"It is the unhappy fate of the scientist today that he must play the role of Cassandra in the body politic, sending his fellow men to bed with nightmares in the hope to be heard in time."

- Arthur von Hippel, in "The Molecular Designing of Materials" (h/t @upbeatprof)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I Prefer Adlai

According to Jeff Masters:
"There is a significant chance that Ike will be the worst hurricane to
hit Texas in over 40 years. The latest run of the HWRF and GFDL models
paint a realistic worst-case scenario for Texas. These models bring
Ike to the coast as a Category 4 hurricane (which I give a 20%
probability of happening). The HWRF predicts a 170-mile stretch of
coast will receive hurricane force winds of 74 mph or greater. A
100-mile stretch of coast will receive winds of Category 3 strength
and higher, 115 mph. Hurricane force winds will push inland up to 50
miles, along a 50-mile wide region where the eyewall makes landfall. A
100-mile stretch of Texas coast will receive a storm surge of 10-15
feet, with bays just to the right of where the eye makes landfall
receiving a 20-25 foot storm surge. "


Dano said...

This old weatherman (albeit not tropical fcstg) absolutely agrees. And one of my best friends used to fly into hurricanes, and still keeps up with his old buddies. Our impression yesterday aftn was that this will be easily solid cat 3 at this forward speed and any further slowing in mid-Gulf may make Ike cat 4 (I, personally, won't put too much money on it at this point looking at WV this AM). I called an old GF in Corpus and told her and her family should secure valuables and be ready to go. Cuba slowed down Gustav for NOLA but its hard to dodge two bullets in a row (this isn't The Matrix, after all).

Anyway, all this to say that you should tell your loved ones along the coast to take this seriously, get to moving the valuables to high ground and be ready to go Friday evening at the absolute latest, better Friday afternoon. Plenty of time.



David B. Benson said...

What Dano wrote.

Especially early for those in Galveston & Houston.

Michael Tobis said...

I doubt this blog has much influence in Galveston. Low lying parts of the island are being evacuated.


There is no evacuation planned for Houston, perhaps under the influence of the fiascos from Rita, pretty much forgotten outside Texas. It was right after the Katrina fiasco but really part of the same story... showing that false positives have risks too.

The crosshairs seem to be aimed at Corpus or perhaps a bit further up the coast, but there's divergence of opinion among the models. I'd rather it not go too far east, not only to spare Houston but also because we need some rain around here.

zencarver said...

The latest post by Dr. Masters is troubling wrt to storm surge from Ike...

Aaron said...

As I look at at the forecase storm track, it looks to me like it goes right over Clute, TX (The First Meter).

Too bad there is not a webcam so we can see what happens when Ike hits the farm.

Michael Tobis said...

Aaron, yeah I noticed that too. If I were on the coast at Matagordo Bay or anywhere east of that in Texas I would be making plans to leave very soon.

Freeport (the Dow plant) is currently the bullseye, the place most likely to get the hurricane winds.

Ideally it will pull still further east and spare Galveston Bay. The current scenario is about as bad as it could get for the Texas coast.

Dano said...

What makes it tough for planning purposes is the upper lvl winds vs sfc winds. Why are the upper level winds so strong, and will they translate eventually to the surface? Very odd storm in the details.

At any rate, when all is said and done, we need to have intelligent discussions about global change and our infrastructure and investments near the coast. Hopefully this will be the impetus, as it isn't making landfall where there are poor dark people, and instead it likely will landfall where the infra is that the monied need.



Michael Tobis said...

Well, it seems like the scope and fetch and duration is stirring up the waters in a spectacular way even with relatively modest wind.

This will be a wall of water story for sure, even if the winds stay only modestly monstrous. Landfall at Freeport would make quite a mess.

Lighter winds may spare the offshore drilling sites, at least.

duffandnonsense said...

"receiving a 20-25 foot storm surge"


"But nowhere did tidal gauges show peaks of the magnitude forecast. Heights were only three to five feet above the levels everyone found so scary when the cameras were rolling yesterday."


" It was necessary to alert people, and to move them out of the danger zones. But there was too much talk of twenty or twenty five foot heights. Look at the charts. Ten and twelve foot heights. If any models actually were outputting the higher figures, they should be reviewed and adjusted."

Ah yes, "models". Now where have I heard that word before?

Quotes from Alan Sullivan at:

David Duff

Michael Tobis said...


Not a drop of rain in Austin, either...

That all said, the models probably saved many lives and much property, even if they got the storm surge wrong, happily.

It's a bit churlish to focus on this; the hit on Freeport was predicted 48 hours out. This is a significant achievement.

Now we'll see if the rainfall numbers are in the right ballpark.

duffandnonsense said...

Not that I have anything against models. It's just the people who treat them as holy writ I find tiresom!

David Duff

Michael Tobis said...

"The expectations at nightfall Friday that a virtual tsunami of 20-foot waves would crash directly into Galveston, a city of 57,000, were fortunately dashed after midnight when the eye of the hurricane hit shore. City officials estimated the seas rose about 12 feet, though some tide gauges showed a 15-foot rise, and federal officials said it would take time to determine the exact number.

Whatever the height of the surge, longtime residents of Galveston said the damage was still the worst they had seen."

-- NY Times

The intensification didn't quite happen, and the hurricane veered to the right. So the surge is most of what was predicted, but a bit further east. This illustrates the problems with a cascade of models predicting a single event (not applicable to climate, once you understand the fundamental difference between weather and climate.)

One way it is analogous to climate is in the fact that the physics of the system yields some uncertainties, but impact may be strongly nonlinear with respect to those uncertainties.

Meanwhile, we have a major metropolis without power, which seems to be presenting the bulk of the difficulties.

Dano said...

Let us be clear about the models, which a particular ideology doesn't want to like: they saved many lives.

Had Ike veered less rightward by ~35-50 miles, the bay system would have been in the RFQ and much more water would have entered. In addition, any delay over open water by even 12 hours would have intensified the storm further, as it was obvious Ike was strengthening as it approached shore.

So the bottom line is, a little more south, a little more time and the damage would have been closer to US$40B instead of US$25B.

Ike likely will be the third most costly landfall in US history, & a few miles more southerly landfall easily would make it the most costly. But them ding-dang models done overdid the storm surge!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



Michael Tobis said...

"If you take a ferry from Galveston northeast across the Galveston Bay inlet, you arrive at the small town of Port Bolivar, which sits at the end of the 25 mile-long Bolivar Peninsula. Since the peninsula was situated on the right front side of Ike's eye, it took the worst of the storm. The Hurricane Hunters measured 110 mph winds at the shore when Ike made landfall, and Ike's highest storm surge hit the peninsula. The exact height of the storm surge is unknown, since there were no tide gauges there. Based on reports of a storm surge of 11 feet at Galveston Island and 13.5 feet at the Louisiana/Texas border, it is likely that storm surge heights along the Bolivar Peninsula were 14 feet or higher. Photos taken by the U.S. Geological Survey yesterday (Figure 1) of the Bolivar Peninsula show the tremendous damage a huge storm surge can do--entire neighborhoods of homes washed off their foundations and completely destroyed. Had Ike not wobbled 50 miles to the right in the hours prior to landfall, the scenes below could have been what Galveston would have looked like, even with their seawall."

Jeff Masters