Monday, September 1, 2008

Here I Am...Rock Me Like A Hurricane

How many of you are watching the news? Are you checking to see if New Orleans is under water? are you marveling at the number of evacuees? Are you thinking about the massive flooding that Gustav will cause LA and East TX as it stalls over land?

Well - I'm watching...but not just Gustav. I'm literally SURROUNDED by storms. Its amazing...and terrifying. And I wish I had stocked up on more Beef Jerky. Because even when they say its going north, or west, or can never be sure. As long as you're in the cone of uncertainty (it's the white cone surrounding the NHC forecast models...see below) just don't know.

You can see the area in white around the projected track of Hanna, that is known as the "cone of uncertainty". It is a meteorologists margin of error. The all white cone is the 3-day projection...the extended line with dashes is the 5-day projection. In theory, the storm could waver in any of that space. As it gets closer, the cone narrows.

I actually had a friend from Nevada say (in regards to Hanna): "'s going BY you...but the dot never touches Florida". Sorry, honey, A storm isn't a "dot". It is HUNDREDS MILES WIDE. You gotta look at the pretty color pictures to see. She's right...we might not get a direct hit. That doesn't mean we won't feel her as she goes by.

This gorgeous picture shows the probability of TS wind strength of all 3 storms and (you can just make out Ike coming in on the left)...and Florida is just kicking back in the breeze.

Hey - if you live here - you're ALWAYS checking the NHC and NOAA. Sure...there are forecast models, and tracking systems, and predictions based on solid scientific theory...but weather CHANGES. Its erratic. And sometimes it tricks even the best. But this year - there are a lot of storms...kinda like 2005. And looking at the Atlantic is kinda like watching a drive-thru window... "Yeah...I'll have a Clobber Cuba special with some Hanna Hot Fries and a side of Icy Ike." "Would you like a Flood Florida with that?"

You gotta have a sense of humor. Its better to wet your pants with laughter than with fear. So take a look at this guy...he posts on a website called, and is known as "King of the PG"...and he's kinda funny and keeps it real...and there are pretty pictures. (Now everybody in unison..."Ohhhh! "Ahhhhh!").

Tell 'em What They Won, Johnny...

Image: Red: Named Yellow: Threat areas. From West to East: Gustav, Hanna, 90L, 97L, Ike, Proto-Josephine.

"There are six areas of interest in the Atlantic, 4 of which have already/are likely to develop. which is the most I’ve seen in my life and is probably the maximum theoretically possibly possible, speaking from an oceanic real estate perspective. Should we have Gustav, Hanna, Ike and Josephine all at once, it would tie the rather ignominious record of 4 active storms, set most recently in 1995. Also, should Josephine form by tomorrow, 2008 will only be 10 days off the record-setting pace of 2005.The NHC’s 2pm Tropical Outlook was nearly a page long and listed, in addition to the three named systems, the three threat areas. At the conclusion, it ended with its usual “Elsewhere…Tropical cyclone formation is not expected during the next 48 hours.” I totally cracked up. There really isn’t anywhere else for stuff to develop. Navigating the Atlantic right now is akin to walking through a minefield, with really, really big mines.

Hurricane Gustav: Hurricane Gustav made landfall this morning near Cocodrie, La as a 110 mph borderline Cat 2/3 storm, in line with what I said yesterday, but apparently well below what the commodities traders were anticipating.

Image: Gustav at landfall

Despite the storm passing over the densest concentration of rigs in the Gulf, Oil and Natural Gas futures are getting schlacked to the tune of 4-5%, especially surprising considering what is behind Gustav. Despite any moaning and groaning about this one “petering out,” the National Hurricane Center actually did a very good job with the track forecast. They had been projecting a Louisiana landfall west of New Orleans since the storm was over Jamaica, four days ago. Not bad at all. Sure, there were some issues with the intensity forecast, but better safe than sorry, I suppose. All they would have had to do was to read my posts where I’ve been espousing a “two category reduction” (from a Cat 4 to a Cat 2) for the past several days.Gustav is now a flooding threat. It is forecast to stall and give parts of Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas over 10 inches of rain.Well, tomorrow is going to suck for those long oil stocks. No other way about it. Energy is getting taken to the cleaners today on the assumption that damage from Gustav will be minimal. Normally, when a trade doesn’t work, I take the loss and move on. Not this time. I consider the sell-off to be overdone, considering both the macro-scale economic situation and what else is in the tropics right now. In addition, when Katrina hit, there was a couple day lag until commodity prices rose as damage was surveyed. Thus, I plan to stand my ground and hold. But no buying the dip.

Image: Infrared of Hurricane Hanna, a very large system that strengthened in spite of hostile conditions. Gustav is visible in the upper left and its outflow is responsible for the strong shear over Hanna.

Hurricane Hanna: Hanna put on an impressive burst of intensification in the last 24 hours and is now a very large 80 mph hurricane. The storm is over the Bahamian waters of the western Atlantic near the Turks and Caicos which have a TCHP that is much warmer than normal, which likely fueled its intensification. The outflow from Gustav to the west is inflicting a strong 25 knots of shear on Hanna, so it is rather impressive that the storm was able to intensify under such conditions. Conditions will remain unfavorable and I suspect that Hanna will not be able to maintain its strength for too much longer. I would not be surprised to see it weaken back to a strong TS at some point in the next 2 days. However, It appears that atmospheric conditions will become more favorable for strengthening in the next 2 or 3 days, and Hanna should regain hurricane strength.
The storm is sliding very slowly to the SSW right now, but a turn to the NW is anticipated over the next 24 hours. The NHC and the computer model guidance takes the storm into
Georgia or north Florida as a 100 mph Cat 2 storm.

Image: Latest NHC track showing a climatologically unusual landfall in Georgia

During its burst of intensification, the center of Hanna relocated nearly a full degree to the south. The steering currents become more westerly with decreasing latitude and I would not be surprised to see the forecast path shift further south in the next day or so. Right now, it doesn’t appear that Hanna will directly impact the oil/gas infrastructure, but a south and west adjustment to the path could take Hanna into the GOM.

Image: A large, organizing TS Ike

TS Ike: Tropical Storm Ike developed quickly this morning out of a westward moving wave midway between Africa and the Leeward Islands and is now a 50 mph storm. It should move W to WNW over the next 4-5 days before a building ridge forces it to the west or even west-southwest. Long term models show the storm as a threat to Florida and the GOM.

Image: NHC track for TS Ike.

The NHC takes the storm to a 90 mph hurricane in 120 hours. I believe that this may be conservative. Large Cape Verde-type storms such as Ike either seem to either dissipate or blow up into monsters. Thus, I give Ike a 10% chance of dissipating, a 10% chance of remaining a TS, a 30% chance of becoming a Cat 1 or 2 hurricane, and a 50% chance of becoming a major hurricane. This is significantly above the NHC’s current outlook. Call me crazy. Of all the storms out there, I believe this one is the biggest threat to the Gulf. I would not be surprised if Ike turns out to be the worst storm of the season. Expect to hear many “I don’t like Ike” jokes in the coming days.

Threat Areas: Invest 99L , “Proto-Josephine,” moved off the coast of Africa this morning. It is well organized and already appears to be a tropical depression. Typically waves fizzle for a while after they lose the warm, unstable air of the continent before refiring once they tap the ocean. So, it will be interesting to see if the system can hold itself together. I give the storm a 60% chance of becoming Josephine in the next 36 hours. Tropical systems that develop this far east very rarely impact land, and I believe TD 10 will be no exception. I give the system an 80% chance of recurving well east of the Leeward Islands.Invest 90L is a small area of disorganized showers located just east of the Leeward Islands. Although pressures have been falling, atmospheric conditions are unfavorable for development. The system is forecast to drift erratically for the next few days. I give it a 30% chance of developing. Once it starts to move, it will probably enter the Caribbean.Invest 97L is a tropical/subtropical hybrid moving NNW across the open waters of the Atlantic to the east of Bermuda. It is not a threat to land and should move northward out to sea over the next few days. I give it a 25% of developing into a named system.

Lastly, here is a short preview about what I have in mind for the rest of the month. Expect daily posts with updates as conditions warrant. Posts will usually be posted sometime in the evening between 6-8 pm.I will be on a Department-sponsored field trip to the Big Island of Hawaii to “study” the volcanoes and surrounding weather patterns from the 13th-18th (At Harvard, not only are we elitist pigs, but we don’t even have to pay for the best stuff). I am not terribly pleased with the timing, considering the active tropics, but I’m not beating myself up over it. I have written/am writing “rainy day” posts that an associate of mine will post while I am away. If I am able to reach a computer and aren’t too tired from all the surfing, I will also have live updates, should conditions warrant." - King of PG

Okay - now with all that said...we are fine. We are cautiously excited, and cautious and careful. And we will keep everyone posted. Promise!!

No comments: