Sunday, October 12, 2008

Ground Hog Day

About a week or so ago I got all full of myself thinking that hurricane season had all about died even though November 30th is the official end of the season. I was lulled into a false sense of security as the weather turned winter like here for a week with temps in 80's vice the usual summer mid 90's. In paragraph three of my 10/6 post I noted some disturbances near the Africa. Well here we are 6 days later and check out the sat photo. First off "Invest 97" which is 1600 miles to my east (not in the sat photo) should be a tropical storm at any moment but thankfully looks like she will steer herself smooth into the open Atlantic. "Invest" by the way stands for Investigate. It is a naming convention the hurricane gurus use to designate disturbed areas. So look south of Puerto Rico and you can see a huge blob of convection and stormy weather. That is "Invest 98" which is doing its best to spin up to a tropical depression. It stands a chance to develop.....where? That's right smack over Puerto Rico. Aye Chiwawa. I say groundhog day because this situation is just about exactly what happened with "Invest 93" just a scant week or two ago. In Salinas we received just under 30 inches of rain from 93. 98 is setting up to do nearly the same thing. The silver lining appears to be that the system has some hostile upper level winds which is retarding its development. But all hands need to keep a sharp eye in case 98 becomes a tropical storm or worse. Little time would be available to weight anchor to get to the mangroves. Even then transiting to the mangroves with 50 knot squalls coming through would be no fun and challenging seamanship wise not to mention the lashing in process.

From what I have learned what is occurring is not abnormal and really is in line with the past Octobers. As the season gets later and later the systems struggle much more to become a hurricane. Water temps are starting to drop but more importantly the jet stream dips much lower which exposes these disturbances to more upper level winds and they the tops of the clouds get sheared. Also the cyclone genesis becomes much more concentrated in the central and southwest Caribbean instead of Africa. Although all kinds of crazy things start happening at the changing of seasons. Right now things are so complicated in the Atlantic and Caribbean the forecasters preface their forecast with "I have low confidence with this forecast" meaning everything is speculation. The lesson for the sailor is to pay close attention, hope for the best but be prepared for anything.

Capt Chris

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