Monday, May 28, 2018

Subtropical Storm Alberto: May 28, Update A

Just a quick update for today as it's officially a day off (for some). 

Alberto is currently making landfall in the Laguna Beach/Panama City area of the Florida Panhandle. He is at 30.3N, 85.9W heading N at 9mph. He remained a relatively weak Storm with winds now at 45mph (TS range: 39-73mph) and central pressure of 994mb. 

The NHC are still having troubles with their satellite webpage with some links not working. NESDIS finally got their technical issue resolved yesterday evening, after being down for over a day as the storm went along the west Florida coast. However, they are back up and here's the latest colour imagery: 

The convection (rain) is really not too strong, with the heaviest rainfall to the north and some still coming in over Cuba and Florida. Overall, Alberto has been a well-behaved storm bringing mostly rain. As I mentioned a couple of days ago, these storms are part of the annual cycle of rainfall in this part of the world and without them we would have to contend with drought conditions. 

Now Alberto has made landfall, he's projected to head north towards Michigan (where he might stop in and have a glass of wine with my in-laws), bringing a bit of a breeze and a few drops of rain along the way: 

And that is my last update on Alberto. :-) A bit of an early wake-up but he was a handy little storm because he showed us that there are clearly a lot more glitches and problems on the communication of data compared to previous years on many of the official websites. I really hope they can resolve some of these for the next one!

Speaking of the next one... the next name is Beryl followed by Chris. I think that should be enough for this season, don't you? ;-)

I'll be back on June 1 with the Official Start to the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season, including a note about the new Natural Disaster Prediction XPRIZE planning currently underway (that you can all participate in). See you in er... four days (and hopefully not before)! :-)

Have a safe and happy Memorial Day in the US (and Bank Holiday in the UK)! 
Ciao for now,

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. 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Subtropical Storm Alberto: May 27, Update A

A morning cuppa tea and a quick look at STS Alberto for breakfast. Just what every Sunday morning should be like. ;-) 

Officially he is currently at 27.1N, 84.4W and continues to head generally N at 14mph. He got a little stronger (he looks a little more organized in the satellite imagery), but is still in the weak-to-middle end of the Tropical Storm spectrum with winds estimated to be at 50mph (TS range: 39-73mph) and a central pressure of 995m. 

The track shifted eastward with landfall in the Florida Panhandle, perhaps closer to the Apalachicola area:
It looks like NESDIS/NHC still have a glitch on their website because their satellite imagery still shows the data from yesterday morning. But luckily for us, there is precious updated satellite imagery available from the University of Wisconsin-CIMSS (yay!):

You can see his center is approximately west of the Sarasota area, and south of Apalachicola. I think his center may be a little more west than they think it is, but they have sent a plane in to gather data. It also looks like he is heading NNW. 

There are a number of reasons why he isn't too strong. First, he is clearly under some wind shear still, which is why the convection is mostly to the east and north. Second, he is still pulling in dry air from the south. And third, he is about to start moving over a part of the Gulf where only the upper 25-50m of the water column are warmer than 26 deg C. I don't think he will intensify too much and will remain at Tropical Storm strength because it looks like wind shear will continue as he moves north and, although the sea surface temperatures increase (currently around 27 deg C, getting to over 28 deg C as he gets closer to the coast),  the warm water is mostly near the surface. 

Because he is moving along the west coast of Florida, and winds in a hurricane are counter-clockwise, he is pushing water onto the coast so you should see some storm surge. <Rant Alert> Since the last season, NOAA has shut down their beautiful straightforward tidesonline website and replaced it with something that is a lot more complicated and therefore far less user-friendly!! I can't believe they did that!! If I ever get a chance to talk to someone about that, I'll be happy to sit down and tell them what features have vanished that were really helpful (some are pointed out below). It's the same for the NHC site - useful features just gone! GRRRR. <End Rant Alert>

<Technical Alert> How to look up Storm Surge: The new site is no longer the easy to remember tidesonline, but has been replaced by tidesandcurrents ( If you click on this link, you will see an ugly cartoonish bad-suntan coloured map of the US (in shades of orange to represent the land). Click on the state that you are interested in e.g. Florida. This will show you a much nicer colour map with a bunch of pins. These are the locations of the stations. You now have to be careful though (if you are on a Mac especially) because the map is not static so you can accidentally scroll around and end up in the middle of the Atlantic, and will have to zoom out until the map you want re-appears and then zoom back in! There is also no longer a little caption to tell you which station is which, so if I tell you to go to the Fort Myers station, you will have to scroll over all the pins until you find it (and as you scroll, you may have to zoom in, which may result in ending up in the middle of the Atlantic or Gulf again...and repeat). Anyway, should you be lucky enough to find the station you want, Fort Myers in this case, a graph will pop up underneath to show water levels (which you can download if you click on 'export chart' which took me a while to locate - tucked under the map and above the graph on the right). Oh hurray, we have a graph! 

Previously, you could see the water level, winds, sea level pressure etc. on one, easy-to-download, graph. But in order to get to that information now, you have to click on the station name and a bunch of data will pop up. If you scroll down past the numbers, you'll finally get to all the useful graphs. (which you can't download now).

For now, going back to the Water Level graph. Previously, they kindly put the graph of the actual observations, the prediction, and the difference, so you could see at a glance how far above normal the water level was. Now, they just have the predicition (in blue) and the observation (in red) so you have to calculate the difference for yourself. Here's the screen capture: 

You can see that at Fort Myers, the water level is currently ~1.3ft above normal. Clearwater is about 1 ft above normal and so on. You better practice now while you have time. <End Technical Alert!>

More later today! Time for a spot of proper breakfast. 

These remarks are just what I think/see regarding tropical storms (my storm blog). If you are making an evacuation decision, please heed your local emergency management and the National Hurricane Center's official forecast. This is not an official forecast.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Wrapping up the 2017 Season (Finally!) and Subtropical Storm Alberto: May 26, Update B

I'm stocked up with wine and ice cream. Thanks to Brian D. for suggesting a super-efficient shortcut for the future (available in 10 flavours from
I'm a bit dubious about this though so, clearly I will have to investigate further and report back to you. ;-) 

Meanwhile in the Gulf, Subtropical Storm Alberto is still quite weak, with winds of 40mph (TS range: 39-73mph) and a central pressure still at 999mb. He is now at 23.3N, 85.1W heading N at 13mph. There's no point showing you any new satellite images because the latest ones on the NHC site stop at around 10.30-11am EST. The data on the NHC site is from the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS), who, in turn, have a note on their website to apologize that the images are not being updating and they are working on the problem. Oopsies. Not the best timing for a technical glitch. I'm sure we'll be back to the regularly scheduled programming soon. The track is still heading to the northern Gulf coast - it did shift slightly eastwards, so the Florida panhandle is looking even more likely. 

Wrapping up the 2017 Season (Finally!)
"In the beginning the Universe was created. This made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move" (HHGTTG) which, I think, pretty much sums up last season. What a tough year that was! Apart from being the most expensive Atlantic hurricane season to date (estimate of over $280 billion in economic loss), we saw entire islands in the Caribbean just vanish for a few days. 

I was in Puerto Rico a couple of weeks ago and I have to say, the resilience of the people there is amazing. Despite having gone through a long and protracted traumatic experience, losing people they knew, and not having power in hot tropical conditions for months on end (some parts of the island are still without), they are still smiling, warm, and welcoming, and have worked hard to get back to 'normal' as quickly as possible. The scale of the disaster that hit not just Puerto Rico, but the other islands in the Caribbean is enormous. Even our wonderful and intrepid on-the-ground reporter, Tom from St. Thomas, was hit and finally got power back on Christmas Day. Let's hope it's a quieter year for all!

And what does the Great Reckoning of the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season look like? Officially we had a busy year (said Captain Obvious ;-)). There were 17 named storms, 10 Hurricanes, of which 6 were Major Hurricanes (category 3 or above). This was the busiest year since 2005 - the year I started writing this. The average number of named storms is 12 (which takes into account our better satellite technology with which we can now see small short-lived storms), with an average of 6 hurricanes and about 2.5 major hurricanes. The start-of-the-season predictions (which I still roll my eyes at) for 2017 all predicted a higher-than-usual number of named storms (hovering around 14 +/-3), but all fell short on the number of hurricanes and the number of Major Hurricanes. So, across the board, not the best estimates at the start of the season and clearly shows that there is still much to be learned as something was clearly missing in these estimates. 

How rare is it to have a season like 2017? Alas, it has happened before - and records going back to pre-airplane surveillance show this. In September 2017 there were two category 5 storms within 3 weeks - Irma and Maria - and both, as we know, hit the Caribbean the hardest. This is not unheard of; we've had multiple category 5 storms in a the same year before: in 2007, two hit central America (within 3 weeks); in 2005 we had four category 5 storms (Emily, who ended up making initial landfall in the Yucatan; and Katrina, Rita, and Wilma who headed to Florida and the northern Gulf coast); in 1961 we had Carla (Texas) and Hattie (Yucatan); and 1932 and 1933 had double hits in both years (and remember, this is before satellites so who knows what was missed at sea) with hits to the Bahamas, Cuba, the US east coast, and the Yucatan. 

As for an above-average season of named storms...again, alas, not too unusual. In 1887, there were 19 tropical storms - amazing that they 'recorded' 19 before we even had planes! And before planes really came on-line, records show there were 13 in 1931; 15 in 1932; 20 in 1933; 13 in 1934; 17 in 1936. There is a very good possibility that storms that stayed at sea were missed in these years. In 1944, routine aircraft surveys started close to the US (western Atlantic) and the records show that 14 named storms were seen in 1944; 16 in 1949 and 1950; 14 in 1953; 16 in 1954; 13 in 1955; and 14 in 1959.  Then the era of satellites started in 1966 and we saw 18 named storms in 1969; 13 in 1971; 13 in 1984; 14 in 1990; 19 in 1995; 13 in 1996; and 14 in 1998. In 2000 we had another boost in monitoring technology and the ability to catch those short-lived storms and so, in 2000 and 2001, 15 named storms were recorded; 16 in 2003; 15 in 2004; 28 in 2005; 15 in 2007; 16 in 2008; 19 in 2010, 2011, and 2012; 14 in 2013; 15 in 2016; and of course, 17 in 2017. As our observations improve, the average number of storms per season is slowly increasing - only 10 years ago, the average number was hovering around 10 named storms. 

So to sum up: Tropical Storms Happen. They are nature's most efficient way of releasing heat from the tropics to the extratropics (like letting off steam) and they are also part of the annual cycle of rain - without storms, some parts of the world would have a drought. 

Before I go, I must thank Doug M. at CMS/USF in Florida for the listserv and Ben A. for help with the website/blog. I'd also like to thank the NHC for their hard work - it certainly was a crazy year! And Thank YOU dear readers of 2017 - as always, the wittiest, most beautiful, intelligent people on this planet (obviously, as you are reading this!). I don't know how many hits the blog had at the end of last season - it was over 200,000 though. And of course, a huge huge Thank You to the many on-the-ground reports that were sent my way - my thoughts go out to all those who were so greatly impacted! I really hope we don't keep in quite so frequent contact in 2018 - and I mean that in the best possible way!! 

That's a wrap for 2017... phew, got that in with just under a week before the 2018 season officially starts. What can I say? I work to deadlines... ;-)

Toodle pippy!

These remarks are just what I think/see regarding tropical storms (my storm blog). If you are making an evacuation decision, please heed your local emergency management and the National Hurricane Center's official forecast. This is not an official forecast.

Subtropical Tropical Storm Alberto: May 26, Update A

Typical timing - a storm over the weekend and a long weekend in the US to boot. You didn't have picnic or outdoor BBQ plans in Florida did you?
Just like yesterday, and as expected for today, Subtropical Storm Alberto is still very weak and quite disorganized. He is currently centered at around 22.8N, 85.2 W and is heading N now at 13mph, which is a better pace for any self-respecting storm. His central pressure is 999mb and his winds are still border-line Tropical Storm/Tropical Depression at 40mph (TS range: 39-73mph).  
If you squint and have a bit of imagination, you can just about pretend there is a center of circulation in the satellite image above - it's in the southern Gulf of Mexico. It's not as obvious as yesterday though. 
Given how disorganized he is, and that the circulation in the middle of the troposphere (oh happy day! it's the first <Science Alert!> of the season! ;-)) is not well formed, I'm not sure I would even call him a Subtropical Storm at the moment. The convection, which is still being swept off to the east due to wind shear, is because he is still over some warm water, which is also quite deep - the upper ~125m of the water column is warmer than 26 deg C. There is also some dry air coming in still, which is also inhibiting his development.
<Science Alert!> The Troposphere: Our atmosphere is divided into layers - like a delicious layer-cake (that goes very nicely with a cup of tea). In each layer, the air temperature either increases with height or decreases with height. The troposphere is the name of one of these layers - it is the layer closest to the earth and it is the layer that we live and breathe in. This lowest layer of our atmosphere extends up from the earth (ground zero) to about 15-16km above our heads in the equatorial regions, and to about 8km in the polar regions of the planet. All of our 'weather' essentially occurs in the troposphere. The troposphere is defined by decreasing air temperature with increasing height - the higher you go, the colder it gets. You would know this if you climbed a mountain or the easier (and more often used) option is to just look at pictures of mountains and see the snow at the top (known as the 'Flat Florida Option'). ;-) The top of the troposphere is called the tropopause. Strong tropical storms have clouds that reach as high as the tropopause - and in some cases, if they are very strong, they can push into the next layer up - into the stratosphere. The stratosphere is defined by air temperature increasing with height. The ozone hole is in the stratosphere. The top of the stratospheric layer is around 50km and is marked by the stratopause. The layer above that is the mesosphere, where the air temperature decreases with height again... and so on until we get to space where there are no yummy layer-cakes to be found. :-) <End Science Alert!> 
His track is more-or-less the same as yesterday - heading to the northern Gulf coast:
I can see why the track is like this - he is heading towards a low pressure area that is slowly moving across the southern states. Given the speed of the forward motion of Alberto and this low, it is definitely possible that he will make landfall in the Florida panhandle/Apalachicola area.
Got to go and recycle some wine bottles (have to make room for the new season supply!) and buy ice cream in preparation for hurricane season (in California). ;-) I'll be back later with an update, and some thoughts to wrap up the 2017 season... (just in time).  
These remarks are just what I think/see regarding tropical storms (my storm blog). If you are making an evacuation decision, please heed your local emergency management and the National Hurricane Center's official forecast. This is not an official forecast.

Subtropical Storm Alberto: May 25, Update A

Hello my friends! Did ya miss me? And more importantly, are you ready? Yeah... me neither! But no time for sleeping in... or hibernating at all apparently this year. I guess Mother Nature thought it would be a hoot to start a wee bit early. Can someone take her off the caffeine please? ;-)

As some of you noticed, for the first time in over 10 years, I didn't quite manage to wrap up the 2017 season with my traditional end-of-season post; a consequence of the hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico meant I got caught up in a crazy world tour (in 2.5 months, I flew over 72,000 miles and travelled about 1,500 by road/rail/ship) (more about why in this BBC article). But we'll have a proper catch-up over a nice cup of tea later. For now we have that pesky little Subtropical Storm Alberto hanging out off the Yucatan Peninsula causing a bit of a ruckus.

Officially he's at 19.4N, 85.7W, heading E at a relatively sedate 5mph. He is pretty weak at the moment - barely a storm actually - with winds of 40mph (TS range: 39-73mph) and a central pressure of 1006mb. He is disorganized as you can see in this colour satellite imagery (which goes from light and colourful in the daytime to black and white at nighttime):
This is from the National Hurricane Center (NHC) website. Deary me, it looks like they made a lot of changes on their site since last year and, at first glance, some are for the worse because some useful graphics and satellite imagery features have been removed. Grrr (shaking my head). I'll have to do some digging to see if I can find what we really need, but in the meantime, this satellite imagery will have to do. It does illustrate how poorly organized he is - you can clearly see the center of circulation which is just east of the Yucatan peninsula, but most of the convection (rain storms) are even further east and north east - closer to Cuba. This is because he is under some wind shear which is pushing that convection to the east.

The current track has him going generally north as a Tropical Storm, making landfall somewhere on the northern Gulf coast:
I would agree with this general track and the computer models at the moment because there isn't any good pressure data available and he is quite weak.

For his intensity, he is weak because there is wind shear and also some dry air being pulled into the system. The reason he has any real convection at all is because he is currently sitting over an area of the ocean where the sea surface temperatures are warm, and the warm water is deep (this is part of the Loop Current system - which I'm sure I'll talk about later in the season). But the good news is that as he moves into the Gulf, although the sea surface temperatures are warm, the warm water is not as deep - the Loop Current does not extend as far into the Gulf at the moment as it has in previous years. Also, it looks like the wind shear will continue for a while as he moves north, so although he may intensify a little as he moves north, at the moment I would agree with the NHC that he remains a Tropical Storm.

I'll be back tomorrow with more on STS Alberto and also maybe a wrap up to 2017 and a proper start to 2018... after all, I'm wide-awake now. :-)

Toodle pip,

These remarks are just what I think/see regarding tropical storms (my storm blog). If you are making an evacuation decision, please heed your local emergency management and the National Hurricane Center's official forecast. This is not an official forecast.