Tropical Storm Cristobal, Saturday 6 June 2020

Before discussing Cristobal … I’ve re-established the link to Facebook because so many get their information that way.  While it is a problematic platform in many ways, the simple fact is many people use it.  I would again caution that for real time hazards and news, Facebook can even be dangerous because it does not show you things chronologically.  It also does not show you every post, because it aggressively wants corporate and even non-profit users to pay them to “boost” posts.  So if you really want live data from Enki, bookmark the blog directly.  Another thing I dislike is people profiting from disasters.  As I get time I’m considering options like creating an app,  but I may have to set up a Patreon type thing to sponsor that.  Either way, I really appreciate everyone who has contacted me with well wishes and ideas for how to sort through this.  Note going forward I am not reading or responding to comments on FB.  This is purely an echo of what goes on to the site as a convenience for FB users.

Cristobal has re-emerged into the Gulf of Mexico, and tropical storm force winds should make landfall on the Louisiana coast tomorrow morning – but the impacts will be felt starting later today/tonight.  NHC’s key messages are pretty straightforward, and there are tropical storm warnings up for the Louisiana/Florida Coast, including New Orleans.  Here is the forecast damage swath …

Two things about Cristibal:  first, it isn’t likely to get very strong.  It has a very broad structure, and is dragging in dry air, limiting how intense it can get.  Here is a water vapor image from this morning, you can see the dry air in orange … as always, click any graphic to embiggen.

The second (related) thing is how large the system is.  Normally tropical cyclones get smaller as they get more intense.  It’s a lot like an ice skater who spins faster as she draws her arms in, and slows down when they are extended.  The circulation of Cristobal is quite large.  That means the area of winds and somewhat elevated water is also large – but it also means the storm won’t intensify as fast, even given warm water.  There is also some shear (winds moving in different directions in the middle and upper levels of the atmosphere).  Here’s the 850mb (about 5000 feet up) wind speeds … so even the Florida coast might see gusty (but not dangerous) winds.  Water elevations will run a bit above normal across the Northern Gulf Coast – but only structures right on the coast are at risk.  However, soil moistures are high, and there will likely be a lot of rain, meaning there will be river/creek flooding, so if you live near one along the Gulf Coast beware.  Aside from the odd tree down and scattered power outages, that should be about it for Cristibal.



Tropical Storm Cristobal (Friday 5 June)

Well, technically still Tropical Depression Cristobal as of 11am … for a while it was not much of a system, but NHC continued tracking and advisories since it was expected to re-emerge over the Gulf of Mexico.  That seems to be happening today, the center of circulation is moving north and should move back over water later today.  The part that is over water seems to be intensifying, so there is a good chance Cristobal will become a “real” tropical storm before it strikes the Gulf Coast of the US on Sunday Morning.  Here’s the satellite view as of 10:40am …

Left side is infrared (colder, higher clouds indicating convection in color), right is visual.

Here is the TAOS(tm) TC impact estimate based on the official 11am NHC forecast:

Cristobal has caused a lot of flooding and mudslides in southern Mexico and in Central America, but with all the other news hard to find any good summaries.  Oil refineries and offshore rigs are starting to take action to protect their assets … although the Gulf isn’t nearly as important to US energy and prices as it was 10 years ago.  While it may cause a brief spike (based more on trading dynamics than reality), Cristibal isn’t likely to cause any significant damage offshore.  Onshore, the main risks are flooding, with some minor wind damage and coastal flooding.  NHC is forecasting a very broad wind field – I suspect overly broad – but the Louisiana, Alabama, and parts of the Florida Coast will certainly be gusty Saturday Night in to Sunday.

Tropics June 3rd, 2020 (TS Cristobal and Cyclone Nisarga)

Two storms making landfall on opposite sides of the world this morning.  Cyclone Nisarga has hit the west coast of India, south of Mumbai with hurricane force winds.  It rapidly intensified from a weak depression to full blown hurricane in less than a day.  The impacts both financial and virological are likely to be significant but hopefully not catastrophic. Here’s the damage swath …

In the southern Gulf of Mexico, Tropical Storm Cristobal is hovering near shore, dumping a lot of rain on the Yucatan peninsula, causing mudslides and flash flooding.  It will likely drift inland and start to break up, however, in two days whatever survives is likely to be dragged back offshore and northward towards the Louisiana coast.  If that scenario holds up, as the NHC is forecasting, the impact swath will look something like this:

The main uncertainty is how organized the storm will be as it begins its northward trek.  The more organized, the stronger it will be when it hits the US.  Likewise, it may be nothing more than wind and rain.  We will know more by Friday morning …


Tropical Depression #3

Some bits of the system that was Amanda in the East Pacific is now Tropical Depression #3 (AL032020) as NHC has started advisories.  It is expected to become a Tropical Storm tomorrow, and meander near the Mexican coast for a couple of days, dumping a *lot* of rain on Southern Mexico and Central America, with a significant risk of flooding and mudslides.  Here’s what it looks like at about 5pm ET today, see if you can find the center …

Most likely it will end up going inland over Mexico/Central America and dissipating.  But, depending on the Virus and the Riots, you may see scary graphics like this one …

showing a monster storm bearing down on the Gulf Coast (and note this graphic is lying, since it’s just a tropical storm here).  It’s certainly not time to worry about that, it’s not the most likely scenario at this point.  But, the interesting thing is, while *this* circulation may well die out, another may well form in the same place later in the week and drift north, so the whole situation is worth watching anyway.  It will be especially interesting to see if NHC maintains continuity, or creates yet a third storm of of essentially the same chunk of hot air …

Administrative note: As previously posted, I’ve discontinued the Enki Facebook and Twitter feeds.  Facebook in particular was problematic and their policies are rather toxic and ultimately became unacceptable, so I needed to stop feeding the beast.  However, I understand that many people are on it with family and friends and it is a pretty ubiquitous communications tool.  Feel free to share links there if you like.

As for the blog, I’m not sure what direction it is going to go, or how it will be supported.  We’ll see how it goes.

Shutting down …

Due to altered organization and circumstances, the Enki social media presence will be discontinued.  There are some both simple and complex reasons for this, but the bottom line is going forward is no longer an option.

As a reminder:

  • For official hurricane tracks, forecasts, and so forth, see the US National Hurricane Center.  Especially look for their “key messages” graphics for a great summary.  Forecasts for other areas (Pacific, etc) are also accessible from that link.
  • For earthquake data, the USGS Earthquake Hazards program is the place to go.  Note they are rearranging their web site, a process that was disrupted by the COVID thing.
  • For pandemic and health guidance, the Centers for Disease Control is your source.
  • Otherwise, for some nice checklists and guidance to prepare for disasters you might want to check out the DHS/FEMA site at

Tropical Storm Bertha

The thing off the coast of Georgia has enough tropical characteristics (or NHC is bored enough) that it is now been designated as AL022020, and even named Bertha.  It is very close to land, and will make landfall between Charleston and Myrtle Beach SC (with the worst impacts in the Bulls Bay/Myrtle Beach area).  Nothing too serious to worry about other than trees down, power outages, that sort of thing.  Here’s the satellite and radar images as of 9:30am …

And here is the forecast track and impact estimate (probably a million dollars or so), mostly cleaning up downed trees, heavy rain, some light structure damage:


Pointing the finger

On the doom front, a few earthquakes, no tropical systems at the moment. Nothing different on the pandemic data front: it’s still so screwed up it is hard to draw any conclusions.  Maybe things are getting better.  Maybe we are in the eye of the storm, and a “second wave” is building.  We can’t know that yet here in the US because the data collection and testing is so screwed up. But that isn’t stopping the finger pointing. Bloomberg ran an editorial yesterday entitled “The Pandemic Is Exposing The Limits Of Science.”  The author, Ferdinando Giugliano, tries to draw parallels between the 2008 financial crisis and the SARS-COV-2 pandemic by asserting that the 2008 crisis showed the limits of economics in understanding the economy, and now he asserts the same regarding science and COVID-19.  The editorial entirely misses the point in both cases.

For years, economists had been warning politicians (and business journalists) that there was a coming storm.  Assets were over-priced, there was a well known real estate bubble, and leveraging had created an environment where several major financial firms were exposed to collapse, putting the banking system at risk. Business journalists pooh-poohed the “doomsayers,” and politicians cashed the checks of the financial services lobbyists and smiled.   While it is true nobody knew exactly when the crisis would come, saying “nobody warned us that in Summer of 2008 it would hit” is like saying “well, you may have warned me driving 200 mph was dangerous but you didn’t warn me about the oil patch that caused me to skid off the road and hit a tree at 4:35 Saturday Afternoon.”  That is absurd.

Giugliano writes “But on a range of issues — from containing the virus to prescribing effective treatments — we have seen some scientists and doctors jump to conclusions, only for others to give immediate rebuttals. (The contention over the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine is one example.) This seesawing has added to the sense of panic and confusion among ordinary citizens.”  That is infuriating.  The main reasons these became issues is that journalists failed to do proper reporting but in their constant need for “breaking” news it is “reporters” who jumped to conclusions, publicizing preliminary results that had not been peer reviewed.  Scientists are in a catch-22: if we try to keep preliminary results confidential we are accused of a lack of transparency and hiding things from the public.  If we are transparent, reporters grab and publicize raw results and misinform both the public and political readers who don’t read primary publications.  The Hydroxychloroquine issue wasn’t pushed by scientists or doctors.  It was pushed by politicians who were repeating irresponsible “news” articles based on raw, preliminary research.

So I would like to point the finger too.  The middle one.  At journalists and politicians of both parties who can’t be bothered to learn how science actually works, won’t listen to neutral subject area experts, then cherry pick and dramatize raw data and exaggerate uncertainty for their own agendas, placing the blame for a crisis elsewhere instead of where it belongs: on them.

Why Data Matters: Hurricane Season Forecast and COVID19 Numbers (again!)

Where to start, the screwed up COVID19 testing/hospitalization data, or the much more useful hurricane season outlook (it’s an outlook, not a forecast, for technical reasons)?  The hurricane outlook is far more useful and far more scientifically sound, but it does suffers from a similar problem to the COVID19 data: inconsistent standards over time.  (Of course, the COVID19 data suffers from many more aliments).

Here’s a summary of  the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook from NOAA:

The full release is here.  My quibble with it is that the seasonal statistics it is based on were not compiled in the same way, with the same criteria, that the outlook is.  Saying a season is “above normal” in comparison to seasons in the past, especially before satellites (the release also talks about some of the exciting new data and models coming online this year) is questionable.  As we have better data, the standards and thresholds for what is a tropical storm, hurricane, and especially intensity estimates have gotten a lot more refined.  I never liked storm count scoreboards for that reason.  In any event, what matters is that the ocean and atmosphere are primed for a busy season.  Of course, the total number of storms is irrelevant if it hits you.   So if you live on the coast, prepare.

What can be said about the COVID19 data that hasn’t been ranted before?  Are things getting better or worse in the states that are reopening?  We just don’t know.  Obviously things aren’t turning into a New York style dystopia, but the testing and reporting are so bad and so inconsistent that as noted before we have no idea what the hell is going on (sorry, but it’s time to roll out the profanity).  Lumping in antibody and live virus tests as apparently several states are doing, taking weeks to report hospitalization data, it’s all so screwed up you can make any argument you want based on the numbers floating around.  Or just roll dice and throw darts.  Here’s Georgia’s aggregate hospitalization data, and reported persons in the hospital, for the last five days:

If we had real time reporting, these would match.  If there were a one or two day delay, you would see a time lag but the numbers would match with the number of days delay (in other words, the Thursday aggregate change would be seen in the Tuesday hospitalized change, if there were a two day delay).  These are just different data sets, and I don’t believe either one.

So what does this mean for you?  Try to stay safe.  Hygiene, distancing where possible, masks where not.  Take special precautions for those over 65, and anyone with health problems.  Feel bad stay home.  Unfortunately the CDC main COVID19 site hasn’t been updated since April 19th.  Some reopening guidelines are here.  We’ll see what happens … maybe it will be ok, maybe it won’t.  Without good data, there’s no way to know if it isn’t until it’s too late.  Likewise, people have no confidence to go forward if it is in fact ok, which makes the already catastrophic economic damage worse.  So the confused data and monitoring are hurting either way, and it shouldn’t be a political issue.

Amphan and COVID19 Updates (Georgia Data again)

Tropics: Amphan is approaching landfall on the Indian/Bangladeshi border, unfortunately a bit stronger than forecast yesterday.  It is now on track to cause over $1 Billion in impacts in this impoverished region.  16 Million people are in the hurricane force wind swath, and 1.6 Million are at risk of severe storm surge and river flooding.  Arthur is no more, a cold front from Canada did him in.  Mynd you, møøse bites Kan be pretti nasti.

Pandemic: The Georgia numbers are contradictory.  If you want to be optimistic about the re-opening, you can look at the report that hospitalized COVID patients decreased from 1025 to 986, a decrease of 39.  Or, if you want to be pessimistic, you can look at the total reported hospitalizations, which increased from 6916 to 7027, or an increase of 111. Of course, these two metrics are measuring different things, but in a  system with reasonable reporting and time lags they would agree more closely.  How anybody can look at this data and say we know WTF is going on in this state is delusional.  Mortality rate, fraction tested, hospitalized ratios, etc. all are moving slowly, oscillating within the noise levels with no clear signal.  The jury is still out on the reopening.  Some have asked about county level data.  In my not so humble opinion, it’s just not worth bothering with.  It’s too noisy, and I don’t trust it.

Elsewhere, most states other than New Jersey (which is still in a growth curve) are in a slow growth curve.  Here’s the latest for several US States and the composite US (with and without NY/NJ):

In the rest of the world, Spain, Italy, and while lagging in time, the UK, are all coverging towards mortality rates of 5.5 to 6.5 deaths per 10,000 population.  France, Netherlands, and Sweden are headed to the 3.5 to 4.5 range.  Russia now seems to be following a track more like Sweden than Canada, and will likely end up in that same range.  Canada will like be around 2/10k.  The bottom tier of South Korea, Norway, Germany, and Denmark are in the 1.5/10k range or less.  For context, the H3N2 influenza outbreak of 2016 had a rate of just under 3 per 10,000.  As a whole, the US is on track for under 1.0 – but as seen in the above graph, it depends a lot on who you are (old/infirm vs. younger/fit) and where you live (NE vs rest of the country).  Here’s the world plot …

So what does this mean to you?  Same as it ever was.  Hygiene.  Keep your distance from people you don’t live with.  Masks if you can’t. Sgt. Apone rules: (nobody touch nothin’, don’t bunch up).  Hopefully things are on a good track.  But given the mess that is testing and data reporting, we just don’t know.  And that is an outrage.

Cyclone Amphan (IO012020) pre-landfall impact estimate

Cyclone Amphan is about 18 hours away from landfall in West Bengal, on the India-Bangladeshi border.  Although it is weakening rapidly from a peak of 120/ knots (222kph, a solid Category 4 on the Saffir/Simpson scale), now a low SS3 and likely at landfall a middle SS1 hurricane, it will still inflict significant damage on this vulnerable part of the world.  The northern Bay of Bengal is the worst place on earth for hurricane storm surge.  Even a weak storm can generate 3 meters (12ft) or more of inland inundation along this densely populated shoreline. Here is the current forecast damage swath:

In economic terms, this is not a big event, with “only” $388 Million in damage projected.  But of course in poor areas economic impact estimates come nowhere near capturing the human misery.  In this case, there are over a million people at risk from flooding, and a staggering 91 million within the region of tropical storm force winds.  Depending on the availability of dramatic pictures, this may not make much news, but it will hurt a lot of people.  Throw in the populations being displaced, it has the potential to re-ignite the spread of the SARS-COV-2 virus across both countries.