Arquivo da tag: Furacões

Do You Know the Story Behind Naming Storms? (Word Genius)

Friday, October 29, 2020

Can you imagine turning on the Weather Channel to get an update on Storm 34B-SQ59? While major storms aren’t sentient beings, it’s become standard to give them human names to make it easier to communicate about them, especially during critical news updates. From Hurricane Elsa to Tropical Storm Cristobal, there’s an intriguing legacy behind naming storms.

The History of Naming Storms

A few hundred years ago, storms were named after the Catholic saint’s day that lined up with the storm. For example, Hurricane Santa Ana landed in Puerto Rico on July 26, 1825. But if storms hit on the same day in different years, names doubled up. Hurricane San Felipe I struck Puerto Rico on September 13, 1876 and then San Felipe II hit in 1928.

In the late 19th century, Australian meteorologist Clement Wragge began using women’s names for tropical storms. The practice was adopted by the U.S. Navy and Air Force during World War II when latitude and longitude identifications proved to be too cumbersome.

Outside of the military, early 20th century storms were named and tracked by the year and order, with names such as “1940 Hurricane Two” and “1932 Tropical Storm Six.” This created some confusion when multiple storms were happening during the same time, especially during news broadcasts. To reduce confusion, United States weather services also began using female names for storms in 1953, and later added male names to the list in 1978. This began the modern version of how we name storms.

Who Is in Charge of Storm Names?

Although NOAA’s (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) National Hurricane Center is the premier source for news about storms, this organization does not name them. Instead, the World Meteorological Organization does. The WMO is a specialized agency of the United Nations, headquartered in Switzerland, that focuses on weather, climate, and water resources. Each year, the WMO creates a list of potential names for the upcoming storm season.

Where Do the Names Come From?

There is a bit of an art to naming modern-day storms. The WMO compiles six lists of names for each of the three basins under its jurisdiction: Atlantic, Eastern North Pacific, and Central North Pacific. Countries outside of this jurisdiction have their own naming conventions. For areas within the WMO, such as the United States, storm names are cycled through every six years. That means that the list of names for the 2021 season will be used again in 2027.

Each list contains 21 names that begin with a different letter of the alphabet (minus Q, U, X, Y, Z because of the limited number of names). For the Atlantic basin, names are typically chosen from English, French, and Spanish, because the countries impacted primarily speak one of those three languages. While the names are supposedly random, there are some pop culture-related coincidences, such as 2021’s Hurricane Elsa.

When Is a Storm Named?

A tropical storm can be named once it meets two criteria: a circular rotation and wind speeds more than 39 MPH. Once a storm reaches 74 MPH, it becomes a hurricane but keeps the same name it was first given as a tropical storm, such as when Tropical Storm Larry turned into Hurricane Larry in September 2021.

Hurricane names can also be retired, and this is often done when a hurricane is especially destructive. As of the 2020 season, there are 93 names on the retired Atlantic hurricane list, including 2004’s Katrina, 2012’s Sandy, and 2016’s Matthew. When a name is retired, it is replaced with a new name.

New Rules in 2021

Before the 2021 season, if the full list of storm names was used before the end of the season, any additional storms that reached the necessary criteria for naming would use the Greek alphabet — Alpha, Beta, Gamma, etc. There were 30 named storms in 2020, only the second time the full list of names had been used.

As of 2021, the WMO will use a supplementary list of names, similar to the original list (starting with Adria and ending with Will). The WMO felt that the Greek names were too distracting. From a technical perspective, the Greek names could also not be replaced in a way that made sense if they were retired (such as Eta and Iota in 2020).

Featured image credit: Julia_Sudnitskaya/ iStock

NOAA Acknowledges the New Reality of Hurricane Season (Gizmodo)

Molly Taft, March 2, 2021

This combination of satellite images provided by the National Hurricane Center shows 30 hurricanes that occurred during the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season.
This combination of satellite images provided by the National Hurricane Center shows 30 hurricanes that occurred during the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season.

We’re one step closer to officially moving up hurricane season. The National Hurricane Center announced Tuesday that it would formally start issuing its hurricane season tropical weather outlooks on May 15 this year, bumping it up from the traditional start of hurricane season on June 1. The move comes after a recent spate of early season storms have raked the Atlantic.

Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30. That’s when conditions are most conducive to storm formation owing to warm air and water temperatures. (The Pacific ocean has its own hurricane season, which covers the same timeframe, but since waters are colder fewer hurricanes tend to form there than in the Atlantic.)

Storms have begun forming on the Atlantic earlier as ocean and air temperatures have increased due to climate change. Last year, Hurricane Arthur roared to life off the East Coast on May 16. That storm made 2020 the sixth hurricane season in a row to have a storm that formed earlier than the June 1 official start date. While the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration won’t be moving up the start of the season just yet, the earlier outlooks addresses the recent history.

“In the last decade, there have been 10 storms formed in the weeks before the traditional start of the season, which is a big jump,” said Sean Sublette, a meteorologist at Climate Central, who pointed out that the 1960s through 2010s saw between one and three storms each decade before the June 1 start date on average.

It might be tempting to ascribe this earlier season entirely to climate change warming the Atlantic. But technology also has a role to play, with more observations along the coast as well as satellites that can spot storms far out to sea.

“I would caution that we can’t just go, ‘hah, the planet’s warming, we’ve had to move the entire season!’” Sublette said. “I don’t think there’s solid ground for attribution of how much of one there is over the other. Weather folks can sit around and debate that for awhile.”

Earlier storms don’t necessarily mean more harmful ones, either. In fact, hurricanes earlier in the season tend to be weaker than the monsters that form in August and September when hurricane season is at its peak. But regardless of their strength, these earlier storms have generated discussion inside the NHC on whether to move up the official start date for the season, when the agency usually puts out two reports per day on hurricane activity. Tuesday’s step is not an official announcement of this decision, but an acknowledgement of the increased attention on early hurricanes.

“I would say that [Tuesday’s announcement] is the National Hurricane Center being proactive,” Sublette said. “Like hey, we know that the last few years it’s been a little busier in May than we’ve seen in the past five decades, and we know there is an awareness now, so we’re going to start issuing these reports early.”

While the jury is still out on whether climate change is pushing the season earlier, research has shown that the strongest hurricanes are becoming more common, and that climate change is likely playing a role. A study published last year found the odds of a storm becoming a major hurricanes—those Category 3 or stronger—have increase 49% in the basin since satellite monitoring began in earnest four decades ago. And when storms make landfall, sea level rise allows them to do more damage. So regardless of if climate change is pushing Atlantic hurricane season is getting earlier or not, the risks are increasing. Now, at least, we’ll have better warnings before early storms do hit.

Hurricanes key to carbon uptake by forests (Science Daily)

Increases in carbon uptake by southeast US forests in response to tropical cyclone activity alone exceed carbon emissions by American vehicles each year.

May 2, 2016
Duke University
New research reveals that the increase in forest photosynthesis and growth made possible by tropical cyclones in the southeastern United States captures hundreds of times more carbon than is released by all vehicles in the US in a given year.

This map shows the total increase of photosynthesis and carbon uptake by forests caused by all hurricanes in 2004. The dotted gray lines represent the paths of the individual storms. Credit: Lauren Lowman, Duke University

While hurricanes are a constant source of worry for residents of the southeastern United States, new research suggests that they have a major upside — counteracting global warming.

Previous research from Duke environmental engineer Ana Barros demonstrated that the regular landfall of tropical cyclones is vital to the region’s water supply and can help mitigate droughts.

Now, a new study from Barros reveals that the increase in forest photosynthesis and growth made possible by tropical cyclones in the southeastern United States captures hundreds of times more carbon than is released by all vehicles in the U.S. in a given year.

The study was published online on April 20, 2016, in the Journal of Geophysical Research — Biogeosciences.

“Our results show that, while hurricanes can cause flooding and destroy city infrastructure, there are two sides to the story,” said Barros, the James L. Meriam Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Duke University. “The other side is that hurricanes recharge the aquifers and have an enormous impact on photosynthesis and taking up carbon from the atmosphere.”

In the study, Lauren Lowman, a doctoral student in Barros’s laboratory, used a hydrological computer model to simulate the ecological impacts of tropical cyclones from 2004-2007. The earlier years of that time period had a high number of tropical cyclone landfall events, while the latter years experienced relatively few.

By comparing those disparate years to simulations of a year without tropical cyclone events, Lowman was able to calculate the effect tropical cyclones have on the rates of photosynthesis and carbon uptake in forests of the southeastern United States.

“It’s easy to make general statements about how much of an impact something like additional rainfall can have on the environment,” said Lowman. “But we really wanted to quantify the amount of carbon uptake that you can relate to tropical cyclones.”

According to Barros and Lowman, it is difficult to predict what effects climate change will have on the region’s future. Even if the number of tropical cyclones that form in the Atlantic increases, that doesn’t guarantee that the number making landfall will also rise. And long-term forecasts for the region’s temperature and rainfall currently show less change than normal year-to-year variability.

But no matter what the future brings, one thing is clear — the regularity and number of tropical cyclones making landfall will continue to be vital.

“There are a lot of regional effects competing with large worldwide changes that make it very hard to predict what climate change will bring to the southeastern United States,” said Barros. “If droughts do become worse and we don’t have these regular tropical cyclones, the impact will be very negative. And regardless of climate change, our results are yet one more very good reason to protect these vast forests.”

This research was funded in part by the National Science Foundation Coupled Human and Natural Systems Program (CNH-1313799) and an earlier grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NA08OAR4310701).

Journal Reference:

  1. Lauren E. L. Lowman, Ana P. Barros. Interplay of Drought and Tropical Cyclone Activity in SE US Gross Primary ProductivityJournal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, 2016; DOI: 10.1002/2015JG003279

A região mexicana que acredita ser protegida por ETs (BBC)

15 abril 2015

BBC Mundo

Muitos moradores de Tampico e Ciudad Madero acreditam que a costa em frente à praia Miramar é o melhor local para se avistar ETs

Sentado num sofá de uma cafeteria simples de Ciudad Madero, um homem me convida a meditar para ver óvnis.

A televisão exibe Bob Marley cantando I Shot the Sheriff e, atrás do balcão, uma mulher prepara um frappuccino.

A cidade fica no violento Estado de Tamaulipas, nordeste do México, e muitos acreditam que os extraterrestres passaram décadas a protegendo de furacões.

Isto porque, quando os furacões que ocorrem na região avançam com força até a costa, onde fica a cidade, eles parariam de forma abrupta e misteriosa, mudando de direção, de acordo com os habitantes mais crentes.

Moradores dizem que já viram os alienígenas, outros afirmam que há uma base submarina a cerca de 40 quilômetros da costa e que já viram suas naves, esferas, triângulos e luzes.


Aliens são um assunto falado abertamente nesta região do México

E todos conversam abertamente sobre o assunto.

O engenheiro civil Fernando Alonso Gallardo, 68 anos, aposentado da petroleira estatal Pemex e empresário, tem o rosto queimado pelo sol da praia local, Miramar, uma faixa de areia de dez quilômetros.

Pelas janelas do restaurante de Gallardo, o El Mexicano, que fica na praia, entra uma brisa do Golfo do México.

Gallardo conta sua história à BBC Mundo, o serviço em espanhol da BBC. A dele, como a de muitos em Ciudad Madero, envolve avistamentos de objetos voadores não identificados.

BBC Mundo

Furacões em 1933 e 1955 destruíram o restaurante da família de Alonso

Em 1933, quando os furacões ainda não tinham nome, um da categoria 5 chegou a Tampico, onde Gallardo nasceu, perto de Ciudad Madero. O furacão destruiu o restaurante de seu pai, mas a família construiu outro.

Em 1955 o furacão Hilda, que inundou três quartos da cidade e deixou 20 mil desabrigados, voltou a atingir a região.

“Acho que nesta época não havia extraterrestres, se houvesse, não teria tantos desastres”, diz Gallardo.

Furacões também ocorreram em 1947, 1951 e 1966. Mas, logo, as tempestades pararam de atingir a região.

Investigadores acreditam que o verdadeiro motivo do desvio dos furacões é a presença de correntes de água fria na área. Mas, nas vizinhas Tampico e Ciudad Madero, ninguém ignora a crença de que algo sobrenatural defenderia a região.


Entre o século 19 e os anos 1970, quando as pessoas viam objetos luminosos no céu, diziam que eram bruxas.

Em 1967, foi construído um monumento à Virgem de Carmen – padroeira do mar e dos marinheiros – no local por onde passam pescadores quando deixam o rio Pánuco, que divide os Estados de Tamaulipas e Veracruz.

Muitos viam aí a explicação para o desaparecimento de furacões.

Até hoje, é uma tradição que marinheiros façam o sinal da cruz diante da estátua e capitães buzinem suas embarcações, disse Marco Flores, que desde 1995 é cronista oficial do governo da cidade de Tampico.

A teoria marciana chegou pouco depois.

BBC Mundo

Muitos acreditam que são os ETs que protegem a região de furacões

Segundo Flores, ela foi trazida por um homem da Cidade do México que chegou a Tampico por volta dos anos 1970 a trabalho, e garantiu que mais do que proteger a cidade, os extraterrestres que haviam entrado em contato com ele guardavam suas bases submarinas.

Alonso Gallardo concorda. “Não é um esforço para proteger a cidade, é um esforço para proteger a cidade onde eles vivem, porque eles encontraram uma maneira de estar lá”.

Gallardo diz ter visto seu primeiro óvni em 1983: um disco de 60 metros de diâmetro com luzes amareladas. Isso ocorreu no final do calçadão que serve para separar a água verde do Golfo do México da água escura do rio Pánuco.

Ali, dizem os que acreditam, é o melhor lugar para se ver os objetos.

‘Falta de inteligência’

O ponto de encontro dos “crentes” era um café no Walmart, mas a mulher que os atendia não parecia confortável com o tópico da conversa. Assim, os membros da Associação de Investigação Científica Óvni de Tampico se mudaram para o restaurante Bambino de Ciudad Madero.

Ali, cada um espera para narrar suas experiências.

BBC Mundo

José Luis Cárdenas tira fotos do céu, nas quais aparecem luzes estranhas

Na cabeceira da mesa, Eduardo Ortiz Anguiano, 83 anos, fala sobre seu livro publicado no ano passado, De Ovnis, fantasmas e outros eventos extraordinários.

Durante três anos, ele coletou mais de 100 depoimentos e se convenceu: “Duvidar da existência de óvnis é não ter inteligência”.

E muitos concordam. Eva Martínez diz que a presença de extraterrestres lhe dá paz.

José Luis Cárdenas tem várias fotografias nas quais se vê luzes com formas estranhas – luzes que não estão no céu no momento da foto mas que aparecem no visor da câmera, segundo ele.

“Se os seres que nos visitam não nos machucam, então estão nos protegendo, estão fazendo algo por nós. E é assim que temos que ver as coisas”, disse.

A última vez que um furacão que dirigia-se para a área de Tampico se desviou foi em 2013.

Naquele ano, autoridades locais colocaram o busto de um marciano na praia de Miramar (que foi roubado logo depois) e declararam que na última terça-feira de outubro seria celebrado o Dia do Marciano.

“A explicação que não podemos dar cientificamente damos de maneira mágica. As pessoas desta região têm um pensamento mágico”, diz Flores, o cronista de Tampico.

‘Deus gosta de Tampico’

No sofá da cafeteria de Ciudad Madero, Juan Carlos Ramón López Díaz, presidente da associação de pesquisadores de óvnis, pede para que eu feche os olhos e mantenha a mente tranquila.

Ele me convida a ver um objeto luminoso no qual posso entrar, se eu quiser.

Atrás do balcão, ligam o liquidificador. Abro os olhos. Apesar da ajuda de López Díaz, não vi nada.

Will U.S. Hurricane Forecasting Models Catch Up to Europe’s? (National Geographic)

Photo of a satellite view of Hurricane Sandy on October 28, 2012.

A satellite view of Hurricane Sandy on October 28, 2012.

Photograph by Robert Simmon, ASA Earth Observatory and NASA/NOAA GOES Project Science team

Willie Drye

for National Geographic

Published October 27, 2013

If there was a bright spot amid Hurricane Sandy’s massive devastation, including 148 deaths, at least $68 billion in damages, and the destruction of thousands of homes, it was the accuracy of the forecasts predicting where the storm would go.

Six days before Sandy came ashore one year ago this week—while the storm was still building in the Bahamas—forecasters predicted it would make landfall somewhere between New Jersey and New York City on October 29.

They were right.

Sandy, which had by then weakened from a Category 2 hurricane to an unusually potent Category 1, came ashore just south of Atlantic City, a few miles from where forecasters said it would, on the third to last day of October.

“They were really, really excellent forecasts,” said University of Miami meteorologist Brian McNoldy. “We knew a week ahead of time that something awful was going to happen around New York and New Jersey.”

That knowledge gave emergency management officials in the Northeast plenty of time to prepare, issuing evacuation orders for hundreds of thousands of residents in New Jersey and New York.

Even those who ignored the order used the forecasts to make preparations, boarding up buildings, stocking up on food and water, and buying gasoline-powered generators.

But there’s an important qualification about the excellent forecasts that anticipated Sandy’s course: The best came from a European hurricane prediction program.

The six-day-out landfall forecast arrived courtesy of a computer program known as the European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasting (ECMWF), which is based in England.

Most of the other models in use at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, including the U.S. Global Forecast System (GFS), didn’t start forecasting a U.S. landfall until four days before the storm came ashore. At the six-day-out mark, that model and others at the National Hurricane Center had Sandy veering away from the Atlantic Coast, staying far out at sea.

“The European model just outperformed the American model on Sandy,” says Kerry Emanuel, a meteorologist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Now, U.S. weather forecasting programmers are working to close the gap between the U.S. Global Forecast System and the European model.

There’s more at stake than simple pride. “It’s to our advantage to have two excellent models instead of just one,” says McNoldy. “The more skilled models you have running, the more you know about the possibilities for a hurricane’s track.”

And, of course, the more lives you can save.

Data, Data, Data

The computer programs that meteorologists rely on to predict the courses of storms draw on lots of data.

U.S. forecasting computers and their European counterparts rely on radar that provides information on cloud formations and the rotation of a storm, on orbiting satellites that show precisely where a storm is, and on hurricane-hunter aircraft that fly into storms to collect wind speeds, barometric pressure readings, and water temperatures.

Hundreds of buoys deployed along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, meanwhile, relay information about the heights of waves being produced by the storm.

All this data is fed into computers at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction at Camp Springs, Maryland, which use it to run the forecast models. Those computers, linked to others at the National Hurricane Center, translate the computer models into official forecasts.

The forecasters use data from all computer models—including the ECMWF—to make their forecasts four times daily.

Forecasts produced by various models often diverge, leaving plenty of room for interpretation by human forecasters.

“Usually, it’s kind of a subjective process as far as making a human forecast out of all the different computer runs,” says McNoldy. “The art is in the interpretation of all of the computer models’ outputs.”

There are two big reasons why the European model is usually more accurate than U.S. models. First, the European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasting model is a more sophisticated program that incorporates more data.

Second, the European computers that run the program are more powerful than their U.S. counterparts and are and able to do more calculations more quickly.

“They don’t have any top-secret things,” McNoldy said. “Because of their (computer) hardware, they can implement more sophisticated code.”

A consortium of European nations began developing the ECMWF in 1976, and the model has been fueled by a series of progressively more powerful supercomputers in England. It got a boost when the European Union was formed in 1993 and member states started contributing taxes for more improvements.

The ECMWF and the GFS are the two primary models that most forecasters look at, said Michael Laca, producer of TropMet, a website that focuses on hurricanes and other severe weather events.

Laca said that forecasts and other data from the ECMWF are provided to forecasters in the U.S. and elsewhere who pay for the information.

“The GFS, on the other hand, is freely available to everyone, and is funded—or defunded—solely through (U.S.) government appropriations,” Laca said.

And since funding for U.S. research and development is subject to funding debates in Congress, U.S. forecasters are “in a hard position to keep pace with the ECMWF from a research and hardware perspective,” Laca said.

Hurricane Sandy wasn’t the first or last hurricane for which the ECMWF was the most accurate forecast model. It has consistently outperformed the GFS and four other U.S. and Canadian forecasting models.

Greg Nordstrom, who teaches meteorology at Mississippi State University in Starkville, said the European model provided much more accurate forecasts for Hurricane Isaac in August 2012 and for Tropical Storm Karen earlier this year.

“This doesn’t mean the GFS doesn’t beat the Euro from time to time,” he says.  “But, overall, the Euro is king of the global models.”

McNoldy says the European Union’s generous funding of research and development of their model has put it ahead of the American version. “Basically, it’s a matter of resources,” he says. “If we want to catch up, we will. It’s important that we have the best forecasting in the world.”

European developers who work on forecasting software have also benefited from better cooperation between government and academic researchers, says MIT’s Emanuel.

“If you talk to (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), they would deny that, but there’s no real spirit of cooperation (in the U.S.),” he says. “It’s a cultural problem that will not get fixed by throwing more money at the problem.”

Catching Up Amid Chaos

American computer models’ accuracy in forecasting hurricane tracks has improved dramatically since the 1970s. The average margin of error for a three-day forecast of a hurricane’s track has dropped from 500 miles in 1972 to 115 miles in 2012.

And NOAA is in the middle of a ten-year program intended to dramatically improve the forecasting of hurricanes’ tracks and their likelihood to intensify, or become stronger before landfall.

One of the project’s centerpieces is the Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting model, or HWRF. In development since 2007, it’s similar to the ECMWF in that it will incorporate more data into its forecasting, including data from the GFS model.

Predicting the likelihood that a hurricane will intensify is difficult. For a hurricane to gain strength, it needs humid air, seawater heated to at least 80ºF, and no atmospheric winds to disrupt its circulation.

In 2005, Hurricane Wilma encountered those perfect conditions and in just 30 hours strengthened from a tropical storm with peak winds of about 70 miles per hour to the most powerful Atlantic hurricane on record, with winds exceeding 175 miles per hour.

But hurricanes are as delicate as they are powerful. Seemingly small environmental changes, like passing over water that’s slightly cooler than 80ºF or ingesting dryer air, can rapidly weaken a storm. And the environment is constantly changing.

“Over the next five years, there may be some big breakthrough to help improve intensification forecasting,” McNoldy said. “But we’re still working against the basic chaos in the atmosphere.”

He thinks it will take at least five to ten years for the U.S. to catch up with the European model.

MIT’s Emanuel says three factors will determine whether more accurate intensification forecasting is in the offing: the development of more powerful computers that can accommodate more data, a better understanding of hurricane intensity, and whether researchers reach a point at which no further improvements to intensification forecasting are possible.

Emanuel calls that point the “prediction horizon” and says it may have already been reached: “Our level of ignorance is still too high to know.”

Predictions and Responses

Assuming we’ve not yet hit that point, better predictions could dramatically improve our ability to weather hurricanes.

The more advance warning, the more time there is for those who do choose to heed evacuation orders. Earlier forecasting would also allow emergency management officials more time to provide transportation for poor, elderly, and disabled people unable to flee on their own.

More accurate forecasts would also reduce evacuation expenses.

Estimates of the cost of evacuating coastal areas before a hurricane vary considerably, but it’s been calculated that it costs $1 million for every mile of coastline evacuated. That includes the cost of lost commerce, wages and salaries by those who leave, and the costs of actual evacuating, like travel and shelter.

Better forecasts could reduce the size of evacuation areas and save money.

They would also allow officials to get a jump on hurricane response.  The Federal Emergency Management Administration tries to stockpile relief supplies far enough away from an expected hurricane landfall to avoid damage from the storm but near enough so that the supplies can quickly be moved to affected areas afterwards.

More reliable landfall forecasts would help FEMA position recovery supplies closer to where they’ll be.

Whatever improvements are made, McNoldy warns that forecasting will never be foolproof. However dependable, he said, “Models will always be imperfect.”

Signs of divine intervention for Republicans? (Washington Post)

By , Published: August 21, 2012

Has God forsaken the Republican Party?

Well, sit in judgment of what’s happened in the past few days:

●A report comes out that a couple dozen House Republicans engaged in an alcohol-induced frolic, in one case nude, in the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus is believed to have walked on water, calmed the storm and, nearby, turned water into wine and performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes.

●Rep. Todd Akin, Missouri’s Republican nominee for Senate, suggests there is such a thing as “legitimate rape” and purports that women’s bodies have mysterious ways to repel the seed of rapists. He spends the next 48 hours rejecting GOP leaders’ demands that he quit the race.

●Weather forecasts show that a storm, likely to grow into Hurricane Isaac, may be chugging toward . . . Tampa, where Republicans will open their quadrennial nominating convention on Monday.

Coincidence? Or part of some Intelligent Design?

By their own logic, Republicans and their conservative allies should be concerned that Isaac is a form of divine retribution. Last year, Rep. Michele Bachmann, then a Republican presidential candidate, said that the East Coast earthquake and Hurricane Irene — another “I” storm, but not an Old Testament one — were attempts by God “to get the attention of the politicians.” In remarks later termed a “joke,” she said: “It’s time for an act of God and we’re getting it.”

The influential conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck said last year that the Japanese earthquake and tsunami were God’s “message being sent” to that country. A year earlier, Christian broadcaster and former GOP presidential candidate Pat Robertson tied the Haitian earthquake to that country’s“pact to the devil.”

Previously, Robertson had argued that Hurricane Katrina was God’s punishment for abortion, while the Rev. John Hagee said the storm was God’s way of punishing homosexuality. The late Jerry Falwellthought that God allowed the Sept. 11 attacks as retribution for feminists and the ACLU.

Even if you don’t believe God uses meteorological phenomena to express His will, it’s difficult for mere mortals to explain what is happening to the GOP just now.

By most earthly measures, President Obama has no business being reelected. No president since World War II has won reelection with the unemployment rate north of 7.4 percent. Of the presidents during that time who were returned to office, GDP growth averaged 4.7 percent during the first nine months of the election year — more than double the current rate.

But instead of being swept into office by the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression, Republicans are in danger of losing an election that is theirs to lose. Mitt Romney, often tone-deaf, has allowed Obama to change the subject to Romney’s tax havens and tax returns. And congressional Republicans are providing all kinds of reasons for Americans to doubt their readiness to assume power.

The Politico report Sunday about drunken skinny-dipping in the Sea of Galilee gave House Republicans an unwanted image of debauchery — a faint echo of the Capitol page scandal that, breaking in September 2006, cemented Republicans’ fate in that November’s elections. The 30 Republican lawmakers on the “fact-finding” mission to Israel last summer earned a rebuke from Majority Leader Eric Cantor and attracted the attention of the FBI. The naked congressman, Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.), admitted in a statement: “[R]egrettably I jumped into the water without a swimsuit.”

A boozy frolic at a Christian holy site might have been a considerable embarrassment for the party, but it was eclipsed by a bigger one: Akin’s preposterous claim on a St. Louis TV program that pregnancy is rare after a “legitimate rape” because “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Republican leaders spent the next 48 hours trying to shut Akin’s whole thing down, but after a period of panic (a no-show on Piers Morgan’s show led the CNN host to show his empty chair and call him a “gutless little twerp”), Akin told radio host Mike Huckabee on Tuesday that he would fight the “big party people” and stay in the race.

The big party people had a further complication: In Tampa on Tuesday, those drafting theGOP platform agreed to retain a plank calling for a constitutional amendment banning abortion without specifying exceptions for cases of rape. In other words, the Akin position.

For a party that should be sailing toward victory, there were all the makings of a perfect storm. And, sure enough: Tuesday afternoon, the National Weather Service forecast that “Tropical Depression Nine” would strengthen into a hurricane, taking a northwesterly track over Cuba on Sunday morning — just as Republicans are arriving in Florida.

What happens next? God only knows.

NOAA Raises Hurricane Season Prediction Despite Expected El Niño (Science Daily)

ScienceDaily (Aug. 10, 2012) — This year’s Atlantic hurricane season got off to a busy start, with 6 named storms to date, and may have a busy second half, according to the updated hurricane season outlook issued Aug. 9, 2012 by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service. The updated outlook still indicates a 50 percent chance of a near-normal season, but increases the chance of an above-normal season to 35 percent and decreases the chance of a below-normal season to only 15 percent from the initial outlook issued in May.

Satellite image of Hurricane Ernesto taken on Aug. 7, 2012 in the Gulf of Mexico. (Credit: NOAA)

Across the entire Atlantic Basin for the season — June 1 to November 30 — NOAA’s updated seasonal outlook projects a total (which includes the activity-to-date of tropical storms Alberto, Beryl, Debbie, Florence and hurricanes Chris and Ernesto) of:

  • 12 to 17 named storms (top winds of 39 mph or higher), including:
  • 5 to 8 hurricanes (top winds of 74 mph or higher), of which:
  • 2 to 3 could be major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of at least 111 mph)

The numbers are higher from the initial outlook in May, which called for 9-15 named storms, 4-8 hurricanes and 1-3 major hurricanes. Based on a 30-year average, a normal Atlantic hurricane season produces 12 named storms, six hurricanes, and three major hurricanes.

“We are increasing the likelihood of an above-normal season because storm-conducive wind patterns and warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures are now in place in the Atlantic,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at the Climate Prediction Center. “These conditions are linked to the ongoing high activity era for Atlantic hurricanes that began in 1995. Also, strong early-season activity is generally indicative of a more active season.”

However, NOAA seasonal climate forecasters also announced today that El Niño will likely develop in August or September.

“El Niño is a competing factor, because it strengthens the vertical wind shear over the Atlantic, which suppresses storm development. However, we don’t expect El Niño’s influence until later in the season,” Bell said.

“We have a long way to go until the end of the season, and we shouldn’t let our guard down,” said Laura Furgione, acting director of NOAA’s National Weather Service. “Hurricanes often bring dangerous inland flooding as we saw a year ago in the Northeast with Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. Even people who live hundreds of miles from the coast need to remain vigilant through the remainder of the season.”

“It is never too early to prepare for a hurricane,” said Tim Manning, FEMA’s deputy administrator for protection and national preparedness. “We are in the middle of hurricane season and now is the time to get ready. There are easy steps you can take to get yourself and your family prepared. Visit to learn more.”