Friday, October 21, 2005

Waiting, Watching Wilma

After some morning showers and thunderstorms, a northeast wind, heavy clouds, and a light drizzle are keeping temperatures in the Washington DC metro area in the distinctly non-Octoberish low 50s. (The long term average high for today is 66.) The precipitation is associated with a low pressure area moving slowly eastward through the Ohio Valley and a wave on the front extending eastward from the low to the southeastern Virginia coast. Rainfall amounts in the area have been quite light; the official amount so far is only 0.01", while heavier showers at Dulles produced only 0.12".

Tonight and Tomorrow

More rain is likely (90% chance) tonight with lows within 2 or 3 degrees of the current 52. Chances of rain will decrease to near 50% by late in the day tomorrow, but skies will remain cloudy with highs near 60.

Tropical Beat

Hurricane Wilma continues to pound the Cozumel/Cancun area of the Yucatan peninsula. Early this afternoon, the center of the storm was just 15 miles offshore from Cozumel; maximum winds were 140 mph. By late afternoon, the eye was crossing Cozumel, and the edge of the eyewall was on the coast of the peninsula. The track is still to the northwest at 5 mph, but a turn to the northeast is still expected over the weekend. Fortunately for southern Florida, an extended visit to the Yucatan will weaken the storm. Increasing wind shear over the Gulf of Mexico is another likely cause of weakening. If Wilma does make landfall in Florida as a Category 3 or higher, this would be the first time that 4 major hurricanes have made landfall in the U.S. in the same year.

Meanwhile, a tropical wave in the eastern Caribbean is showing signs on satellite imagery of developing a circulation. It could become Tropically Depressed in the next few days. If it turns into a named storm, it would be the record-setting 22nd storm of the season named "Alpha."

Capitol Climate: All-Star Cast!
Clear your calendar for next Tuesday early afternoon. The American Meteorological Society's Environmental Science Seminar Series is presenting a panel discussion on the subject, "Hurricanes: Are They Changing and Are We Adequately Prepared for the Future?"
  • Time: Tuesday, October 25, 2005, 12:00 - 2:00 p.m. (Followed by a Reception! Note to starving interns: This sounds like free food.)
  • Location: Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room G-50
The speakers have all published important papers in the last several months on trends in hurricane occurrence and intensity, some of which you may have read about right here on
  • Dr. Kevin Trenberth, Head of the Climate Analysis Section, National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), Boulder, CO
  • Dr. Judith Curry, Professor and Chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA
  • Dr. Kerry Emanuel, Professor of Atmospheric Science, Massachusetts
    Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA
The questions to be discussed are:
Are hurricanes, or certain categories of hurricanes, changing? Are these changes more likely tied to a globally-averaged climate warming or are they more likely to be manifestations of natural climate variability? Can large storms be unaffected by a globally-averaged climate warming that has resulted, in part, in an altered hydrologic cycle (i.e., more water vapor in the atmosphere)? Is it reasonable to presume that natural cycles and oscillations can go unaffected by a globally-averaged climate warming? Are there limits on a hurricane's intensity and, if so, what are they? Is there any scientific basis for concern over the plausibility of hurricanes in excess of a category 5 hurricane in the foreseeable future, in a climatically-altered world?
The public is cordially invited.

Katrina Post Mortem

Today's WaPo reports that a FEMA aide testified in hearings that FEMA Administrator Mike Brown's assistant was notified at 11am on Aug. 29 that the New Orleans levees had been breached. These warnings were ignored for 16 hours. If you were reading that day, you saw quotes from the Times-Picayune storm blog as early as 10:30 which indicated flooding was occurring.

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