LORE OF THE LINE STORM (Hurricane Jose–Updated)

Irma 1 peakofseason(8)

In the lore of New England the “line storm” was a storm expected to occur near the equinox. Because, as the above graph shows, the first peak in hurricanes occurs ten days too early, and the second, minor peak doesn’t occur until October, people who never get outside, and instead dither about indoors looking at graphs, can scorn the idea of the “line storm” as being a mere superstition.

But….(cue the twilight zone music)….I once didn’t dither about indoors as I do now. I once was young and went out on the water. To be blunt, those who haven’t been out on the water, (even in a small boat on a lake), when the winds start to rise and the sky darkens and life laughs at insurance adjusters, are missing something.

We would laugh at a person who thought he had a grasp of the weather who had never heard of a thermometer. A thermometer is vital, we think. But stepping outside?

Do not tell me you are wise when only
Books advise your eyes. Action speaks louder
Than words, and an island standing lonely
Needs another, if it is to proudly
Utter truths about Love. You must get out
Into the wind to know about weather.
Otherwise our intellect struts about
Like a peacock with a lone tail feather.
Even a small child, who hasn’t yet learned
The sky talks back, goes out and faces sky
And his face is lit up, with shadows spurned
As poetry fills each innocent eye.
Children worship best: They look up and lack
The ways we argue when skies talk back.

Americans once knew far more about the out of doors. More than half owned a farm and worked the soil, and a lot of the others sailed seas on small craft that would make OSHA cringe. To go to sea and never be heard of again was not all that uncommon, and, considering we all must eventually die, I’m not entirely sure I would not have preferred to die going “Yeee-Ha!” as my craft met a mighty wave, to surviving and eventually festering in a bed with tubes in my arms, with cancer, which we call “progress.”

I wasn’t too smart at age 18, and headed out to sea in 1971 on a voyage from Boston to Jamaica (don’t ask what for). In 1971 the “line storm” happened to be a hurricane called Ginger, which also headed out to sea, way out onto the mid Atlantic. And if you had studied books at that time you knew no storm so far out to sea could ever represent a threat to Cape Hatteras. But…

Hurricane Ginger 1971 220px-Ginger_1971_track

As chief (and only) meteorologist on the small craft I am proud to state we hesitated to the north and avoided Ginger, however a cold front absorbed what was left, and then that front just lay along the coast. I advocated further hesitation, fearing a nor’easter might brew up on the stationary front, but the captain was sick and tired of hesitation, and so we sailed south, smack dab into the nor’easter that brewed up.

Nor’easters are also considered “line storms”. After the summer quiet, when seas tend to be slack in New England, they first start to brew up when the first chilly cold-fronts come south in September. You would have to include them in your data, along with hurricanes, before you could accurately determine “line storms” were “superstition”. (Also you would have to narrow your focus to the waters near New England, where the lore was focused.)

In any case, at age 18 I experienced a reality that is somewhat different than what you experience indoors at computers. Entitlement? Yes, I was entitled to die, if I didn’t make an effort to do otherwise, (though I was so seasick the prospect of death wasn’t entirely unappealing.)

I’m not sure the nor’easter was particularly bad, but the small yacht was forty miles out to sea, and both the mainsail and jib halyards broke. Sails crashed flapping to the deck, and the engine quit, and we had no radio, and GPS hadn’t been invented. In other words, we were in the position which was not all that uncommon to find yourself in, back before engines and radios, in the age of sail. My ancestors likely would have gone, “Ho hum. Get the storm jib up.” I was disgracefully and utterly freaked out, and only functioning because I didn’t want to die.  Besides doing things I had no idea I was capable of, (such as climbing a whipping mast to thread a new halyard in the pulley atop a mast when the craft isn’t quiet in a harbor,) I also took meteorological observations. After all, once you’ve fixed what you can fix, there’s nothing to do but go up and up and up a big swell, and down and down and down the other side, over and over and over, so what else are you suppose to do at the helm, but observe? However those observations are through eyes that see differently than you see at a computer. (You are going to have to trust me about this, if you think virtual sailing’s the same.) For one thing, you can’t click to a new site when you get bored. You must observe, and observe, and observe…

For me this was a once in a lifetime experience. However for my ancestors it was far more everyday. It makes their lore a bit more credible, as, if they lived long enough, their experience included something scientists make a big deal about, called “replication.”

One interesting thing about the line-storm lore is that such storms were not seen as markers of the solstice. Heck, any calendar could do that. Rather they gave clues about the weather of the following autumn.  One was suppose to pay attention to how the line-storm ended. If it ended with warm weather it meant a different autumn lay ahead than if it ended with crisp, cold breezes from the north.

To some this might indicate they were sensible to storm tracks and weather patterns, in their own way. But to others it is just superstition.

In any case, with September 20 approaching a superstition named Jose is creeping towards New England.

11:00 PM AST Thu Sep 14
Location: 25.5°N 68.0°W
Moving: WNW at 8 mph
Min pressure: 989 mb
Max sustained: 70 mph

Hurricane Jose 1 025306_wind_historyHurricane Jose 2 025306

Hurricane Jose 3 vis0-lalo

5:00 AM AST Fri Sep 15
Location: 25.9°N 68.7°W
Moving: WNW at 8 mph
Min pressure: 989 mb
Max sustained: 70 mph

Hurricane Jose 4 vis0-lalo

11:00 PM EDT Fri Sep 15
Location: 27.4°N 71.0°W
Moving: NW at 9 mph
Min pressure: 983 mb
Max sustained: 80 mph

Hurricane Jose 5 vis0-lalo

I am having some sort of problem with WordPress wherein it fails to keep my updates. This is a test to see if it happens again.

8:00 AM EDT Mon Sep 18
Location: 33.5°N 71.2°W
Moving: N at 9 mph
Min pressure: 976 mb
Max sustained: 85 mph

Hurricane Jose 11 vis0-lalo

12 thoughts on “LORE OF THE LINE STORM (Hurricane Jose–Updated)

    • I had a good college friend that was at the Marine Desk for the NWS in Chicago the night the Edmund Fitzgerald went down. Unfortunately, it was my friend’s incorrect forecast that put the ship in peril.

      My friend was actually someone that was knowledgable about forecasting, the storm just blew up in a matter of a few hours and ended up far more powerful than any of the weather models indicated.

      Nevertheless, my friend was scapegoated for not reacting quickly enough. He was not fired, but was transferred to DC. Imagine having that on your conscious while hearing that song!

      • Weather models, yeah! Saw that problem in the ‘Boxing Day Massacre’ of an annual Sidney to Hobart Yacht race. Several deaths IIRC. Knowing the Bass Strait personally, seeing that model forecast makes me feel unwell, even now. Glad to see a few at least like Joe Bastardi, who spice models with common sense and deep knowledge……
        Meanwhile, ice grows.

      • It helps that you “know the Bass Strait personally.” That’s what I mean about actually getting out on the water. Actual experience is important, when it comes to gaining “common sense and deep knowledge.”

        I think one way Joe Bastardi gets actual experience is by pouring over actual maps. These are maps of the actual conditions, and not modeled. He pokes fun at himself for being a nerd, and not going out to pick up chicks as a teenager, because he was totally engrossed in looking at old maps. However it has given him the experience of 150 years of day by day weather reports. This creates a sort of “common sense”.

        Joe speaks of working with the late Norm McDonald, who was a weatherman on Boston TV when I was a boy, and Joe tells how Norm would look at a map produced by a computer model and immediately reject it, saying “Weather doesn’t do that.” Norm had the “common sense” that dealing with actual conditions gives us.

        Due to Norm, Joe learned to trust his instincts, but everyone wants to know his reasons. Therefore he often bothers to furrow his brow, and then dig back through archives and pluck out the actual map from the past that replicates current conditions, and gives us a decent idea of how nature usually behaves.

        I suppose there are times when Joe can’t find the map he is looking for. He simply feels uncomfortable with the solution the computer model is printing out.

        In like manner, old sailors have scrutinized scarlet sunset skies, and have the sense such skies are not “red-at-night, sailor’s delight” skies, but rather the “blood sun” that precedes a hurricane.

        Computers are wonderful gadgets, but the young need to know there is much to be learned by getting away from them, and simply sailing a real boat in the real wind. Real reality trumps the virtual every time.

      • That would be a rough guilt to bear, though I think people who sail November waters are well aware how dangerous it is, and don’t blame meteorologists for the weather.

        As I recall the Edmund Fitzgerald tragedy, it was two particular slot of winds in two quadrants of the intensifying gale that were especially extreme, and the passage of the storm center shifted winds and the fetch of waves, creating rouge waves. Ships not that far away escaped the extremes, but the Edmund Fitzgerald was in the worst possible location.

        Computer models usually are not that good at local extremes, in a sense dealing with generalities or averages. It is very hard for a forecaster to visualize what models don’t see. Sometimes the skill in foreseeing is a gift only certain forecasters (and deckhands) possess.

        Sailors who had shipped on the Edmund Fitzgerald on earlier voyages had noticed the ship flexed a lot in the middle in heavy weather. The paint on that part of the ship actually buckled and chipped. The ship likely broke in two, due to a design flaw. The stern remained afloat long enough to spill its cargo of iron pellets onto the bow , and onto the bottom beneath where the stern eventually lay, 180 feet from the bow and virtually upside down, while the bow was upright.

        The design flaw was likely exacerbated by the captain, who was known for “beating the hell” out of the ship in storms. He did recognize the storm was the worst he’d ever seen, but failed to adjust his tactics until the ship was already likely cracking, leaking, and had developed a list. By then it was too late. The closest nearby ship reported two consecutive rouge waves over thirty feet tall that buried his decks. Being stretched out between those two waves may have snapped the Edmund Fitzgerald in two.

        The captain is responsible for his ship in both fair weather and foul, and blaming a meteorologist is an abdication of responsibility, in my view. Perhaps in the future we will have robot ships, and captains will be unnecessary, and at that point we will be free to blame computer models for incorrect forecasts that fail to see rouge waves and rouge storms. But I prefer ships having living captains, who quite often face the unexpected, and yet bring ships safely to port. We never hear about those guys.

        The business of using weathermen as a scapegoat irks me. Joe Bastardi has been on an amazing hot streak, nailing the development and tracks of recent hurricanes as much as ten days in advance. Yet I recently read a couple of criticisms of him, taking him to task for “not being serious enough.” It just made me roll my eyes and smack my forehead with my palm. There is simply no pleasing some people.

  1. Caleb, have u been watching comrade Ralph swirling away north of Siberia? He appears to have some serious strength.
    Snowing here at my house this morning and another 10 cm at my Fernie shack in the mountains … luckily we are too warm at just above freezing for any snow to stay but nasty to watch it fall this early. That is all from the Great White North.

    • I took my eye off Ralph due to hurricanes, and now he’s a gale! It will be interesting to watch. The air is all below freezing, and some swirls are down around -6C. So it will not have the melting effect of an August gale. Likely it is worth a post.

      I am busy working on a history post, and ten other things, and am neglecting sea-ice terribly.

      We had our alarming early snows up on the peaks around two weeks ago. The higher Adirondack’s, Green, and White mountains all had early snows. Meanwhile it was blazing hot in the west with forest fires.

      Now the pattern has completely flipped, and it is warm in the east, and snow is quenching the fires in the west. What a turn-around!

      Joe Bastardi said by the end of the month the east and west might both average out as “normal.” The wonder of statistics!

      • Indeed …. one poster (steve case I think) over at Tony’s website loves to point out that 1 + 99 and 49 + 51 both average out to 50 yet are a very different sets of numbers.

  2. I keep watching for sort of El Nadas, and am not disappointed so far. Reduced input a la Quiet Sun, but i am getting worried already. Been right for a year or so, things cannot carry on that way! Ralph may educate me some more now I hope.

  3. The Quiet Sun idea posits that eqquatorial cooling naturally reduces energy flow to the poles. But the polar sink to space remains immense (c.2K). So, we get the -65Cs we are seeing, and a strong gadient. Also, reduced pressure and tropical atmospheric height lowers the poleward push of the air masses. Letting the loopy jetstream etc. form, as Piers Corbyn predicted. Hence a lot of things, including RALPH

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