Complex weather pattern shaping up for the end of October as MJO arrives

GFS shows chance of heavy rain for portions of the Caribbean islands next week

GFS shows chance of heavy rain for portions of the Caribbean islands next week

The next two weeks or so will likely be characterized by quite a bit of unsettled weather across a good deal of the Caribbean Sea and southwest Atlantic Ocean. The reason? The arrival of the wet phase of the MJO or Madden-Julian Oscillation and the resulting increase in convection across the Caribbean.

As I have been alluding to for some time now, the MJO was forecast to arrive in the western portions of the Atlantic Basin by mid to late October. Well, that seems to be happening now as we are beginning to see an increase in convection from the southeast Pacific to the Caribbean Sea. Over the next several days, a broad area of low pressure at the surface, also known as the monsoon trough, will set up across the southwest Caribbean, extending back to the west in to the east Pacific.

This pattern is very complex and often results in a lot of rain fall for the tropical areas. The result is usually a series of low pressure areas or depressions that form from this “grape vine” that is literally snaking its way across hundreds of miles of the tropics. As such, development is likely to be fairly slow but it is possible that we could have an east Pacific system followed by one in the Atlantic Basin, probably in the western or central Caribbean Sea.

My concern right now is for the heavy rain that seems almost a certainty of taking place. Reading the various NWS forecast discussions gives the notion that several days of heavy rain are possible for areas such as Hispaniola and possibly Cuba and as far east as Puerto Rico. Interests in the region should closely monitor the weather over the next five to ten days as this pattern begins to take shape.

It is also interesting to see how the various global models handle the upcoming pattern with regards to potential impacts to Florida. The GFS shows next to nothing really while the ECMWF forecasts a broad low pressure area to affect much of the peninsula with wind and rain by day ten. Obviously, this is quite far out in time and a lot can change between now and then. I think the bottom line here is that we are about to enter a two week period where a marked increase in convection and associated rain will take place for a wide swath of the Caribbean and southeast Pacific. Beyond that, we’ll just have to wait and see how the monsoon trough plays out and if any single low pressure center can take over and bundle all of the energy that is building across the region.

I’ll have regular updates each day here followed by the daily video blog posted to our iPhone app.


As we end September, tropics look to remain peaceful

I am on the road in Florida shooting interviews for our upcoming documentary due out in March. However, it is still hurricane season so let’s take a look at what’s going on across the tropics today.

Nadine is still on the maps as a moderate tropical storm. The forecast keeps Nadine around for the next five days as it moves over warmer sea surface temps. However, increasing shear should eventually take over and hopefully weaken the storm enough to dissipate it. We shall see, Nadine has been around for a while now.

Elsewhere in the Atlantic, all is quiet with no areas of development expected nor seen in the various global model forecasts. While October can be a busy month, I do not see much to suggest that we will see any significant development over the next week to 10 days. Once we get in to mid-October, that could change but we’re talking almost three weeks away.

In the eastern Pacific, Miriam is weakening and is no longer forecast to impact the Baja peninsula as the low level center will fade westward as the mid and upper level energy gets sheared off and heads in to Mexico, bringing some rain but that’s about it.

I’ll post more tomorrow as I continue to travel around Florida.


New hurricane documentary in the works; hoping for your help to support it

It has been four years since I last produced a DVD about hurricanes. The “Tracking the Hurricanes” trilogy has proven to be very successful and I still get orders from them from people all over the world. Many of the chapters from the DVDs are on YouTube and some have had over 600,000 views. I enjoy making the programs that tell the stories of our work during those incredible seasons of 2004, 2005 and 2008. Now it is time for something new.

I have begun working with colleague Mike Watkins to produce The Hurricane Highway. It will be a documentary that takes a look at the people, the places and the hurricanes that have come to define our generation in profound ways. The project will explore the nature of why we are so fascinated by hurricanes and how little we still understand them.

It will also dig deep in to the history of the modern hurricane era through stories from the people who have lived through the likes of Fran, Isabel, Charley, Ivan, Katrina, Rita, Ike and Isaac. This will not be about survival. We’ve seen those stories. This will be about life after the hurricanes. There are stories out there that will amaze and move you. We have met people along our journeys down this highway that have more strength in them than I could ever hope to have. I want to make sure their triumphs over such calamity are not lost with the passage of time.

We will also talk about technology and how it has both helped and hindered the effort to warn people and spread a culture of preparedness instead of one of reacting after the fact.

You will hear from some big names in the business of hurricanes and weather. You’ll also hear from people who live in small coastal towns that were virtually unheard of until Katrina or Ivan or similar hurricane events.

Hurricanes are a part of American history whether we like it or not. They shape our economy, sometimes suddenly (think gas prices after Katrina). Politics and hurricanes are the topic of many a Sunday news magazine show. We won’t delve too much in to politics but we know the history and the lessons learned from past responses by the government.

Our goal will be to take you down the Hurricane Highway and show you a side to the hurricane phenomenon that you have never seen before. Through the use of archival footage and compelling stories from real people who endure long after the wind dies down, you will be moved by what you see and hear.

The documentary will be made available on DVD video as well as put on to the iTunes store and hopefully other Internet-based movie sources.

The release date has not been determined yet but it will be no later than March 1, 2013. If all goes REALLY well, it could be as soon as this December. A lot of the footage we already have from past hurricanes. The tough part will be getting the interviews done and editing it all together with our own original music score (I do the music myself for all of our DVDs). There’s a chance that luck will be with us and we get it done before Christmas – which would be great. If not, we want to do it right and will wait until March 1 for an official release. Either way, I’ll keep you posted.

We are very excited about the project and will certainly be calling upon our audience for ideas, possible interview topics etc. We may even need help locating certain people whom we ran across many moons ago and would like to talk to now to see how things are going. Mike and I will shoot in Florida, the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas over the next 4 to 6 weeks. We will have meet and greets along the way to say hello to folks in person who have followed our work all these years.

We know we have a loyal following who have enjoyed our DVDs from the past. With this in mind, I have a unique offer to help raise the $$$ needed to fund this project. For the first 100 people who purchase a copy in advance, as in now, you will receive a credit in the DVD ending credits. Your name, or the name of a loved one, will appear in a “Special Thanks Go To Those Who Supported This Project” as the ending credits roll. In addition, you will receive an autographed copy of the DVD along with a gorgeous 11″ by 17″ movie poster of the artwork for the project. The cost is only $29.95 and the investment can be used immediately by us to get started with shooting, travel and other expenses related to producing an independent film. If you wish to contribute more, by all means feel free to do so. Simply send to our PayPal address: with a note that you wish to support the project.

The Hurricane Highway advance order page.

The Hurricane Highway

The Hurricane Highway


New update to HurricaneTrack for iPhone coming soon

Atlantic Wide Map to be added to HurricaneTrack

Atlantic Wide Map to be added to HurricaneTrack

I wanted to let you all know that we are pushing an update to HurricaneTrack that will include our very own tracking maps as well as a few other enhancements that will make the app more functional and easier to use.

The tracking maps will be a great addition to the app. In fact, we are adding five total maps in this update: wide Atlantic, western Atlantic, and three TCHP (tropical cyclone heat potential) maps.

All of the maps are generated by our servers and will be updated within minutes of each advisory package, including intermediate advisories.

One of three TCHP Track Maps coming to HurricaneTrack

One of three TCHP Track Maps coming to HurricaneTrack

The TCHP maps are exclusive to HurricaneTrack and will plot tropical cyclone tracks over tropical cyclone heat potential background maps. This will give the user a look at not only past, current and forecast positions, but also WHERE the track forecast shows the track over NOAA’s heat potential maps. As you may know, oceanic heat content is a big driver in hurricane intensity and giving our app users a constantly updating look at the track over the TCHP map will prove to be a useful tool, especially when combined with the daily Hurricane Outlook and Discussion videos.

We are also implementing an auto-refresh feature for the video blogs and some improvements to the Twitter feed that I think users will really appreciate.

Looking ahead, we have some major upgrades planned for the future and are limited only by funding resources. So, the more apps we sell now, the better we can make it for everyone later. Get the word out, share the link to the App Store on your social media feeds and please, above all else, leave a review. We’ll take everything in to consideration, the great and the not-so-great reviews, it all matters. This app is for YOU and we are working on making it live up to its full potential and your feedback is part of that.

Of course, I still believe that, for now, the real power of the app will be during landfalls as we will be able to post video blogs, photos and live weather data right from where the tropical storm or hurricane is making landfall. No other app will get you in to the middle of the storm like HurricaneTrack. After all, it’s what we’ve done on the site since day one in 1999.

And for those who are wondering about the Android version….we’re working on it. Once this update for iPhone is complete, we can finish up work on the Android version and set a release date.



Ernesto likely headed for Yucatan then where?

TS Ernesto certainly has improved its appearance since this time yesterday. As noted in the latest NHC discussion, appearances can be deceiving and Ernesto has, in fact, weakened some. I see this as probably temporary as the storm is pulling in air from South America and to some extent, the Caribbean islands to its north. Remember, tropical cyclones can be very sensitive to even the slightest changes in their environment. Once Ernesto gets to about the same longitude as Jamaica, it should start to intensify and become a hurricane.

It is very puzzling as to why the various global models do not “see” Ernesto very well. This is called initialization and the models are not initializing the storm very well. I have read quite a bit on various message boards about how this could be throwing the future track forecast off. The logic is that if the models do not see the storm at the beginning of the run, then how can they predict where it will go later in the run? Let’s look at it from an entirely different point of view.

Forget that Ernesto is even in the picture. Then look at the computer models. I’ll take the GFS as an example. What does the large scale pattern look like three to five days down the road? Is there going to be a weakness in the big high pressure area over the Gulf of Mexico that would allow the would-be hurricane to turn more to the north? Not really. There seems to be just enough subtropical ridge nosing in from the Atlantic, across the eastern Gulf, to keep Ernesto on a WNW track towards the Yucatan and then in to mainland Mexico. So whether or not Ernesto is strong, weak, picked up in the models or not, I do not think it matters. The steering pattern strongly suggests that it will not directly impact the U.S. down the road. The only possibility that I see right now is south Texas but even that is a long shot in my opinion. So all this talk about the models not initializing the storm and thus not trusting them is non-sense to me. The trend has been more west with the tracks and since we are not quite in to the time of the season when deep troughs dig in to the Lower 48, I just don’t see a way for Ernesto to hit the U.S. Can there be a sweeping change coming up? I suppose so, you never say never but track forecasts are getting pretty good these days so I wouldn’t count on there being any big changes over the coming days.

TCHP Track Map

TCHP Track Map

With all that being said, let’s focus on the Yucatan now. Obviously with a hurricane aimed at that location, people need to be aware and ready to take action. Ernesto has to cross some fairly high ocean heat content (see graphic where the track is plotted on the current TCHP map). However, it is not forecast to go over the highest values, none the less, the western Caribbean is notorious for creating strong hurricanes and I urge people along the eastern side of the Yucatan from Belize to Cancun to watch this system carefully. It has the potential to be a serious hurricane for the region next week.

Beyond the Yucatan, as I said, the data suggests another landfall in mainland Mexico, south of Texas. We’ll worry about that later since it is still perhaps over a week away.

Next we have Florence out in the tropical Atlantic. This will be an interesting feature to track but should not pose a problem for land areas. It is already at a fairly high latitude and developed well east in the Atlantic, meaning that is destined to head out to sea. While there are certainly instances when long track hurricanes have made it all the way across, most do not and Florence is likely to not break precedence here.

The other feature to watch is just off the Florida coast. I think the only issue here is the increase in showers and thunderstorms for boating and beach interests. Otherwise, ignore it, nothing will come of it that will have any great consequence on your weekend plans.

I’ll post a video blog detailing Ernesto’s future in our HurricaneTrack app for iPhone shortly with another full post here this evening.