Thursday, September 29, 2011

Hurricane Ophelia and Tropical Storm Philippe: September 29, Update A

Ophelia says: “September 29 is National Coffee Day. I had 12 cups today. Can you tell?” ;-)

And here are some interesting US coffee factoids for all you coffee beans out there:

What I want to know is when is it National Tea Day? Gosh darn it.

Hurricane Ophelia
She put on a good show today and pulled herself together to become our next hurricane this afternoon. She is currently at about 21.9N, 62.3W, and looking like she’s heading northward to me, which means she is slightly east of the forecast track at the moment. Officially she’s moving NNW at 9mph. If she carries on northward, there is a chance that she’ll miss Bermuda and skirt to the east of the island, however at the moment they are in the cone of whiteness and should be getting ready.

Winds are now at 85mph, so she’s a mid-size category 1 (range: 74-95mph) with a central pressure of 984mb. She did develop an eye for a short while a couple of hours ago, which indicates that the winds are, indeed, probably closer to the 90mph range. Her circulation is very strong in the lower troposphere, and there is a pretty nice signal in the upper troposphere as well. I have no doubts that she’s a hurricane, and agree with the NHC in their analysis today (about Ophelia anyway). Both the lower level convergence and upper level divergence (remember those?) are also really good. Her convection is not as strong as I’ve seen in other category 1 storms, however it is fluctuating, so I’m not placing too much emphasis on that for now. She is definitely a solid cat 1 storm. There is a bit of wind shear, but she’s strong enough that it won’t have too much of an impact. However, as she moves north the water temperatures cool from the current 27-28 deg C, so I don’t know if she will really get much bigger than the forecast cat 1.

I heard from Steve on Bermuda. He is very concerned that she’ll get there on Saturday night. The biggest problem he is facing is that the rain will water down his beer (having never been to Bermuda, I assume this is because Bermudian pubs don’t have roofs?). Watered down beer… isn’t that called American beer? (I’m not a beer drinker, I just repeat what I’m told…).

Tropical Storm Philippe
As much as I agree with the NHC on their analysis of Ophelia throughout the day today, I have to say I disagree with what they said about poor Philippe. Just because he’s farther away doesn’t mean he’s any less important. Poor fella.

I’m not convinced his center has been in the correct location for the bulk of today. At the 5am advisory he was still too far south. Officially he was at 17.8N, 41.7W moving WNW at 13mph. At the 11am advisory, he was at 18.6N, 42.6W, moving NW at 13mph. Here are two visible satellite snapshots, one at 13:15UTC, which is about 8.15am EST, and the other at 18:15UTC which is about 1.15pm EST:

In the earlier image, I don’t see his center near 18N, 41.7W… it looks closer to 19N if anything. In the second image it looks like it is closer to 20N. At 5pm they had him at 20.2N, 43.6W, which I think was far more reasonable, although he was still heading NW at 13 mph. I don’t think he’s heading NW, but is moving WNW at the moment. Now he looks like he is around 21.2N, 44.0W and heading westwardish (officially he is still heading NW at 13mph).

Winds are 45mph, central pressure is 1004mb. I agree with this overall intensity estimate… his convection is pretty weak, and his circulation is strong only in the lower half of the troposphere. However, I think his winds are a bit stronger than 45mph. His upper divergence and lower convergence is very good. I think there is room for him to improve because wind shear looks like it might decrease for a short while and, if he continues westward(ish), he is heading towards an area of warmer water (28-29 deg C, instead of his current 27-28 deg C).

I received this report from Dale, a scientist, who is sampling dust (remember the Saharan Air Layer that was so instrumental earlier in this season) on a Research Vessel in the Atlantic: “Philippe was heading right for us... we were at ~46W, 22N...thought I was going to get the opportunity to sample the aerobiology of a storm eye...that would have been great.....but no, the JOIDES Resolution is currently underway on a NE course to get out if Philippes way...have been underway since early this morning moving at about 21 k/hr...plan is to stop at some point late tonight and the turn around and head back to the drill sites....currently the seas are smooth with a light swell....nice enough to water ski”.

Yup, if they had stayed at around 22N, 46W, it would have been a rather interesting expedition. In case you are wondering, the JOIDES Resolution that he mentions is a Deep Sea Drilling Research Vessel. “JOIDES” is an acronym and stands for Joint Oceanographic Institutions for Deep Earth Sampling (speaking from experience, let me tell you that it’s a fine art to get a good science-acronym-name… I have to say, I’m pretty rubbish at it). The “Resolution” part is in honour of the HMS Resolution, Captain James Cook’s vessel from the 1770s. Just in case you missed my rather BIG clue earlier (hint: ‘Deep Sea Drilling Research Vessel’), the JOIDES Resolution drills in the deep sea (well, it drills into the earth under the deep sea). J The samples of earth it collects are called ‘cores’, and they are analyzed back in labs to figure out the past history of our fabulous planet. Of course, a research cruise can have other things going on as well, such as atmospheric sampling of dust and microbes (Dale’s work), or running away from Tropical Storms.... ;-) You can find out more for yourself here:, including cool pictures!


p.s. thanks to Gene in Florida for getting the report to me from Dale in the Atlantic).

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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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