Tag Archives: Joaquin

Hurricane Joaquin: Near Cat 5 On Way Out To Atlantic


Tropical Depression Eleven is currently located way east of Florida, and is predicted to become a tropical storm by Tuesday night some time. It would be nameD Joaquin. Some time Wednesday night, the storm is predicted to turn north and head straight up along the coast. There are no significant advisories or suggestions of a threatening situation from the National Weather Service, but it is always a good idea to keep an eye on these storms.

It was predicted that there would be about 12 named storms this season. There have been 9 so far, but we still have all of October and November. So this season is almost exactly on track. If it seems like a more anemic season than that, it is because several of the named storms died off far at sea.

Check this space for updates on Joaquin. Or not, if nothing interesting happens.

UPDATE Tuesday AM:

Eleven became Joaquin overnight.

The forecasts for what this storm will do are highly uncertain and seem to be divided into two different scenarios: Joaquin gets absorbed into an existing system along the US East coast, vs. Joaquin stays somewhat organized and travels up the Atlantic. The forecast currently settled on by the National Weather Service has Joaquin never forming into a hurricane but reaching top winds of about 65 MPH, but staying pretty far off shore.

UPDATE: Tuesday PM:

There is still all sorts of uncertainty about Joaquin, but it is not predicted that the storm once seemingly destine to be named but not a hurricane will likely become a hurricane pretty soon, and remain one all the way up the Atlantic, over the course of its current forecast. Click on the image to see it as an animated GIF:


UPDATE: Wednesday AM

Joaquin is now predicted to become a hurricane some time later today (Wednesday) classified as a hurricane. It will then now continue to move mostly west or west-southwest for a while then turn north.

This is when things get interesting. Depending on how far west the storm moves before turning north, and depending on other things, the hurricane will then move up the Atlantic well offshore and move out into the Great North Atlantic Hurricane Graveyard. Or, it will go north for a while, first getting stronger then getting weaker, before making left turn and hitting the US coast. The possible areas of landfall include the Chesapeake but other points as well.

In a way this is a battle between the Americans and the Europeans. The classic American hurricane models tend to show the storm striking the coast, while the European model tends to show the hurricane continuing harmlessly (unless you are a boat) into the Atlantic where it would dissipate.

In the past, according to Paul Douglas, my main source for these things, the European model has done a better job of predicting American hurricanes. (Obviously this is Obama’s fault, where’s Rush Limbaugh’s commentary on this?) But, the American models (and I’m simplifying the meaning of “American Models” here a bit) are not totally useless.

A pretty good prediction, which is based in large part on what the National Weather Service says, and what Paul and other meteorologists way, is that Joaquin will go west for a while, turn north, somewhere in there turning into a nearly but not quite Category 3 hurricane, quite possibly threatening the Bahamas, then move north fairly quickly as it weakens and makes a big wet spot in the North Atlantic.

Having said that, every update over the last couple of days has the storm becoming stronger, and the prospects of a landfall, while the lest likely scenario, have not really diminished. A land strike remains a plausible but less likely scenario. The place of landfall, should that happen, also remains highly uncertain, but it seems most likely that it would at or north of the Chesapeake. Even models that do not have landfall have lots of rain along the US coast (and inland a ways) so an important weather event is in the offing no matter what. From the Weather Underground:

Regardless of the ultimate outcome of Joaquin’s path, portions of the East Coast will still see multiple impacts from the evolving large-scale weather pattern, including flooding rainfall, gusty winds, high surf, beach erosion and some coastal flooding.

Paul Douglas provides this graphic of the many tracks produced by the many models:


One of the models, not the most likely one but possibly around a 20-35% chance, has the storm being somewhere around a Category 2 or Category 3 striking the area around the Chesapeake, like this (Also from Paul Douglas):


That would be as early as the weekend some time.

The prudent thing to do is to prepare for a land strike like this to the extent one might prepare days in advance, but to keep an eye on the forecast and stand down when it does not actually materialize.

Again, the National Weather Service is saying that the prediction of what the storm will do once it turns north depends a great deal on when it does so, because that influences the timing of the storm’s interaction with other weather systems. The turning may happen around Thursday mid day through evening. So, the forecast late on Thursday may be a much better estimate of the likelihood of a landfall.

UPDATE: Mid Day Wednesday

This is an important update.

The forecast for Hurricane Joaquin is still highly uncertain, but the National Weather Service has added an important new wrinkle (Number 2 below):


1. Confidence in the details of the track forecast late in the
period remains low, since the environmental steering currents are
complex and the model guidance is inconsistent. A wide range of
outcomes is possible, from a direct impact of a major hurricane
along the U.S. east coast to a track of Joaquin out to sea away from
the coast. It is therefore way too soon to talk about specific
wind, rain, or surge impacts from Joaquin in the U.S.

2. Should the threat to the U.S. increase, any further adjustments
of the forecast to the west would likely be accompanied by an
increase in the forecast forward speed, with impacts along the coast
occurring sooner than currently forecast. A hurricane watch could
be required for portions of the U.S. coast as early as Thursday

3. Many areas of the eastern U.S. are currently experiencing heavy
rains and gusty winds associated with a frontal system. This
inclement weather is expected to continue over the next few days,
which could complicate preparations for Joaquin should it head
toward the coast.

The chances of a landfall in the US are still probably around one in five or so, but now the NWS is saying that IF Joaquin does ultimately make landfall (probably in the Chesapeake bay area) it will do so after having sped up quite a bit, and watches could be posted late tomorrow.

Also note that the eastern US is currently experiencing very rainy and windy weather, which may make preparation for the storm harder. Also, many rivers and creeks are already nearly flooding or flooding, so additional rain brought to a large area of the east coast (and by “coast” I mean large areas of any or all “east coast” states, not just along the Atlantic) will make that worse, even if the hurricane does not make landfall.
Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 12.34.04 PM

Jeff Masters has a writeup on the storm here.

UPDATE Tuesday Evening

Interestingly the divergence between the two disparate set of models, one showing the hurricane going out to sea, the other hitting land, has increased rather than decreased since mid day. Also, the most likely area of landfall, IF there is landfall, has moved south, to the Carolinas. Also, the updated forecast is quite different in the pattern of strengthening, perhaps strengthening more slowly but staying stronger longer. So, while I promised you increased clarity the NWS is actually less certain.

The following graphic compares two of the models, ECMWF and GPS (top and bottom, respectively) generated using the Wundermap, for the position of Hurricane Joaquin in the wee hours of the morning next Tuesday.

Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 7.03.12 PM

Both of these models can’t be true in the version of the universe we live in. Also, don’t make too much of the timing, the storm could move at a very different rate than projected once it starts speeding up.

Below is a projected path for the storm, but don’t put much value in this. It is the consensus between two widely divergent sets of models So this is a bit like arguing over eating Vegan vs going out to a Steakhouse, and deciding to compromise. There actually is no realistic combination of the two.

Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 6.47.38 PM

Regardless of all of this, the Bahamas is potentially in trouble. Apropos that,


The Government of the Bahamas has issued a Hurricane Warning for
the Northwestern Bahamas including the Abacos, Berry Islands,
Eleuthera, Grand Bahama Island, and New Providence, but excluding
Andros Island and Bimini.

The Government of the Bahamas has issued a Tropical Storm Warning
for the Southeastern Bahamas, including the Acklins, Crooked Island,
Long Cay, the Inaguas, Mayaguana, and the Ragged Islands, but
excluding the Turks and Caicos Islands.


A Hurricane Warning is in effect for…
* Central Bahamas including Cat Island, the Exumas, Long Island,
Rum Cay, and San Salvador
* Northwestern Bahamas including the Abacos, Berry Islands,
Eleuthera, Grand Bahama Island, and New Providence, but excluding
Andros Island and Bimini

A Hurricane Watch is in effect for…
* Bimini

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for…
* Southeastern Bahamas including the Acklins, Crooked Island,
Long Cay, the Inaguas, Mayaguana, and the Ragged Islands, but
excluding the Turks and Caicos Islands.

A Hurricane Warning means that hurricane conditions are expected
somewhere within the warning area. Preparations to protect life and
property should be rushed to completion.

A Hurricane Watch means that hurricane conditions are possible
within the watch area.

A Tropical Storm Warning means that tropical storm conditions are
expected somewhere within the warning area within 36 hours.

For storm information specific to your area, please monitor
products issued by your national meteorological service.

UPDATE: Thursday AM: Dilemma

To be in a dilemma is to have the choice of which horn of the bull you prefer to be gored by. At the moment, there are many people facing a dilemma with respect to Hurricane Joaquin.

Pity the poor weather forecasters. If they say “Look out, this hurricane may strike land,” and the hurricane does not, they will be the Forecaster Who Cried Wolf, and in the future, many of those who were NOT hit by the hurricane will be less likely to pay attention to the forecasts. So forecasters can’t overplay the possibility of a landfall. On the other hand, if forecasters don’t jump up and down and shout a little, and there is a landfall, perhaps some of those who needed to be warned will have prepared less.

There is another dilemma of sorts. Over the last several years, the famous European Model has done a better job of forecasting hurricane position and strength than many other models. The European model forecast Super Storm Sandy pretty well, for example. This is a model that should be listened to. But for Hurricane Joaquin, the European model stands alone in forecasting that the hurricane will wanter out to sea and not make landfall as a significant storm anywhere. The other models all have the storm hitting something along the East coast.

These two sets of contrasts place people who might (or might not) be in the storm’s pat with various personal and domestic dilemmas about what to do and not do over the next few days by way of preparation or changes in plans.

There is another dichotomy of sorts as well. At this point it is fair to ask, as it is with any major weather event, how much of this meteorological problem is the result of anthropogenic global warming. For many (not me) the standard line is “you can never attribute a single weather event to global warming.” This, however, is incorrect for two reasons. The more subtle but more important reason is that many will read such a statement as “Weather events are not attributable to global warming,” which is wrong, and a dangerous proposition. The other reason it is wrong is that all weather is the short term function of climate, and the entire climate is changed by global warming. Weather (and climate) is made of heat, moisture, the movement of air, that sort of thing. Global warming has resulted in more heat, more moisture in the air, changes in the distribution of that heat and moisture at the global scale, and, apparently, changes in the nature of the movement of the air. There is not, in fact, a single weather event that escapes the influence of global warming.

In the case of Hurricane Joaquin, in particular, we have a fairly specific factor related to global warming in play. The sea surface temperature in the area where the storm is currently located, and the waters over which it will pass over the next day or two, are warmer than at any time in recorded history, making those seas warmer, likely, than they have been in many thousands of years. Tens, possibly hundreds, of thousands of years. This heat will cause Joaquin to read Category 3 or Category 4 status over the next couple of days. When a hurricane becomes that strong, it is harder for those factors that might weaken it to do so, so some of that extra strength plays through as the storm moves into extratropical regions. If Joaquin strikes land in the eastern United States while it is still a hurricane (as opposed to a weakened tropical storm) then we can fairly say that was a result of anthropogenic global warming.

So, is Joaquin going to hit something?

And if so, what will it hit?

We don’t know and we don’t know.

As noted, there is divergence among the models. The divergence has not reduced much over the last day or so, but in about 36 hours from now, it is likely that the models will converge and a much more accurate forecast can be made. At the moments, there are models that have the storm dissipate into the Caribbean (this is highly unlikely) and as noted the European model has the storm going out to sea. In between these projections there are scenarios where Joaquin makes landfall in the Carolinas, farther north in the Chesapeake, somewhere around New Jersey or New York, farther down-east in New England, or even eastern Canada. Within that rather broad framework, the storm could make landfall at any of a number of levels of strength, and do so at any of a number of speeds, but probably in all cases rather quickly. Quickly is not good, because it means that the storm can be affecting land areas as a stronger, not yet dissipated storm. On the other hand, slow is not good because the storm could pump more water into an already rain-soaked and flooding area. There really is no “good” scenario, just a variable number of different bad scenarios.

Here are a few graphics for what they are worth, which I’m afraid may not be much. They are cribbed variously from Weather Underground, Paul Douglas’s Blog, and the National Weather Service.

One generally reliable model (GFS) shows the storm menacing New England on or about October 7th:


The European model shows the storm out to sea on the same date:


The National Weather Service has settled, for now, on a forecast that has Joaquin strengthening to a Category 4 storm, then moving quickly north, transitioning through Categories 3, 2, and 1, grazing the coast and being somewhat ambiguous as to what it really ends up hitting.

pauldouglas_1443699211_10.1.15 Jtrack (1)

In science, there is a rule known as the “Law of Parsimony.” This is usually mis-stated (in my opinion) as “the simplest solution is most likely to be correct.” In the case of multiple competing models, this could be though of as the average of the models.

But really, the Law of Parsimony means something different. It means, given a number of alternative explanations, the simplest one is the most likely to be least wrong. This, I’m afraid, is what the National Weather Service is forced to work with on this forecast. This graphic shows most of the known models on one map:

pauldouglas_1443699274_10.1.15 models (1)

You can see that the NWS track, above, is a sort of average of all of these (it isn’t really, but many models are taken into account to produce the NWS forecast). But they are all so different from one another that any given track is highly unlikely to be wrong.

One pattern has emerged during the lifespan, so far, of Joaquin. Almost every one of the NWS forecasts has suggested a stronger storm than the previous forecast. Another pattern is that the level of uncertainty in the storm’s track has not gone down much, at least pertaining to the period of time after it makes a (very likely) turn to the north. After that turn happens, assuming it does, the forecasts should converge and we’ll now more.

When will that be?

In 12 to 24 hours from now. During the wee hours of the morning on Friday, or as late as mid day Friday, the storm will veer north and start to speed up. Probably. By two days from now, or about mid day on Saturday, the storm will be moving north very quickly, at about a Category 3 or Category 4 storm, and its subsequent direction will be much better understood. Whether or not the storm will make landfall in the US will be much more certain then. Probably.

However, given the direction and angle of approach, it will still likely be difficult to pinpoint an area of landfall even then. Also, and very importantly, look again at the graphic above. Look at all those sharp left turns, in contrast to the tracks that follow the coast more. Those would be two very different scenarios for this storm. An early sharp left turn could put a major hurricane in your home town, if you happen to live in just the right place. If, however, the storm tracks parallel to the coastline for a while, it could produce low-level havoc over a large area, and possibly come ashore as a big wet thing that is not a hurricane.

Which would you prefer? I know, right? Dilemma.

UPDATE: Thursday PM:

Just a quick update, I’ll have more later when there is both more information and I have a bit more time.

As expected, the diverse and disparate models have, according to the National Weather Service, started to converge on a narrow range of solutions. And, at the same time, the overall trend seems to be for Hurricane Joaquin to be likely to move farther from the coast than some models had earlier predicted. Here’s what the NWS says in their 5:00 discussion:

A strong majority of the forecast models are now in agreement on
a track farther away from the United States east coast. We are
becoming optimistic that the Carolinas and the mid-Atlantic states
will avoid the direct effects from Joaquin. However, we cannot yet
completely rule out direct impacts along on the east coast, and
residents there should continue to follow the progress of Joaquin
over the next couple of days.

Warning: I’ve already seen some reporters including possible meteorologists confuse the current heavy rains the Eastern states are experiencing with this hurricane. Many parts of the East Coast are flooding or will be flooding over the next few days, which has nothing to do with this hurricane. However, depending on exactly what Joaquin does, the hurricane may later contribute to this. So, if you were thinking you might be threatened with flooding, relatively good news about Joaquin moving out to sea does not apply to your situation at all.

And, of course, it is still too early to be totally confident in the model predictions. I would stick with what I said before: Tomorrow around mid day or early afternoon there should be fairly high confidence. Probably. We’ll see. Stay tuned.


Joaquin is fully into a turn to the north, is likely to strengthen more over the next several hours. But the various models have converged on a narrower set of likely outcomes. The NWS puts Tropical Wind Speed probabilities along the US coast or Eastern Canada at no better than 10 or 20%, and that applies only to far eastern New England.

I would keep watching this storm if you are in New Jersey or north, because it would not take much of a westward shift to change all this. Also, it is note entirely impossible (but unlikely) for the storm to make a sudden turn somewhere along the line. Such things have happened, though not usually without some indication in advance that it was at least possible.



Good news and bad news about Hurricane Joaquin.

The storm is still menacing the Bahamas and will do so for the net 24 hours, but it has now turned north and is likely to follow a path like this one:

Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 2.58.38 PM

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that Hurricane Joaquin is interacting with a major low pressure system in the eastern US to bring even more moisture to an already wet area. Jeff Masters has all the information on this. It is a pretty serious situation and needs to be paid attention to.

First, there is going to be “several days of coastal flooding and beach erosion” from “New Jersey to North Carolina” with especially heavy rain in North Carolina.

Second, in particular, “The latest 3-day Quantitative Precipitation Forecast from NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center is calling for 10 – 15″ inches of rain for the majority of South Carolina, including the cities of Charleston and Columbia.”

This is with Joaquin staying AWAY from the coast. If the hurricane ends up shifting towards the coast, things would change.

The rain will be due to what meteorologists call a “Predecessor Rain Event” (PRE) … In a Predecessor Rain Event, tropical moisture well out ahead of a landfalling tropical cyclone interacts with a surface front and upper-level trough to produce heavy rainfall, often with significant inland flooding. The PRE can develop well to the left or right of the eventual track of the tropical cyclone. Slow-moving Hurricane Joaquin is perfectly positioned to transport a strong low-level flow of super-moist tropical air that has water vapor evaporated from record-warm ocean waters north of the Bahamas westwards into the Southeast U.S. Once this moisture hits land, it will encounter a cut-off upper low pressure system aloft, with a surface front beneath it, which will lift the moist air, cooling it, and forcing epic amounts of rainfall to fall. The air will also be moving up in elevation from the coast to the Piedmont and Appalachians, which lifts the air and facilitates even more precipitation. Satellite imagery is already hinting at development of this connection of moisture between Joaquin and the Southeast low and frontal system.

Here’s what that looks like on the big scary map:


There are areas of the Carolinas that will experience one in 1,000+ year events during this period.

UPDATE Sunday Morning:

Joaquin is not heading out to the Atlantic for sure, but the outer bands will affect Bermuda. Also, the storm is passing close to Category 5 strength as it does so. Meanwhile, a special kind of interaction (noted above) is happening between the storm and the US east coast causing really bad rain and flooding mainly in South Carolina but in other areas as well.

The storm may have taken a cargo ship with over 30 people on it.