To Storm or NOT to Storm

I find myself stuck in a state of disbelief at what I have seen in photos and what I have heard from family and friends regarding the devastation from Sandy. Although I talked about the storm at least a week in advance, then really tried to hit the dangers hard in subsequent posts or personal correspondence, I’m at a loss for words. I would talk to people in NJ about the possibility that a storm like this could occur and most of the time, people would either begrudgingly agree or even scoff at the idea. On Thursday, I told my friend John (a marine biologist in coastal NJ) that if there was ever a storm that could create a new inlet in the barrier islands, this was it. Little did I know the impact of what I was saying. . . Now, there is a new inlet in Mantoloking, NJ! This is one of the many shore communities that I hold near and dear to my heart and that heart breaks seeing the ruins left behind. I love what I do and I love the weather, but I will never wish this kind of disaster on anyone. I am with you all in NJ, NYC, and beyond in spirit as we move forward. I’m just thankful that most if not all of my friends and family are safe, though shaken by this storm.

A before and after picture of Mantoloking with a bridge that now goes nowhere.

Ok, enough reflection and now on to the next potential storm.

HPC Day 5 (Wednesday, 11/7) surface forecast issued on Friday afternoon.

The Hydrometeorological Prediction Center (HPC) Day 5 forecast above for Wednesday, 11/7, shows a coastal storm moving up the Mid-Atlantic and into New England (beyond this point). Although it would be nothing compared to Sandy, the storm could deepen to 990-985 mb, which would mean more strong wind and heavy rain from NC through DC and into NJ, NYC, and Southern New England. It could also mean more snow for the mountains. Right now, I give this a 35% chance of occurring as the map above suggests. The European model which received much press shows a potent storm, while the GFS model shows a slightly weaker storm and farther offshore.

I am not going to dive into specific right now, but I will monitor model trends into Sunday and will post a new blog entry tomorrow morning. I think it would be a good idea to prepare for a storm that could aggravate an already dire situation in NJ, NYC, CT, LI, and RI. Also, the disturbance that would cause this coastal storm is still off the coast of British Columbia, Canada. We have some time before the models converge on a confident solution.

Thanks for reading!

Sandy Update – Sunday Evening Edition

I hope that everyone has taking the necessary steps to prepare for Sandy’s arrival tomorrow night. Already the winds are picking up in many areas and rain is starting to fall. I’m impressed with the flooding that was experienced in coastal NJ with this morning’s high tide. . .which is definitely a bad omen. As of 7 pm EDT, I have seen a gust in South Seaside Park, NJ of 51 mph and near Good Luck Point in Bayville, NJ of 57 mph. Inland, the wind seems to be taking it’s time, but I’m sure no one is ready to welcome it yet. Unfortunately, the three weather stations I deployed with John Wnek of the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science (MATES) have been turned off (don’t get me started) and I think it is to conserve/preserve resources. Hopefully I will get the data from the dataloggers after the fact, but I’m bummed we can’t monitor it live.

Sandy is about 400 miles off the East Coast and is still producing these winds well away from its center. In fact, Bermuda is in the tropical storm force winds, which would make this the first time anyone could remember a storm affecting Bermuda and the East Coast at the same time! Talk about setting a precedent! Winds are still kept at 75 mph and the central pressure has been consistent around 952 mb. That pressure could fall starting tomorrow which would mean a landfall tropical, hybrid storm that will most likely have the chance of setting a new standard for East Coast storms. Computer models have routinely had Sandy hitting somewhere between Sandy Hook, NJ to about Rehoboth Beach, DE. If I were to take my best shot, I think the landfall is very close to the NHC ideas of Cape May, NJ. This means the entire Jersey Shore is at risk of seeing northeast to east winds that will increase to 60-70 mph with gusts that could exceed 80 or 90 mph! The coast flood threat has started and will most likely get worse, to the tune of 4 to 8 feet, possibly higher. Rainfall will be to the tune of 3 to 6 inches. Imagine the snowfall if it was Winter!

18z or 2 pm EDT track guidance for Hurricane Sandy

The 18z track guidance above looks very clustered on DE or far southern NJ. The official NHC forecast for Sandy is in the same general area, but Sandy may not be purely tropical at that time, hence the reason there is no hurricane warning this far north. Does it matter? Despite my opinion, no. . .it’s going to be bad for many hours regardless of classification.

The DC/Baltimore area will see similar conditions as described above, but tempered somewhat. The rainfall will average 6 to 8 inches, possibly exceeding 10″ in spots. The winds are currently gusting to 25 mph locally, but that will start to increase overnight with gusts exceeding 40 mph likely by daybreak. During the height of the storm, I expect sustained winds of 40-50 mph with gusts that could exceed 80 mph! This could do much damage to trees and power lines, so be aware. The winds will start out north an will actually becoming southerly on Tuesday from DC to NJ! Not your typical storm for sure.

Suomi NPP VIIRS day-night band and infrared image (click to animate) showing Hurricane Sandy last night.

In time for Halloween, I thought I would show you some “eye-candy” with this very high resolution (1 km day-night band and 375 m infrared band) imagery of Sandy from last night. This satellite will help forecasters learn about the minute details associated with hurricanes and strong coast storms for years to come.

Please stay safe and I’ll try to have an update in the morning.

What to do with Sandy, pt III – the saga continues!?

It’s been a very busy day here at the NOAA Center for Weather and Climate Prediction (NCWCP) and it’s only going to continue on this pace through the weekend. The good news is that we have some great GOES-R and JPSS products to assist the forecasters in their forecast philosophies, separate from the model mayhem we have all been hearing about or observing. I thought I would continue on a similar path as recent days and show you the players on the field as it is now another 24 hours later and some interesting things are beginning to take shape that will ultimately define the exact track of Hurricane Sandy.

“RGB” satellite image of Hurricane Sandy valid at 2115z on 10/26/12.

If you look at the above image of Sandy, you might ask. . .is she naked? Where did the thunderstorms go? Or even. . .what’s the big deal? Sandy is undergoing some serious shear at this moment with mid to upper level winds averaging around 50 knots (60 mph) helping to fan out the upper cloud pattern and strip the “eye-like” feature of deep thunderstorms. This does not mean that Sandy is not producing hurricane force winds as has been observed today by aircraft measurements. So what happened? You ask great questions. . .

The upper low that was south and west of Sandy yesterday has gotten tangled up with the hurricane and therefore we are left with a very hybrid looking hurricane. This is still a significant threat for someone. . .but how do we get there? I will tell you!

GOES-Sounder RGB Air Mass product with the 5 pm EDT NHC forecast track of Hurricane Sandy overlaid.

As you can see above, the playing field has gotten a bit more crowded than it was the last two days and that is due to a new feature that will dictate the path of Sandy. The white line more or less outlines the developing longwave trough (large-scale pocket of cooler air). The first shortwave (red “L” in the yellow circle) is getting ready to move out of the base of the longwave trough, but will help to push Sandy a bit more north-northeast over the next 24 hours. The new player is the red “L” in the red circle in the upper-left corner. As you can see, I (poorly) drew the projected path of this feature that will help to form a closed upper-level low to the southwest of Sandy by Sunday-Monday. This will help to steer Sandy back towards the Mid-Atlantic or Southern New England by the Monday-Tuesday time frame.

Although I did not highlight the area, there is still some orange coloring over Sandy which is indicative of the slow transition into a hybrid storm as it indicates some dry stratospheric air has gotten entangled with the storm. It will be interesting over the next few days to see how the upstream shortwave (latter red “L”) transfers energy to Sandy, effectively strengthening the storm!

SEVIRI RGB Air Mass product over the North Atlantic valid at 21z on 10/26/12.

Meanwhile, the North Atlantic has gotten more complicated as the higher latitude blocking is in full swing. The white outlined region is the expanding area of upper-level high pressure or ridge that is setting up this “blocky pattern”. The traffic jam has started and the large, complex ocean storm in the red circle with two significant shortwaves (red “L’s”) will shift southeast over the weekend, then sit and spin. . .for a while. This helps to strengthen the ridge to the north and will lead to a road-block with subsequent detour for Sandy. So, blame Greenland for being a favored location for things like this!

The black circle is all that is left of Tony. I was way wrong on its evolution as I thought the larger system to the west would absorb the system, but it is wandering harmlessly towards the Canary Islands. I’m sure they can use the rain there. Finally, the little red “L” is our wandering upper-level low that will continue to bob around the North Atlantic on its long journey west. We will talk about that little guy in future posts.

So, what does this mean for the East Coast? All that blocking, the complex evolution of the upper-level low forming over the Carolinas, and a hurricane will lead to very bad weather for many people up and down the East Coast, but the emphasis continues to be on the Mid-Atlantic. Some models bring the storm towards eastern Long Island and Southern New England, but I’m not jumping on that option just yet. Very high winds, heavy rain, severe coastal flooding (remember earlier posts about the full moon, large fetch, and storm surge), and potential thumping snow in the Appalachians still remain a strong possibility. We have another 24-36 hours to fully digest and analyze this complex situation, but residents along the coast and inland should prepare anyway.

I leave you with a couple high resolution images of Sandy from the new Suomi NPP satellite’s VIIRS instrument. The first image is the Day-Night band showing a “visible-like” satellite image using light from our moon! The second images is the infrared band showing very fine details in the cloud pattern with a resolution of 375 meters! Amazing stuff for sure! A special thank you goes to Kathy Strabala for providing the imagery.

The NPP VIIRS day-night band image from 0702z on 10/26/12.
VIIRS Infrared image at 375 m resolution valid at 0702z on 10/26/12.

I will continue to keep you informed over the weekend. Expect this to get more interesting as we approach the event.

A Halloween Tropical Troublemaker!

I’m sure a few of you have heard about the possibility of a Blockbuster East Coast Storm/Hurricane. Well, it’s a bit too early to get excited or hyped up about this scenario, but know that it is not impossible. The culprit here. . .newly named Tropical Storm Sandy. Sandy doesn’t sound like a threatening name to me, but if some of the models are correct. . .look out!

Infrared satellite image with the current positions of TS Sandy and TD #19 by the National Hurricane Center.

I’m not going to include multiple maps for this upcoming situation as it’s too early yet. I did include the current infrared satellite image with the current positions of Tropical Storm Sandy and Tropical Depression #19 courtesy of the National Hurricane Center. TD19 will stay far from land, although may flirt with hurricane strength at some point during its lifetime. TS Sandy is bound to cause major headaches for forecasters and Emergency Managers as we wait to see how it interacts with an approaching trough from Canada. This trough will have some very cold air for this time of year, so there is plenty of energy on the table, but what will happen?

As you can see, I drew three main track philosophies on the map above that represents today’s model solutions. Starting with the arrow that turns right south of Bermuda, that would be the GFS forecast which means nothing for the East Coast and Bermuda would have to be on guard. This possibility is not off the table yet, but I’m a bit skeptical as this model is notorious for recurving storms too fast. The middle arrow is from the European model and would bring a very strong storm, possibly hurricane into New England. This is a bit more likely, but historically, has never happened before. . .to my knowledge. The third track that bends to the left is down-right scary (from the Canadian, Japanese, and earlier runs of the European and GFS) as that would be a very high impact East Coast event. Although I think that is just as unlikely at this point as the recurve towards Bermuda, there is history on Sandy’s side. I included a couple historical tracks below for your amusement.

A map of the “Gale of 78” courtesy of David M. Roth and High D. Cobb III from a paper they wrote in 2000.
Track of Hurricane Hazel (1954) courtesy of Unisys Weather.

As you can see, it has happened before. . . I will have more on this situation as it develops (doesn’t develop) over the next few days.

Thanks for reading!