#TropicalStorm near #Florida next Weekend (4 June)?

We have the first Magic Words(tm) of the Atlantic hurricane season! The latest (2pm Tuesday 31 May) NHC five day outlook shows an ominous red X and hashmark of doom pointed towards Florida …

Click to open NHC TWO page in another window.

As I frequently recommend, read the text for the graphic before getting too excited. Here’s what it says, with the “magic words” highlighted:

A large and complex area of low pressure is expected to develop near the Yucatan Peninsula and the northwestern Caribbean Sea in a couple of days, partially related to the remnants of Agatha from the eastern Pacific. Despite strong upper-level winds over the area, this system is likely to become a tropical depression while it moves northeastward over the northwestern Caribbean Sea and southeastern Gulf of Mexico late Thursday or Friday. Regardless of development, locally heavy rainfall is likely across portions of southeastern Mexico, the Yucatan Peninsula, Guatemala, and Belize during the next couple of days, spreading across western Cuba, southern Florida, and the Florida Keys on Friday and Saturday. Interests in the Yucatan Peninsula, western Cuba, the Florida Keys and the Florida Peninsula should monitor the progress of this system.

NHC’s Tropical Weather Outlooks follow a specific pattern. They tell you what the thing is (“A large and complex area of low pressure…”) then they will have the phrases Interests in <some place, in this case highlighted in red> should <do something, here in green>. So if you’re (someplace), do that thing – otherwise, don’t worry about it.

In this case the models seem to be showing, well, a large and complex area of low pressure, which are forecast to dump a lot of rain and maybe spin up some tropical winds. The latest GFS run did not form as clear of a center as it has previously, but any organization is still a couple of days away. Even if it does become a depression or minimal tropical storm, it probably won’t be a dangerous system until it is past the Bahamas as it treks northeast (and probably not then either). But we may get “Alex” out of it. As the TWO says, monitor the progress (if you’re in Florida) or enjoy the short work week (if you’re most other folks except me or another profession who works all the time on some crisis or another …).

#Agatha landfall; It Came from the Yucatan

Hurricane Agatha made landfall on the west coast of Mexico last night as a strong Category Two storm. Damage reports are starting to come in, and there is still a risk of flash flooding and mudslides as rain is dumped across the mountainous terrain. As with any storm there will be local stories of tragedy, and there will be people who need help, but Agatha should not have caused a widespread disaster with perhaps one million people in the zone of tropical storm conditions, and estimated impacts on the order of $150 million US Dollars. Here is the surface analysis from NOAA’s Tropical Analysis and Forecast Branch on top of an Infrared (IR – cloud top temperature) satellite image …

Click to embiggen.

IR satellite images are part of the basic tool kit of modern meteorology. These sensors measure the temperatures of the tops of the clouds. If you want to learn more about them, try this overview from the University of Wisconsin geared towards high school students (link). And to learn more about the squiggly lines and symbols, here is a page from NWS on how to read weather maps (link).

So what is the TLDR? The remains of Agatha are merging with an existing low pressure system lurking around the Yucatan. It is possible (NHC says 60% chance at the moment) that the resulting mess will consolidate and form a tropical depression by this weekend and move towards Cuba, the Florida Keys, and the Bahamas. Either way it should dump a lot of rain across that swath. So at the moment there is nothing specific to worry about, just a big blob of wet weather. Will be watching in case something does spin up …

Hurricane #Agatha making landfall in #Mexico today

The slowly moving Hurricane Agatha is making landfall on the west coast of Mexico this evening. Tropical storm force winds and heavy rain are already being felt on the Mexican coast, and conditions will worsen throughout the day. Here’s the latest impact forecast map using my TAOS/TC model, based on the official forecast:

Click to enlarge.

Agatha is a strong Category Two hurricane at 110mph (95 kt) winds. The forecast keeps it at that intensity, although it might barely make Cat 3 status before landfall. Either way that shouldn’t change the impact estimates much. Agatha is a small storm, but there are still around 1.5 million people in the potential damage swath. The economic impact estimate has decreased a little with the track and intensity forecast changes, now at about $200 Million USD.

It is not likely Agatha will survive long after landfall, and while some of the track models do take the remnants into the Gulf on the current track the dynamics of it being a recognizable storm just aren’t there. NHC is showing an area of potential development around the Yucatan Peninsula in a couple of days (the yellow blob on the five day outlook (link)). Some of the remnant moisture of Agatha might contribute to the development of that potential system. The GFS model has been persistent in forecasting a storm to spin up off the coast of Belize in three or four days, then track across Cuba and the Bahamas as it moves northeast, ending up between Bermuda and North Carolina in about 10 days. While of interest to modelers and long range forecasters, it’s WAY too early to speculate or get excited about it.

#Agatha rapid intensification

Wow, that changed quickly. This morning Hurricane Agatha (EP012022) has rapidly increased in organization and intensity …

Agatha – note the dark red (cold) cloud tops on the infrared image (left), and a swirl of an eye forming.
Click to embiggen.

Rather than landfall as a Category One hurricane, it is very possible it could be a Category Three storm as it hits between Puerto Escondido and Mazunte, in the Mexican State of Oaxaca. This has caused the forecast economic impacts to triple to almost $400 Million USD. Still seems unlikely for Agatha to survive to enter the Gulf of Mexico – it should stall out and rapidly decay over land. But with more energy/moisture available it’s more possible. Just goes to show that despite advances, these storms remain somewhat unpredictable, especially intensity forecasts.

Tropical Storm Agatha and #Mexico; Southwestern Gulf of Mexico

Agatha (EP012022) looks to make landfall near Puerto Escondido, Mexico tomorrow (Monday) evening as a minimal hurricane. There is some uncertainty in the intensity, the National Hurricane Center is being conservative and forecasting landfall as a 90mph storm but chances are it will be less than that. If the forecast holds it will affect around 1.5 Million people and have economic impacts of between $100 and $150 Million USD. Like many tropical storm hitting Central America, aside from the immediate coast the biggest risk is probably flooding and landslides from heavy rains. Here’s the latest (Sunday Morning) impact forecast:

Click to enlarge.

Elsewhere, NHC has flagged the southern Gulf of Mexico and the area just to the east of Belize as an area for the possible formation of a storm next week with the odds at 30%. This morning’s GFS run did show something developing off the coast of Belize in about 5 days, becoming a tropical system as it crosses Cuba, the Bahamas, and then exiting northeastwards towards Bermuda. It’s WAY too early to speculate about that – and notice that the NHC Five Day outlook does not have the magic words in it, so nothing to worry about at this point. It is important to keep in mind that while the longer range models are getting better, they still spin up imaginary storms far too often to get excited about them. Unless you are testing your new blood pressure medicine for hurricane season, then feel free 😛

First East Pacific storm headed to #Oaxaca #Mexico

The first tropical storm of the year has formed off the coast of Mexico, and is likely to hit the coast of Oaxaca Mexico as Category 1 Hurricane late Monday or early Tuesday morning:

Click to embiggen.

Here is a link to NHC’s “Key Messages” for the storm. As a reminder, the Key Messages graphic is a great first stop when trying to figure out if a storm is a problem or not and what the current watch/warning situation is.

Agatha is likely to dump a lot of rain over the state of Oaxaca over the next couple of days. My models are showing there are nearly 3 million people in the region at risk, and economic impacts are likely to be on the order of $100 million US Dollars if this forecast holds up. It’s not likely that the storm will enter the Gulf of Mexico and regenerate.


Yes, the big news isn’t the fact my yard finally got some rain (although not nearly enough), it is that the first dreaded yellow X of the year has been placed on the US National Hurricane Center’s five day outlook map. Conditions are not favorable for development, and they have it tagged at only a 10% chance of becoming a tropical system. The area of stuff will drift north and probably cause some rain over Louisiana/Mississippi/Alabama. So threat condition “yawn.” It’s the blob of clouds over the Gulf of Mexico on the map below, IR (cloud temperatures) on the left, visible bands on the right …

Click for less than exciting emgiggenness.

How high do birds fly?

Normally when flying pilots worry about birds during takeoff and landing, for the obvious reason: who can forget US Airways Flight 1549 going for a swim in the Hudson River after a run-in with Canada Geese at 2800 feet during takeoff? In a typical year the US Air Force has upwards of 5000 bird strikes, and civil aircraft hit on the order of 9,000. Most are minor and don’t result in an incident (the vast majority are found by maintenance personnel after landing), although it is almost always fatal to the bird. A dozen or so a year result in the pilot having to abort the flight and make an emergency landing. Here’s a Boeing article on bird strikes for those wanting to find out more details.

I tend to relax a bit about birds once I’m above 5000 feet or so, but birds fly much higher during migration. Recent research in Europe has shown even small birds can fly at over 20,000 feet at times. I got a bit of a reminder while in the Mississippi flyway last week. I was cruising along at 16,000 feet when I saw a bright triangular shape rapidly cross in front of and slightly below me. Contrary to what this guy might think, as it passed I realized it was a flock of birds a few hundred feet below (the human brain tends to “connect the dots” when seeing moving point sources and it looks solid when it isn’t).

No birds or airplanes were harmed taking this picture, by which time said birds were too far to see.

Despite the occasional dramatic events, aviation and flying is remarkably safe. Because accidents are so rare we tend to focus on them, and since flying is something most people don’t do that often it feels more dangerous than it is (unlike driving, which is more risky than you think, especially on Abercorn). Perception of risk is one of those things I study, and it amuses me a bit that now I’ll probably worry more about birds than I should for a while until something else pops up to change my focus. It’s human nature. But hopefully resulted in an interesting blog post 😛

#Hurricane Season 2022: and so it begins … some #climate notes, and a Lunar Eclipse!

Today (15 May) the US National Hurricane Center beings their Tropical Weather Outlook (TWO, link goes to NHC), issued every 6 hours at 2am, 8am,2pm, and 8pm Eastern Daylight Time. For those of you who watch the Atlantic, East or Central Pacific hurricane situation that should be your go-to link. And as a reminder, there are certain “magic words” to watch out for that are your indication as to if you need to worry or not. As I constantly rant, NHC is pretty good in how they phrase these advisories. If you see the words “interests in some place should do something” and you are some place then do something. If you aren’t some place, you can probably not worry about it too much and give your refresh key a break.

Certain Television Weather Channels will hype every cloud and thunderstorm in the Atlantic between now and November, and some web sites will be showing you model tracks for storms that don’t even exist yet (and in many cases won’t every spin up). Ignore them – check the TWO, if it something is mentioned there, then maybe explore some more (especially if you are some place).

Right now, there isn’t any tropical cyclone activity anywhere in the world. Although technically it is not one of the official WMO specialized forecast agencies, for the world outside the National Hurricane Center’s area of responsibility is most easily monitored using the Joint Typhoon Warning Center’s site (link). The maps are boring right now … the only areas of any formation potential are in the Pacific and Indian Ocean and barely register as “very low” potential:

Click to embiggen the most boring map you’re likely to see this year.

There was an interesting article by Chris Landsea on NOAA’s “Beyond the Data” blog last week that those interested in the debate over hurricane activity and climate change should read. “Can we detect a change in Atlantic hurricanes today due to human-caused climate change?” is a pretty good overview of the situation, and hopefully those who want to rant one way or the other will read it and digest. Like most scientific discussions one can quibble with some of the assertions but I completely agree with the conclusion:

Therefore, in summary, we cannot yet say with confidence whether there is any detectable human influence on past Atlantic hurricane activity, and this is particularly the case for any greenhouse gas-induced changes (click to go to full article).

Unfortunately, our historical data and observation systems (and, while not mentioned in the article, shifting criteria) just aren’t good enough to say one way or the other. In theory we should start to see impacts – but we need longer term data. And therein lies the major dilemma with problems like climate change: by the time you can definitively say “yes, this is a problem” it’s too late to do much about it.

Finally, there is a total Lunar Eclipse tonight visible from Canada, the US, and South America. Lunar Eclipses are slow-motion events (link to EarthSky). You’ll first notice something odd about the full moon after 10pm, with the moon entering the dark inner shadow of the Earth (the Umbra) at 10:30pm. Totality (the period when the moon will be covered completely by the Earth’s shadow) will start at 11:29pm. Peak eclipse will be at 12:12pm (just after Midnight Eastern Daylight Time). The process then reverses itself. So if you check on the moon about every 15-30 minutes starting at 10pm (or just want to wake up a Midnight and look). Many of our ancestors saw these things and were afraid, but others watched in awe and figured out they were seeing the Earth’s shadow, and that is one proof that the Earth is round (the shadow is round).

Nuclear Weapons: what you need to know

After thirty years in hiding, the possibility of nuclear war is back in the news. You’re hearing about Russian threats and the Chinese build-up, while minimizing our own problematic actions such as the W76-2 program. Over the last 30 years there has been an under-the-table arms race while at the same time the arms control framework of the late Cold War has been abandoned. I’ve done another podcast with Nate Hagens you can find here, this time discussing in more detail why nuclear weapons are so dangerous, and most importantly what we can start to do about it. This post is an introduction to the subject and preview of that discussion.

I worry that the general public (and many of our political leaders) seem to have lost touch with just how different nukes are from conventional bombs. The days of “duck and cover” exercises in schools are long gone (even before my time!), and if you’re much under 50 you never saw movies like War Games or The Day After, or recall the scares when President Reagan joked about bombing the Soviet Union (or know why that rhetoric was suddenly toned down). I would also guess that there is “doom fatigue,” between COVID and Climate Change, as well as the constant drumbeat of disaster news of various kinds. Nuclear war seemed, until the Ukraine SMO/invasion, a problem of the past. Another factor is complexity. The topic of nuclear weapons can’t be separated from a discussion of doctrine – how these weapons fit into our war plans and their intended use, and involves a topic many Americans don’t know much about and mostly don’t seem to care: foreign policy. So this is a difficult-to-understand interplay of physics, military strategy and tactics, politics, international relations, and of course morality and ethics. And like most complex subjects, the news media, increasingly fueled by social media, oversimplifies, dramatizes, and politicizes stories to “engage and enrage” viewers. So concise information is hard to find.

What follows is a bit of an introduction to this horrible topic. I’m sure subject area experts will find simplifications and interpretations to disagree with, and of course this area is obscured with security aspects that are often used to hide issues that should in fact be publicly disclosed and debated, like doctrine. But here’s a “short” 😛 introduction from my point of view.

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