Isaias looking for trouble

We continue with our extremely busy early season in the tropics, already reaching the I storm for the year. That means there have been 9 named storms, with the typically most active part of the season looming. Hanna, the storm before Isaias was the first hurricane of the year, landfalling in south Texas last week, causing some flood damage to the Brownsville, McAllen and Harlingen areas. Isaias also threatens US interests this weekend.

Isaias only congealed into a hurricane after making his first landfalls over Puerto Rico and Hispaniola. Shortly after reemerging over the sea north of the Dominican Republic, he strengthened into a hurricane for the first time. He still doesn’t look like your classic, well organized hurricane as he passes over the central Bahamas, but hurricane hunters have verified his status.

There are warnings out for most of the Bahamas, as well as across the east coast of Florida as well.

Calling for a hurricane warning where the hurricane presently is is just solid operational meteorology, but the warning along the Florida Coast should tell you a little something about where this storm is expected to end up. Let’s see the first spaghetti plot on Victoria-Weather of 2020!

There are two things to note about this particular track. First, the majority of the input guidance keeps the storm off the coast of Florida, save for a brief incursion around Jupiter, before strafing the coast. Second, there is a startling level of cohesion to the tracks even a few days into the forecast. I feel like now I should note that Isaias is pronounced “Eesa-eeyus” because you are going to hear about the storm for a while.

The bad news is that this storm is going to affect the US for quite awhile, but after that initial “there is a hurricane affecting the country, and it is part of an extremely active tropical season to date” news, the situation breaks towards the positive for the East Coast. First, Isaias is likely close to, if not at, it’s maximum intensity already.

This is primarily because Isaias is moving swiftly, and won’t loiter over the warm waters that will give it strength. Additionally, his proximity to the coast will deter sustained development. That swift moving factor should limit the flooding potential, though there is always that chance with a tropical feature. I would expect the flooding threat to be greatest from North Carolina to New York, where Isaias will dabble inland the most.

Winds and storm surge won’t ever really bear down on the US as powerfully as they could. The left side of a hurricane, relative to storm motion, is generally the tamest side of the storm. IF the eye remains off shore in Florida, when the storm is its strongest, then the most intense part of the storm will follow suit. Also, storm surge is greatest ahead of the storm, and since it will be moving parallel to the coast for the most part, surge will never be as big a concern as Katrina or Michael, for example.

All tropical features bring their dangers and should be met with concern. Fortunately, Isaias will deliver only a glancing blow. Hopefully, it will give enough practice to coastal residents, as the 2020 hurricane season (and 2020 year in general) don’t show any signs of becoming less relentless.

The north Atlantic is off to a fast start

Hurricane season usually peaks around early September, when the tropical seas are at their warmest. Last season, there were 8 storms that were ongoing in the month of September. That was a particularly active season, but that burst of storms happens when it usually does.

The storms started with Dorian and ended with Lorenzo (Erin came and went before September came around, while we all remember how long lived Dorian was) before all was said and done. Now, keeping in mind that it is only the 11th of July, note that the storm that clipped the mid-Atlantic this weekend was Tropical Storm Fay.

That means it was the 6th storm of the season, which didn’t come, even during last season’s intensity, until September. That’s a pretty remarkable thing. We usually don’t get to our F’s until at least late August, but the NHC has had to be particularly busy this year.

That sounds pretty dramatic, but check out this forecast map for Fay.

It was a shortwaved feature that didn’t last long, and wasn’t well organized until it had aid from the jet stream near the coast. The life span isn’t dissimilar from the rest of the storms of the 2020 season. The strongest storm of the season was Arthur, which had a 60mph max gust at his core.

In short, we have made it to July with 6 named storms, and none of them have become a hurricane. The NHC also does not have any areas being monitored for development into a tropical feature, which seems to suggest we are in the clear for a few days, at least.

Despite the brief areas of organization, this hasn’t been a terribly destructive early storm season. Sure, some of these bubbles have reached the lowest threshold to be named but nothing has approached the more significant threshold to be identified as a hurricane.

There hasn’t been a great deal of excess energy in the north Atlantic this season (in fact a fair bit less recently with that well advertised Sahara dust cloud muddling the skies), but continued improvement in monitoring and identification, as well as a slight aberration towards organization in the grand scheme of things, we have a lot of names already used, and the real meat of the season isn’t even here yet.

Independence Day Ring of Fire

We’ve made it to the middle of summer, and the biggest summer holiday of them all. Some fireworks displays are still on, while others are cancelled out of an abundance of caution with the continued coronavirus pandemic. Whether or not we will get the patriotic displays, the atmosphere is certainly going to feel as it should on the 4th of July.

It’s going to be very hot for a lot of the country for Independence day, with 90s blanketing much of the country, save for the Pacific Northwest, where significantly cooler weather will take hold.

The overall pattern isn’t terribly strong, atmospherically, given there is a mountain range between the two air masses. There isn’t a vibrant jet structure to give rise to a solid dome of high pressure, but there isn’t organized low pressure either. Instead, we are looking at a pattern that will rely heavily on lower level features, which are provided more by the physical features at the surface than patterns in the atmosphere.

There is low pressure off shore, and sea breezes and weak oceanic circulation will lead to showers and storms along the east and Gulf coasts tomorrow. Lee troughing under zonal, west to east flow will lead to enough instability to lead to strong storms in the Plains, especially the northern High Plains, as noted in tomorrow’s SPC outlook map.

Large swaths of the country are going to be able to enjoy time on the lake or at the cabin, or perhaps watching fireworks displays from their decks or balconies. Socially distanced, of course.

Have a safe and happy 4th of July, everyone.

June Forecaster of the Month

Was it just me, or did June fly by? Maybe it was the extended vacation I took in the middle of the month, huh? Well, one outlet that appreciated it was the robot army of Forecast.io who thrived in the shorter session. Way to go, robot army!

OutletMonth wins
The Weather Channel1
Weatherbug1
Forecast.io1
Victoria-Weather
WeatherNation
National Weather Service
Accuweather
OutletMonth winsyear wins
The Weather Channel18
Weatherbug16.16
Victoria-Weather5.75
WeatherNation3.41
Forecast.io13.33
National Weather Service3.08
Accuweather2.25

The summer jet is here

The tornado season in the southern Plains was a lot quieter than in recent years, and was quieter than normal in general. This is welcome news to all, certainly. We are through May, the peak of the season around Oklahoma City, and well into June, often the time of year things peak in the Upper Midwest. We had some derecho activity in the Black Hills and High Plains in recent weeks, with strong thunderstorms tied in with Cristobal closer to the Great Lakes, but the beginning of June hasn’t been terribly traumatic either.

Strong thunderstorms will be possible as long as there is heat and humidity, however the organization for a large scale tornado outbreak requires some clashing of air masses, which only happens when cold air can invade from Canada. This year, those incursions haven’t been as regular, and 90 degree temperatures seem to be here to say.

For posterity, here is a look at the last bit of a legitimate jet streak that we will see through the rest of the model output, and perhaps for several weeks. This map represents tomorrow morning.

It will create some severe weather in the Dakotas tomorrow, with a little bit of a cool down behind a cold front, but then, the jet and the cold air will reside comfortably in Canada and the Arctic.

Could be Cristobal

As we noted a couple of days ago, the tropics have been active very early this season, and now, it appears as though the Gulf of Mexico will offer up it’s first tropical storm of the season. Tropical Depression Three is churning in the Bay of Campeche, as seen here on satellite.

The circulation is just off shore, even as the primary area of convection is quite visibly over the Yucatan Peninsula. This is important, because this will allow the storm to continue to intensify. Models anticipate an intensification to a tropical storm — Cristobal — perhaps even this morning.

Spaghetti plots have a tendency to underestimate the peak intensity of tropical features, which means that I and many other outlets believe that this storm may even reach hurricane status as it drifts to the Gulf Coast.

It’s still going to go through a period meandering through the Bay of Campeche before it starts to drift towards the Louisiana Bayous, which means there is still a great deal that is unknown. For the time being, this is what the forecast spaghetti plot looks like.

The potential for heavy rain will be the primary concern for coastal residents as the storm approaches, though wind and isolated tornadoes are always possible with tropical features.

May forecaster of the Month

After a busy forecasting month in April, we slowed down a bit in May to cover a lot of the other news stories (and write up a lot of road trips) for spring time. Maybe it was this relaxed pace that was taken, but Victoria-Weather ended up with the top spot for the month, a refreshing change of pace after April.

OutletMonth wins
Victoria-Weather1
Forecast.io1
The Weather Channel
Weatherbug
WeatherNation
National Weather Service
Accuweather
OutletMonth winsyear wins
The Weather Channel6
Victoria-Weather15.75
Weatherbug5.16
WeatherNation3.41
National Weather Service3.08
Forecast.io12.33
Accuweather2.25

2020 Tropical season off to a flying start

June 1st is recognized at the beginning of hurricane season, and I suppose, if you look at it through that lens, we’re still doing just fine! If you are of the belief that it is the beginning of tropical storm season, then boy, have we jumped the gun.

Every once in a while, and with increasing frequency, the NHC labels a tropical storm, or more typically, a subtropical storm, usually along the Gulf Stream or in the Gulf of Mexico, in May or even April. This is a function of a warmer ocean, but more directly, a relatively recent change in attitude towards naming subtropical storms.

But having two named storms come and go before we even reach June? That’s pretty wild. And there is another storm hanging out in the central Atlantic, with a 50% chance of developing into a tropical feature this weekend.

Both Arthur and Bertha spiraled along the East Coast, with Bertha bringing heavy rain to the Carolinas and New England. If the storm presently in the Atlantic does get named, it would be the first of the true Hurricane Season, and would be named Cristobal.

The storm is expected to wander due north, thanks to a disturbance presently seen on the East Coast, with a chance for a landfall over western Newfoundland early next week. It’s too early to say if this foretells the season to come, but boy, it does seem ominous.

Storms possible in Iowa and the Twin Cities tonight

After several days of severe weather blanketing most of the country, with particular emphasis on the High Plains, the Ozarks and the Carolinas, we are able to focus on just one area in the country, and as luck would have it, it’s the part of the country that I live in.

Low pressure over southern Canada is being undercut by a wave moving north out of Iowa. The nature of this pattern was hard to perceive in the long term by model guidance, and suggests that the nasty weather set up will not be long lived. With all that said, the SPC circled back and posted a slight risk along the Mississippi Valley for today anticipating rough weather.

Given the nature of the system, a big of circulation being drawn towards a deeper area of circulation, the primary threat will be tornadoes, though hail and wind will be a concern as well. The threat for tornadoes has already prompted a watch box in Iowa, which has verified with a confirmed tornado west of Des Moines.

But it’s not just tornadoes that will be a threat. There is a risk that some of the rain fall, particularly in southeastern Minnesota, cold be torrential, and lead to some flash flooding. Below is the WPC heavy rainfall forecast.

As the storm matures, rain will blanket the region, with some regions of stronger updrafts and heavier rain. Here is the HRRR showing the arrival in St. Paul just before 6pm tonight, and looking somewhat ferocious when it arrives.

The heavier rain will continue even after the initial rounds of strong thunderstorms, making for a long, wet night from Des Moines to the Twin Cities.