EL NINO AND EYEWALL

Eyewall-cvrThe Atlantic hurricane season is off to a stumbling start this year and doesn’t seem destined to become much better . . . or worse, depending on your viewpoint.  So far, only three relatively flabby (but soggy) tropical storms have popped up, Ana, Bill, and Claudette.

The Pacific basins, in contrast, have been spitting out hurricanes and typhoons like a toddler hurling his creamed spinach.

So what’s going on?  El Niño!  Yes, our favorite scapegoat for absolutely everything has returned.  (Well, maybe we can’t blame Donald Trump on it.)

A LOLLYGAGGER OF A HURRICANE SEASON?

andrewraThe 2015 hurricane season forecasts are out (see  Weather Channel graphic below) and the consensus is that activity in the Atlantic Basin (Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico) is going to be an underachiever.

So, what’s that mean for you if you live along or plan on visiting the Atlantic or Gulf Coast this summer?

Not much, it turns out.  The number of hurricanes and tropical storms that blossom in the Atlantic Basin has very little, if any, correlation to the number that actually hit the U. S.

DOES A HURRICANE DISASTER LOOM? WHY I’M WORRIED

When the great “Dixie Tornado Outbreak” of April 2011 ripped through the Deep South, I remember being absolutely appalled that over 300 lives were snuffed out.

How could that happen, I wondered, in this era of sophisticated weather prediction, detection and warning systems? You had to go back to 1936, into the “Dark Ages” (my term) of meteorology, to find a higher death toll in a multi-day outbreak: 419, Tupelo, Mississippi, to Gainesville, Georgia.

But back to 2011. Earlier that year, a violent twister snatched away 158 lives in Joplin, Missouri. Prior to that, the record holder for a single city was Woodward, Oklahoma: 181 deaths in 1947.

SO WHAT’S WITH ALL THIS CRAZY WEATHER?

It’s a question I’ve been getting a lot recently, undoubtedly driven by the tornado tragedies in Oklahoma—-“So what’s with all the crazy weather? I don’t remember this kind of stuff happing before.”

I suppose people think I should have the answers, being a retired meteorologist and now a novelist who features supercells, tornadoes and hurricanes in his books.

In fact, I don’t have the answers, but only because the question isn’t right. In fact, this year hasn’t been all that “crazy.” Take tornadoes, for instance.

ROLL OUT THE BERYL(S)?

Tropical storms and hurricanes don’t often threaten the Georgia coast. Just recently, however, pre-season Tropical Storm Alberto did some saber rattling along the Georgia and Carolina shores. Admittedly, it was more of a cardboard saber than a real sword, but at least the action lured The Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore to Charleston.

Now—-and remember, it’s still May and the Atlantic Hurricane season hasn’t even celebrated Opening Day—-the weather models are pretty much unanimous in suggesting yet another tropical or subtropical storm will make an appearance off the Southeast Coast within the next couple of days.

The Weather Channel®–The Early Days, Part III

Here’s the third and final blog of a trio describing the early history of The Weather Channel whose 30th anniversary is just around the corner—-May 2.

In September 1989, John Hope helped bring The Weather Channel to national prominence as the source for hurricane information. Hurricane Hugo, a classic Cape Verde storm and the first category four to hit the U.S. in quite some time, slammed into South Carolina with 140-mph winds. John, red-eyed and rumpled, stayed on the air for 18 consecutive hours, advising and calming residents as the powerful storm swirled from the Atlantic Ocean into the Palmetto State.

The Weather Channel®–The Early Days, Part II

With the 30th anniversary of The Weather Channel fast approaching (May 2), I’ve decided to repost a few blogs I wrote several years ago, near the end of my 13-year stay at the channel. Here’s the second blog of a three-part series looking back at the early days of the channel. Part I can be found here.

ALICIA

August 15, 1983: The rising sun over the Gulf of Mexico tinted a cluster of billowing thunderheads–—the disturbance NHC forecasters were concerned about–—pink and gold as the Air Force Hurricane Hunter aircraft that had departed from Keesler AFB earlier approached them. The WC-130 made several turbulent passes through the thunderstorms. In the process, the on-board meteorologist discovered a circular wind pattern and falling air pressure. A tropical depression had formed.

A RELATIVELY QUIET HURRICANE SEASON COMING UP?

A couple of early outlooks for the 2012 Atlantic Basin hurricane season have been issued, one by the Colorado State University (CSU) Tropical Meteorology Project, and the other by Weather Services International (WSI). Both indicate a near-average season relative to the long-term (since 1966) mean of 11 named storms and hurricanes, but a somewhat quieter season when measured against the shorter term (since 1995) average of 15.

CSU expects 10 named tropical cyclones, while WSI predicts 12. So, if you live or vacation along the East or Gulf Coast, what’s it mean to you? Well, not much, as I explained last year.

WHAT DOES AN AUTHOR DO BETWEEN BOOKS?

So what does an author do between books?

Well, to be blunt, there is no such thing as “between” books. “Among” books maybe, or “all done” with books perhaps, but no “between.”

At the moment, I’m still dealing with Eyewall; plotting strategy for the release of ______ (yes, sad to report, there’s still no official title for novel number two); and working on Supercell, novel number three.

I’m currently QCing the audio version of Eyewall. Marshall Seese, the narrator, shoots me several chapters each week and I listen to and critique each one. He’s about halfway through the book and thinks he’ll be done by early April. I can’t wait. Marshall is doing an absolutely super job.

IRENE AND GHOSTS OF HURRICANES PAST

Hurricane Irene is stalking toward the U.S. on a track that will affect tens of millions of people.

Once departing the Outer Banks of North Carolina late Saturday, it looks as though she’ll churn NNE along or just off the Delmarva Peninsula and Jersey Shore, putting Long Island in her crosshairs.

Irene’s course is expected to be very similar to several other hurricanes of recent and distant past–analog storms, as meteorologists like to call them.

The most recent analog storm was Hurricane Gloria in 1985. Gloria tracked NNE just off the Jersey Shore and thundered over Long Island near Long Beach as a category 2. Winds gusted to 115 mph over eastern Long Island and 85 mph at Islip.