Good morning everyone. I’ve been working on putting together a DVD of the footage that I captured from the recent April Nor’easter that we had here in New Jersey and the rest of the Northeast. It is coming along very well, and I plan to have it done soon. I have put together a series of timelapse videos for the four days following the storm as it slowly began to move out to sea. You can view the video at YouTube. These videos will also be a part of the DVD. Enjoy.
What does this have to do with tropical storms and hurricanes you ask? Well, if you look at the factors that are critical to tropical formation, light upper level winds are right up there when it comes to hurricanes. The reason for that is because tropical cyclones are vertically stacked systems, meaning that the cloud structure around the center of low pressure, or the eye of the storm, build high on top of each other, and it’s vertical profile is not slanted or sloping like that of mid-latitude cyclones. Light upper level winds or low wind shear is important especially for fledgling tropical systems, which are trying to put the right ingredients in place to blossom and mature into the intense storms that we are familiar with.
The NOAA researcher involved in this study is Gabriel A. Vecchi, which works at GFDL, the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, New Jersey. Both Vecchi and Brian J. Soden of Miami’s Rosenstiel School for Marine and Atmospheric Science put forth their findings after using 18 different computer models to “anticipate the effects of global warming in the years 2001-2020 and 2018-2100.” Wind shear is defined as the difference in winds at different levels in terms of both speed and direction. Both researchers found that vertical wind shear increased in the two basins adjacent to the United States when all other factors such as increased sea surface temperatures are all equal. But, in a situation with global warming, you have a scenario in which all other factors are “not equal.” However, other studies included those by MIT professor and Divine Wind author, Kerry Emanuel conclude that increased ocean temperatures have been linked to more powerful storms since 1970.
In addition, the study done by Vecchi and Soder did not find similar changes occurring elsewhere in other basins such as the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans. According to this article, “The models projected that the west and central Pacific should become more favorable to development of the storms, called typhoons in those areas.” Emanuel also believes that the finding on wind shear may be overrated. The MIT professor stated that “storms’ sensitivity to wind shear may be overestimated.” He believes that the increase in sea surface temperatures that was the basis for his study, has a much more significant impact on tropical development than increased wind shear. Meanwhile, Chris Landea from the Hurricane Research Division of NOAA contends that this was an important study. Landsea, who has worked with Dr. William Gray of Colorado State in putting together seasonal Atlantic Hurricane forecasts called the research, “a very important contribution to the understanding of how global warming is affecting hurricane activity.” Keep in mind though that Landsea and Gray are supporters of a natural cycle of increased hurricane activity while Emanuel is a proponent of the global warming impact on sea surface temperatures and increased tropical activity.
What are my thoughts on this? Well, I believe that global warming is happening, and that the climate change is already making an impact in certain parts of the world. However, I also believe that while we need to do something about the environment now to prevent the climate problem from continuing to decline, we need to do something about the upcoming season, and years in the immediate future. We need to deploy practices and policies in coastal areas to protect those that are in harm’s way now. Now, while I believe that this research and Emanuel’s findings are important, and must continue, the media and the federal government must do more to call attention to protecting coastal areas, and discourage building and increased population in those regions. In addition, other parts of the world that are not as well off as the United States, are even more in peril as the Indonesian Tsunami of 2004, devastating floods in Central America caused by Hurricane Mitch in 1998, and catastrophic flooding in Venezuela in 1999 proved.
On April 5, 2007, it was reported on several media web sites including WITN from Eastern Carolina that the National Hurricane Center has been hampered by inflation and budget cuts. According to the article, “inflation has eroded the center’s nearly six million dollar budget,” and “…sharp cuts have damaged an important research program and there is no replacement in sight for a crucial satellite that’s soon to fail.” Then, today, April 17, 2007, WDSU.com, which comes out of New Orleans, reported that FEMA will not have a new federal government plan for responding to emergencies such as those from tropical storms and hurricanes like that of Katrina in place for the start of the 2007 Atlantic Hurricane Season. Now this article states that, FEMA advised Congress that, “it will not meet its June 1 deadline for issuing a new national response plan,” and this advisory states that, “development of the new plan had been delayed by unexpected issues, and more time is needed to resolve them.” To summarize, if you’re a coastal resident from Maine to Texas, you better be getting ready because if you thought our state of preparedness and post storm response to Katrina was bad, it could be much worse this time.
Now it’s not surprising that FEMA is still having troubles. After all, it was that government agency and homeland security that failed to adequately respond to the aftermath of Katrina in a timely fashion. However, the problems with the NHC is also not surprising, but is very distressing. If any government agency performed admirably during Katrina, it was the National Hurricane Center under the direction of former head, Max Mayfield, who stepped down at the end of the 2006 Atlantic Hurricane Season. Budgetary problems in terms of cuts have been going on at NOAA and the NHC for a very long time, and although it is not surprising, it is also unacceptable. It amazes me how the folks at the National Hurricane Center have been able to perform so well, and continue to gradually improve forecast track accuracy when things like this have been happening. It’s analogous to someone with no legs being able to run the 100 yard dash faster than Carl Lewis.
If cuts continue, and things such as key weather satellites cannot be repaired, the National Hurricane Center will eventually encounter a storm that will cause tremendous difficulty for them, and put a large number of people at risk. Regardless of how much skill forecasters have, tools such as satellites, radar, and computer models are vital to their success. Congress and the White House should make due on their promise to prevent something like Katrina from happening again by doing whatever it takes to ensure that NOAA, and its divisions for such things as severe weather, hurricanes, and forecasting offices throughout the country are properly funded. In the meantime, residents along the United States coastline from Brownsville to Boston and beyond must begin to make adequate preparations for this upcoming season. With FEMA still having difficulties trying to reorganize, and the NHC fighting an uphill battle against budgetary and financial woes, people must become self sufficient, and be able to weather the storm this upcoming season.
Good evening once again everyone. I’m gradually getting out of my winter doldrums, and my high school basketball mode. However, I’ve still had problems with my computer, and some minor health issues that I had to take care of. In addition to that, I was trying to follow the recent April Nor’easter that affected the Northeast including New Jersey, and my hometown. I took some video footage that you can see at YouTube, and there’s information in another blog posting about that.
Anyway, I finally got around to posting stuff to the blog, and I have been sending e-mails to those on my mailing list regarding the latest news going on in the world of hurricanes. While the last hurricane season was a rather quiet one despite prognostications to the contrary at the beginning, forecasters have been giving indications again that this season will be an active one with 17 named storms, 9 hurricanes, and 5 major hurricanes.
The 2006 Atlantic Hurricane Season did not turn out the way many had anticipated because of the fact that a weak El Nino developed during the middle of the season, and squashed any significant tropical development during the peak time of the year. Since that time, the latest El Nino episode has dissipated, and been replaced by a La Nina. Atlantic Hurricanes flourish under La Nina conditions since sea surface temperatures in the Eastern Pacific are cooler than normal, and as a result, tropical activity is usually below normal. Shear and turbulence generated by Eastern Pacific storms, which can hinder the development of Atlantic Hurricanes, is reduced, and therefore, tropical cyclones in the Atlantic Basin have greater chances to mature and intensify.
However, the El Nino/La Nina phenomena is only one ingredient to the hurricane forecasting recipe. You also have to take into account rainfall in the Sahel region of Western Central Africa. When you have above normal rainfall in this area like we have seen over the past dozen years or so, tropical activity has a good chance of being above average. If conditions are such as those experienced between 1970 and 1994, where there was significant drought, tropical development is usually down. This year, there may be some indication that rainfall could be below normal in this area. While Dr. William Gray, and his forecast team at Colorado State have concluded that sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic have been above normal, and the El Nino has dissipated, there wasn’t much discussion of the situation with rainfall in the Sahel.
If you were paying attention to the news lately, Accu-Weather had given a forecast a few weeks ago that said the Gulf Coast was once again vulnerable to an intense, or major hurricane. To review, a major hurricane is one that is Category Three, or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. Joe Bastardi, the Chief Forecaster of the Accu-Weather Hurricane Center indicated that not only one in six people in the United States could be affected by a hurricane, but also that the “Texas Gulf Coast faces the highest likelihood of a hurricane strike, possibly putting Gulf energy production in the line of fire.”
One thing is for sure, and that is the weather not only here in New Jersey, but also in other parts of the United States has been dreadful for this time of year. Who would have thought that January would be more like May, and April would be more like late November and December? Just ask baseball fans in Cleveland and Seattle, which have struggled to keep up with their schedule due to numerous rain outs and snow outs. Not only have we seen a rare Nor’easter in the month of April, but temperatures have been below normal, and there doesn’t seem to be any let up in sight. With these unusual swings in weather, which have raised more debate about the prospect of global warming and climate change, one has to wonder what will be in store of Hurricane Season 2007.
In addition to the footage I have put together on the April Nor’easter, I’ve also posted a couple of time lapse videos on YouTube. One is the aftermath of the St. Patrick’s Day storm back in March, and the other is a wonderful sunrise less than two weeks later. You can view them by clicking on the videos below.
Good evening everyone. Well, I’ve been quite busy recently with following the recent April Nor’easter that gripped the Northeastern United States. In case you haven’t been checking any of the reports at my other web site, Greg’s Weather Center, my hometown here in New Jersey received 4.3 inches of rain over the past several days. Barometric pressure dropped to 28.5 inches of Hg on Monday morning. I spent part of Monday afternoon collecting video footage of tthe aftermath and flooding from the storm. You can view a slideshow of it at YouTube.com.