Richard, Winter, Drought, Quakes

Lots to hit on today. First and foremost, Tropical Storm Richard has formed today between Jamaica and Honduras, and it is storm  number 17 of this 2010 hurricane season. Clearly hyperactive and clearly well forecasted from the start. Richard should gradually organize over the next day or two. It’s likely Richard will become a hurricane, and there’s also a decent chance it could become a major hurricane if the environment is right. Shear should be low over this in a couple days and the environment overall should be more favorable. A lot will be determined by how close to the Central American coast this storm gets. The closer, the better chance it does not intensify. The current model clustering suggests that the storm is headed for the southern Yucatan. However, there is a minority of models taking Richard toward the NE part of the Yucatan and then into the open Gulf of Mexico, which would imply less time over land. It’s a tough forecast right now, and I would lean closer to the track into the Yucatan north of the Belize border, likely as a strong, if not major hurricane. We’ll have to watch how close to land this gets early on. Beyond the Yucatan, it’s really up in the air as to where this thing goes…if it hooks toward Florida or moves into the open Gulf and hooks toward the Northeast Gulf Coast. Stay tuned. Track the latest official items on Richard here.

Winter

With winter rapidly approaching, an onslaught of forecasts is beginning to emerge. I’ve already seen multiple vendor forecasts at work, and today, the National Weather Service unveiled their own forecast for winter. The highlights?

– Warm. Overall the pattern of much above normal temperatures nationally from summer continues. The exceptions being the West Coast, Northwest (cool), and potentially the Northeast…where there are mixed signals.

– Dry in the South. From Florida over to Arizona and possibly SoCal…drier than normal. More on that shortly.

– Wet from the Tennessee Valley into the Great Lakes, which implies a storm track favorable for chaos in the East this winter. In other words: Higher risk of mixed precipitation and ice storms in much of the eastern Lakes, Appalachians and Mid Atlantic. Also wet in the Northwest, Northern Rockies and Northern California.

The forecast this winter, as expected, is dominated by La Nina, the periodic cooling of water in the Equatorial Pacific Ocean. And this year’s La Nina is raging at the moment, with no real signs of slowing. In my own opinion, their forecast is definitely acceptable. I’m finalizing my own ideas on winter, which I may present in some detail soon (I’ll at least present a summary…I may not post maps though for job reasons).

At least initially, I think the things that will be interesting will be: The development of a rather widespread, large drought (potentially…again, more on that in a moment), the potential for mixed/ice events from New York State into the Mid Atlantic, the potential for the Northwest to get slammed with heavy rain and heavy snow (with a lot of questions about temperatures possibly averaging above normal for a time), and New England…which could teeter on the edge of a blockbuster or lackluster winter. Again, I’ll discuss this more in the future.

Drought

This is beginning to get interesting. The US Drought Monitor report from this week shows some significant areas of drought from east Texas to Georgia. Abnormally dry to moderate drought conditions exist from Texas west to Arizona, which has been in a relatively long term drought. Referencing the NOAA forecast above, if you assume the southern tier gets abnormally dry conditions all winter, you can see where this is heading. Now, it’s not a slam dunk that this winter is going to be bone dry…nothing ever is, but past history suggests that this could be a pretty dry winter for a number of reasons (if you’re curious for a decent breakdown of these reasons, check out this blog posting from the Houston Chronicle).

Additional anecdotal evidence of drought is discussed in an article from today’s Wall Street Journal.

Mexico Shaking

The Baja Peninsula has been quite seismically active since I moved out here in 2009. It’s been interesting to watch. They’ve had several 3-5.0 quakes in south-central Baja the last few days. Today those erupted into a 6.7 magnitude quake, the same day, ironically, as the Great California Shakeout earthquake drill. If anything, this just serves as a reminder that we’re not immune from quakes and potentially large ones at that in this part of the world. Hopefully today’s 6.7 marks the end of the big shakers there for a bit.

Tis all for now.

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