Monday, November 30, 2009

November 30: Final Day of the 2009 Atlantic Hurricane Season

Here we are again my friends, at the culmination of another Atlantic
Hurricane season. And you are still reading this blog?!? Goodness me, you
must be bored. Well of course you are bored! For most people living in
known hurricane-prone areas it was a relatively quiet season. For example,
the Florida peninsula (where I used to live) did not get hit by a
hurricane this year, which I believe is the fourth year in a row
(Klotzbach/Gray report). On the other hand, the British Isles (where I now
live), that well-known area in the hurricane zone (!!!), got hit by a
number of storms in some form or another. Although no-one really noticed
over here as that is our normal weather. And I still can't believe the
first storm to be named formed the VERY DAY I left Florida! I'll be having
words with Mother Nature about this season when she's sobered up and
stopped laughing her head off. Huh. ;-)

To sum up the 2009 season: we had 9 named storms, of which 3 were
hurricanes, 2 major (cat 3 or higher). The average is 11 named storms, 6
hurricanes, 3 major. A below-average year methinks. The impacts from El
Nino really kicked in around August/September...which strangely enough is
about when the storms really kicked in too. Hmmm. El Nino did play a role,
but there were other factors (in my humble, but not reticent, opinion),
such as cooler sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic.

I think the NHC did a good job overall, although they were a 'little' slow
(!) in some places. But they do so like to write their updates in CAPITAL
letters, which must take oodles of time! They are proposing "improvements"
to the NHC Public Advisory because "Customer feedback suggests that there
is a need for a more user-friendly format...". You can see and comment on
the proposed changes if you wish by going to this website:

Interestingly, this year I have not seen any initial forecasts for the
2010 season. NOAA says their first seasonal outlook will be released in
May 2010. Last year they already had their initial estimates out for the
2009 season at this point - 14-18 named storms and 10 hurricanes. Oops.
Maybe the silence is prudent. There is a lot more to this clever delay
than meets the casual eye, but this entry is long enough so that can wait
for a rainy day (next year). If someone throws out numbers tomorrow, I'll
send out a quick update.

As I wrap up another year of my high-quality, witty, intelligent, FREE
entertainment for you ;-), I'd like to give my annual thanks to those who
made this possible. My fabulous technical support - the computing guys at
CMS/USF in Florida for the listserve, and C.H. in Texas for maintaining
the blog and making it look pretty! You guys are awesome. :-) This
'international' effort kinda worked!! Thanks also to all of you who have
been reading this drivel, and for sending me comments -they kept me amused
and out of trouble (well, I suppose 'trouble' is such a relative concept
isn't it? ;-)). Finally, thanks to my friends - old & new - on both sides
of the Atlantic, family, and colleagues for their valiant attempts to keep
me sane. Ha ha... keep trying ;-)

Having got used to that Florida climate, I find it rather cold over here.
I'm sitting next to a warm radiator as I type this, so I think it's time
for me to hibernate now. Until the 1st of June, 2010 (unless something
wakes me up early)... Happy holidays and wishing you all a safe and
wonderful New Year! Laugh & be merry!

That's all for this decade folks.


Blogs archived at:

Disclaimer: yeah... due to a computing glitch here I ended up having fun
with these this year. I'll be better behaved next year... Maybe ;-)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Extratropical Storm Ida: November 10 Update A

Ida made landfall earlier today as a weak Tropical Storm with winds of
about 50 mph, and very little convection. She then merged with that front,
and is now an extratropical system. This is my last entry on this system.

In response to a question I had asking what extratropical systems were, I
cut and paste this from an entry I wrote over two year ago. Boy was I
clever back then! What happened? (no need to answer that) ;-)

A quick overview of storm systems- What is the difference between an
extratropical storm, a tropical storm, and a subtropical storm?

An Extratropical Storm: These usually form in the extratropics (quelle
suprise!) and have cold air at their core. A cold air mass meets a warm
air mass, and as the warm air rises (because it is lighter than the cold
air), it releases potential energy that results in these systems. Because
warm air rises, a low pressure is formed which is why these are also
called low pressure systems. They are usually associated with fronts which
are depicted on weather maps as lines of blue triangles (for a cold front)
or red semi-circles (for a warm front). Because it's the collision of air
masses, these systems can occur over land or water, and occur frequently
in the winter in the US as snowstorms/blizzards or Nor'easters.

A Tropical Storm: These usually form in the tropics (aren't we good at
naming things?) and have warm air at their core. The energy source for
these differ from extratropical storms. These storms form over water only
and the energy source is latent heat. Warm water evaporates into the air.
As the rising warm moisture-laden air in the center reaches colder
altitudes in the atmosphere, the water vapor condenses to form clouds and
latent heat is released. The heaviest rains and winds are in a band close
to the center. No fronts are associated with these storms (although
'waves' in the atmosphere are) - which makes it difficult to determine too
far ahead of time when a storm will develop. A tropical storm is when the
winds are greater than 34 knots (39 miles per hour). If the winds are less
than that, it is a tropical depression.

A Subtropical Storm: These usually contain some characteristics of both
extratropical and tropical systems. For example, imagine an extratropical
storm moving over warmer water. Now the storm begins to get some energy
from latent heat as well, and the cold air in the center (near the
surface) is replaced by warm air, so the storm core can change from cold
to warm. The heaviest rains and winds are not near the center. Like a
tropical system, a subtropical storm is when the winds are greater than 34
knots (39 miles per hour). If the winds are less than that, it is a
subtropical depression.

It's only since 2002 that subtropical storms were given names from the
hurricane name list - which would partly account for why we have had more
named storms in the past few years.

That's all for now folks!
Toodle pip until the next time.


Updates archived at:

DISCLAIMER: You all know this already. My views, heed those who know, yada
yada yada...

Monday, November 09, 2009

TS Ida: November 9 Update A

Ida behaved pretty much as I expected. Good girl! After my entry yesterday
she was officially upgraded to a cat 2, and today as she crossed the Gulf
she rapidly deteriorated to a strong Tropical Storm, with winds currently
at 70mph. She will become a weaker TS before landfall overnight tonight.
Tomorrow she'll be 'absorbed' by the front after landfall, which is really
when she'll become extratropical. Someone asked about extratropical
storms. I'll write about those tomorrow. She's at about 28.6N, 88.5W,
moving N at a speedy 18mph. Central pressure 991mb & rising. I know you'll
be surprised, but I finally agree with the NHC for the remainder of the
forecast for this system! They finally caught up. ;-)

It's wet & windy in a number of states, but the other thing to look out
for is storm surge for those along the coast. You can go to for realtime water level information. They have
listed some relevant places along the left, and others can be accessed by
the 'state map' tab, also on the left near the bottom. Currently St. Pete,
FL, is 1.5 ft above normal; Pensacola, FL, is 2ft above; Dauphin Island &
Mobile State Docks, AL, are 2ft above; Gulfport Harbor, MS, is 3ft above;
Grand Isle, LA, is 2ft and rising, and New Canal Station, LA, is 2.5ft

Someone also asked me what sort of weather to expect in the Tampa region.
Here's a website you can check out for weather information: (also Thanks to my friend in the
NWS for providing those.

Fortunately it looks like everyone who contacted me regarding travel plans
in/out & around the Gulf will, indeed, be ok... So have fun!! Here it's a
balmy 4 deg C (39 F) outside. Gloves & hat time I think.

Toodles till tomorrow!

Updates archived at

DISCLAIMER: Please pay heed to your local Emergency Managers, the NWS, and
the NHC as they have the most up-to-date information. I only write what
I'm thinking and sometimes after a glass of wine. These are not the views
of any organization I represent.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Hurricane Ida: November 8 Update A

Well there's a couple of bits of good news for you all in this entry.
First, Ida's circulation (technically the vorticity) is beginning to
diminish. Yesterday, when I said she was a hurricane, the vorticity was
strong throughout almost the entire troposphere (lowest ~10-15km of our
atmosphere). Today it looks like the highest levels have lost it, which is
an indication that she won't intensify much further. The second piece of
good news is that although I tried, I couldn't think of any 'original'
jokes today so you are spared that. ;-)

Ida was officially (finally) named a hurricane late last night. Again, a
number of hours after I think she became one. She's got winds of 90mph at
the moment, making her a strong cat 1 (range: 74-95 mph). I think she
might be a weak cat 2 actually (range: 96-110mph). Currently centered at
about 21.2 N, 86 W, she's moving NW at 10mph. Central pressure 983mb.

I know the forecast now has her as a hurricane until Tuesday, when she
reaches the northern Gulf coast. But I'm not convinced that she will be a
hurricane by the time she gets up there. There are a number of reasons I
think this, apart from the circulation issue. The wind shear is stronger
in the Gulf, which will take it's toll. Although the surface water temps
are high enough in the southern Gulf, they begin to cool off in the
northern Gulf. Also, the deeper warm water that she has just crossed in
the Caribbean does not extend into the Gulf as much as it has done in
previous years (the Loop Current). The only factor I see that will keep
her as a hurricane in the northern Gulf is the fast speed she's forecast
to move at. Having said all this, even if she does decrease in intensity,
the interaction with the front will create some wet & windy conditions
around the Gulf. It will be like a normal day in Scotland ;-).

Of course, please ignore me and listen to your Emergency Managers & NWS &
NHC. I know those of you who are in the watch zones will be prepared. Drop
me a line if you have any questions.

Ciao for now,

Updates archived at

DISCLAIMER: These are my opinions only and not those of any organization I
represent. I wrote the other half of this in the main text above.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

TS Ida: November 7 Update B

I am pretty sure it should be Hurricane Ida by now, but the cautious NHC
are still calling her a tropical storm. Wind speeds are 'officially' 70
mph (TS range: 39-73 mph), central pressure 990mb. I think Ida has been a
hurricane for a few hours. The next NHC advisory should reflect this. At
least they agree with me that the wind shear in the Caribbean isn't enough
to stop this storm from developing.

She's currently somewhere around 18.9N, 84.3W. She's been moving more
northward than they expected, bringing her ever closer to Cuba. But she
has taken a small NNW turn in the last few hours, so hopefully she'll only
clip Cuba. She's officially moving N at 10mph.

The forecast in the Gulf is still tricky. I know a number of you are
travelling now and over the next few days. I haven't had a chance to reply
to you all, but I'll get to it soon. Other than the cruise heading into
the Gulf from Tampa (don't worry! I'll be in touch tomorrow), I think
everyone else should be more-or-less ok. It really is tricky because of
the front coming through, and the higher wind shear in the Gulf. I'm
thinking that she will weaken once she's in the Gulf. I'll try and reply
to you individually as things become clearer (I bet they'll be crystal
clear this time next week ;-)).

That's all for today.
Toodle pip!

Updates archived at

DISCLAIMER: It's past my bedtime here so just read the one I wrote with
the previous entry. ;-)

TS Ida: November 7 Update A

Q: What's this storm going to do?
A: I daknow!

Hee hee. I spent ALL day thinking of that one. OK, I won't give up my day
job yet then. ;-)

Ida's is developing quite nicely, as expected given the water she is
travelling over. The latest advisory has her at 17.9N, 84.1W, moving N at
9mph. Central pressure 997 mb, wind speeds 60mph (TS range: 39-73 mph).

The forecast keeps her as a tropical storm, but I think she might reach
hurricane strength in the Caribbean. The circulation has improved in the
higher levels of the troposphere. In fact, I think 60 mph might be a
little on the low side already. Cloud tops are very cold now, which
indicates strong convection.

She's also moving more northward than the current track, which will bring
her closer to Cuba. But all the models seem to be in good agreement that
she will make a north-westward turn towards Yucatan. The models have
improved over the past few years, and are pretty good for the 24 hour
forecast, so I will go with this as I don't have better information.
Having said that, she's actually remained on a more northward track than
expected, so maybe they will shift in their next model run.

There is some wind shear in the northern Caribbean, and a lot more in the
Gulf. But the Caribbean shear may be too weak and may not be enough to
hinder her development after a certain point. Conversely, the shear in the
Gulf might be enough to make her a lovely little blobette again.

So to sum up: things are still uncertain. The first thing to watch for is
that NW turn in the track. I might send out another update today! First
time in ages I've done two. But she's so interesting that she's worth it.

Later gators (and 'noles and bulls and any others out there... ;-)),

Updates archived on (I think :-)).

DISCLAIMER: These are just my views. Well, a fraction of them. I do have
views on other things as well you know. If a storm is looming, please pay
attention to your emergency managers, weather service and the NHC.

Friday, November 06, 2009

TD Ida: November 6 Update A

Oh dear, what a palava! I can just see some of you rolling your eyes when
you see the latest track and the apparent sharp right turn Ida is forecast
to make in the Gulf in five days, directly towards Tampa Bay. The forecast
has, indeed, become all sorts of complicated since yesterday.

First though: she's just emerged into the Caribbean again, north of
Honduras, and is heading N at about 8 mph. She's at 15.7N, 83.9 W, central
pressure 1007 mb, wind speed 35mph. Due to minor technical difficulties, I
can't actually access the data or satellite images. But I can tell you
what to expect.

As she continues north, she'll be over water temperatures greater than 30
deg C. V. Warm!! Not only that, but the warm water is very deep there -
amongst the deepest warm water in the western Atlantic/Caribbean/Gulf
region. This means she has a really good energy source because she's
churning up more warm water. The other factor in favor of development is
that the circulation remains strong over most of the troposphere. So it is
likely she will get stronger once she clears land - definitely back to TS
at least (in agreement with the NHC). Working against this is the wind
shear, which will pick up as she moves northwards. The second factor
against too much development is how much she will interact with land. A
battle will ensue over how strong little Ida will become.

The reason the forecast is a bit wonky in the Gulf is because in addition
to the uncertain intensity factors above, there is another front (trough)
that will move southwards at around the same time as she moves northwards.
It's a question of where the two meet, which is difficult to forecast.

Ida's a tricky one! Not what you want to hear I know. It's unlikely she'll
be a major storm *if* she gets to Florida. It also looks unlikely that
she'll head to the northern Gulf at the moment, but that depends on how
far south that front gets. For now you know the drill. It never hurts to
be prepared: stock up on ice cream, wine, sun screen etc. ;-) Drop me a
line if you have any questions.

As famously said in 'Terminator' by that bloke, "I'll be back". (tomorrow
sans technical difficulties).

DISCLAIMER: the views expressed today were so waffly that I don't think
anyone I represent (myself included) could possibly claim them! Pay
attention to your local emergency manager

Thursday, November 05, 2009

TS Ida: November 5 Update A

I'm going to go easy on the NHC today because they do, after all, have a
tough job. Of course, if I believed Ida was still a hurricane by the time
they called it earlier today, then I'm pretty sure aliens made crop

Ida, from the data I saw, was a hurricane in the early hours of this
morning (EST). By the time she made landfall in Nicaragua, she had already
lost a lot of convection and would have been a strong TS. I think the call
was about 7-8 hours too late. Rather like the belated upgrade to TS status
yesterday - which officially jumped from a 35 mph TD to a strong TS with
60 mph winds. Maybe their timing is sluggish because they've not had much
practice lately. Anyway, I agree with them now, she's back to being a TS.

She's been dumping rain on Nicaragua for over 24 hours (not good).
Official wind speed is 60 mph (TS range: 39-73 mph). I think she's weaker
than that. Central pressure 990 mb. She's at about 13.3N, 83.7W, and is
moving NNW at a 3mph crawl. The good news is that the longer she remains
over land, the weaker she gets, which means that as she re-emerges into
the Caribbean (north of her current location), she may not reintensify to
TS status. A slow/stalled storm has other problems when it comes to
forecasting. The pressure fields around it change, which means the track
becomes tricky. At the moment I'd say she would curve around towards Cuba
instead of heading into the Gulf because of interaction with a front that
is moving southwards (currently over mid-FL). It depends on timing and
when she picks up some speed (motion, not the drug! ;) ).

That's all for today folks. Another update tomorrow, in which I'll
continue to be super-nice to the NHC. ;)


DISCLAIMER: These are my opinions, not those of any organization I
represent. If you disagree with them, we can debate it over a cup of tea
(PG Tips). ;) If a storm is approaching, please pay attention to your
local emergency managers, weather service, and of course, the NHC.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Caribbean Blobette: November 4 Update A

Hey! Thought it was over? Think again. The '09 hurricane season, in true
Monty Python style, is running around saying "I'm not dead yet!" ;)

A blobette has been brewing in the western Caribbean over the past two
days, and today she made a move. Although still officially a Tropical
Depression (#11), I am pretty sure she reached Tropical Storm status about
7 or so hours ago. There's a plane investigating the system now because
they can provide accurate data... and there's only so many card games to
play and crossword puzzles one can do before one gets bored. ;) The next
name is Ida.

She's at around 11.8N, 82.3W, moving WNW at about 7mph. Landfall is
expected to be Nicaragua on Friday morning. I don't have the right data to
make a call on track, so I'll go with this official one. Seems reasonable
to me.

Winds are officially 35 mph (TS range: 39-73mph). Although not very windy,
there is a lot of rain in this system so the real danger will be potential
flooding/landslides. Water temperatures exceed 29 deg C, and the
circulation is strong over the lower half of the troposphere (which is the
lowest layer of our atmosphere).

It looks like there's a chance that wind shear will pick up a bit by
tomorrow and the system is interacting with land. So despite the warm sea
temperatures, it may not develop too much.

As we are approaching the end of the season (Nov 30), we generally see
more storms develop in the Caribbean/Gulf of Mexico region as opposed to
Atlantic storms. There's nothing unusual about the location.

I'll send out another update tomorrow. Wow... I can't believe it. A storm
that's NOT heading for me this season. We might get sun! Ok... I know,
that last part is a bit of a stretch. ;)

Toodle Pip :)

DISCLAIMER: These are my views, not those of any organization I represent.
If a storm is approaching, please pay attention to your local emergency
managers and weather service and NHC, as they have the most up-to-date
information! Etc etc.