group that benefits from this conference are the broadcast meteorologists that attend.  They gain important knowledge about the upcoming hurricane season that they can take back and share with their viewers. The knowledge includes the latest forecasting techniques, disaster preparedness, social media communications, hurricane special production, mitigation elements, and much more. They also have the opportunity to interview conference speakers for their hurricane specials and to go “live” in their hometown weathercasts from the conference to raise awareness about hurricane safety.  A secondary group to benefit is the South Padre Island Convention and Tourist Bureau.  The coverage and live shots from the conference provide an excellent venue for highlighting the island.

MARK: Tell me about this year’s highlights? Who will be speaking?

ALEX GARCIA: The highlight this year is the announcement of the Hurricane Seasonal Forecast made by Dr. Bill Gray and Dr. Phil Klotzbach “live” at the first session of the conference.  Dr. Gray will also be honored and presented the first Robert and Joanne Simpson Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Field of Tropical Meteorology.

Other highlights include a Director’s Panel featuring Directors of the National Hurricane Center that will include Dr. Richard Knabb, Neil Frank, Max Mayfield, and Bill Read.  The National Tropical Weather Conference is the only conference that features a number of former directors in its program.  Additionally, Dr. Frank will make a special presentation on the Bolivar Peninsula.  Other highlights include presentations from Tim Marshall, wind engineer and wind damage specialist, Trenise Lyons from the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, and special luncheon address from Jack Williams, author of the USA Today’s Weather Book and John Coleman, founder of the Weather Channel.

MARK: How do you see the conference growing in the years to come?

ALEX GARCIA: We envision a healthy rate of growth in the coming years.  The 2014 conference will be our second conference with twenty-nine broadcast meteorologists attending.  This represents a 140% increase from our first year.  Our conference is focused on the needs of the broadcast meteorologist and we plan to refine the topics keep a sharp focus on the items and information they need.  We also plan to reach out to meteorologists in countries like the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Mexico and others that have hurricane impacts.  Our goal is to get 100 broadcast meteorologists at the conference.

END OF INTERVIEW

The conference will also feature several speakers, such as Jim Edds of extremestorms.com, Jason Dunion from the University of Miami, Lew Fincher of Hurricane Consulting, Inc, Nate Johnson from WRAL-TV in Raleigh, Derek Ortt from Impact Weather, storm chasers Skip Talbot and Jennifer Brindley Ubl, Lucas Macdonald from Walmart’s Emergency Operations Center. I will be co-presenting with colleague Mike Watkins on our work intercepting hurricanes and the data that we have collected over the past decade. For a full list of the speakers, click here.

I would also like to note that Mike and I will be unveiling a brand new project at the conference. It is something that we feel will be a major step forward in understanding storm surge effects from an entirely different perspective. Our presentation will end with the announcement of this new project. I will have a special blog post about the project that will go live during our presentation. I am very excited about this and cannot wait to share it with not only the conference attendees but our followers as well.
Hurricane season will be upon us in less than 60 days. Whether or not it is an active year with a lot of overall activity matters little. What does matter is the impact to YOU. This conference, along with several others around the country that will take place over the coming weeks, is an excellent example of team work, leadership and proactive steps being taken before a storm comes knocking. I will post updates and interviews from the conference here and in our app – Hurricane Impact. Remember, it has a convenient video section where you can catch the latest video blogs or updates, anytime, anywhere.
A special thank you goes to Alex Garcia for taking the time to answer my email interview questions. Mike and I both look forward to attending this important forum and are honored to be among the featured speakers.
I will have more here late next week from South Padre Island, Texas.
Visit the official site of the National Tropical Weather Conference
M. Sudduth 9:10 AM EDT April 2
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The bad side to a good hurricane season

The 2013 Atlantic hurricane season is officially over. The season ended with 13 named storms, two of which became hurricanes. There were no category two or three hurricanes this year – something that is extremely rare to have happen. While there will be plenty of speculation as to what “went wrong”, the bottom line is that, for millions of coastal dwellers, especially in the United States, the 2013 hurricane season was about as tame as they get. According to the official report from the National Hurricane Center, tropical storm Andrea caused around $25 million in damage and resulted in one death from rough surf in South Carolina. Otherwise, the season was a non-event.

Before we go and celebrate too much, let’s consider the longer term implications of what’s been going on the last several years.

Florida has not had a single hurricane landfall since Wilma in 2005. A child who was in the 6th grade during Wilma would now be a sophomore in college. Every child who was born in Florida since Wilma (and still lives there) has never experienced a hurricane of any magnitude. That is simply astounding and honestly, a huge problem. We’re talking millions of people who have zero hurricane experience. And this is just Florida.

For the United States as a whole, the time between major hurricane landfalls, hurricanes that are of category three or higher, is now more than eight years. While there is a case to be made that Ike in 2008 was a “major event” and Sandy as well last year, those hurricanes were not intense, well developed, category three or higher. Think about that for a moment. As bad as Sandy was, affecting as much coastline as it did, it was only a category one as it approached New Jersey. Obviously, Sandy was an extraordinary event, especially considering the amount of coastline it impacted. However, it is not without precedent to have large, fully tropical, intense hurricanes making landfall in the Northeast. They are not common but they do happen. Sandy was not anything close to a worse case scenario and yet it is the second costliest hurricane disaster in U.S. history.

My point is that yes, it is great to have a free pass once in a while. What worries me is the extended amount of time that the U.S. is going without dealing with a significant hurricane landfall. Practice makes perfect, or so they say, but with no hurricanes of any magnitude to practice with, how can we expect to be fully prepared?

I can see it now. Budgets will be cut for hurricane awareness, mitigation and preparation. The rationale will be “we haven’t had a hurricane so why bother?” The good ole out of sight, out of mind principle. It will happen and it will weaken the response effort, I can assure you. That is what I am worried about. The longer we go without a hurricane, especially a major hurricane, the worse it will likely be when it does happen. Why do I think this is the likely outcome? Let’s look at one event: Katrina.

Katrina whacked Florida first and then the central Gulf Coast. It was the sixth major hurricane to strike the United States in less than two years. Yes, that’s right, the SIXTH! In 2004 we had: Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne. Then, in 2005, Dennis struck the Florida panhandle as a category three in July. Katrina was a little more than a month later. We had five previous major hurricanes to “practice” with and still got it totally wrong with Katrina. One would have thought that by the time Katrina was taking aim on New Orleans and the Mississippi coast that it would be a no-brainer and every possible measure would have been taken to mitigate loss of life and damage to property. History tells the rest of that story quite well.

Logic would then dictate that if we cannot get it right after five back-to-back events, then how on earth will we have a chance to get it right when nothing at all (no major hurricanes) has happened since before the iPad was invented?

I worry. I really do. I have people ask me all the time about where all the hurricanes have gone. I don’t have solid answers. I tell them to at least keep a watch out and not let their guard down. It’s hard to keep banging a drum when no one has a reason to even listen. One does not want to become annoying with the drum-banging either so it’s a fine line that has to be straddled. We know it is only a matter of time until the hurricanes return. When they do, will we as a nation be ready or will we have forgotten the images of people on roof tops, people dead in the streets, people calling for heads to roll high up the political chain of command?

It is thus critically important, more now than anytime since 2005, to keep hurricanes on the front burner. Let’s not cut out education and awareness programs. Keep the funding for research and forecasting improvements. Hurricanes are not extinct. We’ve had some incredible luck these past eight years. We need only to look at what took place in the Philippines to give us a glimpse of how bad it can get. Consider too that they have the most tropical cyclone experience of any land mass on the planet.

The season may be over but hurricanes have not gone extinct. Now is not the time to turn our backs on the inevitable fact that one day, perhaps in 2014, perhaps longer, another powerful storm will go down in history – I just hope it’s for all the right reasons. We know all the wrong ones, let’s see if we remember.

I’ll have plenty of off-season info on a regular basis. This includes winter storm coverage for East Coast events and severe weather outbreaks. The blog will be updated from time to time and of course, this includes our app for iPhone and Android devices. Thanks for relying on us for hurricane news and info again this year. We’re working on some new and innovative technology for our field program and can’t wait to unveil it next spring. When the hurricanes do come back, we’ll be more capable and ready than ever before. Have a wonderful Christmas and be safe! We want you back in 2014!

M. Sudduth 8:55 am ET December 2

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Late season storm, possibly a hurricane, forming well east of Bermuda

98L over the open waters of the central Atlantic

98L over the open waters of the central Atlantic

Even though it is getting quite late in the hurricane season it looks as though we will add one more named storm to the pile for the 2013 season. A very strong gale center, or non-tropical ocean storm, has formed nearly 1000 miles east of Bermuda over the fairly warm waters of the central Atlantic. The NHC has designated it as invest area 98L and it is likely to become a subtropical or eventually a tropical storm very soon.

The low pressure area is gradually becoming more concentrated with deep convection developing around its center. This means it is transitioning in to a a storm that is more typical of a tropical cyclone with the winds stronger near the center instead of being spread out over a large area.

As far as track is concerned, no reason to worry about this system ever affecting land as the steering pattern is such that it will be swept off to the north and east later in the week. During this time, it could become a hurricane as indicated by some of the intensity guidance as it looks like a short period of favorable conditions will set in. In fact, I would not be surprised if this becomes the strongest hurricane of the 2013 season. It’s been that kind of year and we’ve seen plenty of storms intensify quite dramatically over the subtropics despite marginal sea surface temperatures. Sometimes the atmosphere is just right and these systems can take advantage and ramp up quickly. The key will be whether or not it can develop a well defined core and an eye. If it does, I suspect we’ll see what will turn out to be “Melissa” become the strongest event of the season – right when it is coming to an end.

Elsewhere, all is quiet as it should be this time of year. I’ll post more on 98L tonight.

M. Sudduth 8:00 AM ET November 18

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Hurricane season almost over, time for something new

Welcome to November. This last month of the hurricane season is typically very quiet in terms of overall development and of potential impact to the U.S. Water temps are on their way down and cool to cold dry air is settling in across the Lower 48 on a more frequent basis now. The clock is indeed winding down on a very unimpressive season for the Atlantic Basin. I will have a full write up on the 2013 season and the significance of its lack-luster performance within the next couple of weeks. I’m still looking over some things that may help to explain what went wrong with the forecasts. At least in this situation, the busted forecasts meant no hurricane impacts along the U.S. coast this season. Too bad coastal residents don’t get even a partial refund or at least a credit on their insurance premiums when a season is as quiet as this one. That would be nice, right?

Looking out across the Atlantic today and for the week ahead, there is nothing that stands out as being a threat for development. There is a poorly organized area of low pressure tangled up among portions of the Greater Antilles. This low will continue to produce periods of heavy rain for the region but none of the global models develop this feature so the threat of it becoming a tropical cyclone is very low.

Beyond that, the rest of the tropics are nice and quiet as they should be this time of year. It is interesting to note that water temps across most of the tropical Atlantic are still running above the long term average. With no hurricane activity to stir the surface up and mix the ocean, this is not surprising. We’ll have to see how the off-season goes and how much cooling there is over the next six to eight months. Perhaps we begin the 2014 hurricane season with considerably warmer sea surface temps than we normally would. Time will tell, just something to monitor in the months ahead.

Meanwhile, out in the west Pacific, another powerful typhoon is taking shape that will likely plow right through the Philippines later this week. This marks the 31st named storm in the west Pacific season, something not seen out that way in almost 20 years. So while the Atlantic really never got going, the west Pacific is seeing a typhoon burst that could keep going on in to the heart of November. Crazy weather, that is for sure.

So with the hurricane season nearing its end, I thought it would be exciting to announce something new that I will be doing this off-season. It’s something that I have contemplated over the last several years but never really pulled the trigger on- until now. What is it? Winter storms! That’s right, I am going to cover major winter storms this year the same way I cover hurricane landfalls. With the technology that I have at my disposal, there’s no sense in letting it just collect dust from December through May. Plus, we have our app (for iOS and Android devices) which is a great way to post video blogs and live weather data from a fierce winter storm. So why not?

The plan is to post blog updates here on a weekly basis, each Monday before Noon ET, about any potential upcoming East Coast winter storm events. I would love to be able to travel to the Midwest for some of that action but for this season, I need to focus on East Coast storms to see if this will even be a viable option for the future.

We all know that it is just a matter of time before the cold meets the warm and we get a big snow, wind and coastal flooding event for some portion of the East Coast. Like hurricanes, these storms can cause massive disruption and have a substantial impact on the beaches. Often called Nor’easters, these “winter hurricanes” produce storm surge, large waves and beach erosion. Obviously, the bigger interest from most people is the snow. It seems the more snow that is predicted, the more people get fired up about the event.

One thing that I can bring to the table is weather data. With the exception of NWS reports and a few home weather station readings, there is very little wind and pressure data purposefully collected during a Nor’easter. I want to change that and provide live wind and pressure data, along with a cam image from the site, during future winter storms. The data will feed right in to our app, just like during a hurricane event. Like I said, might as well use the hurricane tech to work in winter storms.

I can also place our unmanned cams, our Surge Cams for hurricanes, in strategic locations to show the snowfall accumulating from well before it begins to fall until the storm passes (our cams run on average of 40 hours now). Plus, along the coast, I can post a cam or two for monitoring storm surge and beach erosion. This was especially helpful during my excursion to the NC Outer Banks during what became known as Nor’Ida – a powerful Nor’easter that entrained the remnants of hurricane Ida after it passed through the Southeast and in to the Atlantic in November of 2009. I believe the unmanned cams will be very interesting to watch during a major winter storm.

As far as driving around and streaming live from the Tahoe? Not gonna happen. I would rather hole myself up at a hotel somewhere in the highest snow bulls eye area and stream live from our new “everywhere” cam as I walk around out in the storm. I think it would be far more interesting to travel on foot for a few miles around the hotel to show viewers the wind and snow as the storm rages in.

As the buzzards circle the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season, I am already thinking snow. I know several of our followers have encouraged me to do this for quite some time. It looks like that time has come and I believe the coverage I could provide, along with the help from big time snow lover Jesse Bass, would be exceptional. There’s only one way to find out. We’ll be ready!

Check this blog each Monday for a new update from here on out. If something is brewing, either in the tropics or a winter storm is in the works, then the blogs will be more frequent. Soon enough, it will be time to head out for the season’s first big East Coast winter storm. Never thought I would say it, but I can’t wait!

M. Sudduth 11:50 AM ET November 4

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Despite coming favorable MJO signal, not much to track as we get in to last month of season

Early November development points over the past 100 years indicating that the western Caribbean Sea is the most likely area for development

Early November development points over the past 100 years indicating that the western Caribbean Sea is the most likely area for development

October will end very quietly as there are no areas of concern in the Atlantic Basin this week. What about November? The last 30 days of the season are almost here – so what can we expect?

We typically look for development in the western Caribbean where the most concentrated development points over time are seen. However, it is possible get development all over the sub-tropical Atlantic, far from land. Even the east Pacific remains fairly active during November but overall, things begin to really slack off in both basins.

If we do get development in the Atlantic Basin during November, the most likely track is northeast. Sometimes, we do see a blocking ridge of high pressure set up over the Gulf of Mexico, sending anything that gets going westward in to Central America. All in all, November is normally pretty quiet.

As for this November, well, there is at least a small chance of seeing something develop in the Caribbean Sea over the next couple of weeks.

ECMWF forecast MJO activity showing favorable conditions setting up as we get in to November

ECMWF forecast MJO activity showing favorable conditions setting up as we get in to November

The MJO or Madden-Julian Oscillation is forecast to be quite favorable for upward motion as we get in to the first part of the month. Both the ECMWF and the GFS models show this trend. Looking at the long range model runs, nothing really seems to come along to take advantage of this more favorable upper level pattern. Sure, one run of the GFS may show a tropical storm forming in the long range but it gets dropped during the next run, only to pop up again later on. This inconsistency leads me to believe that we will not see much happening over the next week and probably longer.

There are a couple of fairly strong tropical waves moving across the deep tropics and these will likely impact the Lesser Antilles and other parts of the Caribbean Sea in the coming days. It is possible that one of these could try to develop as the favorable upward motion pattern sets in but again, the global models do really indicate much happening.

We are almost out of the season and one that was originally forecast to be extremely busy with a lot of potential hurricane activity. I know many people are wondering, with a smile on their face, what happened. While I do not know for sure, I have some ideas and will be putting together a special blog post about this for next Monday. I think seasonal forecasting is important as it could lead to better long and medium range forecasting which in turn can greatly reduce the impacts of hurricanes in the future by providing adequate lead time to prepare. I will delve in to this subject quite a bit as I work on this special post coming up for next week. Until then, enjoy the quiet pattern.

M. Sudduth 1:50 PM ET Oct 29

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