Some advice on how to monitor “Invest” areas

In today’s media environment, with the constant pressure to keep eyes on screens and you clicking on sites, it’s hard to know when something is an actual threat vs. something there is no need to worry about. After all, if your revenue stream is based on interactions, telling people it’s OK to have a life and go for a walk or relax isn’t in your best interests. So how is the average person supposed to navigate that environment? With tropical systems, it’s actually fairly straightforward …

First, and I hate to have to say this, but unless a storm is actually threatening your area, with a few exceptions I can’t recommend most local news or their apps. They are under too much pressure to keep you amped up and tuned in, and most apps are thinly disguised attempts to siphon off as much of your valuable personal data as possible. The “threatening your area” exception is so you can keep up with local closures, evacuation plans, etc. Otherwise, far too many broadcast weather people just can’t bring themselves to say “don’t worry about this, check back tomorrow.” Certainly check the local news at least once a day to keep up with what is going on locally, but don’t get too excited by weather news if there is no actual watch or warning up. And as for Those Weather Channels, the less said the better. By far your best source for hurricane information is the US National Hurricane Center (NHC).

The primary source for the average person to keep up with the tropics is the Tropical Weather Outlook (TWO). It has both text and graphics versions – don’t skip the text (scroll down under the graphic) as the graphics are not the whole picture! The TWO is produced four times per day, at 2am, 8am, 2pm, and 8pm. There is no need to hang on every update of invest areas if they are more than a couple hundred miles from your location – and even then, unless the NHC TWO (tropical weather outlook) specifically says “Interests in (your area) should monitor the progress of this system.” there is no need to worry. They are extremely conservative (on the safe side) with these bulletins, and will include a caution that watches/warnings might be needed on short notice if there is a chance of that.

My advice for the average person is to check the TWO in the morning, if there isn’t a live storm or anything within your ~600 mile range, don’t worry about it until the next day. If there is, or it does say “monitor”, and if it’s an invest, go to twice a day (8am/8pm) and maybe check the 2pm update if it’s really close (say around the Bahamas or northeastern Gulf for the southeastern US, or the Gulf/northwestern Caribbean for Florida). If you’re a night owl or working shifts, there is a 2am update for TWO’s. Once a storm develops, the advice really doesn’t change, only the times, since storm bulletins are published at 5am, 11am, 5pm and 11pm. Then watch the NHC’s “Key Messages” product for that storm. There aren’t any examples at the moment, but I try to always post a link to those in any posts about live storms in NHC’s area of responsibility. It’s a great, no-hype summary.

There is no need to get stressed out over hurricane season if you have a plan (and a reminder, make sure your insurance is up to date well in advance because policy changes are generally frozen once an active storm is being tracked). FEMA/DHS has a good site for checklists (link). Checking the TWO’s once a day makes sense – just don’t get worked up over invests (or live storms for that matter) until you need to.

#Invest area in the #Atlantic

As the sun rises over the eastern Atlantic this morning, media weather personalities are breathlessly generating gigabyles of content over an “invest area”. Here’s a quick overview. On the visual band image it’s hard to pick out the system …

click to embiggen. Notice the tilt of the terminator (the line between day and night) since we are so close to the summer solstice (June 21st), the maximum of the year at 23.5 degrees.

The global forecast models are all tracking some kind of organized low spinning up from this tropical wave in 4-5 days, and the US National Hurricane Center gives it a 50% chance of becoming a depression over the next five days. Here is the obligatory spaghetti map showing the major global track models … there is a remarkable consensus in the track given it’s not very organized yet:

Raw spaghetti. Do not consume until cooked.

The TLDR is a tropical depression will likely form this weekend or early next week as the system approaches Barbados, and there is the potential for a tropical storm to spin up from that as it makes its way across the southern Caribbean. There are no “magic words” in the NHC tropical weather outlook, so nothing specific to worry about at this point. Those in the Caribbean might want to double check your hurricane supplies and plans if your haven’t already, but again nothing to get excited about if you’ve done your pre-season prep.

Fires on St. Catherine’s Island (Coastal Georgia, US)

Despite the rain, recent thunderstorms have triggered a few fires in the area given the persistent dry conditions. The wildland fires on St. Catherine’s Island (Wikipedia), located between Savannah and Brunswick, are getting some media coverage (WJCL TV) and social media angst. The smoke plumes are visible from space, but a better picture can be had from the infrared sensors on the polar orbiting satellites. Here are the fire signatures detected from the NOAA “Sumoi” polar orbiter over the last 24 hours ending 7am …

Sumoi fire signatures; click to embiggen.

And here is a visible band view from the same satellite from yesterday, with the smoke plume visible …

These kinds of fires are an essential part of the coastal ecosystem. The fires create habitats for birds and animals (like the Red Cockaded Woodpecker – link goes to USFS) and in the long run reduce the overall fire danger by keeping fuel levels down. This becomes more of a problem where human encroachment puts our stuff in areas that have adapted, over thousands of years, to periodic burns. Over the last few decades there has been a concerted effort to try to balance letting them run their course and protecting human infrastructure. There are ongoing studies trying to figure out if we will get more fires as climate changes. We don’t really have a good answer to that yet (USGS) …

Central America Surrounded by Weather!

The system off of the west coast of Mexico has been upgraded to a tropical depression as of 5am this morning, making it the second storm of the East Pacific season (EP022022). It will likely strengthen into a tropical storm and perhaps minimal hurricane as it skirts the coast, but conditions are not favorable for any more than that, and most of the damaging impacts should stay offshore with the main impact being waves. Elsewhere, NHC has a 30% probability area behind EP02, and has increased the five day formation odds for the blob in the western Caribbean to 40%.

Central America Doomwatch, click to embiggen.

But there are no organized model tracks or “magic words” in the forecast as of yet. Most likely this will be a rain event in Central America, GFS shows a weak system drifting into the coast of Belize in this weekend, and spins up another system next week. This is typical behavior where an area is favorable for storm formation, and as systems move through it they have the potential to spin up. Some do, most don’t, so if you have prepared for hurricane season and have your plan and supplies organized (link to FEMA’s “ready” site), nothing to worry about.

Quick look at the tropics; nothing terribly concerning at the moment.

Most of the world is quiet from a tropical standpoint. There are a couple of areas on the US National Hurricane Center’s five day outlook. The one with the highest potential is just off the west coast of Mexico. Here’s a quick look at the areas tagged in the outlook …

NHC’s Five Day Outlook formation probabilities

The system off of Mexico might spin up into a depression over the next couple of days. The main model runs keep it just offshore, some upwards of a Cat 1 or 2 hurricane, but the ensemble runs have a bit of a “squashed spider” look to them. Once a circulation forms the forecasts should stabilize. The other two areas aren’t anything to worry about for a few days.

PTC1 on Saturday Morning (4 June)

Potential Tropical Cyclone One is still an unrealized potential, and shows no signs of organization before the associated mess of rain squalls moves past Florida. Here is what it looks like on InfraRed satellite (the sun isn’t up yet as I write this):

Click any image to embiggen.

There are actually several “centers” depending on how you define that, including the small convection-free swirl of clouds you can see in the center of the image. NHC thinks this mess will consolidate into a single center once it moves past Florida and The Bahamas, but they are off the hook for a real tropical storm. That doesn’t mean that some rain squalls with tropical storm force winds won’t pass by this morning, but more like the typical summer downpours and thunderstorms than a real tropical storm.

For being such a disorganized mess the track models and forecasts are remarkably consistent, taking it out parallel to the US Southeast coast towards Bermuda. There is still a chance that this will develop briefly in to Tropical Storm Alex before it gets there, but it will likely be short lived before conditions deteriorate and it becomes extratropical.

Raw spaghetti. Not for human consumption until cooked.

Potential Tropical Cyclone One (AL012022) heads to #Florida

Potential Tropical Cyclone One is a large, disorganized system that is producing tropical storm force winds, but technically isn’t a tropical storm (more on that later). In terms of impacts, it should just be some wind and rain – here are NHC’s Key Messages regarding Potential Tropical Cyclone One. As a reminder, once a storm forms the “Key Messages” product is a nice summary of watches, warnings, and forecast. Here is my TAOS/TC impact estimate based on the 5am forecast. Bottom line is windy/rainy weekend for Cuba, south Florida and the northern islands of The Bahamas, minimal damage other than some trees down, scattered power outages, very scattered roof damage, that sort of thing. Economic impact should be transitory, under $100 million, and recovered quickly. Elsewhere the storm may cause rip currents along the Southeastern US coast next week.

Click to enlarge.

So what the heck is a “Potential Tropical Cyclone”? In the past these kinds of storms were not tracked and reported by the Hurricane Center until they met the formal criteria for being a tropical storm. That would mean a distinct (from other systems) warm core, closed circulation. The problem is that in some conditions a tropical storm can form from an otherwise disorganized disturbance before the system crosses land, and less than the normal time frame when watches are issued. This became more of an issue in 2010 when the lead time for a watch was increased from 36 to 48 hours, and a warning form 24 to 36 hours, and more storms were forming withing those time frames and people were not getting as much notice. So in order to give people warning and time to prepare, NHC starts advisories as a “Potential Tropical Cyclone” on systems that are forecast to become actual tropical systems. So like a lot of things in tropical meteorology, it’s a mix of actual meteorology, administrative issues, and emergency management needs.

Here is a handy reference to terms like PTC, tropical wave, tropical storm, etc., from the NWS Mobile, AL office. And here are the “new” (as of 2010) criteria for watches and warnings.

NHC Likely to start advisories, post watches for #Florida today for potential #tropicalstorm

Although still not well organized, and not in a great environment for development, the system off of Yucatan continues to move slowly northeast. Since it has a good potential to become at least a tropical depression or low end tropical storm, the hurricane center will likely start advisories and post watches later today as at least a “potential tropical cyclone.” At the moment the models aren’t terribly enthusiastic about the system, most keeping it at minimal tropical storm strength. Here is what the US GFS model shows for Saturday Morning at 8am, a disorganized minimal tropical storm …

850mb heights and winds (about 5000 feet above ground, a good indication of organization)

Some of the models don’t even form a coherent system (just a broad area of disturbed weather). In the map above you can see two distinct “centers” (the “L” symbols), indicating a very disorganized system. Here is what some of the models are showing as tracks, for a disorganized mess they are actually fairly consistent …

Computer Models as of 5am ET; click any image to embiggen. “Dispersion” is a measure of where a mix of models puts the storm each day. The tighter the ellipse, the better. The orientation shows the most likely direction of error.

Other than a lot of rain it’s not likely this storm will get organized enough to produce significantly damaging winds. Unless you’re just unlucky and a tree falls on your house, or something breaks that shouldn’t, this should be just a rain event for Cuba, Florida and The Bahamas. For the Southeastern US (Georgia and Florida), an approaching cold front that will bring rain Friday and early Saturday will have moved past, and the system (tropical storm or not) should stay far enough away to not cause any impacts other than perhaps waves and a risk of rip tides at the beach.

Start of official Atlantic hurricane season; tropical weather outlook

This morning’s Tropical Weather Outlook (TWO) from the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) is worth reading and, if you’re in a hurricane prone area, bookmarking. It should be your go-to reference for hurricane planning to get the “big picture”. Today’s TWO has a nice overview of NHC products (reproduced below). Here is the link: https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/gtwo.php?basin=atlc&fdays=5

There are two areas of disturbed weather being watched today. The one in the Bahamas isn’t likely to be much of a threat to anyone, the one over the Yucatan has a better chance of at least a tropical depression forming (70% according to the early morning update, up to 80% at the 8am update). The 06z (2am) GFS global weather model showed it staying pretty disorganized as it crosses over Yucatan and then Cuba, the Florida Keys, and Bahamas through next weekend. As the advisory states, people in those areas should “monitor the progress” of the system.

Sunrise over the Eastern Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico. IR (temperatures) on the left, visible on the right.
Click to embiggen.

As for Enki’s products this year, if there is something going in in any of the hurricane basins (not just the Atlantic, but the Pacific and Indian Ocean as well) I plan on doing a post between 6:00am and 7:30am Eastern Time with an overview and discussion of the potential impacts, as well as any interesting scientific or political points of interest for any active events. If a storm is threatening land, I’ll do an additional post in the mid to late afternoon (between 3:30pm and 5:30pm) with any important updates. It is vital to remember that weather analysis has a cycle of updates, and despite the efforts of the media to make you fixate on every wobble or update, the forecasts are only updated four times a day and it is rare they change that much from one to another. Generally speaking, checking once a day is fine for a storm more five days away from you, and twice a day until it passes or you are in/near a watch/warning zone, at which point more frequent checking is a good plan. Don’t worry about what models say: follow the official forecast for planning purposes. If you want to understand how those models become a forecast, that’s something I write about here, but don’t bet your life on a model (or, as I like to say, don’t eat raw spaghetti).

As promised, here is the product overview from the TWO for reference since it will be overwritten later today by an updated advisory …

Today marks the first day of the Atlantic hurricane season, which 
will run until November 30.  Long-term averages for the number of 
named storms, hurricanes, and major hurricanes are 14, 7, and 3, 
respectively.

The list of names for 2022 is as follows:

Name           Pronunciation    Name            Pronunciation
-------------------------------------------------------------
Alex           AL-leks          Lisa            LEE-suh 
Bonnie         BAH-nee          Martin          MAR-tin
Colin          KAH-lihn         Nicole          nih-KOHL     
Danielle       dan-YELL         Owen            OH-uhn  
Earl           URR-ull          Paula           PAHL-luh 
Fiona          fee-OH-nuh       Richard         RIH-churd
Gaston         ga-STAWN         Shary           SHAHR-ee
Hermine        her-MEEN         Tobias          toh-BEE-uss 
Ian            EE-an            Virginie        vir-JIN-ee
Julia          JOO-lee-uh       Walter          WALL-tur
Karl           KAR-ull

This product, the Tropical Weather Outlook, briefly describes 
significant areas of disturbed weather and their potential for 
tropical cyclone formation during the next five days.  The issuance 
times of this product are 2 AM, 8 AM, 2 PM, and 8 PM EDT.  After the 
change to standard time in November, the issuance times are 1 AM, 7 
AM, 1 PM, and 7 PM EST.

A Special Tropical Weather Outlook will be issued to provide 
updates, as necessary, in between the regularly scheduled issuances 
of the Tropical Weather Outlook.  Special Tropical Weather Outlooks 
will be issued under the same WMO and AWIPS headers as the regular 
Tropical Weather Outlooks.

A standard package of products, consisting of the tropical cyclone 
public advisory, the forecast/advisory, the cyclone discussion, and 
a wind speed probability product, is issued every six hours for all 
ongoing tropical cyclones.  In addition, a special advisory package 
may be issued at any time to advise of significant unexpected 
changes or to modify watches or warnings.

The Tropical Cyclone Update is a brief statement to inform of 
significant changes in a tropical cyclone or to post or cancel 
watches or warnings.  It is used in lieu of or to precede the 
issuance of a special advisory package.  Tropical Cyclone Updates, 
which can be issued at any time, can be found under WMO header 
WTNT61-65 KNHC, and under AWIPS header MIATCUAT1-5.

All National Hurricane Center text and graphical products are 
available on the web at https://www.hurricanes.gov. More information 
on NHC text products can be found at 
https://www.hurricanes.gov/aboutnhcprod.shtml, while more 
information about NHC graphical products can be found at 
https://www.hurricanes.gov/aboutnhcgraphics.shtml.

You can also interact with NHC on Facebook at 
https://www.facebook.com/NWSNHC. Notifications are available via 
Twitter when select National Hurricane Center products are issued.  
Information about our Atlantic Twitter feed (@NHC_Atlantic) is 
available at https://www.hurricanes.gov/twitter.php

#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 …).