Busy times coming up for us as east Pac season begins tomorrow, we test our HURR-B and visit a NOAA Sentinel

East Pacific Season Begins Tomorrow

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the east Pacific hurricane season and it looks like it may begin right on cue with something to track. The NHC is currently monitoring investigation area 90-E (remember the reason by the numbers/letters? If not, I’ll have a refresher course tomorrow) well off the coast of Mexico and moving westward. It has an 80% chance of becoming a tropical depression but then upper level winds should become less favorable.

East Pacific TCHP Map (figure 1)

East Pacific TCHP Map (figure 1)

Computer models are in fairly good agreement on developing a more substantial tropical cyclone in the southeast Pacific over the next week to 10 days. There is in fact a large area of loosely organized convection several hundred miles south of El Salvador/Guatemala that is likely the disturbance that the models are picking up on. Water temps in the region are plenty warm with upper ocean heat content on the rise. This provides ample fuel for tropical storms and hurricanes (see figure 1). So do not be surprised if the east Pacific season gets off to a busy start. It’s too soon to know whether or not any development would affect coastal Mexico directly – I’ll post more on this as we progress through the week.

Next Week We Test HURR-B

I am very excited about our plans for next week. I will be joined by Greg Nordstrom from Mississippi State University as we set out to Texas where we will test our newly developed hurricane balloon. In case you are not familiar with this project, let me give you a quick overview. We have built a payload consisting of four GoPro Hero HD cameras and a pair of GPS recorders to send in to the eye of a hurricane via weather balloon. You might have seen “high altitude ballooning” becoming a more and more popular hobby with people putting their iPhones inside of a payload and sending it to the edge of space. We thought that it would be incredible to study the eye of a hurricane from the inside-up. So our plan is to deploy HURR-B (hurricane balloon) in to the eye and let it rise to 90,000 feet or higher where it will burst and fall back to the ground via parachute. We’ll locate it using satellite tracking and, if all goes well, will have perhaps some of the most stunning video of the inside of the eye of a hurricane that anyone has ever seen. But more than that, we’ll have the GPS data logged every second to tell us where HURR-B traveled and how fast. This will help to better understand the wind flow inside the eye and well above it. We hope that this will be the start of a long-term project where by we can gather data on landfalling hurricanes using weather balloons and increasingly sophisticated instrumentation to gather real time observations. We figured that it would be best to start simple to make sure this is even feasible.

Greg and I will meet in Atlanta next Monday and then head down to the Gulf Coast on Tuesday/Wednesday (more on this in the next section). We’ll arrive in Houston, TX Wednesday night and use Thursday to prep everything for the launch on Friday, May 25. We’ll launch twice- once to test everything to 25,000 feet and then another test to 90,000 feet or higher. We will stream the entire trip live on our public Ustream channel so be looking for that next Monday.

To raise the funding needed to make this possible, we have sold plastic tiles for people to sign their names using a Sharpie. The cost is $100 per tile and we then attach it to the outside of the payload to be sent to the edge of space. It’s a unique way to be a part of this innovative and important project. We only had 50 tiles available and have sold almost half so far. If you’re interested in purchasing one and being a part of our efforts, please see the HURR-B page here. I’ll post more on the progress of our testing throughout the week next week with plenty of pics and photos to follow.

NOAA Sentinel Visit to Test Remote Cam

NOAA Sentinel (figure 2)

NOAA Sentinel (figure 2)

While Greg and I are on this trip across the Gulf Coast to reach Texas, we figured we would stop in to visit the NOAA Sentinel in Mississippi. It is part of NOAA/CO-OPS’ Sentinels of the Coast program for capturing tide data during storm events (and of course during calm weather as well). We are partnering with NOAA to place one of our remotely operated Storm Surge cams high atop one of these 25 foot tall Sentinels (see figure 2) to stream live video on our Ustream channel during a hurricane or tropical storm. We have the opportunity to provide the public, media, emergency management and anyone else who is interested with unprecedented live video from the water, looking back at the coast. If we have another powerful hurricane strike near one of the many tide stations or the beefed-up Sentinels, we will work with NOAA to place one of the cams out well ahead of the worst conditions to stream live video but also to capture video which will help in better understand the impacts that storm surge and wind have along the immediate coast from a fixed camera position. We use a lot of time lapse in our research and this is an incredible opportunity to literally put a “watch dog” in the teeth of the hurricane, using technology to make it all possible while keeping our team as far away from the surge as possible. We will test the video feed next Wednesday for about an hour on our Ustream channel. I’ll post the times once we narrow it down with NOAA.

So as we approach the mid-way point in May, you can see that things are very busy for us. We also have our iPhone/Android app in development which I will discuss a great length in a couple of weeks. It will be a great way for you to keep up with the goings on in the tropics while providing live weather data and frequent video blogs during our field missions. More on all of that later on…. For now, we’ll watch the east Pacific for signs of getting started with its seasonal activity. While there are some rumblings, if you will, from some computer models about possible development in the Caribbean Sea, I’ll wait and see if that’s anything more than just a passing anomaly before posting much about it.

 

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Heading to NYC to install weather station, web cam at PS6

I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to bring live weather data to the students and faculty of PS6, a wonderful school along the Upper East Side in New York City. Also known as the Lillie D. Blake School, they have worked hard to produce a roof top greenhouse project that will incorporate live weather data beginning this week.

Obviously, the weather controls almost every aspect of our lives, no matter how much we think about it. For the school, the weather will play a role in how their rooftop greenhouse and related projects fare over the coming years. By providing access to reliable and up to the second data, the students and the teachers will all be able to keep tabs on changing conditions, fair weather, rough weather and everything in between. In addition, there will be a live web cam installed so that they can monitor what the effects of the weather are.

The data will be hosted on this site at a link that I’ll post when it is operational later this week. In this way, anyone with Internet access will be able to get a look at the current weather conditions along Madison Ave in the Big Apple.

Note: I’ll be streaming the trip up and back live for our Client Services members, so log in, especially if you have not done so since last hurricane season, and say hello on the chat. This will be a nice practice run as we gear up for the 2012 hurricane season.

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HurricaneTrack.com Client Services season pass and “early bird” specials now available

As we approach the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, we have made available two great plans for our subscription service. One is the season pass which gives you 100% access to all of our Client Services features for just $59.95 from now through November 30. That’s right, only one payment for the entire season. We had several dozen subscribers who really enjoyed this package last year and hope to expand upon that this time around. For those who took advantage of it in 2011, now is a great time to sign up and get started again.

For those wishing to have a smaller monthly subscription, you have until the end of the month to sign up for our $9.95 per month “early bird” special. This too was quite popular with almost a third of our member base last season.

Of course, we still offer our annual plan of $99.95 which is billed only once per year. More than half of our members are on this plan and we appreciate their continued support since the inception of our service back in 2005.

Why sign up at all? It’s simple. Our subscription service is like none other. Members get access to 100% ad-free live video feeds, a daily video update and briefing during the hurricane season, off-season video blogs, live chat with our staff and other members (troll free I might add since EVERYONE is a paying member, no free-loading troublemakers like you see on other public chats), 30 frame satellite and radar loops, large Stormpulse maps, several types of our own Java tracking maps and a member forum. And last year we introduced member streaming where by our members can stream THEIR weather to other members right from their computer and web cam. It is amazing to see our streams sure, but adding in member streams as well was a fantastic idea (one of our members suggested it) and it works so easy. All of these features make up our Client Services site.

So, if you’re interested in going beyond our blog, we have an extensive menu of subscription based services at a fair price. Our clients include folks from the insurance industry, emergency management, media, hospital management, power companies, insurance adjusters, pilots, retirees who own property or otherwise live along the coast, and many other segments of our population who just have an interest in hurricanes. In fact, 9% of our memberships are from people outside of the United States with Great Britain leading the way. We are very proud of what we offer in return for the hard earned money of our private clients. What they get in return is our dedication, innovation and an experience like none other. We spend most of the time talking about what may or may not happen tropics-wise but when the time comes and we have to head out in to the field, our technological advances really shine.

Check out a full description of Client Services here and sign up today! You’ll be part of a growing group of like-minded people who are all very helpful to one another and us too! The interactivity between the members and us is incredible and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

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Understand the seasonal forecast not for what it says, but for what it does not say

Tomorrow, Dr. Phil Klotzbach and the team from Colorado State University will issue their first quantitative forecast for the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season. As many who are tuned in to this info already know, the CSU team is likely going to forecast a season with less overall activity than we’ve seen in recent years.

I have already seen a few news reports that trickled out during the National Hurricane Conference last week that had headlines mentioning a “quiet” season ahead. I think that the video below sums up the reality of the seasonal hurricane forecast pretty well. Check it out and when the forecast comes out tomorrow and subsequent updates and additional forecasts are made throughout the rest of the season, keep the advice you hear in the video in mind.

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Some thoughts from the National Hurricane Conference

The 2012 National Hurricane Conference is in the bag. While I do not know how many people attended, I am sure it was far lower a number than I have seen in years past. The stalled economy, budget cuts and $4.00/gallon gas no doubt have had an impact on this important national forum.

None the less, I was in attendance for two of the four days and learned a lot. I will share much more about that in the weeks to come but for now, a couple of quick thoughts.

One of the most interesting subjects was that of storm surge and how to educate the public about what to really expect. As someone who has seen, recorded and studied numerous storm surge events dating back to the late 1990s, I perhaps took for granted that when people hear of a potential 10 to 15 foot storm surge that they would automatically, without question, take the necessary action to save lives and mitigate property damage. Remember that storm surge has the greatest potential for loss of life, above all of the other tropical cyclone hazards. Yet, apparently  a lot of people do not understand their vulnerability to surge much less what a surge forecast actually means.

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