The Hurricane Watch – Preparedness Bulletin #14


Note: This edition of the Hurricane Watch comes to you courtesy of the public affairs division of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (G.E.M.A.). Special thanks to Lisa Janek-Newman, Ken Davis, Robert Pierce & Kathy Huggins    


Preparedness Bulletin #14
August 19, 2010
Sure . . . I’ll take the helm!

Good afternoon. Ken had to shimmy up to the crow’s nest for a bit, so I’m at the wheel for now. Remember the intrepid Public Affairs Technology Specialist that he mentioned last week? Well, that’s me_ Robert Pierce. I’m the new guy on the block, best known until now for retooling GEMA’s website. Maybe that will change if I, too, can steer us clear of any hurricanes like Hurricane Watch veterans, Buzz (retired) and Ken (not retired).

He came . . . he saw . . .  he conked out!

Tropical Depression (TD) #5 was determined to make its mark on the Gulf Coast region after causing heavy downpours and wind last week. The remnants of TD #5 returned to the Gulf of Mexico Monday to try and form a Tropical Cyclone one last time. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) noted, “Environmental conditions are forecast to be conducive for some development of this system as it moves generally westward and then west-northwestward over the northern Gulf of Mexico during the next day or so.” However, try as it might, TD #5 couldn’t find the strength to survive and eventually broke up over eastern Louisiana (again). GEMA Hurricane Planner Chris Walsh announced its demise on Tuesday, thus ending the mighty struggle of this system.

Elsewhere, the Atlantic is pretty quiet. The NHC is highlighting some mild activity over the western Caribbean Sea, but currently only lists this system at a 10 percent chance of tropical cyclone formation in the next 48 hours. Statistically the last week of August and September are the most active periods so we are not quite out of the woods yet.

I like blue better than green . . . I think
According to researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) the color of the ocean could actually have an effect on hurricane formation and intensity. A team of  NOAA researchers studied the North Pacific where more than half the world’s hurricanes form.  The lead researchersays the ocean has more of a green tint because of large concentrations of a pigment called chlorophyll. Chlorophyll lets small organisms called phytoplankton (try saying that ten times fast) convert sunlight into food for the rest of the ocean. Lower concentrations of phytoplankton, which in turn could lower the amount of chlorophyll, allows sunlight to penetrate deeper into the ocean. Deeper sunlight penetration leads to cooler surface temperatures which tends to prevent thunderstorms from developing the necessary superstructure allowing them to grow into hurricanes. I think this means the greener the ocean, the stronger the storm. And, conversely, the bluer the ocean, the weaker the storm. Anyway, that’s my take on this “science speak.”  
Look into my crystal ball

To novice meteorologists out there, the graphic above should be very alarming … for those who are not, it depicts a tropical cyclone making landfall on the Georgia coast on August 28, 2010. Who could predict such an ominous scenario? This is not the work of somebody craft with Photoshop, this is an actual prognostication from the Global Forecast System (GFS), a super computer based weather prediction model .. and this prediction was made on Tuesday. The GFS model is run four times daily by the National Center for Environmental Prediction, NOAA center for computer based weather prediction. The GFS is just one of many models . . . the GFDL, NOGAPS, among them . . . that attempt to predict the unpredictable: Mother Nature.

Do we all need to go out and buy bread and milk? Not exactly. This particular weather prog was derived from looking very deep into the crystal ball: 12 days deep to be exact. Weather prediction models have what us technical types call … error, and it compounds with time. Why? A computer model needs an accurate snapshot of what’s going on to predict what will happen, and actual direct measurements of the weather, relatively speaking, are far and few in between. Additionally, the models don’t understand the weather perfectly, so error compounds further.

By the way, today’s GFS progs have that “hurricane” about 1500 miles from the Georgia coast on August 28, 2010 . . . I wonder what it will predict tomorrow.



The answer to last week’s question, “In which year were the most hurricane names retired?” is 2005. For next week, answer this,”What was the first year an aircraft flew into a hurricane?”


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