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Beryl dropping a lot of rain over portions of the Southeast

TD Beryl continues to exert its influence over parts of the Southeast today with continued heavy rainfall. Northern Florida and southeast Georgia are receiving the most abundant rains and with the slow movement of the depression, this will continue to be the case throughout the next day or two.

Beryl is forecast to move in to South Carolina and then off in to the Atlantic near Charleston. At that point, the depression could strengthen back in to a tropical storm as it passes south of Wilmington and eventually, Cape Hatteras. I doubt that Beryl will be able to regain much intensity but it is possible that tropical storm conditions will be felt along the Carolina coast tomorrow and Thursday.

Flood watches have been posted for a wide swath of the southeast coast since the tropical rains are persisting long enough to create a flooding risk. Luckily, Beryl will move out of the picture this week and the heavy rains will go with it. The good news out of all of this is that the rain is badly needed. Beryl may have ruined the Memorial Day weekend for some folks but its longer term benefit of providing much needed moisture will outweigh most of the negatives associated with the pre-season storm.

I do not see any additional areas to be concerned about as we enter the official start to the hurricane season this Friday. The east Pacific is also nice and quiet after two recent tropical cyclones, one of which became a major hurricane.

Note: I will be posting a blog about our successful testing our weather balloon in Texas and the remote cam at the NOAA Sentinel in Mississippi last week. I’ll post pictures, video and the data that we recorded from the balloon payload later this week.

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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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Small but vigorous low pressure area, now labeled 93L, off the Carolina coast

The NHC is monitoring invest area 93L off the Carolina coast this weekend. The low pressure area spun up rather quickly in the wake of a larger storm system that has brought a lot of rain to the region over the last few days. Right now, the NHC is giving the system a 50% chance of becoming a tropical depression or even a tropical storm. Let’s take a look at a couple of things….

First, we do have a very well defined low pressure center at the surface. This is important because it’s the surface low that generates the deep convection – assuming that water temps and other atmospheric ingredients are in place. If the surface low were weak and poorly defined, then this would not warrant nearly the attention that it is currently getting.

Sea Surface Temperatures Map (Figure 1)

Sea Surface Temperatures Map (Figure 1)

Second, sea surface temps in the area (figure 1) are just warm enough to support the amount of energy needed to drive the deep thunderstorm activity, or convection, that is clearly seen on satellite and radar. We typically look for SSTs of around 80 degrees F or about 26 degrees C. The low is currently situated over just marginal temps to allow it to develop to the extent that it has. The question is: will it continue to thrive over the warm water or will the deep thunderstorms not be able to sustain themselves or even grow? This is part of what the NHC will be looking for when determining whether or not to name the feature a depression or a storm (if it is a storm, it would be Alberto).

NHC Computer Model Guidance (Figure 2)

NHC Computer Model Guidance (Figure 2)

The SHIPS intensity model, shown in figure 2, is definitely on board with this system becoming a tropical storm. Winds peak out at a healthy 54 knots which equates to about a 65 mph tropical storm. This may be a bit on the high side but a small system, such as 93L, can ramp up quickly given the right conditions. It can also fall apart just as fast if environmental conditions change, even a little. So far, there appear to be enough positive ingredients in place for 93L to have a chance of becoming a tropical storm before the weekend is out.

The steering mechanisms in place are weak for now which will likely mean a slow drift just off the South Carolina coast this weekend. Boating interests need to monitor the situation closely as local seas could get churned up with squally weather. It’s possible that 93L or what ever it eventually becomes, could reach the coast and bring rain and wind to the Carolinas. It will probably not be much more than an interesting topic of conversation and has no bearing on the rest of the up-coming hurricane season. These small low pressure areas are not too uncommon, especially this time of year. It does not mean the hurricane season will be more active than previously thought. The origins of this system are not from tropical sources such as a tropical wave coming from Africa. This is a left over piece of energy from a mid-latitude storm system that just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

I’ll post more about 93L tomorrow and will have short posts on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

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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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