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Computer models looking less bullish about Florida hurricane threat

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European model projection showing a tropical storm or hurricane making landfall in Florida next week.
Image: weatherbell analytics

For days, a war has been raging between two of the premiere computer models used to help predict the weather. On the one side, there’s the National Weather Service’s Global Forecast System, or GFS, which has maintained that a tropical wave moving across Puerto Rico and Hispaniola will not intensify into a hurricane and strike Florida this weekend.

But other models have consistently outshone the GFS in both routine and high impact, high risk forecast situations.

On the other side of the battle is the European, or Euro model, which is run by the European Center for Medium Range Weather Forecasting in England.

The Euro, which gained notoriety by catching on to Hurricane Sandy’s unprecedented and catastrophic left hook into New Jersey a week in advance, has rattled Florida with its depiction of an intense tropical storm or hurricane hitting the southern part of the state this weekend.

Run after run, the Euro had stuck to its guns for the past three days, insisting that the area of inclement weather designated as “Invest 99L” would soon become Hurricane Hermine, potentially going on to menace Gulf Coastal states as a major hurricane of Category 3 intensity or greater.

Euro may have just surrendered

The battlefield may have just changed significantly, though. It’s unclear if a peace treaty has been signed, or if this is just a temporary lull in the fighting, but the afternoon run of the Euro model trended toward the GFS solution of a weaker storm.

In other words, it is no longer showing an intense storm hitting Florida on Sunday, and then intensifying over the unusually warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

This news is being met with cautious relief on social media. For example, Miami NBC-TV meteorologist John Morales welcomed the new computer model trend.

Weather Channel meteorologist Justin Abraham comically celebrated what he sees as a potential GFS victory over the top-seeded European model.

However, Floridians shouldn’t let down their guard yet, since the swirling cloud mass located north of Haiti could still persevere despite two main challenges.

Invest 99L has been contending with layers of dry air that have stifled the development of thunderstorms near the center of the storm. Such thunderstorms are needed in order for the weather system to form a closed area of low pressure at the surface and intensify.

The wind shear is forecast to diminish starting in about 24 to 36 hours, at which point it’s possible both the Euro and GFS will be wrong, and the storm will intensify rapidly.

“Although upper-level winds are not conducive for significant development during the next day or so, they could become a little more favorable over the weekend or early next week when the wave is expected to approach southern Florida or the southeastern Gulf of Mexico,” the National Hurricane Center said in a 2 p.m. ET statement on the weather system.

The Hurricane Center lowered Invest 99L’s chances of developing into a tropical depression, tropical storm or hurricane to 70 percent through 5 days, down from 80 percent earlier in the day.

For now, Invest 99L looks like a poor excuse for a tropical weather system that is inspiring trepidation in a coastal state like Florida. Its center is exposed and comprised only of low-level clouds, and the largest thunderstorms are displaced several hundred miles away from the center.

In short, it looks like garbage, from a tropical meteorology perspective.

Whether it turns into something more impressive remains to be seen, but for now, it’s encouraging that the great model war of August 2016 may be coming to an end.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2016/08/25/florida-hurricane-threat-diminished/