Sandy analysis

11:05 AM, Oct 25, 2012   |    comments
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Let's face it, the buzz is building to a fever pitch about Sandy, a possible hybrid monster storm, and the impact it might have on our great state of Maine. We are nerding it up big time here in the weather office and I'm going to share my thoughts on the two main possible scenarios that are on the table at the moment.

It almost goes without saying that it's too early to say for certain, we are still 5 or more days (depending on which solution you buy) out from impact and the computer models are notorious for some flip flopping in this range. HOWEVER, I've always said a meteorologist is of little use if he/she just says "too early to call" without providing some input and preference. So money/mouth time:

Option 1: This one is presented by the European model (aka Dr. No) and it has Sandy moving up the coastline through the Carolinas, maintaining tropical characteristics and then taking a HARD left turn into the coastline around New Jersey. This is the far less impactful solution for Maine due to the distance from landfall and the tropical nature of the storm. We would get some rain and some wind (40 MPH maybe) but you won't write home about it...we've seen storms like THAT before. This timeframe would be Monday night/Tuesday morning. Meanwhile the MidAtlantic would get slammed, but since I am speaking only for our forecast area...this is the better solution for us.

Option 2: Referred to in the weather weenie circles as "Perfect Storm II" option. This is the GFS model solution that brings Sandy up the coast, then turns her pretty far out to sea over the MidAtlantic only to "retrograde" (spin her back west) over the Northeast and slam the storm DIRECTLY into Maine. In this situation it wouldn't be "Sandy" anymore, instead it would be a hybrid extra-tropical storm. Truth be told, this is an absolute worst case scenario for us. With a low of this strength directly impacting the Maine coast from the ocean we would be looking at winds up to hurricane force but over a much larger area than a typical tropical system. (When tropical systems become extra-tropical their wind field "flattens out", meaning the core isn't as intense but the area impacted by strong winds increases. So instead of just hitting a 50 mile area, say, it would impact all of Maine). This scenario would cause extensive damage, particularly along the coastline and would surely mark this storm up there with the strongest Maine has seen in recent history.

Analysis: Let's start here: She's not going harmlessly out to sea. There was a period of days where this was still in play, but it's not anymore. There WILL be an impact along the east coast, the real question is just where exactly. The reason the out to sea scenario is kaput: there's no place for the storm to go. There is a logjam of a ridge of high pressure to our north and another strong low to the northeast. Storms can't move directly through each other so this hybrid-Sandy system has to spin back west one way or another. Both option 1 and option 2 are essentially the same concept...the storm will head to the northeast and then be "captured" by an approaching upper level disturbance moving into the Northeast from the Great Lakes. "Captured" means that the disturbance will basically act as a magnet for the Sandy hybrid and pull it in. You can make it as complicated as you want but the landfall disagreement between the Euro and GFS comes down to how quickly this disturbance is able to capture Sandy. In the case of the Euro, the capture happens quicker so the landfall is further south as the storms hooks west to "link up" with the disturbance. In the case of the GFS, the capture happens later so Sandy is further out to sea and has much more ground to cover to "link up" with the disturbance.

So what do I think?: I like the Euro solution more, which is Option 1. A few reasons 1) I love the Euro in the mid range. I've always felt it does a better job past 3 days than any other model around. This is a sentiment you'll hear from MANY meteorologists...the track record is very solid 2) I've NEVER seen a storm go that far to the east and then get recaptured in such a violent fashion. Could it happen? Sure, anything is possible but I can't think of a single documented storm that made that kind of left hand turn when it was that far out to sea. So for now I'm going with a landfall in the NYC area (just a bit further north than the current Euro solution because I doubt the GFS is TOTALLY out to lunch). This would give us a strong storm, but not the storm of the century.

But it's early...and the Option 2 is just too destructive to ignore.

Stay with us...seriously.

Twitter: @keithcarsonwcsh


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