Books for Christmas

December 15, 2016

Nobody asked me, but here’s five recommendations for the avid reader on your list:

 

  • Liar’s Poker – Michael Lewis
    • I figured I would start strong. If this isn’t my favorite book as an adult, it’s definitely on the short list.  It is humorous, entertaining, and enlightening. There is just so much to get out of it:
      • A story of a guy’s first job out of college
      • A story of 1980’s Wall Street
      • A story about a company losing it’s culture as it rapidly expands.
      • A story demonstrating how investment banks initially made mortgages an item of speculation.
      • The book that established Michael Lewis’ career as a writer. (I saw Michael Lewis speak once and he mentioned a former high-school classmate (maybe Sean Tuohy) saying that the classmate remembered him as the doofus in the back row and couldn’t for the life of him figure out how Lewis managed to become a respected writer).
  • Under the Wire – William Ash and Brendan Foley
    • The story of a Texan who went to Canada to join the Royal Air Force in 1940 is action packed and worthy of a movie. After getting shot down and eventually captured by the Gestapo, Ash became a serial escape artist and rubbed elbows with many of the legends of World War II prisoner of war camp escapes.
  • Fever Pitch – Nick Hornby
    • Given how many soccer related books I’ve read in the past couple of years, there was nil chance of one not getting onto this list. The acclaimed novelist wrote about his life-long obsession with Arsenal Football Club.  Perfectly readable if you’re not a soccer fan, it is equally so if you are. Among other things, it captures a long period of top-level English football just before its scene changed dramatically.

 

My Soccer Life

December 13, 2016

Having spit out a few thousand words about the Armada, I felt obliged to let everyone know where I’m coming from as a soccer fan. I think I’m a little bit of an oddball as I have never played the game in any organized fashion other than  junior high/high school Physical Education class.  LikI ae most of what I’ve written on this blog, this is an exercise for myself; I certainly don’t expect anyone to be interested in every last detail of what I put out here.

I am the son of a (now retired) Navy officer.  As you will see, I moved around a bit.

My first memories as a child come from living in Jacksonville, in the early 1980’s. I have no memory of the Jacksonville Teamen, who played in the original North American Soccer League after moving from Boston and subsequently played in the American Soccer League and United Soccer League before shutting down. Given how young I was, I guess it isn’t surprising that I’ve no memory of the Teamen, but I do have ever so vague memories of the Jacksonville Bulls of the USFL.

We moved from Jacksonville to southern Maryland. I have one distinct memory of kicking around a soccer ball with my best friend next-door. The organized sport we participated in was tee-ball, though. If soccer was being played in our area (and I suppose it was), it was completely off our radar.

Things were a little bit different after the family’s next move. When I arrived there, Stephen Decatur Elementary School, which served the children of Navy Air Station Sigonella (Sicily), did not have any playground equipment for third graders.  There was a black-top, though and every recess, it played host to the most chaotic, direct, soccer ever played by Americans, I reckon.  I remember participating in it from time to time, but never becoming a determined participant in it. About half-way through 4th grade, basketball hoops were added and I stuck to that.

While I believe there was organized soccer offered on-base, we lived off-base, about an hour away (outside of the town of Nicolosi).  I distinctly remember a conversation with our landlord’s son, Marco (a teen-ager) who schooled me a little bit about soccer. He made sure that I knew who the greatest player alive was (which I knew) that the greatest player in the sport at that time was Diego Maradona (which I didn’t know).  My parents had a television for picking up Italian stations. I don’t think I ever watched or happened upon a game during that time, oddly enough (as opposed to memories of watching the Seoul Olympics via that medium; due to the time differences between Korea and US compounded by the lag in broadcasts on AFN at that time, watching the games in English were not preferred).

I did, though, watch soccer, in Italian, on television when we lived in Pennsylvania.  Our cable package included a random New York City Station that on Sunday mornings,  had RAI’s  Serie A game broadcast. I couldn’t tell you which games I saw or who I saw play, but I do remember watching a few of those broadcasts. I only found out recently that the Italian government paid television stations in “Italian” US markets to broadcast the games. That combined with the chance of having the particular New York station on our cable is what made my experience possible.

There was plenty of organized soccer going on where I lived in Bucks County, but I never participated in it. Despite enjoying (and seemingly being at least a little bit skilled) playing in gym class, I never had any interest. The only sport I played in school was basketball, in seventh grade. I must admit that I now do imagine an alternate path in my life where I actually played organized soccer ( to go with all of the time I played keepy-upy and did make-shift footwork drills).  Oh well.

From Pennsylvania, I went to Brunswick, Maine. The high school was a bit of a state power in the sport. I remember my mom, sister, and I going to the 1992 Class A State championship in which Brunswick was soundly beaten. It was an absolutely freezing morning (I don’t remember for certain how cold it was now, probably mid 20s; these days we like to recall it as being negative 50) the chill compounded by sitting on steel bleachers.  We left after my school fell behind by three goals and decamped to a K-Mart where we promptly took in some hot chocolate.

I was a high-schooler living in Chesapeake, Virginia during the 1994 World Cup and watched most of the games. Was crushed by Italy’s defeat in the finals.

Having been a fan of most of the DC based sports teams, I was nominally a fan of DC United when MLS was formed. With little coverage in the paper and not many opportunities to see them on television, I didn’t become attached to them, though.

I did, though, go to my first soccer game during this time though. I ventured out to First Colonial High School to watch the Hampton Roads Hurricanes of the USISL play. I got a t-shirt, which survived a few moves, but I believe ultimately got thrown out, alas. I also remember getting a set of team cards (and getting one signed by the goal-scorer that night); I’ll have to try to find those.

My family returned to Jacksonville after my father’s retirement from the Navy. I was working during the 1998 World Cup and listened to many games via Spanish language radio (and actually watched a few games with the sound muted and the radio on).

I apparently had no awareness that there was a soccer team in Jacksonville at the time (the Cyclones of the A-League). That means that I missed the day Leicester came to town. I also somehow missed the US Men coming to Jacksonville, when they beat Germany 3-0. That was four days before I shipped out for boot camp, so I guess that’s somewhat understandable.

I was in A-School in Pensacola during the 1999 Women’s World Cup. The final was a big deal and the common area of my barracks room was packed with guys watching the game.

The 2002 World Cup found me in the Med, on deployment. I was scarcely aware it was going on. Somewhat similarly, I was away from home for the better part of the 2006 World Cup and in a hotel room whose television didn’t have ESPN2 (!). I didn’t see much of the 2010 World Cup, either.

I did see the key games for the US down the stretch of the 2011 Women’s World Cup. The game against Brazil is one of my all time favorites of any sport. I was subsequently locked in for all of the team’s games in the 2012 Olympics.

By this point, of course, I was becoming re-acquainted with the game. Sara and I saw the US Men play Scotland at Everbank Field in May 2012. She also made it out to see the US Women play the following year (I had a scheduling conflict, much to my disappointment).

Due to Formula One, I was already a viewer of NBC Sports when they won the Premier League contract. I watched the early games with some interest, nominally a fan of Fulham (due to Shad Khan’s ownership of the team). They never took with me though, and they were, of course, relegated during that year anyhow. I did, however, become captivated by “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and subsequently became a Liverpool supporter. The Premier League has since become a part of my weekend routine (and Everton-Arsenal are on my television as I type this).

As mentioned in my first post about the Armada, I got season tickets not long after the details of the team were settled. I made it out to a couple of the World Cup Watch parties (at The Landing for the Ghana match and the now gone Nippers for the crushing Portugal match). I’d been pretty ignorant of what had been going on in professional soccer in the United States since the formation (and early struggles) of MLS, but I started to become acquainted with the scene.

As one may have figured by my mentions of the Women’s World Cup, I enjoy women’s soccer. I have been to (almost) all of the University of North Florida matches I’ve been able to attend during the last three years. I also trekked out to Tallahassee and cheered with the Renegades for a couple of games in 2014 (I wasn’t able to make the trip to Boca to see FSU win the title, alas).  I also centered a 2015 trip to Blacksburg around a Virginia Tech-Florida State match. Sara and I made the trip to Orlando to see the Pride’s debut in the NWSL (we have talked about, but never actually followed through, on going to an Orlando City MLS game). I finally got to see the US women in person when I traveled to Tampa to see the She Believes matches between France, Germany, England,and the United States earlier this year.

To finish out the list of games we’ve been to… Sara and I were at the Fulham-DC United friendly at Everbank last year (which was followed by a Carrie Underwood performance and the debut of the new video boards). I went to the Florida Cup games at Everbank (Koln, Fluminese, Bayer Leverkusen, and Corinthians).

So, I sit here a devoted fan of Liverpool from afar (Sara is a somewhat less devoted Everton fan; she was a fan of Cardiff, who were relegated the same time Fulham was. We do keep track of the team’s performances in the Championship with a bit of ado for the Fulham-Cardiff matches) and of Armada FC at home. I don’t have an MLS team and here’s hoping that (short of the Armada eventually joining that league) I never will.

 

 

 

In my post yesterday, I neglected to  mention one of the high points of my Armada experience last season:The team hosting and winning a US Open Cup match, which set up a game against visiting Major League Soccer side Orlando City. Played in the immediate wake of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, with a healthy amount of traveling supporters, it was a great evening of togetherness.  On the field, the Armada put up a good fight, and held the scoreline even for an hour before conceding the winning goal. A good night of action on the field and a great night in the stands. It was a night enjoyed by only 2,055 fans, alas.

A scarf that was a give-away on the Armada's Pride Night, roughly one month before the Orlando City match. In the wake of the Pulse nightclub shootings, Armada fans who managed to snag one of these (plus one of the limited number of tickets to the match) wore it to the game. After the match, an Orlando City fan offered to trade his scarf for this one; an offer I selfishly declined.

A scarf that was a give-away on the Armada’s Pride Night, roughly one month before the Orlando City match. In the wake of the Pulse nightclub shootings, Armada fans who managed to snag one of these (plus one of the limited number of tickets to the match) wore it to the game. After the match, an Orlando City fan offered to trade his scarf for this one; an offer I selfishly declined.

Allow me a slight digression as I review what lead to that night (I feel obliged to point these matters out and regret not having done so at some earlier point).  The US Open Cup is a tournament for all of the soccer teams in the United States. It starts with amateur teams and those of the lowest levels of professional soccer. As it progresses, teams from the top three levels of professional soccer (the United Soccer League, the Armada’s North American Soccer League, and MLS). Supporters of non-MLS teams dream of their team slaying giants and accumulating upsets against the teams from the league’s higher up the ladder than their own.

Armada fans did not come close to realizing that dream last year. Fielding a mostly second-string team, the Armada traveled to USL side Richmond Kickers and got stomped 3-0 (trust me, the scoreline does not come close to capturing how awful the game was for Jacksonville).  It’s not clear whether the manager thought the second stringers would be enough to compete against lower level competition of he just didn’t care and was perfectly content to fall out of the tournament immediately.  It was disappointing for fans though, as an Armada victory would have brought an MLS squad to town for the next round.

The memory stuck. During the Town Hall Forum with then newly hired coach Tony Meola, a fan inquired as to whether Meola would take the tournament seriously. The coach pledged to do so and in marked contrast with that of his predecessor, the line-up showed it. The Armada defeated a pesky Charleston Battery squad with a thrilling goal in extra time.  As was the case in the previous season, fans and team knew that a victory in the opener would give the Armada the opportunity to host an MLS team. Having gotten the job done this time, the team got to host Orlando City.

So, we had one of the big boys coming to town. A chance for an upset against a team from the big league. A team close enough to Jacksonville for its supports to easily travel for the game, even with it being on a Wednesday night. This had all of the makings of a big event. And yet, there was no chance for it to be.

The current home of the Armada is the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville (re-branded as Community First Park on Armada game-days). The primary tenant, of course, is the baseball team, AA side Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp (formerly the Suns).  As such, the soccer team’s scheduled home games are squeezed in-between the lengthy home-stands of the baseball team. Such an arrangement is not conducive for holding relatively “on-the-fly” events such as US Open Cup matches. Because of that, the matches were held at Jacksonville’s Southern Oak Stadium, an attractive, yet tiny facility. And that’s how there came to be only 2,055 fans to take in a night that ought to have been taken in 3-4 times as many, at least. The stadium situation is certainly one of the challenges for the Armada organization, going forward.

The current home, itself, is quite nice. It’s a stadium for a AA baseball team that was built to AAA standards. It is very well equipped in terms of concessions and is a pleasant place in which to watch a match. I haven’t been to any of the other stadiums belonging to NASL teams, but it does seem to be one of the nicer ones. It isn’t the only baseball stadium either, Tampa Bay (who has now departed the league, alas) plays in a converted baseball stadium as does Puerto Rico FC. The Armada isn’t the only team that has a home that isn’t quite its own, either as a few teams play on university grounds (ones significantly larger than that of Jacksonville University, one should note).

That said, it does seem to be a limitation for the growth and development of the team. Besides the issue of the primary tenant restricting availability of the stadium, its downtown location causes other events to affect the Armada’s games as well. A would-be Saturday night match against Minnesota United became a mid-afternoon match due to the Jaguars having a pre-season game on that night. The result was a match played lethargically in brutally hot conditions (the Armada supporters group Section 904 decamped from their usual haunt behind the east goal to the southwest corner of the pitch, located somewhat more comfortably in the shade.

Armada owner Mark Frisch made public remarks that playing at the Baseball Grounds would be a three year deal with the end goal being the Armada having a home of its own sometime after that. I’ve heard second-hand that in private remarks he’s said that he would want to have a consistent base of at least 5,000 fans before considering such a venture. While things were looking good for that to happen in the first year, things have since gone awry.

The Armada’s season ticket renewal campaign apparently went as well as the campaign of the Spanish Armada. The failure was apparently part of the reason for the firing of club president Mark Livingstone in early February. While the books show 8,147 fans attending the team’s 2015 opener at Community First Park (the season opener was at EverBank Field), they indicate only 5,112 in attendance for the 2016 opener. The same records show the 2015 low point for attendance being 5,652; 2016 did not have a high point that high.

A brief aside at this point. I will elaborate in a future post, but I am a fairly long-time soccer fan, but one who only re-immersed himself into the game a few years ago, with the  2014 World Cup and NBC Sports winning the Premier League contract being major factors. My earlier fandom was fairly shallow and I’ve come to realize that there were a lot of things that I didn’t know back then. The point of mentioning this is that there’s a lot of things going on that have a back-story longer than I’ve been closely following the game. I’ve done a fair bit of reading to fill in my (massive) knowledge gaps, but I will freely admit there are matters for which others will have (much) more informed opinions (such as judging the quality of play in the NASL).

The author has read a little bit about soccer doing the past two years.

The author has read a little bit about soccer doing the past two years.

 

The $64 question, whose answer I do not come remotely close to knowing, is the nature of the fans who attended games in the Armada’s debut season but did not show up in the second season.  Let us consider a few possibilities:

  • Devoted soccer fans who are fans of the game, but do not feel a need to be attached to their local team.  They might have found a little bit to like in the game-day experience, but didn’t find anything attractive to watch on the field. This is not a problem restricted to lower-level teams in the United States; it is a bit of a global issue. As the highest levels of play have become more accessible on television, some fans have gotten so accustomed to watching the high level of play that they cannot stand to watch anything that’s even a little bit lower. That is a tough fight for any team outside of the highest tiers football, one that is a bit of a fight for even Major League Soccer.
  • More casual fans of soccer, maybe even people who are mostly unfamiliar with the game. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the team last year had a brutal stretch of scoreless play. On the field, there wasn’t much in the way of excitement to draw in and keep the uncommitted fan. Too many times, the games appeared to confirm the worst stereotypes of soccer.
  • Folks who fell somewhere in between who took spent their money elsewhere. It would be wholly unsurprising to find many took their money across the street (to EverBank Field) as there were wide expectations that this was going to be the break-out season for the Jaguars.

Of course, none of these possibilities are exclusive of one another. Without knowing the nature of those disappearing fans, though, it is a nearly impossible task to suggest a course of action for the Armada to get them back and solve this worrisome issue. There was a stretch during the late part of this season where attendance was clearly at a negative tipping point. When you have fewer than 3,000 people in a stadium that has a  capacity three times greater, the atmosphere suffers, regardless of how lively the attending fans are. The Armada tried gamely to entice fans with various special ticket promotions; one fears that it started to verge on desperation and started to give an air to the public that the tickets couldn’t be given away.

Complicating matters for the Armada is the future of their league. Major League Soccer in one fashion or another (either by directly bringing in a NASL team or announcing a franchise in a NASL market) has severely squeezed the league from the top. Below, a few teams have recently fled NASL to USL. Throw in a couple of teams on financially shaky ground and the league is looking at having fewer than 8 teams playing next season. While the original NASL survived dropping to 5 teams before its growth in the 1970’s the landscape is completely different today and a repeat is unlikely.

To a great extent the issue of leagues is a conflict of visions. MLS has a distinctly American sports approach including looking to ultimately have the same number of teams as the NFL, et al. It appears that the USL is becoming subsumed as a minor league (in the sense of minor league baseball) counterpart to MLS.  The NASL has tried a different approach, something closer to European soccer norms than American sports. For a number of reasons, I have found myself disliking the MLS outlook and preferring that of the NASL. It appears, though, that this battle is all but lost.

It now seems that the Armada’s immediate will be predicated on joining the USL. I hope that they do so without becoming a minor-league affiliate (I admit gross ignorance on the nature of the league; from my limited knowledge, I find it odd to have a league have both independent squads and ones that are developmental/reserve squads for MLS teams).

I will conclude with one final bit from the Orlando City match. Before the game, I was participated in a radio interview with a reporter who noticed my pride scarf. During the interview, I mentioned the Armada organization being a solid member of the Jacksonville community and one  that I was proud to support. That remains true today and it is why I have felt compelled to write this post as well as yesterday’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A struggling Jacksonville team whose owner remains popular with fans as it faces hard questions about the future is an apt description of the Jacksonville Jaguars. It is also true of Jacksonville Armada FC.

A successful early start upon the team’s debut last season, both on and off the field,  faded as the months passed by. A three game scoring drought in July was followed by another one in September, which resulted in the manager’s firing.  After finished the season under interim management, the team brought on former US National Team goalkeeper Tony Meola for the 2016 season.

As in the previous season, scoring droughts would weigh heavily on the Armada;464 scoreless minutes from late April to late May and one almost identical in July. The latter drought was broken in the midst of a Wednesday night 5-2 stomping that likely was the end for Meola (who coached one more game on the immediately following Saturday night before being sacked).

Another interim manager came aboard and he got results immediately.  After failing in its first 25 attempts, the team finally won a game on the road (against Ottawa on August 13).  A second road win came on October 1.  Home fans had to subsist on the thin gruel of draws during this time, however, with three of those being scoreless.

After a wild and admittedly entertaining (in a gladiator/professional wrestling sort of way) loss to the New York Cosmos, the home fans finally got to applaud a win for the new coach, English-man Mark Lowry, who had shed the interim tag in early October. The season finished with a second home win for the Armada.

I have been with the team through all of this as a season-ticket owner. This is not the first time I’ve held season tickets for a Jacksonville team. Out of respect for how the Arena Football League re-organized itself, I purchased season tickets for the Jacksonville Sharks when they were first formed and held them for another season, when they won the Arena Bowl.  Having been a fan of the Jaguars, but not necessarily one of Jack Del Rio or the franchise as it was being run under Wayne Weaver, I snapped up season tickets after the simultaneous departure of the coach and the arrival of the new owner (and availed myself of the option to lock in ticket prices for three years by committing to hold season tickets for that time period).

I bought my tickets fairly early on in the franchise; if I recall correctly it was within a few weeks after of the team name being announced in February of 2014. As I did with the Jaguars, I did so on a three year deal. My sister, Sara, is in the deal with me; at one point I think she was more excited about the venture than I was. At one point randomly during the World Cup, she said with a great deal of happiness “I am so glad we are going to have a soccer team to watch next year”.

All in all, low number of wins not withstanding, we have loved the experience. There hasn’t been a day where we’ve felt like going to the game was a chore vice a pleasant outing. Similarly, we have never departed a game with the feeling that we had a bad experience, again on-the field results notwithstanding.  I am, of course, my season tickets for next year were already locked in. Even if they weren’t, though, my Sara I would have happily re-upped. We love Mark Lowry and it appears that the Armada are holding onto a nice core of players for next year. (At one point towards the end of Tony Meola’s tenure, it wasn’t uncommon to hear the fans around us complaining that they didn’t know any of the players on the field; all of their favorites were on the bench, seemingly without reason).

That said, our fan experience suffered a bit down the stretch. It was news, but not a surprise to read the following, written by Clayton Freeman in the Times-Union two days ago (“NASL’s struggles could mean changes for Armada in 2017“):

Sharp cutbacks took effect in August and September, when the Armada scaled back its game-day expenditures at the Baseball Grounds, stopped sending public relations employees for road games and slashed its budget for support staff.

The team was on the road from August 19th to September 24th.  From that first game back, onward, there was a noticeable difference at the stadium. There were fewer people working the gates (making for a longer wait to enter the stadium) and a lack of attention to detail that wasn’t absent previously.  For example, nearly all games featured some kind of give-away (usually a sponsor-backed scarf) to the first 1,000 fans through the gates. On one late-season occasion, we found 0 of the scarfs to be had when we came through the gate as it opened.  After looking and waiting a couple of minutes, Sara hustled over to the main gate and managed to scrounge two scarves and alert staff to the fact that there weren’t any at the side-gate.  On Fan Appreciation Day, $2 corndogs were advertised, but concession staff apparently hadn’t gotten the news; after going around the various stands in the stadium, Sara took to Twitter in frustration (and it was through that medium that she was assisted by the owner of the then Jacksonville Suns).

 

The author and his companion at Dogtoberfest - An event that didn't get much in the way of promotion ahead of time.

The author and his companion at Dogtoberfest – An event that didn’t get much in the way of promotion ahead of time.

As Freeman mentions in his article, attendance was not high this season.  I am obligated though, to note that while it is true that”At the lowest point, the Armada drew just 1,254 on Oct. 12 against the Indy Eleven.”, that game was a Wednesday night game that was a reschedule of a game that was originally scheduled for the preceding Saturday night and delayed due to Hurricane Matthew.  Just over 3,000 fans were in attendance for the aforementioned  lively match against the Cosmos on the following Saturday. Over 4,500 attended the Season finale.  It was a bit sad to have the season come to an end at that point, what with the team finally doing well and having a decent crowd to boot.

Unlike the previous ends of season (in the North American Soccer League, there are “Spring” & “Fall” seasons, I did not receive a Fan Experience survey.  The remarks I have made hear about the late-season game-day experience would have been the meat of my substantive response (i..e  written comments beyond the numerical ratings of how satisfied I was).

As featured in Freeman’s article, the Armada’s owner Mark Frisch has big challenges in front of him.  I’ll reflect on those in a later post.

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday marked the first day of the Atlantic Hurricane Season and per custom, the National Hurricane Center posted their first  Tropical Weather Outlook with the list of names that will be used this season along with their pronunciations.  It has been my custom to provide a history of these names to suggest why a name may sound familiar and to show where the unfamiliar names came from.

This year’s list was first used in 1984.  Nine original names have been retired, which is the second-most retired from the six lists.  As is the case for half of the lists, the name beginning with the letter I has been replaced twice. There are five  names original to the list which have not yet been used and three are new for 2014.

Arthur – Each time this name was used, it was in association with a tropical storm that did not become a hurricane.  The 1984 edition was a weak tropical storm east of the Lesser Antilles. The 1990 version was stronger and crossed into the Caribbean.  In 1996, the storm named Arthur made landfall in North Carolina before curving back to sea. In 2002, the cyclone formed east of North Carolina and headed to Newfoundland. The 2008 version formed from the remnants of Pacific Tropical Storm Arthur (a scenario which is in play at this moment in 2014) and made landfall in Belize.

Bertha – For Americans, this might be the most notorious name on the list.  While the 1984 edition was a weak tropical storm at sea, 1990‘s Bertha was a category one hurricane that made landfall in Nova Scotia. In 1996, it was a major hurricane that made landfall in North Carolina as a category one (Particularly memorable for me as my father and I drove around the periphery of it post-landfall as we traveled from Tallahassee to Chesapeake, VA. A downed limb on US 17, east of the Great Dismal Swamp, caused a tire blow-out and quite the soaking for us when we changed the tire in the dark.) 2002‘s Bertha was a weak tropical storm that made landfall in southeast Louisiana while the 2008 iteration was the longest-lived and eastern-most forming July tropical cyclone on record.

Big Bertha

Big Bertha

Cristobal – Replaced Cesar after 1996.  The 2002 edition was a weak tropical storm at sea, while 2008‘s formed east of North Carolina and traveled northeast.

Dolly – Replaced Diana after 1990. The inaugural edition made landfall in Mexico as a category 1 hurricane in 1996. In 2002, it was a  tropical storm at sea, while in 2008 it was a landfalling hurricane once again; this time on the Yucatan Peninsula and  south Texas.

Edouard – In 1984, the storm had a quick life and death in the Bay of Campeche. In 1990, it was a tropical storm that meandered around the Azores. It was the strongest hurricane (category four) of the 1996 season and threatened New England before curving away. The 2002 edition made landfall in Ormond Beach, Florida as a tropical storm while 2008‘s struck Texas.

Fay – Replaced Fran after 1996. Both editions since have been landfalling tropical storms. 2002‘s hit near Matagorda, Texas. In 2008, the storm crossed over Hispanola and Cuba before making four landfalls in Florida (at Key West, Naples, Flagler Beach, and Carabelle).

Fay liked Florida

Fay liked Florida

Gonzalo – We finally reach one of the new names. It is the replacement for  Gustav.

Hanna – Replaced Hortense after 1996. In 2002, it was a tropical storm with landfalls at the mouth of the Mississippi River and the Alabama/Mississippi border. The 2008 hurricane  made landfall near the North Carolina/South Carolina border and worsened flooding in Haiti, which had already been affected by Fay and Gustav. Were it not for the latter, the name Hanna likely would have been retired.

Isaias – New for 2014, this name replaces Ike, which replaced Isidore after 2002.

Josephine – It is pretty unusual to have a name this deep in the list that is both original and has been used every time, but here we are. In 1984, it was a category two hurricane at sea, while 1990‘s was a category one. The 1996 tropical storm tracked east across the Gulf of Mexico and made landfall in an uninhabited part of Taylor County, Florida. The 2002 and 2008 versions were tropical storms at sea (though remnants of the latter did bring flooding to St Croix).

Kyle – Replaced Klaus after 1990. In 1996, it was a short-lived tropical storm off the coast of Central America. In 2002, it was a wayward hurricane that ultimately hit the Carolinas while curving to the northeast and subsequently absorbed by a cold front. The 2008 edition was also a hurricane and made landfall near Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.

Laura – Replaced Lili after 2002.  It was a north Atlantic tropical storm in 2008.

Marco –  It was the only tropical cyclone to make landfall in the United States (near Cedar Key, Florida) in 1990. It was a wayward hurricane in the Caribbean Sea in 1996. The 2008 version was a small tropical storm in the Bay of Campeche.

Nana –  1990 marked the first time that a storm name starting with the letter N made an appearance; it was a hurricane at sea. The 2008 version was a short-lived tropical storm at sea.

Omar – In 2008, it was a category four hurricane, which formed in the Caribbean Sea and moved to the northeast before eventually dissipating west of the Azores.

Paulette – New for 2014, this name is the replacement for Paloma.

Rene, Sally, Teddy, Vicky, and Wilfrehave never been used. If the hurricane season forecasts are accurate, they will have to wait until 2020 to possibly make an appearance.

The Atlantic hurricane season has been, by the reckoning of most, been very quiet. This feeling is to some extent exacerbated  by the unanimous predictions of above average activity that preceded the season’s start.  Some people may argue against this notion by pointing out that having four named storms in the book before the end of August connotates a season that is anything but quiet; indeed that was significantly ahead of the climatological norm.  However, in terms of aggregate activity, the Atlantic basin has been rather exceptionally lacking in activity. Interestingly, by similar measures so its western hemisphere counterpart has not been notably active, either. The tranquility in the Atlantic is set to end soon.

While there have been five tropical storms in the Atlantic so far this year, none have sustained that status for more than three days or have come very close to being a hurricane. As such, they don’t add up to much in terms of aggregate activity.  One measure of this is Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE). It is calculated by squaring the maximum wind speed of a tropical storm/hurricane at the six hour “synoptic time” intervals. The number is made manageable by dividing by 10,000 and while the resulting unit is technically knots2,, the reduced number is referred to simply as a unit of ACE.  To understand the numbers, it is helpful to remember that a 50 knot tropical storm persisting for one day generates 1 unit of ACE while a major hurricane with maximum wind speed of 100 knots generates 1 unit of ACE every six hours, 4 units per day.

As I write this, the Atlantic hurricane season only has roughly 7.6 units of ACE to its name. The year-to-date normal is 23 units.  Again, the short-lived nature of the tropical storms not to mention the absence of hurricanes, let alone major ones, is to account for this.  Having such a low sum this deep into the season is not without precedent, even during the post-1994 active period. At this point in 2002, the season just had 3 units in the books and 2001 had just fewer than 9. Such low figures were more normal in the 1981-1994 time-frame; as 1984 did not see a tropical storm until August 29, it had 0 units at this time.

Often times, a lack of activity in the Atlantic is off-set by high activity in the Pacific.  Such was the case in 1984 when five major hurricanes had formed in the eastern Pacific before the calendar turned to September; 71 units of ACE to its credit going into the final week of August.  During the active period of the Atlantic basin, such inequities exist during the El Niño Seasonal Oscillation, which tends to suppress tropical cyclone activity in the Atlantic while enhancing that of the Pacific.  Some times the El Niño is readily apparent in the amount of eastern Pacific activity, as was the case in 2006, when the first ever (and to date, only) Central Pacific category 5 hurricane, Ioke, helped contribute to a whopping 90 units of ACE being tallied before the final week of August.

One of a kind

One of a kind

2013 does not fit into that paradigm, however.  Rather than El Niño, we have what some jokingly call “La Nada”, the oscillation is in a neutral state that does not favor either the west Atlantic or easter Pacific basin. Furthermore, while the eastern Pacific has featured six hurricanes so far, none have became major hurricanes. It is the furthest we have gone into the season without a major hurricane in the western hemispher since 2003 when Fabian, the third hurricane of that season, attained major status on August 30th. Going back to the beginning of reliable records for the eastern Pacific basin, the latest date for the first major hurricane in either basin is September 7th (Floyd, 1981).  Combined the two basins have accounted for 53 units of ACE, the fifth lowest total since 1980.

Using that season to date figure to try to predict the future is no straight-forward; wide variations in the spacing of activity make many seasons “front-loaded” or “back-loaded” with activity relative to the present.  Also, there is a wide range of variation across the seasonal sums of ACE for both basins. There is no “magic number” that is guaranteed to be the total for any given season. While the two basins tend to compensate for each other and have a stable average total over the long term, that relationship is only clear over the long term.  I will, however, proceed cautiously in presenting those seasons with comparably low levels of activity in both basins to give a sense of what may be expected for the rest of the season:

Season Atlantic ACE pre
Aug 25
Pacific ACE pre
Aug 25
Combined pre
August 25
Atlantic total for
season
2001 8.89 29.1625 38.025 106
2003 20.485 18.245 38.73 175
2002 3.345 41.66 45.005 67
1981 9.9625 37.1975 47.16 93
2013 7.6525 45.81 53.4625 ???

Despite the average-below average starts to these four seasons, the only to finish distinctly below-average in terms of ACE was 2002, a season in which moderate El Niño conditions were present.**  1981 is a perfect fit for NOAA’s definition of a season with average activity (but was a busy season by 1980’s standards). 2003 had three hurricanes at this point, but three major hurricanes were yet to come. The director of the National Hurricane Center, Rick Knabb, tweeted about the 2001 hurricane season a few days ago. The first hurricane, Erin, did not arrive until September 9th but the season ended with four major hurricanes in the ledger.

I suspect 2013 will bear resemblance to 2001. Doing so would put the season in line with the  pre-season predictions for storm numbers, albeit with a bit lower ACE than anticipated.  While we had a bit of a false alarm a bit over a week ago ***, it appears that the turn of the season is upon us and activity is about to pick up substantially.  Forecast models are indicating that a tropical wave currently exiting Africa may become a tropical cyclone in five to six days time in the deep tropical Atlantic, approximately 1000 miles east of the Lesser Antilles. This afternoon’s Tropical Weather Outlook from the National Hurricane Center gives the wave a 20% chance of becoming a tropical cyclone in the next five days.  Given the time of year, such a system would have to monitored closely due its relative close-in development.  Furthermore, the GFS model is currently showing development of the subsequent wave as well.

Future storms?

Future storms?

If one had to summarize the reason for the quiet season to date in one graphic, it would be hard to do better than this:

The graphic comes from NOAA’s Tropical Cyclone Formation Probability product. As vertical instability is a necessary component of formation and maintenance of tropical cyclones, it is one of the key data inputs for the product.  As the graphic shows, instability in the tropical Atlantic has been below normal for the entirety of the season. Its relative absence has been a key factor in the shortened lives of Tropical Storms Dorian and Erin as well as the lack of additional tropical cyclone formation. While it has not yet reached a climatologically normal level, it is as high as it’s been all season.

While I have been composing this post, the sixth tropical cyclone of the season has formed in the Bay of Campeche. A WC-130 is en-route to determine whether it is a tropical storm. I cannot help but be reminded of what I call the “phony season” part of the 2005 hurricane season.  From mid-July to mid-August there was a succession of insignificant storms, which mostly struggled in hostile conditions in the tropical Atlantic. The last of those was the tropical cyclone that seemed poised for development, Tropical Depression Ten.   About a week later, a tropical storm, Jose. similar to our newly formed Tropical Depression Six, formed in the Bay of Campeche and the real season was  back with a vengeance****. Hostile conditions do not last forever.

Will we have our first major hurricane landfall since Wilma in that season without equal? Will we see our first category five hurricane since Felix, nearly six years ago? Those are questions for which we will have to wait for the answers. While we are free to hope that the balance of the season passes without incident, such an occurrence is not probable. We must be prepared.

** Mind you, below-average ACE does not necessarily equate to a  quiet season as victims of Hurricanes Isidore and Lili will attest.

*** See, for example, the Colorado State University forecast team’s prediction for tropical cyclone activity from August 16 to August 29. Anticipating development of Invests 92 and 94 as well as Erin being longer-lived, the forecast called for above average levels of ACE for the two week forecast period. That forecast will go down as big bust.

**** Jose, of course, is the name that Tropical Depression Ten would have received had it become a tropical storm. And there was a time when it appeared the remnant bits, future Tropical Depression Twelve / Katrina, would get that name. Great example of the hazard of bandying about a name for a disturbance or tropical depression before the name is actually earned.

A perhaps under-appreciated bit of progress made in computer modeling with regards to tropical cyclones is how accurate they’ve become in forecasting development of some types of disturbances well in advance.  Over the past decade, dynamic models have forecast tropical cyclogenesis farther in the future, sometimes before the spawning disturbance is even in the Atlantic Ocean, and crucially, with fewer false positives.  Tomorrow, the National Hurricane Center will avail itself in these advances when they release their first Tropical Weather Outlook that covers a five-day period.  For the first time, the NHC’s  four-times a day guidance on which disturbances are being monitored for potential tropical cyclone development will extend beyond 48 hours. It is a part of an evolution that’s been ongoing for just over a decade.  The evolution has given greater clarity to the Hurricane Center’s thoughts on the probability of development.

Let us remind ourselves of the form that the Tropical Weather Outlook had for most of the decades of its existence. The following paragraphs are taken from the nominal 5 PM Outlook on Monday, August 22, 2005 and the forecaster was future NHC director Rick Knabb:

A LARGE TROPICAL WAVE IS LOCATED OVER THE EASTERN ATLANTIC OCEAN
ABOUT 525 MILES WEST OF THE CAPE VERDE ISLANDS.  THE ASSOCIATED
SHOWER ACTIVITY REMAINS LIMITED… BUT THIS SYSTEM HAS SOME
POTENTIAL FOR SLOW DEVELOPMENT DURING THE NEXT DAY OR TWO AS
IT MOVES WESTWARD OR WEST-NORTHWESTWARD AT 10 TO 15 MPH.

DISORGANIZED CLOUDINESS AND SHOWERS EXTEND FROM EASTERN CUBA AND
HISPANIOLA ACROSS THE SOUTHEASTERN BAHAMAS AND THE TURKS AND CAICOS
ISLANDS… AND INTO THE ATLANTIC FOR SEVERAL HUNDRED MILES.  THIS
ACTIVITY IS POSSIBLY ASSOCIATED WITH THE REMNANTS OF TROPICAL
DEPRESSION TEN… AND DEVELOPMENT DURING THE NEXT DAY OR TWO SHOULD
BE SLOW TO OCCUR AS THE SYSTEM MOVES WESTWARD OR WEST-
NORTHWESTWARD.

ELSEWHERE… TROPICAL STORM FORMATION IS NOT EXPECTED THROUGH
TUESDAY.

In this format, the outlooks made an effort to communicate what the forecaster’s thoughts were on the potential for development.  Admittedly though, the wording could be “fuzzy” at times, and it required a close reading on a 6 hour basis to sniff out changes in wording that may have indicated the forecaster thinking more highly of the system’s future prospects.  We’ll continue with the system mentioned in the third paragraph as an example on how the wording would change as development occurred:

CLOUDINESS AND SHOWERS EXTEND FROM EASTERN CUBA AND HISPANIOLA
ACROSS THE SOUTHEASTERN BAHAMAS AND THE TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS…
AND INTO THE ATLANTIC FOR A FEW HUNDRED MILES.  THIS ACTIVITY IS
POSSIBLY ASSOCIATED WITH THE REMNANTS OF TROPICAL DEPRESSION TEN.
GRADUAL DEVELOPMENT OF THIS SYSTEM IS POSSIBLE DURING THE NEXT DAY
OR TWO AS IT MOVES WEST-NORTHWESTWARD AT ABOUT 10 MPH.

So, we’ve gone from “development should be slow to occur” to “gradual development is possible”.   This is an example of a subtle change where it would be hard for the average person to discern whether this was merely re-wording or a slight change in thinking.

CLOUDINESS AND SHOWERS EXTEND FROM EASTERN CUBA AND HISPANIOLA
ACROSS THE SOUTHEASTERN BAHAMAS AND THE TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS…
AND INTO THE ATLANTIC FOR A FEW HUNDRED MILES.  THIS ACTIVITY…
WHICH IS POSSIBLY ASSOCIATED WITH THE REMNANTS OF TROPICAL
DEPRESSION TEN…HAS BECOME MORE CONCENTRATED THIS MORNING NEAR THE
SOUTHEASTERN BAHAMAS.  ADDITIONAL DEVELOPMENT OF THIS SYSTEM IS
POSSIBLE DURING THE NEXT DAY OR TWO AS IT MOVES WEST-NORTHWESTWARD
AT ABOUT 10 MPH.  AN AIR FORCE RESERVE HURRICANE HUNTER AIRCRAFT IS
SCHEDULED TO INVESTIGATE THE SYSTEM THIS AFTERNOON…IF NECESSARY

Now, “additional development is possible”. Certainly an upgrade based on existing circumstances. Seems like we’re getting closer to something happening, but how close?

A BROAD SURFACE LOW PRESSURE AREA IS PRODUCING WIDESPREAD CLOUDINESS
AND THUNDERSTORMS FROM EASTERN CUBA AND HISPANIOLA NORTHWARD ACROSS
THE SOUTHEASTERN BAHAMAS…THE TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS… AND INTO
THE ATLANTIC FOR A FEW HUNDRED MILES.  THIS ACTIVITY HAS BECOME A
LITTLE BETTER ORGANIZED OVER THE SOUTHEASTERN BAHAMAS… AND A
TROPICAL DEPRESSION COULD FORM LATER TODAY OR ON WEDNESDAY AS THE
SYSTEM MOVES TO THE WEST-NORTHWEST OR NORTHWEST AT 5 TO 10 MPH.  AN
AIR FORCE RESERVE UNIT RECONNAISSANCE AIRCRAFT IS SCHEDULED TO
INVESTIGATE THE SYSTEM THIS AFTERNOON. INTERESTS IN THE BAHAMAS…
THE NORTH COAST OF CUBA…AND SOUTHERN FLORIDA SHOULD MONITOR THE
PROGRESS OF THIS SYSTEM.

Now it’s clear that we’re real close. No ambiguity in “a tropical depression could form later today…” And that was indeed the case

THE NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER HAS INITIATED ADVISORIES ON TROPICAL
DEPRESSION TWELVE… LOCATED OVER THE CENTRAL BAHAMAS ABOUT 175
MILES SOUTHEAST OF NASSAU.

The new tropical depression

The new tropical depression

Four days later

Four days later

(For those wondering about the fate of the other disturbance mentioned in the first Outlook from which I quoted, it would go on to be mentioned in Outlooks for the entire lifespan of Katrina, with the last mention coming almost exactly a week later stating that associated shower activity had diminished. It ran nearly the entire gamut of phrasing.)

The Outlooks quoted above were part of a study conducted to assess the feasibility of incorporating categorical probability (low, medium, high chance) of development into the Tropical Weather Outlook. As detailed in a paper presented at the American Meteorological Society’s 2008 Hurricane Conference, “Verification of the National Hurricane Center’s Experimental Probabilistic Tropical Cyclone Genesis Forecasts“,  the study showed potential for the idea and it was tested in-house during the 2007 season, (which happened to be the first year of the Graphical Tropical Weather Outlook, then in experimental form).  The testing demonstrated that the idea would work and it was subsequently incorporated into the 2008 Outlooks and continued their form in 2009.

Ana foretold

Ana foretold

Over time. in-house forecasting using explicit 10% increments (rather than low, medium, and high categories) showed enough refinement that the 2010 Outlooks used the percentages.  As explained in the 2010 season verification report (section four), forecasts were well calibrated for the high and low end percentages, but there was an inversion in the middle range (a greater percentage of systems with a 40% chance of development actually developed than those with a 70% chance). The summary of 2007-2010 forecasts reflected some of that calibration issue, but overall the forecasts matched up well.

2007-2010 genesis verificationSo, the forecasters were making progress with the product they had in its current scope, but it was becoming clear that potential existed to broaden that scope. Hurricane Julia of 2010 provided an example of forecast models providing accurate guidance outside of the bounds of the Tropical Weather Outlook;

The genesis of Julia was not well anticipated. The disturbance that became Julia was  introduced into the Tropical Weather Outlook (TWO) with a medium (30%) chance of formation
only 18 h before the system became a tropical cyclone. This prediction was raised to a high  (70%) chance 6 h before genesis occurred. The lateness in mentioning the disturbance that  spawned Julia may have been due to the typical operational practice of not introducing an African wave disturbance into the TWO until it reaches the Atlantic Ocean. In this case, the disturbance developed into a tropical cyclone only about one day after leaving the West African coast. It is of note that many of the global model forecasts successfully called for the genesis of Julia up to several days in advance.

(Discovery of a Master’s thesis on the genesis of Hurricane Julia helped provide this example.)

Julia was not a solitary case. While there were certainly instances of “quick-draw” development not foreseen by the models, they were proving to be adept at the “classical” mode of development, the Cape Verde storm.  The NHC was aware of this and had started performance of 5-day Outlooks that were kept in house and results were reported at the 2012 AMS Hurricane Conference (“Extended-range genesis forecasts at the National Hurricane Center” recorded presentation). The results start being shown about five minutes into the presentation and the presenter, NHC hurricane specialist Eric Blake explained that one issue they saw with the extended part of the forecasts (days 3-5) was that many systems that were given a mid-range probability of developing during that time period actually developed earlier (in the 1-2 day timeframe). 25% of systems in that 40%-60%  range failed to ever develop. However, they were all systems that would go on to be in the short-range outlook; they weren’t phantom systems. Once upon a time, the prevalence of “boguscanes” in the models was such that this would have been a difficult feat to achieve.

The presentation went on to show the results for the eastern Pacific basin, interestingly, even though forecasters were aware of their tendency to under-estimate the probability of development (and Blake said that he had started to take that tendency into consideration and adjusting his forecasts accordingly) there was still an under-forecasting bias in that basin. At the 9:45 mark he shows a comparison of  the short-term and extended term forecasts for each storm in the 2010 season. One sees that the in-house Outlooks containing Julia picked up on the potential for development four days in advance and that Lisa was another storm seen well in advance.

The work continued and before this season began, the NHC had announced that 5 day Outlooks would become public at some point in this season. A presentation of the 5 day outlooks was made at the 2013 National Hurricane Conference. The outlooks will give the usual write-up and 0-48 hour percentage chance of development for existing systems and have a separate section for systems that exist/are only in the extended time-frame and have a near 0% chance of developing in the short term. Blake’s presentation touched on some of the issues with a graphical presentation (e.g. how to handle systems that overlap) and it appears those have not been fully resolved yet; the announcement of the August 1 debut of the extended Tropical Weather Outlook states that the accompanying graphic is under development and “may become available later this season”.

This new product represents a great deal of progress that has been made in forecasting tropical cyclogenesis. A great deal remains, however. Two customers that expressed interest in these extended outlooks, the oil services industry and the US Navy, might be disappointed, in the near term, at least. While the models have shown increased skill in anticipating storms in the deep tropics, the Gulf of Mexico and sub-tropics remain a trouble spot. The former, of course, being the location of interest for the oil business and the latter being relevant due to the Navy owing to the massive Norfolk Naval Station. It is doubtful that either will find great value in having extra notice of a storm that’s ten days to two weeks out at sea.

The National Hurricane Center and researchers will work aggressively on that problem, of course.  This is but one part of their efforts to improve and expand the scope of forecasting. 7-day forecasts, with the accuracy of 4-5 day forecasts from a decade ago are another example of in-house work that is being prepared for future public consumption.

UPDATED  8 AM AUGUST 1

For the historical record, here are the first 5 day Outlooks

TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
500 AM PDT THU AUG 1 2013

FOR THE EASTERN NORTH PACIFIC...EAST OF 140 DEGREES WEST LONGITUDE..

THE NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER IS ISSUING ADVISORIES ON HURRICANE
GIL...LOCATED WELL TO THE SOUTHWEST OF THE SOUTHERN TIP OF THE BAJA
CALIFORNIA PENINSULA.

1. SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS ASSOCIATED WITH A LOW PRESSURE SYSTEM
LOCATED ABOUT 775 MILES SOUTH-SOUTHWEST OF THE SOUTHERN TIP OF THE
BAJA CALIFORNIA PENINSULA HAVE CHANGED LITTLE IN ORGANIZATION DURING
THE PAST SEVERAL HOURS. THIS SYSTEM IS MOVING WESTWARD AT 10 MPH
AND CONTINUES TO HAVE A MEDIUM CHANCE...50 PERCENT...OF BECOMING A
TROPICAL CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS. CONDITIONS ARE EXPECTED
TO REMAIN MARGINALLY CONDUCIVE FOR DEVELOPMENT AFTER THAT...AND
THIS SYSTEM HAS A HIGH CHANCE...60 PERCENT...OF BECOMING A TROPICAL
CYCLONE DURING THE NEXT 5 DAYS.

FIVE-DAY FORMATION PROBABILITIES ARE EXPERIMENTAL IN 2013.  COMMENTS
ON THE EXPERIMENTAL FORECASTS CAN BE PROVIDED AT...USE LOWER
CASE...

HTTP://WWW.NWS.NOAA.GOV/SURVEY/NWS-SURVEY.PHP?CODE=ETWO

FORECASTER AVILA

ABNT20 KNHC 011132
TWOAT 

TROPICAL WEATHER OUTLOOK
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL
800 AM EDT THU AUG 1 2013

FOR THE NORTH ATLANTIC...CARIBBEAN SEA AND THE GULF OF MEXICO...

TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION IS NOT EXPECTED DURING THE NEXT FIVE
DAYS.

&&

FIVE-DAY FORMATION PROBABILITIES ARE EXPERIMENTAL IN 2013.  COMMENTS
ON THE EXPERIMENTAL FORECASTS CAN BE PROVIDED AT...USE LOWER
CASE...

HTTP://WWW.NWS.NOAA.GOV/SURVEY/NWS-SURVEY.PHP?CODE=ETWO

$$
FORECASTER FRANKLIN/ZELINSKY

The disturbance mentioned in the Pacific Outlook is Invest 90, which is east-southeast of Hurricane Gil.

The Atlantic is quiet at this time and, as indicated by the Outlook, apparently for the foreseeable future.  Note that there is a large outbreak of dust from Africa spreading across the tropics.  But even before the dust storm, there wasn’t much of anything in the tropics. Go back three or four days and there was the remnants of Dorian and… not much of anything else.  That’s not to say “and the usual assortment of tropical waves”.  There was one wave just west of the Cape Verde Islands that was already sparse on convection before it was consumed by the dust surge.  Now, there isn’t anything in the path of the dust to mow down or suppress. As Michael Watkins said in his tweets that were included in Brendan Loy’s post, the dust surges are annual occurrences and their suppressing effects are temporal. Furthermore, the suppressing effects of the Saharan Air Layer are a matter of debate. From the conclusion of “Reevaluating the Role of the Saharan Air Layer in Atlantic Tropical Cyclogenesis and Evolution“, a paper published in the June 2010 issue of the Monthly Weather Review:

The results of this study suggest that the SAL has perhaps been overemphasized by some in the
research community as a major negative influence on tropical cyclone genesis and evolution.
In fact, the evidence appears to be more to the contrary in that the Sahara is the
source of the AEJ, which acts as both a source of energy for AEWs and a source of strong
background cyclonic vorticity, and there is evidence of a positive influence through an induced
vertical circulation associated with the AEJ. To the extent that the SAL may be a negative
influence on storm evolution, one must recognize that the SAL is just one of many factors
influencing tropical cyclogenesis and evolution in the Atlantic. Each storm must be examined
carefully within the context of the larger-scale wind and thermodynamic fields (either from
global analyses or satellite data), particularly in terms of other sources of vertical wind shear
and dry air (i.e.,subsidence drying versus warming over the Sahara).

As such, it’s fair to say that it’s quiet in the Atlantic and that the SAL is the predominant feature at the moment. It may be  a stretch, however, to say it is quiet because of the SAL.

Remnants of remnants and a whole bunch of dust.

Remnants of remnants and a whole bunch of dust.

UPDATED 11:00 AM August 3

Early verification of the first 5 day outlooks…  the disturbance mentioned in the Pacific Outlook became Tropical Depression Eight, at this time.  In the Atlantic, the remnants of Dorian were first mentioned in the 2:00 PM Outlook on August 1, with a 20% chance of development.  Subsequent Outlooks took it up to 30%, then 40%, back to 30%, then jumped up to 50% in the 8:00 PM Outlook on Friday and then to 60% in the following forecast. At 5:00 AM today, the National Hurricane Center resumed advisories on Dorian as a tropical depression.  The revival is expected to be quite brief, with the depression forecast to become a remnant low tonight.