Dark Bilious Vapors

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Home » Archives » September 2005 » Bill Nye and Other Meteorologists...

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09/23/2005: Bill Nye and Other Meteorologists...

I haven’t said much about the issue of the warmth of the Gulf Waters and the Temperature eddies of heat as responsible for the increased wind velocity and dangers that build a hurricane from a Category 1,2 or 3 into a 4 or a 5. And WHY those waters are warmer than historical norms...

But last night was an interesting graphic depiction of this effect on CNN Larry King Live show about Hurricane Rita Threatens Texas/Louisiana Coast.

I can’t get the graphic image, but if I find a video of this show, I will add it to this partial transcript of that information.

Click on the “more” button to read these excerpts from that discussion. [Emphasis is mine to highlight that specific portion of the transcript.]

LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Let's start with Bill Nye. How bad is this?

BILL NYE, "THE SCIENCE GUY": I think it's real bad and my concern is it's only September. You know by the time it gets to be Thanksgiving or so we could have two or three more of these, four or more of these.

And then in the long term, the atmosphere is getting warmer, so when you have warmer water in the mid-Atlantic you're going to have more hurricanes and they're going to be stronger, so this gets into this business of global climate change. Now, we got immediate problems and immediate misery but I think it's not inappropriate to think about the long term.

KING: We'll get back to a lot of that.

Sam Champion, this is now a category four. Will it go back to a five or don't we know?

SAM CHAMPION, WABC-TV: Larry, that's a really good question. The next couple of hours we'll watch it. It's moving into a warmer pool of water. It spent some time today in a cold, what they call a cooler eddy (ph) of water and it had some eye fall reformation, which allowed it to kind of weaken a little bit, so it dropped from that five to a four. It now looks like it will stay a four and maybe even wobble back a little bit to a five. It will be interesting to see if it does once it gets into that warmer water.

KING: Sam Champion, that turn west, what does it say to you?

SAM CHAMPION, WABC-TV N.Y. METEOROLOGIST: Well, it could be a wobble. There is a warmer pocket of water that was just to the north and west of where it spent the day today. There really isn't any reason for it to have steered in that direction, but they do wobble a little bit. And again, I don't necessarily agree with not paying attention to the categories. I think it's important. But I think we should just treat it as if it were the strongest storm and kind of leave it at that.

A small fluctuation doesn't make that much of a difference. That's true. Just like a small wobble in the system shouldn't make that much of a difference. It is still a north Texas, western Louisiana situation. If that wobble turns into a direct movement for much more -- and Chad's looking at it -- so if it's much more than an hour or two it looks like it's steering that way, we'll get on top of that and make some adjustments to where we think the storm will go.

But for right now I would still paint it exactly the way it's been painted, and that is from that north Texas coast all the way to Louisiana, consider this to be a very powerful hurricane. If you're in the coastal areas you need not to be in those areas, particularly if they were evacuated. And for the folks in Houston, this storm system is not just a coastal concern. It moves inland. And there's going to be several inches of rain. It's going to move from Houston into that north Texas, near Oklahoma, and sit there for Sunday into Monday. Now fresh water flooding and heavy rainfalls and tornadic storms are all a part of a landing hurricane. So you know if you can evacuate to a safe zone I would do so. If you feel like that you can hunker down in Houston and they're telling that you can do that, then you need to know how...


CHAMPION: ... to prepare your home to survive that kind of storm, Larry.

KING: Bill Nye wanted to add something.

BILL NYE, "THE SCIENCE GUY": Yes, I've got a question. Is that wobble, was that induced by that warm water eddy, and would that extra little push of warm water add energy to the storm?

CHAMPION: That's exactly -- you know, we had -- Larry, the gentleman from NASA last night, is it Sheppard (ph)?

KING: Yep.

CHAMPION: He's great with these -- I learned so much just from talking to him on these. And we're still trying to understand them. But it seems like when they find these deep-water pools, and we're still studying it, that these hurricanes do gain a little strength. Now, there's a question of whether or not there will be a combatant shear to the storm that will kind of weaken it as much as it gets the strength from the water. So much of that we're still learning about, Bill.


CHAMPION: But there is the expectation that it certainly can gather some strength and it may have actually twisted to seek that.

KING: Chad Myers wants to jump back in -- Chad.

MYERS: Larry, I'm glad when a plan comes together because the map behind me is going to show you that eddy. It's going to show you the Loop Current. This is out of the University of Colorado. The Loop Current, part of some very warm water -- here's Florida. Here's Texas. There's Cancun. And the storm yesterday went right over this Loop Current.

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) this storm went from 109 miles per hour to 175 miles per hour as it was going over this warm water. Today it lost the warm water, it missed it. It's a little bit farther to the west. So our wind speeds went down. And that right there is exactly what Sam Champion is talking about. That is the next little warm eddy, right there in the Gulf of Mexico. Then it loses that warmth before it hits land. But boy, right on top of that with this map here from the University of Colorado.

Ken Reeves, the senior meteorologist and director of forecasting for AccuWeather. What does this turn to the west tell you?

KEN REEVES, ACCUWEATHER SENIOR METEOROLOGIST: Well, actually, Larry, I'd like to put my little two cents in on this one as well...

KING: OK, it's your money.

REEVES: It's my money. Here we go. The turn to the west, if -- you can kind of see the picture over my shoulder, there's a little bit of yellow that showed up through the Mississippi Valley today, and that's actually a little dip in the jet stream that helped to pull the system a little to the north. What's happening, that's now lifting out of the way. These storms are steered by the currents in the upper atmosphere.

The ocean content of heat, the energy out of the ocean helps control their intensity certainly and can affect their movements to a certain degree as well. Well I think what's ending up happening, Larry, is the ridge is building back over top of this storm, and what that means is -- let me just show you -- you've got the ridge like this and you're bringing the storm up into it like this, and now it's getting pushed by virtue of the flow around that high is now getting pushed to the west a bit more because the ridge is now building back over top of the storm.

That's why we're starting to see it jog to the west a little more. It may still jog west and north and west and north. But what that ridge building to the north, Larry, really worries me about is that it goes up to northeastern Texas and somebody by early next week has 30 inches of rain.

And that could be the hidden story that people don't even realize. We're covering everything that's going on along the coast and that's certainly a bad situation, but what about if somebody ends up with three feet of rain somewhere in northeast Texas or worse yet, comes back down again from the north and heads back toward Houston after hitting them once already? So I think there's a lot of interesting things going on there and when Max comes back on I'd like to ask him a question about evacuations as well, so...

KING: When we come back, I'll ask the science guy about storm surges, what caused them, what are they. Don't go away.
KING: Bill Nye, The Science Guy, the National Advisory Board of the Union of Concerned Scientists (ph), what is storm surge, and is it caused by the wind? Obviously, I guess it is.

NYE: Well, it's really caused by rising air. So hot air rises because cold air squeezes it up. And what you end up with is this depression in the atmosphere. You know the expression tropical depression.

KING: Sure.

NYE: So if you could see the atmosphere from outer space, which is what we do with satellites, there's a dip or a bowl in the atmosphere. And so that low pressure allows the pressure of the -- around that storm to squeeze the water up...

KING: It's not the wind as much as the pressure?

NYE: Right. That's the fundamental thing. But then if -- especially if you're on the northeast side of this thing, the wind doesn't help you. It's pushing that surge in at the same time and you get these enormous sea level rises.

KING: Rob Marciano, have you experienced a surge, and if so what is it like?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I'd run from the surge, that's for sure, and that's what everybody should do. I mean, if there's a time where run for the hills, if that expression holds, it's during a hurricane. You just got to head for higher ground. I'll tell you, we were north of I-10 when the storm hit Biloxi and they had that 25- foot-plus storm surge. And I wouldn't want to be anywhere near it.

I -- you know, I worked down the road in Lake Charles for several years. Hurricane Audrey was their big one, back in 1957. I would listen to the old-timers talk about how that storm came in, virtually unpredicted because they didn't have much in the way of radars and satellites, and they would talk about how the water just kept rising, up to the attics they went, how the homes came off their foundations, how they floated out to sea or back to the beach, how they would hold on to dead carcasses of cattle in order to survive.

A storm surge is no place I want to be. The funny thing is, Larry, I never thought I would witness or hear those stories again. And sure enough, Hurricane Katrina came in, and we witnessed that sort of storm surge and that sort of loss of life again. If there's any good news that comes out of that, is that the folks in Houston, Galveston, they're not messing around with this one. They don't want any part of it. They don't want to experience that storm surge. They all head out of town.

KING: Sam, do satellites make it easier to forecast?

CHAMPION: Oh Larry, satellites do it all. Before we had satellites, we couldn't -- or these days, very much of it. Now I mean, we're doing a lot more with Doppler and shooting into a storm and getting winds and rain that way. But without that satellite you don't get that picture. We were never able before satellites, we were never able to see the storms and know where they were. There was a lot of guessing there. With the satellite picture you can see it, you can see it move. You can see where it's going. You can pinpoint it. You can track it. And you can forecast it.
KING: We're back. Let's take a call. Minneapolis, hello.

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: Question for Bill Nye.

KING: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: How can we lower the water temperature in the Gulf over the long term?


KING: Which would end hurricanes, right?

NYE: Well, would end them, it might curtail them. Well this gets into something we call global climate change, which is certainly happening. As the world gets warmer, there's going to be more heat energy in the atmosphere, and that heat energy is going to manifest itself in bigger and more frequent storms.

KING: It's going to get worse?

NYE: It's going to get worse. Now...

KING: So what can we do to change it?

NYE: What we can do to change it is everything. That is to say if we could use less fossil fuel, if we could use the fossil fuel we do use more efficiently, if we could develop alternative forms of energy we could, as we like to say, have it all. We could reduce global climate change, reduce the effect of hurricanes, and improve everybody's quality of life. But it's a big job. And another thing we could do, just for example, in these areas is preserve or restore wetlands, which we've destroyed.

And these couple of websites, one from the NOAA on the swath of Hurricane Rita, and Why do tropical cyclones occur primarily in the summer and autumn? about the warmth of the ocean waters as causative of these dangerous wind increases in a Hurricane:
“…warm ocean waters (at least 26°C or 80°F), a tropical atmosphere that can quite easily kick off convection (i.e. thunderstorms), low vertical shear in the troposphere, and a substantial amount of large-scale spin available (either through the monsoon trough or easterly waves).”

Karen on 09.23.05 @ 12:20 PM CST

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