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Currently in the Atlantic

Currently in the Atlantic - November 11th, 2022

Nicole - still extremely large - still hitting most of Florida

Nicole made landfall in the middle of the night, pretty much exactly where NHC predicted and at a 75 mph Category 1, the exact intensity, too. More on the NHC accuracy later on.

Storm surge damage occurred over a wide area, from just north of West Palm Beach all the way up to the South Carolina beaches. That is hundreds of miles affected. Hundreds of thousands without power.

Now that Nicole has crossed the Florida peninsula, shifting winds have become onshore along the West Coast of the state, leading to more storm surges there.

Onshore winds and coastal flooding along Fl. West Coast

Nicole was one of the latest hurricanes to hit the U.S. on record:

Philip Klotzbach @philklotzbach·- The second latest calendar hurricane to hit the continental US on record (latest calendar year hurricane is Kate (1985) which landfall near Mexico Beach, FL on November 21st)

And now it will accelerate northeastward all the way into Eastern Canada and beyond-rain and wind may eventually reach Great Britain!

Moving too fast to cause much more flooding 

There were no big surprises with Nicole. It was expected to become a very large, but not intense storm. It was expected to make a direct hit on the Florida East coast since a week ago! NHC predicted (against most of the computer models) that Nicole would become a hurricane as it tracked across Grand Bahama Island. That's exactly what happened. And NHC predicted it would make landfall farther south than many of the computer models suggested. Right again!

Forecast from NHC Monday 11am - Perfection!
Forecast from NHC Wednesday 10am - Still perfect!

My only problem with NHC was a communication issue. Yes, it's about that damn cone! The Wednesday forecast had the exact track and the correct warnings, but why doesn't the cone cover the coasts of Northeast Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina? The cone has been called several things by NHC, meteorologists on TV, emergency managers, and even politicians and it has confused practically everyone, it seems.

Is it a "forecast cone"? If it is, what does that mean? The public (and many meteorologists, emergency managers, and politicians) doesn't understand that the cone is ONLY based on the AVERAGE error of NHC at that specific time period.  Nicole should illustrate "concern" over a much larger area (compared to the powerful but tiny Andrew in 1992). The cone was created in 2002. It's time to fix it.

Is it the "danger zone"? Nope. In Nicole's case, the main danger was far from the cone, along the coast itself.

Is it the "cone of uncertainty"? If so, shouldn't the size of the cone be related to how confident NHC is with the track? Again, with Nicole, NHC was certain the entire east coast from Palm Beach to North Carolina would be hit hard.

As you can see, this issue is so confusing and misunderstood that I think NHC needs to review the whole process. After all, a forecast is only as good as people understand it. There were big problems brought on by the cone during Ian. Lots of people apparently didn't know they were in danger.

There was a different type of communication problem for NHC during Sandy. It was officially a hurricane until nearing landfall, when it was suddenly labelled a "post-tropical" storm. But it hadn't weakened a bit. NYC Mayor Bloomberg (and others) went on TV saying: "Good news. Sandy is no longer a hurricane." EXACTLY THE WRONG MESSAGE. Did NHC really need to change the designation just as it was about to become the worst natural disaster in the history of New Jersey and NYC? NHC saw the problem and has taken steps to make sure that doesn't happen again.

When I interned at NHC back in the 70s, the average track error in a 48-hour forecast was about 300 miles. It is now down to near 50 miles! And with Nicole it was nearly ZERO miles. Intensity forecast improvement took longer, but a clear improving trend has been noted since around 2010.

Dramatic improvements in forecast tracks for ALL times
Intensity forecasts improving since about 2010

I was in awe of NHC and their hurricane specialists when given the honor of interning there. The boss, Dr. Neil Frank, and forecasters like John Hope, Gil Clark, Miles Lawrence, and others were inspirations. I did, and still do, consider NHC to be perhaps the most respected and admired agency in the entire Federal Government. They were anonymous for decades, until TV cameras came in and made them famous. We can't estimate how many lives they've saved over the years, and their dedication and drive to improve served as great examples for all of us. And they just keep getting better!

Glenn "Hurricane" Schwartz

What you need to know, currently.

Extreme heat has caused hundreds of deaths in Texas prisons, new research shows.

The study, which was published in the JAMA Network Open journal last week, showed a noticeable correlation between  lack of air conditioning, and the risk of inmate death, in U.S. prisons. The research also revealed that in Texas, where just one in every three prisons in the state is fully air-conditioned, 271 people have died over the past two decades because of the state’s failure to properly cool their prisons.

These deaths occurred on particularly hot days, where the heat index rose above the location’s 90th percentile. According to the study, the risk of death rose to nearly 15 percent on these days. Each one degree increase in temperature over 85 degrees F (29 degrees C) increased risk of death by 0.7 percent.

And, extreme heat and exhaustion have more health impacts than just death. The risk of heat related illness increases when people are exposed to temperatures that frequently go beyond 100 degrees F (38 degrees C), often reporting dizziness, nausea, heat rashes and muscle cramps.

Temperatures inside Texas prisons have reached as high as 149 degrees F (65 degrees C) in recent years. Historically, the state has seen temperatures anywhere from around 50 degrees F to 90 degrees F (10 to 32 degrees C). However, climate change will lead to hotter, more oppressive temperatures — and more frequent hot days. In fact, more than a third of Texas counties will be subject to more than 50 days with heat above 105 degrees F (41 degrees C), according to data from the nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists.

Regardless of these dangerous conditions, Texas lawmakers have failed to advance bills that would fund increased air conditioning in prisons, claiming that there haven’t been any heat-related deaths. This is, of course, a lie.

Texas does require that some inmates — like those in county jails where folks often await trial — have air-conditioning. The Texas Commission on Jail Standards requires that all county jails keep the temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees F (18-29 degrees C).

If similar temperature regulations were enacted in state prisons, it could save lives.

—Aarohi Sheth

What you can do, currently.