Let’s begin with Tropical Storm Lee. There is actually quite a bit left of this no-longer named low pressure system, and it is sitting over the northern part of the East Coast producing a fair amount of rain. “So what?” you say! Good question. The thing is, that a hurricane in the Atlantic by the name of Katia (accent on the first syllable, long ‘a’, hard k, rhymes with onomatopoeia) is probably gong to restrain this low pressure to the region of the continent instead of letting it waft off into the North Atlantic. Likely, Katia will push ex-Lee west. So, the Eastern Great Lakes and the Ohio Valley can expect mondo rain, and that system will then have the opportunity to pass east again. The reason I mention this in a post about hurricanes is that the whole scenario is a tropical weather pattern and it is more important than average given the amount of rain that as fallen in the region this season. Unfortunately, this will not help Texas and Northern Minnesota which have apparently caught fire.

And, speaking of Katia …

Did you ever skip stones? And you and a couple of other people get really good at it? And you get to the point where when someone tosses the stone over the flat, calm water of the pond, you’ve all gotten the hang of it enough that it is worth everyone’s time to stop and watch and count the number of skips? And a stone that skips five or six or seven times is run of the mill or even a failure, and every now and then someone’s stone, just the right size and shape and mass and thrown just right hits the water way over a dozen times so you argue later over how big the number was, and the first several skips are huge, and you wonder if it is going to go all the way to Ireland as it just keeps going and going and going…?

That must be what it is like to work on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s hurricane prediction team. Hurricanes form, they cross some ocean, they get snagged on the occasional island, spend some more time over the ocean, get warmed up, get ripped apart from above, slam into a continent, and die. Five skips. But every now and then they curve over the open ocean and stay away from land, and the upper atmosphere conditions steer them rather than rip at them, and they gain a little more strength than average over the warmer water, and they get big and powerful but keep moving quickly and head north and northeast. A dozen skips.

And given Faith, the hurricane may reach the highest latitude ever on your watch. And by Faith, I mean Hurricane Faith, which did that. And now, if you are on the NOAA team, you may be watching Katia … and not saying it out loud not because you are superstitious but because you don’t want to look dumb later.

Here’s a picture of all of the mapped-in hurricane tracks of the North Atlantic.

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I must say, that I am VERY happy with the level to which Wikipedia has taken its cataloging and organization of hurricane related information. Kudos to them. Anyway, that’s a very cool graphic. But the saturation of lines in the vicinity of the Gulf of Mexico along with the lack of differential in the graphic for hurricane size and strength hides the fact that the gossamer northerly face of Atlantic Hurricane History Depicted is rare. Hurricanes don’t go too far north before they down grade, usually.

Here, also from Wikipedia, is Faith’s track:

i-d90d5f93e26633f9d04461fa2975d08f-Faith_1966_track-thumb-500x331-68973.jpg

Faith killed two people who were busy trying to cross the Atlantic in a row boat. That’s enough to make a sailor superstitious! Faith, running her course from August 21st 1966 to September 6th, 1966, only killed four people (the other two were also in boats) and traveled almost 13 thousand miles, and remained as a hurricane all the way to the North Sea where she went extra-tropical.

Now, have a look at the predicted storm track for Katia.

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Note that NOAA has her becoming sub-hurricanal out in the middle of the North Atlantic, but if you read the detailed discussion by the storm trackers, there is the possibility of her going a bit longer. You need to be watching between early morning and noon, EST, on Saturday to see how that goes. She’ll be a stone on her tenth skip. How many more will she do? Katia is unlikely to be another Faith, but there is always hope.

Maria, meantime, is a tropical storm heading for the eastern US. Maria will graze the Antilles, staying somewhat north, and may not even develop hurricane strength. But it is not unlikely that this storm will soak the eastern US anyway, which will be a concern if the Lee-Katia conspiracy to keep those folks wet leaves enough of a legacy.

Sources: Wikipedia, National Hurricane Center

Comments

  1. #1 hoary puccoon
    September 8, 2011

    “Faith killed two people who were busy trying to cross the Atlantic in a rowboat. That’s enough to make a sailor superstitious!”

    Two people who thought they could cross the North Atlantic in a rowboat in the middle of hurricane season??!?! It’s not called superstition when you’re afraid to do that. It’s called sanity.

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    September 8, 2011

    Well, to be fair, this whole hurricane thing has gotten much worse since then.

  3. #3 khan
    September 8, 2011

    There’s been several days of rain in SW OH.
    Lee and Katia are in a conspiracy?

    BTW Greg, can you suggest a good watershed map? I want to see where all the floods go.

  4. #4 mark
    September 8, 2011

    khan:
    For watershed maps, check with the US Geological Survey, Water Resources Division, the district office that includes your state. For Maryland, the url is http://md.water.usgs.gov/; Pennsylvania is http://pa.water.usgs.gov/. They have been coming up with lots of online versions of their traditional paper maps, data, and reports.

    Central Pennsylvania was severely flooded by a huge amount of rain, that can be attributed to a weather pattern controlled by (former) Hurricane Lee. It has been about the worst since Agnes in 1972.

  5. #5 khan
    September 8, 2011

    Memories of Agnes: I followed that hurricane up the coast on a bus trip from AL to NJ.

  6. #6 StevoR
    September 11, 2011

    Tropical Storm Lee.

    For a second there I read that as Tropical Stan Lee ie. Spiderman’s creator. ;-)

    There is actually quite a bit left of this no-longer named low pressure system,

    I thought they just changed the name to ex-Storm Lee after the downgrading?

    Interesting hurricane graphics – any idea how Human Induced Rapid Global Overheating (HIRGO) as I prefer to call “Global Warming” might be affecting them? (A whole big topic of its own I know.)

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