“Tropical” Storm #Odette, other disturbances

Here’s the morning surface analysis from TAFB (the Tropical Analysis and Forecast Branch, within the National Hurricane Center) over the GOES IR satellite image …

click to embiggen.

The two features of interest are “Tropical” storm Odette, and the disturbance approaching the Leeward Islands(lower right, above the word “Surface” in the label). I put Odette’s title in quotes because Odette isn’t really very tropical – and despite having some areas of tropical storm force winds, it’s really more like a nor’easter in structure and impact. It will be bringing wind and rain to the Canadian Maritime Provinces, especially Newfoundland (more properly, Vinland). To quote from the Environment Canada forecast

This storm is expected to behave more like a strong fall storm with northerly winds and heavy rain. A cold front moving over Newfoundland on Sunday will interact with Odette's moisture to enhance the rainfall over southeastern Newfoundland later in the day Sunday and Sunday night. A special weather statement is in effect for eastern Newfoundland for Sunday into Monday. There will be some minor influence in Nova Scotia's weather with gusty northerly winds on Sunday. Gusts could be near 70 km/h or so in Cape Breton which may cause some minor issues. Some enhanced rainfall is likely over eastern Nova Scotia Sunday morning as Odette interacts with the cold front.

Odette is another example of a storm that needs advisories, but doesn’t quite fit our current system of “tropical gets one kind of advisories, other storms get something different.” Why does this matter? It’s inconsistent for one thing, and confusing in that a 50 mph wind and coastal flooding from a nor’easter has a different warning structure and, especially in the commercial weather media world, different level of reporting and attention.

On the science side it can cause problems as well, especially in the popular mindset. As data has become better, and marginal storms are tracked and named, there is an impression that tropical cyclones/hurricanes are more frequent. It is true that storm characteristics seem to be changing (almost certainly due to human driven climate change), but you have to be careful with the numbers game because the metrics haven’t been consistent over time. Simple storm counts and trends aren’t diagnostic when it comes to climate change. That’s not a criticism of NOAA or the Hurricane Center – they are doing their job, which is to issue watches and warnings, and over time they have continued to get better and better at it. But people who use that data for other purposes need to be very careful. Which brings up the insurance world.

At least in the US, how something is named and warned has a direct impact on things like insurance deductibles, and the same damaged roof could cost a homeowner $500 or $5000 depending on how the contract handles the “named storm deductible.” After the huge industry losses in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s due to earthquakes and hurricanes, rather than design a rational system the insurance industry successfully lobbied state regulators to allow them to have separate “catastrophe deductibles” for these major events. So US consumers face a bewildering array of contract conditions depending on the hazard or if a storm is named or not. You get crazy things like if your roof is damaged and water leaks in and damages your carpet, it’s covered by private insurance. But if that same rain backs up because of a drainage problem, enters your house and ruins your carpet, it isn’t covered unless you have separate, Federally sponsored flood insurance from FEMA. Even outside the US things like reinsurance contracts and parametric insurance depend heavily not on the actual impacts or damage a storm produces, but how it is classified and if it is named or not. It’s a dumb system – insurance triggers should NOT be tied to a watch and warning system. That just isn’t what it was designed for. End of rant.

For the US, it looks like the impacts of Odette will be limited to high surf and rip currents; there are no watches or warnings at this time. As for the disturbance off of the Leeward Islands, it may briefly become a tropical system, but isn’t likely to last long once it starts its northward curve. As the Tropical Weather Outlook says, people there should “monitor” until it is safely past …

Atlantic Update 17 Sept 2021

Nothing has really changed that much, the remnants of Nicholas continue to be a flash flood risk along the TX/LA coast. There are three disturbances on the NHC Tropical Weather Outlook. Here is this morning’s TAFB analysis map on the GOES East Infrared view (I added the red labels for the three disturbances discussed in the TWO) …

of course it can be embiggened.

From right to left (east to west), the one in the Cape Verde islands (NHC DB3) is ignore-worthy. The other two both have 70% chances, but that’s the chances of becoming a tropical depression or storm, not the chances it will kill you. The one in the mid-Atlantic, DB1 (AL952021) has the “magic words”:

... a tropical depression is still likely to form over the weekend or early next week while moving toward the west-northwest at 15 to 20 mph across the central tropical Atlantic and then near or north of the Leeward Islands by Monday and Tuesday. Interests in the Leeward Islands should monitor the progress of this system during the next few days.

So if you’re in the Leeward Islands, monitor it, and be ready to act if something untoward happens. Not in the Leeward islands, don’t worry about it. The global models aren’t doing much with this one; GFS has it taking a sharp right turn as a disorganized low (not even a depression).

The disturbance just off the US coast (NHC’s DB2, AL962021 in the ATCF ID’s) may also briefly become a storm. After pointing out it is disorganized and elongated, NHC goes on to say …

... this system is still likely to become a short-lived tropical depression or tropical storm before it makes a transition to a non-tropical gale-force low by Saturday or Saturday night while moving northeastward at about 15 mph away from the United States mid-Atlantic and Northeast coasts. Regardless of development, this system could bring high surf to portions of the mid-Atlantic and Northeast U.S. coasts and Atlantic Canada through this weekend.

So beware rip currents this weekend.

Where did it go? (Update for 16 Sept 2021)

To reinforce what was said (repeatedly) over time about models and people who get excited about long range forecasts, take a look at this comparison of the GFS 850mb winds from runs at 00z yesterday and today, for Friday the 24th at 8pm:

Swipe left to see current forecast (no storm), swipe right to see yesterday (with storm)

So the various blogs and weather channels that spend a lot of time talking about this stuff are potentially getting you worked up for nothing and wasting your time (well, they are making money off of your fear and angst, but that’s another story).

Most invests and disturbances don’t ever become anything, and even a high formation probability can quickly drop to zero, just as one with a low probability can quickly spin up. Those odds are as much art as science. In either case, as I so often point out, no matter what anyone is saying, if the NHC Tropical Weather Outlook does not have the magic words “Interests <somewhere> should <do something>”, or if it does and you aren’t <somewhere>, then please don’t worry about it and switch off anyone who says you should. The same applies to a live storm – no mention of your area in the “key messages” graphic, no need to worry.

Here’s the current view of the situation in the Atlantic. The remains of Nicholas are still dumping rain in the US South, there is a system off the US East coast that will be generating high surf (and rip currents) across the coast, but if it spins up looks to stay offshore. NHC sent in an airplane yesterday – it didn’t find anything – and will do so again today given how close it is to the US coast. As for the thing off of Africa (AL95), satellite data isn’t showing significant development yet, but it does have potential to become a tropical cyclone. Here’s the TAFB situation map for the Atlantic this morning:

Click to embiggen;

Chanthu is slowly moving away from the China coast off Shanghai, and will be sweeping across Japan as a weakening system. Mostly a rain threat at this point. Elsewhere it’s fairly quiet for this time of year …

If you aren’t familiar with weather maps and symbols, here is a video primer (link) from the Univ of Illinois, and a web primer from NOAA (Link).

#Nicholas, #Chanthu and #China ports, Atlantic watch Wed 15 Sept

TLDR: Nicholas continues to dump on the Gulf Coast, Shanghai/Ningbo starting to reopen, and why you shouldn’t get excited about models episode eleventy-billion or something.

Nicholas is still being tracked as tropical depression. By far the biggest impact of this thing has been rain and ongoing flooding along the Gulf Coast. Here’s the forecast rain swath for the next few days as the remnants drift east …

click an image to embiggen.

Tropical Storm (formerly Chanthu) is wrapping up it’s S turn off the coast from Shanghai and is headed towards Kyushu (the southernmost main island of Japan) as a tropical storm. It will bring rain across Japan over the next couple of days, but winds should remain well below hurricane (typhoon) intensity. Operations are starting to resume in the ports of Shanghai and Ningbo, which is important as these two port are responsible for over 10% of the entire world’s container traffic. A three or four day disruption may not sound like much, but a four day outage equates to around one million TEU’s of disruption in traffic, which has a rippling effect especially given the already messy situation in global shipping.

NHC is watching a couple of disturbances in the Atlantic. One, off the US East coast, might move north and impact North Carolina and points north as a tropical system. The usual suspects seem excited about AL95, the disturbance off of Africa. The last couple of GFS runs have it spinning up in to a fairly organized/intense system, but the intensity and track have a lot of uncertainty. Here is a comparison using the cool slider thingee function in wordpress, showing the 00z and 06z runs, forecast for Friday night about 10 days from now (the 24th). Grab the <> thing and slide back and forth to see the difference …

Comparison between 00z and 06z GFS run forecasts for 8pm Friday, 24 September 2021

That’s actually pretty tight, but reinforces the fact that any speculation as to who (if anyone) is doomed based on this kind of thing is pointless. I can’t say this enough: until the hurricane center uses the magic words (“interests <somewhere> should <do something>”) in their outlooks or advisories, please don’t stress out over it. If you have a hurricane plan then you’re fine – it’s 5 days from the leeward islands, and nearly two weeks away from the US even if it does spin up (which is likely but not certain yet) or come this way (which is very uncertain – a track offshore is more likely). And to the media people: stop with the fear mongering. Recall the fable of the irresponsible kid and the wolf who heroically ended his reign of terror …

#Nicholas hits #Texas, #Chanthu blocks #Shanghai/#Ningbo

NHC upgraded Nicholas to a hurricane just before landfall, based on an isolated hurricane wind report. In reality that’s just a technicality, the impacts were that of a strong tropical storm, and the major threat continues to be inland rain and flooding. In the Pacific, Typhoon (now tropical storm) Chanthu missed a landfall at Shanghai, but has spent the last day doing a slow “S” turn just offshore from Hangzhou Bay …

modeled Wind Waves off of coast of China; click to embiggen.

This matters a lot because two of the three largest container ports in the world are blocked by the storm: Shanghai, that last year moved over 43 million TEU (Twenty foot Equivalent Units), and Ningbo, that moved almost 29 million TEU. The storm is likely to disrupt traffic for a total of for or five days. The impact on global supply chains is significant – these two ports combined move an amazing 10% of the world’s container units (73 million TEU of the global total of 775 million last year).

Back in the Atlantic, there are a couple of disturbances but none are a threat in the immediate (5 days) future and beyond that, well, there isn’t much skill in forecasting that so don’t worry about it. As a reminder, if the magic words “Interests <somewhere> should <do something>” don’t appear in the hurricane center’s Tropical Weather Outlook, ignore what any sites or media outlets are saying about them.

#Nicholas approaching landfall in #Texas; #Louisiana

Nicholas should make landfall tonight on the Texas coast near Matagorda as a strong tropical storm. Here are NHC’s latest Key Messages regarding Tropical Storm Nicholas (en Español: Mensajes Claves). Most of the impacts will be to the right of the storm, over the Houston area, and given the fact the storm will parallel the coast for the next three days this could be a problem for Louisiana into Mississippi as well. Here’s the track and wind swath:

click any image to embiggen.

The rain totals aren’t as high as they have been in some forecasts, but still a risk for flooding across the region given the saturated soils and already high rivers …

So if in areas that are vulnerable to flooding be prepared and watch for rising waters. Elsewhere, NHC is watching two disturbances, neither of which is likely to spin up in the next day or two, but could within five dyas. The one off of Africa is at 80%, but is a long way from anything or anybody, and while it might become a depression in a couple of days or so the long term prospects aren’t clear as of yet. The other is a scary orange blob off the US Southeast coast, but it isn’t expected to make landfall, and should parallel the coast even if something does happen (50% long term chance as of 2pm).

Tropical Storm Nicholas

The disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico has gotten organized enough for NHC to start advisories and tracking as Tropical Storm Nicholas. Right now it looks like the Texas coast is in the damage swath and tropical storm warnings are in NHC’s Key Messages regarding Tropical Storm Nicholas (en Español: Mensajes Claves). Here’s my TAOS/TC damage swath estimate:

Click to embiggen.

Like many of the storms this year, rain will likely be the biggest threat, with some of the forecasts showing up to a foot of rain on the Texas/Louisiana coast in the next week:

There are several disturbances in the Atlantic, but not are a worry right now.

In the Pacific, Typhoon Chanthu passed just offshore from Taiwan, limiting damage but nevertheless likely caused under a billion dollars or so in impacts with heavy rains and flooding. Next up is the densely populated region near Shanghai, China, where if it continues as forecast will inflict over $4 Billion in impacts and additional supply chain disruptions, especially since it is expected to slow down and turn right offshore, spending nearly 48 hours over Hangzhou Bay and pummeling ports and delaying shipping. Shanghai is the worlds busiest cargo port, Ningbo is number three …

Needless to say, the real Nicholas isn’t really excited about this as it means the office will be busy and it will detract from his being the center of attention.

Tsar Nicholas the Cat, always the center of attention.

9/11 plus 20

The post-9/11 world is such a huge chunk of my working life, and 20 years is a milestone and worth some reflections, so I guess I should write something about it. I wasn’t in the country on that day – I was returning home from a mission in the Caribbean, and was waiting in Puerto Rico for my flight to Miami as the first airplane hit the World Trade Center.

Green Iguana. Why is he in a 9/11 post? Story at the end …

I have stories about trying to get home (it took some string pulling and four days), and of course all that has followed from the US reaction to that day, from getting frantic calls for information on Afghanistan (I had been there in the late 1980’s), to helping with aspects of the Iraq invasion planning, and so many other episodes. But, to be honest, I think the time for those kinds of stories has long past.

In the days after the attack I was involved in a position paper pointing out that overreacting had the potential to cause more harm than the original attack. It was pointed out that in terms of deaths, the terrorist attack was a blip in our yearly murder rate (therefore Americans are better than killing ourselves that the jihadis). That this wasn’t, as was being alleged, a failure in intelligence – we had all the pieces, and some analysts had put them together, it just wasn’t communicated to the right people for action. It wasn’t really even a major failure in security – minor changes in procedure could and should have caught the hijackers. The Taliban were open to turning over those thought to be directly behind the attacks – and of course those ultimately responsible, the Wahhabi extremists and their financial backers in the Saudi government, were well known. So maybe we shouldn’t over react, but just kill the planners in some suitably public and messy way, quietly (but equally messily) take out a couple Saudi princes who were supporting the spread of Wahhabism to make that point, tweak what needed tweaking, and move on.

But tweaking and minor fixes isn’t the American way. Neither, apparently, is moving on.

War in Afghanistan. War in Iraq. War in Syria. US forces engaged in open combat across the horn of Africa. Proxy wars across the region. A new, dystopian “Department of Homeland Security” with intrusive and expensive security theater. Militarization of civilian police forces. Fear. Paranoia.

Was it an over-reaction, and was it worth it? Consider: the US has almost certainly killed over TWO HUNDRED times more civilians – CIVILIANS – in its response to 9/11 than were killed in the original attacks. We have directly inflicted several thousand times – probably as much as 10 thousand times, and if you include secondary factors, an eye watering thirty thousand times – as much economic damage on ourselves and the world as was inflicted on us on that day 20 years ago.

And the result? Near East Asia is in far worse shape today than it was twenty years ago. American society has fractured, I think in significant part due to the self inflicted stresses and distorted priorities the last twenty years have brought. So while those with a vested interest in not being overly reflective on all this will talk about heroics (and there was much) and loss (again, there was much), I can’t help but think we turned a tragedy into a catastrophe.

I will close with one 9/11 related story, the reason for the picture of the Iguana. I was on the first airplane to depart Luis Munoz Marin International Airport that was allowed to return to the US. We had problems getting take-off clearance. Not security, or paperwork, on any of the usual reasons.

But because there had been no traffic for several days, the Iguanas had taken over the runways and taxiways, the tarmac staying warm overnight, and it being a perfect place to bask in the morning sun. This a problem at SJU on normal days, but on Friday September 14th, 2001, it was extreme. A truck had to preceded our airplane as we taxied out with line crews jumping out and shooing the lizards out of the way; then did the same to clear the runway. We were told they ran back to their spots as soon as we took off, and it took days for things to return to normal.

Tropical Depression #Mindy, Hurricane #Larry, Typhoon #Chanthu and #Taiwan, #China

The National Hurricane Center started advisories on Tropical Storm Mindy last night. It’s a very minimal storm, mostly a rain event, and a very asymmetric one at that with the heavy rain displaced to the northwest of the storm. Here’s the radar composite at 5:18am this morning …

click to embiggen.

For those in Coastal Georgia and South Carolina, this should be a non-event relatively speaking. Some potential for heavy rain this morning and early afternoon, so you might see some street flooding in the usual places (Savannah has a Waters Avenue for a reason 😛 ). But winds should be light outside of thunderstorms, and the tornado risk is only slightly above normal. Key Messages regarding Tropical Depression Mindy (en Español: Mensajes Claves).

Hurricane Larry is speeding towards Vinland (called by the locals “Newfoundland”) and will be causing high winds, rain, and surf this weekend. Nova Scotia might see gusty winds and rain as well

Elsewhere in the Atlantic, NHC has two disturbances tagged, but neither has the magic words so aren’t worth talking about at the moment.

There are other tropical systems out there. Tropical Storm Olaf will probably become a hurricane this morning and swipe Baja del Sur tonight/tomorrow. In the Pacific tropical storm Conson has passed over the Phillipines and is headed towards Hainan Island and Vietnam, may briefly become a typhoon but should decay before landfall Monday.

Of more concern is Typhoon Chanthu. On the current forecast track it should pass directly over Taiwan, and will be passing just offshore from many major port facilities in China. It may stall just offshore from Shanghai. Current economic impact estimates are over $10 Billion USD on this track, with some as high as $18 Billion. Given the fragility of the world’s supply chains, many of which are dependent on the Taiwanese semiconductor industry, and the major ports in China likely and all of the shipping likely to be disrupted on this track, it isn’t a good situation …

THREAT CONDITION “MEH”: possible #tropical system forming in northeastern Gulf of Mexico near #Florida

The system that has been migrating northeast over the last couple of days is organized enough to cause the National Hurricane Center to issue a special advisory and raise the chance of formation to 80% …

Click to embiggen.

The main threat from AL91 (which would become Tropical Depression 13 and, if strong enough or somebody gets out and pushes, Tropical Storm Mindy) is rain; any tropical storm winds should be confined to the coast or thunderstorms. With the approaching front and previous front stalled out over Georgia, conditions are not favorable for regeneration in the Atlantic. If you are in coastal GA/SC, the forecast tomorrow isn’t really any different: thunderstorms. Tropical storm warnings are possible, but really this is a minimal system and unless you’re right on the coast shouldn’t be a big deal unless you are really unlucky and something breaks that shouldn’t.