Tropical Storm #Wanda and what it says about #climate

The storm system that pounded the Northeastern US last week has wandered out in to the mid Atlantic, and over the weekend became detached enough from surrounding fronts and weather, and tropical enough, for the National Hurricane Center to start tracking it as a tropical system. It’s definitely a fish storm; here’s the impact swath:

Click to embiggen.

If you look at the above swath map you’ll notice something weird: although there are tropical storm markers, there is no wind swath for most of the track. The reason is that while the winds were above tropical storm strength, the modeling system recognized it wasn’t really tropical – it was a nor’easter in characteristics. Even now it’s somewhat marginal, but does technically meet the criteria to be a tropical system.

This is another example of a storm that in the past more than likely would not have been named or tracked. Changes in the criteria that NHC uses for when to start advisories, combined with the tremendous improvements in sensor systems the last 20 years, means that it is likely that at least six, and as many as eight or nine of the 21 storms this year would not have been counted prior to 2000 (and certainly not prior to 1980). This presents a real challenge for those trying to figure out how the Earth’s atmosphere is changing. In a 2009 paper in the Journal of Climate, researchers from NHC and NOAA show that there has been an obvious bias in “short duration” storms (those with lifetimes less than two days) due to observational bias. They state …

In particular, frequency of hurricanes and major hurricanes, duration of TCs, length of season, peak intensity, and integrated TC measures [like Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) and Power Dissipation Index (PDI)] should not be used directly from HURDAT for climate variability and change studies without consideration of, or quantitatively accounting for, how observational network alterations are affecting these statistics. In general, the subsampling of TCs back in time will artificially introduce increases in all of these parameters with time.

The situation since this paper was written has become even more pronounced, with post-Sandy changes in how advisories are issued. Unfortunately, there are those who use data and warning issues like this to dismiss concerns over global warming, just as there are those who point to the inflated tropical cyclone counts as evidence of a crisis. As I ranted earlier, there is a balance between understanding the limitations of the modeling and historical data, and understanding that in fact humans have changed the chemistry of the atmosphere and surface of the Earth, changing our weather and climate. It’s an artificial conflict fueled by politics to say it has to be one or the other, and the choices aren’t simply “do nothing and keep exploiting the Earth’s resources” or “radically reshape our society while exploiting different resources”.

But being sensible has nothing to do with politics … ­čśŽ

Tropics got busy again – sort of (11 Oct 2021)

We’ve now got four active tropical cyclones – three in the West Pacific, and one off of Mexico, along with a couple of low probability disturbances in the Atlantic. Let’s start with the East Pacific (Mexico) since that’s the more serious threat …

Tropical Storm Pamela is expected to become a major hurricane in the next few days before making landfall north of Mazatl├ín. If that forecast holds it could cause a significant amount of damage. Here are links to NHC’s Key Messages regarding Tropical Storm Pamela, and from the Servicio Meteorol├│gico Nacional.

Click any image to embiggen.

There are three systems in the West Pacific. Namtheun is expected to stay well offshore from Japan. Lionrock has already crossed Hainan Island (China) and is raining out over Hanoi Vietnam today. Tropical Storm Kompasu is crossing just north of the northernmost island of the Philippines on its way to Hainan (who did they annoy?). Of the three it has the most damage potential, but impacts should be less than $30 Million in China.

Saving the least for last, NHC has two disturbances tagged on their Tropical Weather Outlook this morning, both with only 20% formation chances over the next five days. No magic words, but NHC cautions that heavy rainfall is possible across the Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico/Virgin Islands, and Hispaniola the next few days.

Invest area off the US East Coast, Earthquakes in #Japan and #Pakistan

There was an earthquake near Tokyo this morning US East coast time (evening Japan time), reports are coming in but some scattered damage (link goes to Japan Times). Given the quality of construction there, not expecting major damage …

click any image to embiggen.

Yesterday it was Pakistan’s turn, this one did cause at least 20 fatalities (link to Al Jazeera)

In the tropics, there is a weak tropical storm headed to Hainan Island, China, but shouldn’t cause a lot of damage. There is an invest area just off the east coast of the US, part of a very messy pattern across the southeast. Here is this morning’s analysis from TAFB (part of the National Hurricane Center):

The invest is the “L” off the South Carolina coast. NHC has it tagged with a 20% chance of becoming worthy of advisories. It is now being simulated by some of the models as AL92, but more than likely won’t cause anything but rain along the coast as it parallels the shoreline while moving northeast.

Atlantic not as busy as it appears (28 Sept 2021)

Hurricane Sam continues to follow the expected track as an intense major hurricane. There are finally some real impacts to talk about, and NHC has started doing Key Messages regarding Hurricane Sam (en Espa├▒ol: Mensajes Claves). Here is the current (5am Tuesday) forecast swath:

Click any images to embiggen.

Fortunately it looks like Sam will avoid Bermuda. There will likely be some coastal impacts from waves and swell, which will be hitting the US Coast this upcoming weekend (1-3 October). Swell from bypassing hurricane or other storm usually means rip currents, so if going to the beach later this week or next weekend beware, and check your local weather service office for any advisories (for Tybee/Hilton Head, that’s the Charleston office (click for link), for points south of Darien Georgia, it’s the Jacksonville office). The weather service is working on an experimental beach forecast page – here’s a sample, click the graphic to go to their site. Try it out and let them know if you like it.

Click image to go to NWS Experimental beach page.

This raises a point that sometimes causes disputes with readers and media denizens. I generally try not to talk about hazards until they exist. The reason is there’s always some potential risk and danger out there from something – most of them you probably don’t even know about, and never will.

More often than not, these potential hazards never materialize. That’s why I don’t spend much time talking about tropical waves coming off Africa, even when NHC has them tagged with high formation percentages. There’s two of them out there now, along with the remains of Peter that might reanimate. The long range forecasts keep them well away from land, so even if they spin up, they aren’t likely to ever be a problem. If they become and issue we’ll talk about it. Until then, the average person shouldn’t worry about it, and a responsible weather forecaster won’t say anything other than “as is typical this time of year we’ve got tropical waves coming off of Africa. Forecasters are watching them and if they become a threat we’ll let you know.”

There’s also the issue of hazards that are common. Rip currents are one of them. Anyone going to the beach should be aware of them, and there are programs to promote beach safety. Hopefully people who live on the coast learn about them as a child, and awareness programs are needed for those visiting from inland so it’s always worth mentioning them when they are present. Are rip currents “life threatening”? I think that’s a bit of hyperbole. I like to be careful with language about risks. Rip currents can be hazardous, but they are only dangerous or life threatening if you don’t use common sense. I think NWS (and the commercial weather people who hype it even more) are starting to over use the phrase “life threatening.” If you call routine hazards “life threatening” it has two unfortunate effects. First, it makes people more scared than they should be. Second, it reduces the contrast between something that is hazardous but not dangerous if you use common sense (like rip currents), and something that is truly dangerous no matter what you do (like a 30 foot hurricane storm surge). Using the same language for both is a bad idea.

Speaking of the SC low country, people felt some minor earthquakes yesterday. They are more common than most realize, will be doing a post on that in the next day or so.

#Gulab makes landfall in #India, #Mindulle to skim #Japan, #Crete earthquake, and nothing to worry about right now (#Sam and the Atlantic)

There was a significant earthquake in Crete today, that was felt across the region. There have been reports of injuries and and least one death, and several aftershocks.

click any image to embiggen.

Cyclone Gulab made landfall in India. The biggest problem has been heavy rain and flooding, although several fisherman were reported killed in waves and wind offshore.

Typhoon Mindulle has encountered a less favorable environment and dropped from a peak wind of 145 knots to only 90 knots. That’s a reduction in wind pressure by a factor of 2.6 and of damage potential a factor of 4.2. It is expected to regain some strength, but is expected to pass far enough off the coast of Japan to cause only light impacts.

The more observant among you will notice I haven’t mentioned the Atlantic yet. That’s because it’s not really that interesting from a threat standpoint. Yes, Hurricane Sam is an intense storm and interesting meteorologically, but it is presently not forecast to threaten land in the next five days, and signs are it may go far enough east of Bermuda to not be a threat to them either (but they still need to be watching). In the exception to the “no spaghetti tracks” guideline, here’s the current major track models …

There are a couple of waves coming off of Africa that may develop tropical characteristics, but the long range prospects for them are not worth spending any time on at this point (of course, those who make a living from keeping you hyped up will, ad nauseum). NHC has them at 80% chance of them starting tracking, but the long range models are not enthusiastic at this point for their prospects. I just heard some talking head on the radio here in Savannah warn of rip currents, but Charleston Weather Service does not have any cautions posted at the moment (their nifty experimental risk dashboard is “green” … click link here).

Doomwatch, 26 Sept 2021: Supertyphoon #Mindulle and #Japan, #Gulab and #India, Hurricane #Sam and, well, nobody but fish

There are two major (Saffir Simpson Category 3 or higher) storms stalking the earth this morning, but only one is threatening land. There are also earthquakes, volcanoes, and of course the SARS-COV-2. Here’s the overview …

click any image to embiggen.

One thing that stands out on the dashboard are all the earthquakes. None seems to have caused any significant damage, but there have been a lot of them the last three days. As for tropical cyclones, we have two that are threatening land. Cyclone Gulab is making landfall today as a weak storm hitting the east coast of India. It’s hard for a storm to hit India and not impact millions of people, given the population density. Economic impacts should be in the 10’s of millions of US Dollars of equivalent purchasing power parity damage …

In the western Pacific, Supertyphoon Mindulle is starting to recurve north and is forecast to be just offshore Tokyo in about five days. On this track impacts would be light, but a wobble to the left could be Very Bad, so this needs watching …

In the Atlantic, Major Hurricane Sam is a small but very intense hurricane. Fortunately on the current track there is no one in the way for the next five days according to the official forecast …

The track models are tightly grouped over that period. Longer range, it may be an issue for Bermuda, but that’s at least 7-10 days away. Nobody else needs to worry about this one. For perspective here are the long range track models … and for my Canadian friends, way too early to get excited, 10 day forecasts are really iffy especially for tropical systems that far north.

Elsewhere, Teresa is no more, so all of the telenovela references I had planned will have to wait until 2027 in the hopes a storm more deserving of the name shows up. There’s a couple of waves coming off of Africa the chattering class will likely talk about since Sam isn’t a problem. Feel free to ignore them.

I haven’t said much about the pandemic lately because from a scientific and emergency response standpoint there’s not much to say other than global governance is a (colorful language deleted) mess. Like so many issues, this isn’t a technical problem, it’s a political problem. Pick any aspect – masks, vaccinations (who, with what, and when), movement restrictions, natural immunity, and so forth, the technical aspects of public health and medicine are secondary and even tertiary to the politics. In the US, both political parties are criminally negligent in the matter, and internationally the situation isn’t a lot better (and often worse in developing countries). As long as people keep electing (or tolerating, or having forced on them) incompetent leaders you will get incompetent results.

Cape Verde Islands/#LaPalma Volcano hype

Those of you living within 50 miles or so of the US East Coast may have noticed you’re not dead this morning (true, it’s Monday, but that doesn’t count), and might be wondering why since the Cumbre Vieja volcano erupted yesterday, and for years you’ve been hearing that if it did a mega-tsunami would sweep across the Atlantic and hit the US with a 100 foot high wall of water.

Waves from a catastrophic explosion and collapse of the Cumbre Vieja volcano

BBC did a drama about this a bit over ten years ago, and I worked with them on an accompanying science based program aired afterwards debunking their own drama. The model and study that shows the megastunami causing 100ft plus waves on the US east coast assumes every single parameter is the worst possible. One glaring example – it assumes the entire flank of the volcano would slide off into the ocean as a solid, intact slab at just the perfect speed to cause the maximum wave. But of course an explosion big enough to do that would fragment it into a billion pieces. That’s not to say that it can’t cause significant tsunami under the right circumstances, but almost certainly not a megastunami. There are lots of scientific papers and studies out there that show it just can’t happen the way the scare mongers are saying. But, of course, that doesn’t stop the media from hyping it and scaring people who don’t have time to read the journals and see that for every paper saying it’s a big risk (mostly from the same two guys) there are ten saying “how about no.”

Here’s some news reports on the current eruption, along with a brief summary of both the original megatsunami crap and some rebuttals.

“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 …

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).

#Ida continues to cause damage, #Larry the cable guy

The remnants of Hurricane Ida (now a “Post Tropical Cyclone”) continues to cause damage across the US Northeast as it finally moves offshore. That, combined with the ongoing power outages, is increasing the economic impact total for the storm, which is now probably over $55 Billion USD and moving Ida into the top five storms in US History.

Hurricane Larry continues to develop in the eastern Atlantic. While it may be a factor for Bermuda and trans-Atlantic shipping, it’s mostly a Cable TV news/weather channel storm. Why is that? Here is this morning’s surface analysis map from the US Weather Service’s Tropical Analysis and Forecast Branch:

TAFB map of the Atlantic, Thursday 2 Sept 2021. Click to embiggen.

In the upper right is an “H” indicating a big high pressure system. Air circulates clockwise around high pressure in the Northern Hemisphere. That is pushing the storm at first west, then it should turn northwest then to the north and northeast as it rounds that mound of air. That, combined with the projected interactions with surrounding systems like the cold fronts headed to our coast (jagged line across the eastern US) should combine to keep the storm offshore.

Here’s the infamous “spaghetti map” of tracks generated by the various computer models. As a reminder, the colored lines are the primary track models – the “cloud” of gray lines are mostly ensemble members – alternative scenarios, many of which are not realistic, but are generated to provide context and probability. Remember the pasta must be cooked before eaten …

Computer model tracks (and NHC track in red).

The longer term models (such as the GFS and EMC) both take the storm well off shore longer term. So again, your best source of information on hurricane threats for a live storm are the National Hurricane Center’s “Key Messages” summaries. In the case of Larry, it’s no threat land so there aren’t even “key messages” at this point, so you’ll have read the public advisories.