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Katrina, and a Review of Our Summer Outlook

Matt Ross @ 12:00 AM

Forecast and the Impact of Katrina

What is currently Tropical Storm Katrina will become a tropical depression today as its core moves well to our west. Nevertheless, Katrina will have a big impact on our area as showers and thunderstorms become widespread and persistent, especially in the afternoon. As is often the case to the east of tropical systems, the chance for some of these storms to become severe is heightened. While this elevated risk will be greatest west of the mountains, it is substantial enough here that the National Weather Service has issued a Special Weather Statement for DC metro. Otherwise, conditions will be muggy with highs in the low 80s. Look for much improved weather arriving on Wednesday and taking hold on Thursday. Right now Labor Day weekend looks excellent.

Thoughts on Katrina

As Katrina heads north and weakens, we are faced with a similar situation as with past strong Hurricanes, particularly Andrew. Because most reporters are relatively out of harms way, there is often a premature sigh of relief after these events, as damage is not thought to be nearly as bad as has actually occurred. During Hurricane Andrew this was the case as many thought Dade County had gotten off relatively easy as Miami was spared the brunt of the storm. It was only after the discovery of catastrophic damage in Homestead later on, that we could fully appreciate the destructive impact of the storm. I believe we are faced with a similar situation here. While we are starting to get reports of the more significant damage from New Orleans to Mobile, I believe the worst is yet to come as reports continue to trickle in from the hardest hit areas, particularly the Mississippi coast. As we prepare ourselves for the unknown in terms of damage, injuries, and deaths, one absolute certainty is that the name Katrina will be retired and will go down as one of the costliest disasters in US history. As much as us weather aficionados are awestruck and fascinated by the power of mother nature, the sobering reality of the human impact is incomparable.

Summer Outlook Review

At the beginning of June we issued a brief Summer outlook. As we wind up August it is time to review and grade the ideas presented. The general theme put forward was that Summer would get warmer with respect to average as it progressed, with the warmest temperature anomalies centered in the latter part of July and the month of August. As the second half of the summer has averaged about 2 degrees above normal versus slightly over 1 degree above normal for the first half, we did a pretty good job targeting the overall progression of warmth. However, an unforeseen warm spell during the beginning and middle part of June killed the idea that the 1st half would end up slightly below normal. Given all these factors, I would give us a B-/C+ for the overall idea and theme presented. Better than average, but not spectacular.

If we look at the month by month ideas we also see the bad mixed with the good. For June, we forecasted temps to be slightly below normal and they ended up slightly above. While June was our coolest month of the summer with respect to average, it still ended up over a degree above normal. This was largely due to a warm spell from the 5th to the 15th that was unaccounted for in the outlook as the cold May pattern broke much quicker than anticipated. Given the early June date of the outlook, this was a fairly noteworthy oversight, only mitigated by the fact that slightly above and slightly below are not too far apart, so it could have been worse. Overall I would grade June a D+.

For July we forecasted temps to be just on the warm side of average, and they ended up just over a degree above average for our second warmest summer month with respect to average as we correctly predicted. While not a bullseye call, we were closer to getting the right idea than the wrong one, and thus overall, I would give July a B/B+.

Although there is still a day left in August, it appears that we will finish right around 80 degrees or 2.5 degrees above normal for our warmest month with respect to average of the summer. August was our best month of the outlook in my opinion, particularly in light of it being the furthest away in time when we issued it in early June. It did indeed contain the warmest anomalies of the summer as suggested in the overall theme, and in the specific monthly outlook when we forecasted it to be just over a degree above normal. This success is only tempered by the fact that we underestimated the extent of the heat as August will likely just squeak into the top 10 of all time, yet overall I would grade our outlook an A-/B+ for August.

When combining the overall idea of the summer and the individual monthly predictions, I would grade our summer outlook a B- overall. While we got a lot right, we didn't quite capture the significant and persistent warmth of the summer, and we came pretty close to fumbling June. I believe in the future we can put out an earlier outlook with a bit more detail. But overall, I believe we put out a value added outlook and thus verified. Look for something more detailed in the fall as we put out an outlook for the winter.

Pictured Above Courtesy of AP: The Hyatt in downtown New Orleans with its windows blown out, allegedly partially due to the roof of the Superdome acting as a projectile.

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