Sunday, August 14, 2011

Tropical Storm Gert: August 14, Update A

Hurray! We have Tropical Storm Gert out there, upgraded from Tropical Depression 7 to TS Gert in the 2pm (EST) NHC advisory, and I would actually agree with this call! (And much celebration ensued. ;-))

She is heading generally towards Bermuda at the moment and will pass east of the island tomorrow, although they will get clipped by her western edge beginning tonight. Her winds are currently 45mph, central pressure 1008mb. Her center is at 29.8N, 63.2W and officially she is moving NNW at 8mph (although it looks to me like she is moving N or even NNE now). Water temperatures are about 28 deg C, and her circulation is good in the lowest half of the troposphere. There is some wind shear, but not too much. I don’t think she will pick up much in terms of wind speed/intensity as she passes Bermuda, so if anything it should hopefully be a bit of a breezy sort of day, possibly with some rain… almost barbeque weather. ;-)

Of course, right on her heels is another blob but this is being influenced by Gert, so it should remain very ‘blob-like’ (technical term ;-)) and just create a bit of windy and rainy weather as it follows the path Gert took.

That’s all for the Atlantic, so now for something a bit different…

Steve from Mississippi sent me this a few days ago: “I have wondered for quite some time why NOAA releases predictions in May and then revises them in August and who the audience is for the predictions. The media on our coastal communities quickly picks these up (especially if predictions are above average), and it causes anxiety amongst many. Also, lost in the shuffle and lost in most of the media coverage today is that there was actually a decrease in the predicted number of major hurricanes this year. Of course, I am completely supportive and greatly appreciate the hard work, dedication, and sophistication of the NOAA NHC and the work they do. They provide one of the greatest NOAA services!”

The short answer is that as climate conditions evolve throughout the year, the myriad of influences on the storm season changes and we  aren’t yet good enough at predicting all those other influences on storms to be able to give an estimate only once a year. For example, we cannot predict El Nino conditions one year ahead of time, and we certainly don’t have a good handle on predicting something like dust from the Sahara on that sort of a timescale. It’s not just NOAA, but everyone releases updated estimates during the season as their climate indicators (things that they use to gauge how active a season will be) change.  The audience is really anyone who will listen.

I have heard from others about the anxiety it causes when these numbers come out. Personally I think everyone should remove numbers altogether and just say whether they expect an above average, below average, or average year. I think the reason that there would be a reduction in major hurricanes was lost is simply because the more dramatic news story was the forecast of an increase in number of storms. Too bad really, because of the anxiety factor, but I am glad you picked up on that! Although I <ahem> might <ahem> disagree with them <ahem> occasionally <ahem>, I also do appreciate the NHC and I know they work really hard monitoring both the Atlantic and Pacific for us.

And now that I’ve said something nice about the NHC, I will go and recover by having a ‘Dark and Stormy’ for Bermuda (complete with Bermudan Rum no less! ;-)).


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DISCLAIMER: These remarks are just what I think/see regarding tropical storms - not the opinion of any organization I represent. If you are making an evacuation decision, please heed your local emergency management and the National Hurricane Center's official forecast and the National Weather Service announcements. This is not an official forecast. If I "run away, run away" (Monty Python), I'll let you know.

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