Debby going to be a forecast challenge

The latest computer model guidance regarding tropical storm Debby has not helped to paint a clearer picture of where the storm, forecast to be a hurricane, will eventually make landfall. In fact, this could be one of the more complicated storms to deal with in quite some time.

Currently, Debby is experiencing some shear which means the upper level winds are blowing across the top of the storm from a certain direction rather than fanning out in all directions. The shear is keeping the storm from being able to align itself vertically and the deepest convection is displaced well away from the center of circulation. This shear is forecast to relax but as mentioned in the latest NHC discussion, it is not a guarantee, so Debby may have some intensity issues over the next few days. It is important to note that intensity forecasting is where the least amount of skill lies and significant changes up or down are possible. The latest forecast maintains the notion that Debby will become a hurricane as it turns west across the warm Gulf of Mexico.

The track forecast is turning out to be quite difficult. What was once a fairly straight forward forecast that Debby would turn west under a developing ridge of high pressure has turned in to a potential huge change coming up. The NHC mentions the ECMWF model which has shown Debby moving west and even south of west towards Texas for the last several days now has the storm making landfall in Louisiana in about three days. As I mentioned, this is a big change from previous runs and we’ll have to see what happens with each subsequent run. In other words, is this the beginning of a trend of just a temporary “goof” by the model and it will get back on its “west” idea soon. We’ll have to wait and see. Track forecasting is sometimes quite easy, this time, it looks to be just opposite.

HPC 3 Day Precip Forecast

HPC 3 Day Precip Forecast

Let’s talk about rain fall. Taking a look at the HPC’s precip forecast for the next three days, we can plainly see that Debby has a tremendous amount of moisture to dump along its path. The Florida peninsula through the central Gulf Coast could receive several inches of rain as Debby moves quite slowly, allowing the rain fall totals to pile up. This is not to be taken lightly. Fresh water flooding from excessive rains generated by tropical cyclones is a leading killer. Often times flooded roads are accessed by people who think that they can navigate the waters. This is a dangerous idea and I urge people to be mindful of the potential flooding impact from the rain. I would like to point out that you can use weather.gov for a wealth of information regarding your local conditions. Just type in your ZIP Code and the landing page will likely contain all sorts of locally based watch/warning info, hurricane local statements and more. This info is for your area, not a national broad brush forecast. Remember: weather.gov

I am currently in Georgia after wrapping up a project I had with CNN to launch a weather balloon and its payload to high altitude yesterday morning. The prep and launch were spectacular, I cannot wait to show you the video of that. The ascent went very well and we were able to track the payload using APRS. I will post a separate blog about this project later tomorrow, complete with some video of the launch. I’ll also talk about what went wrong and why we were not able to recover a majority of the payload after the balloon burst.

Once I return home from GA later today, I’ll begin preparing equipment for a trip to the Gulf Coast to provide on-scene coverage and info as Debby passes by or perhaps makes a direct impact on the region. I’ll lay out my plans tomorrow as a lot will hinge on what the forecast track is and how strong Debby gets. Meanwhile, everyone along the Gulf Coast should keep close tabs on the latest forecast info from the NHC and your local NWS. I’ll have another post here tonight with frequent updates on Twitter.

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HurricaneTrack App for iPhone and Android coming soon

HurricaneTrack App

HurricaneTrack App

I wanted to post an update on our brand new app for iPhone and Android. Things are moving along nicely and we’re almost ready for submission to the App Store.

The app will be very specific in its features and will focus on being informative, educational and a powerful tool to use during hurricane landfalls. Here is a breakdown of the features:

Blog – it will contain our blog from this page which will be a handy way to keep up with our posts on your iPhone or Android device.

Daily video blog – each week day (when things are slow) I will post a short video blog outlining any potential development areas in the Atlantic or east Pacific. This will be a great way to keep up with the latest in graphical format with an easy to understand explanation. I can utilize this feature to educate our users about different aspects of tropical cyclones, preparedness, impacts of a pending landfall, etc. So when you’re waiting for the plane at DFW or ATL, you can sit back and catch up on the latest in the tropics using our app.

Twitter/Facebook – the app will have live Twitter and Facebook feeds, an important way for us to stay connected in short updates, especially when we’re on the road.

Web cam/GPS tracking from the Chevy Tahoe – this will be a really cool feature where users can track our progress on the road via a live web cam (still image, not live video) which will update at least once per minute. We’ll also have a GPS tracking map for you to know exactly where we are at anytime. This will be great for when we are uploading videos and pics, no guessing or wondering as to where we are.

Live weather data – this is likely to be one of the most popular features of the app and one that we are quite proud of. Users will have access to our live weather data and web cam pics from our three 5-meter wind towers that we will set up in the path of a hurricane. The data will include wind and pressure readings every 60 seconds! Each tower will also have a live camera sending still images to the app every minute as well. For those who really want to know what the wind speeds are, the pressure is and a look at the landscape where it is happening, this will be perfect for you!

Field mission video blogs – once we are out in the field working a landfall, our entire team will be able to post video blogs of anything that we find interesting or informative for you. We will use our iPhones to shoot the video segments and upload them immediately. We’ll do this before, during and especially after a landfall. There is no other app that will offer the amount of videos from the field than ours. You will be able to keep up with conditions in chronological order as we work the mission day by day. I am very excited about this powerful tool that will bring you the very best information right from where it matters the most.

So how much will it cost? We will roll out a subscription based app first followed by a free, ad-supported version. Both will offer the exact same features. Our hope is that our audience will support our work by subscribing to the app which will only be $1.99 per month. As they say, “you can cancel anytime”. But wait, there’s more! The app will be utilized during the off-season as well to provide a weekly weather outlook video as well as other interesting non-hurricane related news and activities. All in all, the app will be an extension of what we offer here and our more robust Client Services site. For those who are members of our subscription site and will also utilize our app, you will have the absolute best that we can possibly offer, covering you at all angles. We are very excited about the release of HurricaneTrack for iPhone and Android. We hope you are too. Any questions at all? Please post in comments or send an email. I’ll keep everyone posted as to when we expect it to be available in the App Store and Google Play.

 

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FREE trial to our subscription service, sign up now!

Want a FREE trial to our subscription service? Now is your chance. Starting Friday, June 1, we will offer a seven (7) day free trial to our Client Services site. All you have to do is send us an email to: freetrial at hurricanetrack.com and tell us that you are interested in the free trial. We’ll send you a username good for seven days- from June 1 through June7.

What do we offer our subscribers? A lot.

We have had the subscription service since 2005 when it was almost exclusively just live video during our field missions.

Since that time, the service has grown and expanded to include a daily video briefing that is broadcast live on our own private ad-free stream. What’s more, our members can chat with us in real time, interact with each other, post questions, links to interesting info/data, etc. And, it’s troll-free. People value what they pay for and no one causes problems, posts spam links or any of that nonsense that you see on public chats.

We also have 30 frame satellite and radar loops, specialized tracking maps and Stormpulse maps (one is even full screen).

In addition, we set up our own 5-meter wind towers which feed back live wind and pressure data along with a web cam image every 60 seconds! This is exceptional updating compared to many other sources which might update every 5 mins to as much as an hour.

Our most popular exclusive feature during a landfall event are our remote cams that we place in the worst possible conditions to stream live video back to our subscribers. We have done this during Katrina, Rita, Wilma, Gustav, Ike, Earl and Irene with excellent results. All of these video streams are also 100% ad-free, supported by our members.

Our memberships range from $59.95 for a season pass (expires November 30, 2012) or $99.95 for an annual membership. Since we offer off-season info, live updates and other non-hurricane news and reporting, we have about 30% of our member base comprised of annual subscriptions and growing.

What we offer is unique. We have the experience of being in over 20 hurricanes so we know what we’re talking about. We use that knowledge base to explain in great detail, while making it easy to comprehend, what to expect and what the impacts will be. Then, we TAKE YOU THERE. How many other pro weather sites do that? Last count, NONE. They are not set up to do that. We are. We take you to the landfall area, set up our equipment and keep our members up to date literally second by second. It’s not “storm chasing” so much as it is a coordinated effort to gather information from the landfall zone and pass it along to interested parties all over the world. Since 2005, it has worked very well.

If you’re looking for entertainment, this is not for you. It’s not a road show but a mission in to the greatest storms on Earth. We have over 350 private clients and they’ll agree- there is nothing else like what we offer and it goes so far beyond just being able to stream live video from our vehicle. Ask for a free trial and you’ll see. If not, we’ll continue to offer the same level of public information and updates that we have since 1999 when it all began.

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Beryl Almost a Hurricane

Preliminary reports from recon reaching the center of Beryl suggest that the pressure is down and flight level winds are up from earlier today. That, and given the significant improvement in the overall satellite presentation during the day, suggests that Beryl is closing in on hurricane status. I would not be at all surprised if Mark and Greg end up measuring a hurricane tonight as the center comes inland, and Jacksonville could see their first hurricane in over 100 years…in May. Residents there should prepare to lose power for a few days. Honestly, there is not much difference between a strong tropical storm and a category one hurricane, but one thing we’ve noticed over the years is that strengthening systems making landfall seem to translate winds and energy to the surface better than weakening storms.

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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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