July 21, 2013
A Storm is Brewing in the Arctic
Here at econnexus.org we're used to tracking hurricanes, but so far there's been a fairly quiet start to the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season. The strongest tropical storm so far has been Andrea, whose winds reached a maximum speed of 65 mph (100 km/h) around a minimum central pressure of 992 mbar. The National Hurricane Centre currently reports "No tropical cyclones at this time" for both the Eastern Pacific and the North Atlantic. Despite that an "extra-tropical" cyclone looks like it's on its way next week, far to the north of both those oceans.
Last Friday I was perusing some weather maps of the Arctic, trying to work out when there might be any change in the persistent northeasterly winds that have been hindering the progress of The Arctic Joule as its crew of four attempt to row through the Northwest Passage from west to east. I found myself looking at this surface level pressure chart on German weather site WetterZentrale:
If you click on the image then look closely at the centre of the green area you can just make out in amongst the tightly packed isobars of a large cyclone a predicted central pressure of less than 980 mbar, which is a lot lower than Andrea managed to achieve earlier this year. That certainly looks like it will put some strong winds behind the Arctic Joule next week, and promises even stronger winds for the crew of the other Arctic expedition we are following at the moment – Séb Roubinet and Vincent Berthet who are attempting to sail their catamaran Babouchka over both sea and ice right across the Arctic Ocean. To find a wind forecast I switched to French weather site MeteoCiel which seemed entirely appropriate in the circumstances. There I found this forecast:
That shows a maximum wind speed of over 90 km/h, although thankfully that's over the northern Beaufort Sea rather than Babouchka's current location in the southern Chukchi Sea.
Regular readers will recall that during Hurricane Sandy last year the American GFS forecast model was predicting a very different track for Sandy than the European ECMWF model, so today I've been comparing forecasts for the Arctic once again. This time it seems the various models are all in agreement that this Arctic cyclone will happen, although the fine details are slightly different. Here are three of today's forecasts for next Wednesday, once again courtesy of MeteoCiel:
One big question now is exactly how strong will the winds be that will soon be buffeting both teams of intrepid explorers currently afloat in different places in the path of the cyclone?
During and after will follow over the next few days. Whilst we wait to see what actually transpires, here's the US Navy's forecast for ice speed and drift for July 27th:
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