This is a bit late in the year for an Atlantic Hurricane. The season normally runs from June 1st through November 30th, but that includes a bit of buffer time.
Otto is a tropical storm that will turn into a hurricane on Wednesday, probably, and make landfal near the border of Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Expect coastal flooding as well as serious inland flooding. The storm will arrive in the Pacific on Friday as a tropical depression.
Then, we’ll have to see if it turns into something in the Eastern Pacific basin.
Nicole blew up to a category 4 storm by some reports, but I think was Category 3 at as it raked Bermuda.
As far as I can tell, Bermuda suffered 115+ mph winds,
The center of the storm was about 10 miles east of Bermuda (which is causing people to say, incorrectly, that the storm missed Bermuda by 10 miles, which is not true). Since the storm went to the right of the islands, things were not as bad as they could have been. But, Nicole is a very very powerful storm.
It will e a while before we get a bead on the damage there, but I’ve heard that power outages are widespread, and there is a lot of flooding and wind damage.
Hurricane Nicole became a named storm right around the time that Matthew emerged, and seemed to spend several days observing from the deep Atlantic. Now, The story has cycled through various levels of strength, but is now a major hurricane, a Category 3.
Nicole will probably directly affect Bermuda tomorrow. Bermuda gets a lot of hurricanes, and of all the island polities in the Atlantic, it seems most readily able to handle them. But, I don’t think there’s been a Category 3 hurricane center on or very near the island since Fabian in 2003. That was a very destructive storm with considerable damage and widespread inundation.
Nicole pushed the total accumulated cyclone energy for the Atlantic to a very high October level, passing the previous record of 1963.
Hurricane Nicole intensified into Cat 3 Hurricane on the evening of Oct 12 and is currently bearing down on Bermuda. Nicole marked the 3rd major hurricane of the North Atlantic season, qualifying 2016 as an above average hurricane season, and marking the most major hurricanes in a season since 2011. On Oct 12, Nicole also pushed the Atlantic’s Accumulated Cyclone Energy for October up to the most for any October since 1963. Nicole’s tremendous power and sustained strength are consistent with the observed trends in the Atlantic since the 1970’s. There is a significant risk that this trend is driven by global warming.
I suspect sea surface temperatures are behind the extra punch Nicole seems to have developed, and possibly, the storm’s long lifespan.
After punching Bermuda, Nicole will head out to sea, probably.
It turns out that there is an untold story behind the “discovery” of the famous Hockey Stick graph by Mike Mann and his colleagues. It is an excellent example of how science works, worthy of repeating, say, in a science classroom.
Anthropogenic Climate Change is very serious business. And, therefore, there has been far too little humor applied to communicating about this problem. Mike Mann and his co-author Tom Toles have started to backfill that gaping hole in the collective effort to bring the most important existential issue of our time to everyone’s attention.
Hurricane Matthew wasn’t just a storm enhanced by, or affected by, or influenced by, climate change. Matthew is the new poster storm for climate change and catastrophe, not because it Destroyed America (it didn’t, America got lucky, though Haiti did not) but because of several unique characteristics of that storm.
So, I did an interview with Mike Mann, even as Matthew was just about to pounce on Florida, in which we discuss various aspects of Atlantic hurricanes, and Matthew in particular.
We also discuss long term variation in the climate record, those squiggles in the surface warming trend on top of which regular warming is imposed.
We discuss Mike’s journey to the Hockey Stick, which I’m pretty sure is a story that has not been covered on a blog post or podcast or anything like that.
And, we discuss Mann and Tole’s new book, “The Madhouse Effect.”
This morning I was forced to do the “get off my lawn” thing with the kids at the bus stop. They were systematically destroying the pavement around the common mailbox area down the street from my house, throwing chunks in the street. I lined them up and read them the riot act. They are children, so they can be excused for bering a bit stupid about life, and the guy down the street telling them to get off the lawn is part of the learning process for them.
And now it’s your turn.
The right wing yahoos have already started yelling about conspiracies related to Hurricane Matthew. “They are telling us lies, that it will be a total disaster because of [some dumbass reason nobody quite understands]” This has lead, on the internet, to “don’t leave your homes, Obama and Shillary will be down here to take away your guns” (OK, I admit, that last one was me being sarcastic, but there are similar tweets out there.”
Let me explain something to you.
Matthew is a very large and dangerous hurricane that was predicted to go on a course the center line of which (where the eye would be, approximately) would parallel the coast, just off shore, for a long distance, for hundreds of miles. At any moment the eye could shift left or right, the predictions said. Also, the size of the hurricane force wind field could widen or narrow. Therefore, if the hurricane did as predicted, it could seriously affect the entire coast, knocking down power lines and trees, doing other damage.
So far, that is exactly what has happened. No deviation. You hear “the eye moved east.” Bullshit. There was never a line on which the eye was to move.There was a center line of a prediction cone, and the storm has stayed right in the predicted area. It was alway predicted to be about where it is, plus or minus. It is well within the plus or minus.
Every here and there, the predictions indicated, the hurricane could produce a dangerous storm tide. Each section of coast has a different potential for this because of its shape. The exact timing of high tide matters. The storm’s exact configuration and distance from the coast matters. So you can’t predict in detail what will happen, but what you CAN do is produce a likely scenario in the worst case. If all the factors come together, and you live in a house in this region, you are truly fuckered. The Hurricane turns left a bit, or a certain band of winds interacts with an embayment just right at high tide, or whatever. If you live in that house, and you do not act as though this may happen to you (i.e., evacuate), then you are a dumbass.
A maximum storm tide of something around 11 feet, sometimes more, sometimes only about 6 feet or so, was (and is for the next day or two) predicted for the entire coast from some point north of Palm Beach all the way up through Georgia and beyond.
This does not mean, and it never meant, that there would be an 11 foot flood covering the entire coast. No. It. Never. Meant. That. If most of the Atlantic coast from South Florida to Bogna Riva does not flood to 11 feet killing all the people and puppies and kittehs, THAT DOES NOT MEAN THAT THE PREDICTIONS WERE WRONG.
This morning NBC actually had a snarky local yahoo meteorologist on (the commenters and Al Roker were visibly embarrassed after the fact) who went through the whole storm chaser routine …
“… Here I am in my car. Here I am getting out of my car. Her I am cutting through the bushes, telling you breathlessly: wait ’til you see this, look at what Imma show you now’ etc. etc…..”
Then he brought the camera out on the beach and there was nothing there but some waves.
“See? They said there would be a storm surge. There is no storm surge. Nothing happened here.”
They cut away from that dude, I’m afraid because he was counter sensationalizing, not because he was being all Rush Limbaugh, though the latter was clearly true. Roker and the others hinted that the storm tide in that area, had there been one, would have passed hours ago so of course it is not visible. Etc.
This is a very smart thing on the part of the right wing. They were prepared for this hurricane in this manner. Somebody figured this out, got the word around, and they are pulling off an excellent and well designed public image manipulation event for Matthew. Here is what they figured out.
1) The hurricane is going to be near something close to 500 miles of coast.
2) There will be breathless yammering about the dangers along 500 miles of coast, recruiting perhaps 40 or more storm studs, national and local, and hundreds of tweeting meteorologists, etc. etc. going on about how bad it will be.
3) Even if the storm seriously damages one place, kills people in part of Georgia or whatever, it will not be 500 miles of 11 foot flood everywhere, like promised.
4) Therefore the storm was hyped, by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama flying overhead in their Black Helicopters, swooping in to take our guns and bibles.
5) In the end there will be 500 miles worth of things that were said would happen but never happened, and maybe five miles of real disaster in some feckless coastal town.
So that’s the real getting Matthew wrong. A public image coup for the right wing, the climate deniers. They won this storm.
Got it? Great. Now get the hell off my lawn. And get it right next time (giving stern look to the climate communicators).
The 14th named storm has just appeared in the Atlantic.
The average number of named storms in the Atlantic, based on a fairly long climatology, is about 10.1. An average of 5.9 become hurricanes.
So, this year are more than average named storms. But is it more than predicted?
On average, the expert forecasts suggested anywhere from 12 to 18 named storms. We are well past the midpoint of the 2016 season, and are just about to reach the midpoint of these forecasted ranged, and there is still plenty of time left for a few more storms. The largest number predicted, as the upper end of the range, was 18, with several forecasts suggesting 14, 15, 16, or 17. So, it looks like the forecasts are all going to come in light, and this will be a noticeably stronger than average yer.
Why am I talking about the season overall instead of Nicole? Because Nicole isn’t very interesting. Probably won’t even become a hurricane. Nicole will wander around ay out to sea for a while, and go away in a week or so, most likely.
Matthew has interacted with land masses in Hispaniola and Cuba to the extent that the storm weakened quite a bit, losing its temporary Category 5 status.
But, now Matthew is already showing signs of strengthening, and is likely to grow back to Category 3 or 4 status as it moves over the Bahamas. How bad a hurricane is when it makes contact with land depends in large part on the angle of the attack, and Matthew will likely be affecting several spots in the Bahamas at a particularly bad angle.
Bahamas are in serious danger now
This is the current warning for the Bahamas:
At 200 PM EDT (1800 UTC), the eye of Hurricane Matthew was located
near latitude 22.1 North, longitude 75.3 West. Matthew is moving
toward the northwest near 12 mph (19 km/h), and this motion is
expected to continue during the next 24 to 48 hours. On this track,
Matthew will be moving across the Bahamas today and tomorrow, and is
expected to be very near the east coast of Florida by Thursday
Maximum sustained winds are near 120 mph (195 km/h) with higher
gusts. Matthew is a category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson
Hurricane Wind Scale. Some strengthening is forecast during the
next couple of days, and Matthew is expected to remain at category 3
or stronger while it moves through the Bahamas and approaches the
east coast of Florida.
Rainfall in the Bahamas is likely to be 8-12 inches wiht up to 15 in isolated areas.
A huge risk in this area is overtopping land masses with what may be a 10 foot storm surge. There may be large areas where fresh water, and fresh water plant communities, are destroyed, and may be affected for months or years to come, depending on exactly how this plays out. Nassau, the largest settlement in the area, is facing away from the storm’s track, so it will probably be spared a serious storm surge.
Florida is most likely to be affected in the US
Matthew, as a Category 3 or Category 4 will be getting close to Florida during the day on Friday. Depending on exactly what the storm does, it may spend enough time over extra warm waters of the Gulf Stream where it may strengthen. The storm may or may not make landfall in Florida. If the storm does not technically make landfall, there is still a very high probability of serious effects on the coast, most likely near central Florida.
Then comes the strange part. Jeff Masters of the Wunderblog writes:
Thanks to my advancing years and a low-stress lifestyle that features daily meditation, there’s not much that can move me to profanity—except the occasional low-skill driver who endangers my life on the road. But this morning while looking at the latest weather model runs, multiple very bad words escaped my lips. I’ve been a meteorologist for 35 years, and am not easily startled by a fresh set of model results: situations in 2005 and 1992 are the only ones that come to mind. However, this morning’s depiction by our top models—the GFS, European, and UKMET—of Matthew missing getting picked up by the trough to its north this weekend and looping back to potentially punish The Bahamas and Florida next week was worthy of profuse profanity. While a loop back towards Florida and The Bahamas next week is not yet a sure thing, the increasing trend of our top models in that direction is a strong indication that Matthew will be around for a very long time. Long-range forecasts of wind shear are not very reliable, but this morning’s wind shear forecast from the 00Z run of the European model does show a low to moderate shear environment over the Bahamas and waters surrounding South Florida late next week, potentially supportive of a hurricane–if Matthew survives the high wind shear of 50+ knots expected to affect the storm early next week. The bottom line is that it currently appears that Matthew will not recurve out to sea early next week, and The Bahamas and Florida may have to deal with the storm again next week.
At this partiuclar moment, the red line in this graphic is the best guess for what may happen:
There is a version of this where Matthew crosses Florida and ends up in the Gulf.
This scenario probably involves Matthew experiencing a lot of wind shear starting around the time it is near Florida and points north, and out at sea. This may actually make the storm a Category 1 hurricane or even weaker. But, if it makes this loop, the storm will be ina position to reform as a hurricane and menace the coast again.
I wrote a piece of fiction in which a hurricane in this general area finds a loop like this, but never stops. It just keeps going and going. In that story, Florida is mostly inundated by sea level rise, so it is actually a somewhat different configuration, but the same idea. I wonder….
Final point for now: Do not take your eyes off this storm.
I’m posting Climate Signals causality widget for this storm here, hope it works for you!
Update: Tuesday AM
Hurricane Matthew May Be One Of The Worst Hurricanes Ever
Such things are typically in reference to the region. There will always be Pacific hurricanes that are bigger than Atlantic hurricanes. Etc. But Matthew may be, for many years, on the list of the top few Hurricanes in the Caribbean region, in terms of strength and damage. The storm also has a number of odd features, some of which seem to be associated with anthropogenic global warming.
Hurricane Matthew will almost certainly end up being one of the worst weather disasters of the decade. It may end up being the worst storm to affect the region around Jamaica, eastern Cuba, western Hispaniola, and the Bahamas, but especially the island of Hispaniola, where an unusual feature of this storm (see below) is causing extraordinary rainfall. Haiti is more clearly in the path of the storm, but the Dominican Republic could end up experiencing a serious disaster (see below). (See: Matthew Hits Haiti, Their Strongest Hurricane in 52 Years)
In the end, it is likely that Matthew will be a poster child for social justice and climate change, since the storm is global warming enhanced and is affecting one of the most vulnerable populations in the world, in an area that is also geographically vulnerable.
Matthew’s Mysterious Blob
Also, Matthew has a strange new feature. A “mysterious blob” formed within the storm several days ago. The blob is probably going to end up being one of those interesting weather patterns that Rush Limbaugh and Al Roker do battle over. It is a complicated and mysterious phenomenon perhaps never before recorded with modern instruments but anticipated by meteorologists in the textbooks.
Marshall Shepherd, of the University of Georgia (and former president of the American Meteorological Society) provides a discussion of the blob here. I’m not going to try to recreate his discussion here because it is very preliminary, but I note that Matthew is record breaking (nearly) in how far south if formed as a large storm. Matthew shouldn’t really have ever been born. But it was. And, the factors thought to be associated with Matthew’s Mysterious Blob might be more likely to occur in a south-forming hurricane.
The blob is basically a mini storm system, a small and quasi-independent tropical storm sort of, embedded within the larger hurricane. Like that birth mark that turns out to be your twin sibling. Maybe. Regardless of which metaphor works best, the blob could end up causing regions far to the east of the center of Matthew to experience rainfall of truly Biblical proportions. There are places on Hispaniola that may have rainfall amounts of well over three feet, and some wether stations near the blob have measured rainfall of well over 5 inches an hour. And, the storm is moving very slowly, so whatever the rainfall rate turns out to be at any given spot, it will add up to a large total, over rugged mud slide prone terrain occupied by under-built dwellings.
Matthew Is Global Warming Enhanced
Matthew is large, has a very low pressure core, very strong winds, and is moving slowly over waters that are, on the surface, warmer than normal because of global warming, which has contributed to the storm’s strength. The Atlantic is expected (and observed) to have more vertical wind shear as an effect of global warming, which should attenuate the formation or strengthening of most hurricanes in the region, but Matthew formed and grew large anyway, somewhat baffling meteorologists. Perhaps, in the end, extremely warm water will trump wind shear in the formation of disastrous storms.
Vertical wind shear of up to 20 knots has plagued Matthew for most of the last two days, yet the storm has not only maintained its structure but grown at a ferocious rate. Dissertations may be written on how this happened! Working in Matthew’s favor has been a steadily moistening atmosphere along its westward path, which means that the shearing winds didn’t push too much dry air into Matthew. Once it developed a central core, Matthew was able to fend off the wind shear much more effectively.
But wait, there’s more.
The waters in this region are also warmer at depth (100-200 meters or so?) because of global waring.
…water temperatures are unusually warm throughout the Caribbean (and the entire western North Atlantic), with an area of high oceanic heat content directly beneath Matthew’s path. Such deep oceanic heat allows a storm to strengthen without churning up cooler waters from below that could blunt the intensification.
The degree to which the ocean is heated not just on the surface, is reflected in this graphic from NOAA:
A hurricane can maintain strength by moving fast over warm water. The storm itself cools the surface of the water by using that energy in its own formation, and by roiling the surface waters, causing mixing from cooler water below. So, underneath a typical hurricane may be regions where the water is not really warm enough to form or sustain a hurricane. So, running fast avoids that. One might expect a slow moving hurricane to damage itself by using up some of this heat and dispersing it to depth.
But, sometimes the water is at “hurricane warmth” (about 80 degrees F) for many tens of meters of depth. This allows the surface waters to contribute to the hurricane’s maintenance, enhancing the overall strength of the storm. Katrina did this in the Gulf of Mexico (though that story is a bit complex so be careful what you infer here) and Haiyan did it in the Pacific.
And now, Matthew is doing it in the Caribbean/Atlantic.
My strong impression is that this warming at depth is an effect of excessive sea surface temperatures, and is an effect of anthropogenic global warming. It will take the meteorological research community a few years to catch up to this idea, but your dollars and my donuts are on the table on this one, and I’ll be taking your money. This, if confirmed, could be thought of as a qualitative change in the nature of storms caused by global warming.
Matthew may be, in a sense, a representative of a new kind of tropical storm. We’ve been seeing a lot of outlier storms lately. This includes storms that form really fast, like Patricia. Matthew did that to some extent as well. Matthew may be defying the effects of wind shear. Like Katrina and Haiyan, Matthew is feeding off of deep warm water. And, Matthew has this mysterious blob thing. Sandy was an outlier as well, a major hurricane that maintained strength way far north, then ate a Nor’Easter and became a Super Storm. Matthew is heading along a track similar to the one that took Sandy north (not uncommon, nothing odd about that). We don’t know what will happen. But, if storms had real personalities (which they don’t but this is a blog post, not a peer reviewed paper) I would expect Matthew to be on the hunt for a Nor’Easter to eat!
And, of course, Matthew may hit the US coast. This has always been a possibility, but now the chances are increased, with more models suggesting that the storm will track farther west than the previous models (on balance) suggested, with several models suggesting a US coast landfall.
Though it is hard to see in that depiction, it seems most likely that Matthew will skip Florida, but probably still hose it down and make waves. The more likely landfall scenarios are anywhere from the Carolinas north.
This is a storm to watch very closely, and in which we shall remain in awe.
Update: Monday Mid Day
Matthew is a major hurricane, and is just starting to affect the area of eastern Cuba and western Haiti. Jamaica has already been affected and there are two or more dead there.
Starting about now and over the next 36 to 48 hours, both countries will likely be seriously affected by this storm. I suppose three countries, technically, given that the US has a bit of territory in the region as well. Various islands in the Bahamas are also likely to be very strongly affected.
This is a major hurricane, fairly large, very strong, and it will be spending enough time over very warm water to maintain its strength as a Category 4 hurricane, or nearly so, during this entire time.
Most but not all models put the hurricane to the east of Florida, but not too far, and later, it is possible that it will strike the US east coast. The average of all the models says no, it will stay at sea, but there is not much certainty behind that prediction.
Meanwhile, there is a another storm, which has somewhat less thanbetter than a one in three chance of becoming Nicole, is quickly spinning up out in the Atlantic.
Matthew will be a news maker and a disaster for a lot of people. But they are brown and not Americans, so few will take notice and science deniers will continue to say that nothing has happened in the Atlantic in years. But, Matthew is something, and it is a bigger something than it otherwise would have been because of increased sea surface temperatures caused by anthropogenic global warming.
Update: Friday Mid Day
Matthew seems to have had, as a key characteristic, the capacity for very rapid change. What just became a hurricane about 24 hours ago is either now, or about to be, a Category 2 hurricane, and may well develop into something close to a Category 3 before hitting Cuba in a few days. The storm is expected to cross Cuba and perhaps stay as a hurricane the whole way, or to reform quickly, where it will heading north.
Vertical wind shear has been affecting the storm, which should be weakening it, but he weakening is not observed. Further wind shear is expected to slow rapid growth over the next day, but that may or may not happen. Then the shear lets up and strengthening begins. I have the sense that the predicted transition to ca 100 knot maximum sustained winds starting in about 24 hours is a bit conservative.
Some earlier models had this hurricane possibly crossing into the Gulf of Mexico, but now it seems that all the models are in aagreement on a course that will parallel the Florida Coast (possibly getting very lose to Florida, but probably not) then heading up the atlantic. (See graphic above, from Weather Underground.) Most of the models have Matthew staying out at sea, but a number have the storm coming ashore in any of several possible locations from North Carolina Through Buzzards Bay, Mass, or perhaps even farther north.
It is very likely that Matthew will have crossed Cuba and be north of the Island nation by around mid day next Wednesday, and it is certainly true that there will be a much better idea then as to where the storm will go next.
Update: Thursday Mid Day
The hurricane status of Matthew is so fresh that the NWS, at this moment, has a mixture of products that call it a tropical storm and products that call it a hurricane. To be a hurricane, a storm’s wind speed have to be 74 mph (64 knots) or more, and of course it has to be organized properly. The NWS Public Advisory and some of their graphical products call the storm a hurricane and the advisory indicates that maximum sustained winds are at 75 mph.
Interestingly, the “discussion” which is usually the best source of information, has the storm turning into a hurricane in several hours from now. I have gotten the impression all along that the strengthening of this storm has been a bit quicker than usual. This may be an example of that phenomenon.
The storm is expected to make landfall in a few days, as a hurricane, in Western Cuba, then head back out over the sea where it will likely strengthen owing to very warm waters.
It is hard to say what this storm will eventually do, but there is a non trivial chance that it will make landfall as a hurricane in the US, a better chance that it will stay out to sea but be close enough to the coast to be bothersome, and a very good chance that it will eventually wack into Canada or someplace as an extratropical storm. Very few models seem to suggest that Matthew will be one of those mid-Atlantic hurricanes that remains boring until it finally dissipates.
Update: Wed Evening:
Just a quick note to say that about a third of the forecast models suggest that Matthew could become a major hurricane, and a smaller number even suggest a category 5 hurricane.
Update: Wed PM:
Matthew has formed into a named storm, and continues to head westward across the Caribbean. This is a region sometimes called the “Hurricane Graveyard” because various effects tend to reduce the chance of hurricane strengthening, and increase the chance of weakening.
The storm is expected to upgrade to hurricane status by the end of the week, possibly late tomorrow. Later, it may make a right turn and head north toward Jamaica and eventually Cuba, or environs. Around the time the storm reaches Jamaica, it may be a Category 2 hurricane.
The chances of this storm, as a tropical storm or hurricane, striking or affecting the US coast is not insignificant. Keep an eye on it.
From Weather Underground, the “ensemble models” to give you an idea of what the computers are thinking:
The next named Atlantic storm will be Matthew. There is currently a well organized stormy blob in the Atlantic, heading for the Lesser Antilles, that has a very high probability of becoming a named storm, and that could happen by Wednesday or Thursday.
This seems to be a fairly fast developing storm. Also, though it is way to early to say much, its possible futures are interesting.
The storm could continue roughly westward and either encounter the Yucatan or western Cuba, then presumably on to the Gulf. But, it also seems very likely to make a hard right and squeeze between Cuba and Hispaniola, or perhaps traverse on e or the other, on the way to the Bhamas or Turkes and Caicos, then north into the Atlantic. This is not one of those storms with a near 100% probability of wandering out over the Atlantic until it dissipates. There is a reasonable chance that this could be a land falling storm in the US. Again, this is way too early to say but this is one to watch very closely.
Sea surface temperatures are plenty high in the waters over which this storm will track no matter which way it goes. Global warming enhanced anomalously hight. So, it is pretty much impossible for this storm to not be stronger than it otherwise would be owing to human caused global warming. Let us hope it doesn’t hit anything.
The disturbance in the eastern Atlantic is now a depression, and it is reasonably likely that it will be a named storm by mid day tomorrow, Thursday.
The predictions for the next several days do not have this storm turning into a hurricane any time soon; it should remain a storm or a depression, possibly going back and forth between the two, for four or five days, but after that, perhaps it will turn into something. Or not. Keep an eye on Karl, if this becomes Karl.
Meanwhile Julia is annoying people in the Southeast, but not doing much. However, keep an eye out for flooding.
There was a disturbance in the Atlantic. And it very suddenly developed the attributes to be a named tropical storm, so suddenly we have TS Julia hosing down the East Coast, on land already. That was fast.
And, farther out in the Atlantic, a zone of disturbance is reasonably likely, but by no means certain, to become a named tropical storm, and it would be called Karl.
Julia is my daughter, and Karl was my best friend in high school (he died soon after), so this is a big week for me wrt Atlantic storms! Not that you care, but for me it is cool.
What you might be more interested in is this: The total number of named storms for this time in the Atlantic is normally close to about 10, and with Karl, we’ll be at eleven with several weeks more to go. So, this is becoming a somewhat more active hurricane season than average, as predicted.
Meranti passed near the southern tip of Taiwan, and apparently it was pretty windy and nasty there. But, Taiwan has invested heavily in infrastructure with the idea of being hit with giant typhoons now and then, so things were not as bad as they could have been.
apparently Meranti is now a category 5 equivalent heading for China. The storm is expected to weaken only a bit as it makes landfall (see this post on what landfall means) so this is going to be a direct hit by a major hurricane. There are some pretty densely populated areas in the storm’s path. There are also many harbors that narrow quickly on the way into the elevated interior, where there is a very hilly terrain and some moderately restricted inland valleys. So, the prospects for major storm surges and serious inland flooding are significant.
Within a 24 hour time period, Typhoon Meranti cranked up from what we in the US would call a Category 1 storm to a Category 5 storm. Or stronger, if we had more categories.
Some time between late Tuesday and mid day Wednesday, the typhoon will have a run at the southern tip of Taiwan. This is the less populated part of the island, but this is a big storm and its effects will be felt over the entire country.
Interacting with Taiwan is not expected to slow down the storm too much, and some time late Thursday, possibly as a Category 3 equivalent, it will slam into China.
Then it will go inland and contribute significantly to flooding.
This is the strongest cyclone so far in this year’s Northern Hemisphere season. Under climate change, we expect some cyclones to undergo much more rapid intensification, which can be a real problem when it occurs just before making landfall. This is the case with Meranti, though, as noted, the area to be affected initially is not as dense of a population zone as it might have been. The storm is stronger than it otherwise would have been had it not been for global warming, as well.
Ian is no longer a glimmer in the eyes of NWS forecasters. Ian is now a tropical storm. However, Ian is about to head north over unfavorable waters, will likely never develop hurricane strength, and is not expected to hit anything big. (See map above.)
Nothing else is really happening in the Atlantic at this time, wrt storms. There is a disturbance in the Lesser Antilles, which is not likely to do anything more any time soon, if at all.
Update: Monday AM:
Yes, the chances that a tropical storm that has been tracked for a few days now as a disturbance will form today is very high. By the end of the day we may have a named storm, and that storm may be Ian.
Here is incipient Ian:
The Atlantic Ocean is certainly having a special day today, with three, count ’em, three areas of disturbance spread across a huge area:
The one on the right has a very high probability of turning into something real, perhaps eventually to be a named storm, some time over the next few days. It is way too early to say much more than that about it.
But, since the topic of storms has come up, check out the latest video by Peter Sinclair on the topic of weather and anthropogenic global warming:
Hurricanes are well defined systems with characteristics that quite literally set them apart from other storms. Large storms such as Nor’Easters are sometimes less well defined and interact more with major troughs, the jet streams, etc. We have come to understand Hurricanes as the worst case scenario, while other storms are less dangerous.
But sometimes, and I suspect more recently lately, these non-tropical storms become quite dangerous. The Great Storm of ’78 killed hundreds in New England and made us suddenly realize that coastal property was a temporary thing. But we sense the danger of recent storms less acutely because for all storms we have better warning systems, and most storms don’t kill that many people these days, like they used to. So worse storms seem less bad.
And sometimes, it turns out that these large powerful and dangerous extratropical systems and the tropical hurricanes or their remnants merge and interact, creating what sometimes emerges as a “superstorm” or at least, a “really inconvenient storm.”
Sandy is an example of the former. Perhaps Hermine is an example of the latter. Hopefully not the former as well!
The focus on hurricanes as the dangerous big brother of temperate storms (including Nor’Easters) has unintentionally shaped our storm warning system to downplay by default non-hurricane storms, including the hurricanes themselves when they become extratropical. But the “remnants” of hurricanes over land are usually very dangerous because of the flooding they cause, and late in life former hurricanes are capable of ganging up with temperate systems to become very dangerous.
In the case of Superstorm Sandy, owing to global warming driven warm waters, the storm remained as a hurricane at the time it started to interact with temperate storm systems, and the result was one of the worst storms to hit the US East Coast. Yet, it was technically not a hurricane at landfall. Rather, it was a hurricane that ate another storm on its way to Ohio, and got too big, too powerful, too messy, and too dangerous to maintain use of the term (hurricane) normally reserved for better organized, more predictable, and better behaved dangerous storms.
Maybe we are seeing a shift in where the danger lies in Atlantic storms. There will never be a storm as dangerous as a Major Hurricane moving just the right way at just the right time against just the right piece of coastline. Ivan, Andrew, Katrina, like that. But the typical Category I hurricanes and the seemingly new phenomenon of more frequent post-tropical hybrids, and more frequent certain supercharged Nor’Easters seem all in about the same category of overall badness.
We are certainly seeing some self reflection on the part of meteorologists, who are always faced with the very difficult task of properly informing and educating the public, properly modulating alarm over a given storm system, always trying to not cause problems for the next storm by overstating or understating expectations. Some of this self reflection, as well as the gory details of how these different kinds of storms (Nor’Easter or Hurricane-Extratropical hybrid) develop is demonstrated in the following passages taken from various Hurricane Center discussions or Wikipedia, pertaining to the storms as indicated. I put them here for your enjoyment and/or horror.
1991 Perfect Storm
The 1991 Perfect Storm, also known as the The No-Name Storm (especially in the years immediately after it took place) and the Halloween Gale, was a nor’easter that absorbed Hurricane Grace and ultimately evolved back into a small unnamed hurricane late in its life cycle. The initial area of low pressure developed off Atlantic Canada on October 29. Forced southward by a ridge to its north, it reached its peak intensity as a large and powerful cyclone. The storm lashed the east coast of the United States with high waves and coastal flooding before turning to the southwest and weakening. Moving over warmer waters, the system transitioned into a subtropical cyclone before becoming a tropical storm. It executed a loop off the Mid-Atlantic states and turned toward the northeast. On November 1 the system evolved into a full-fledged hurricane with peak winds of 75 miles per hour (120 km/h), although the National Hurricane Center left it unnamed to avoid confusion amid media interest in the predecessor extratropical storm. It later received the name “the Perfect Storm” (playing off the common expression) after a conversation between Boston National Weather Service forecaster Robert Case and author Sebastian Junger. The system was the fourth hurricane and final tropical cyclone in the 1991 Atlantic hurricane season.
Hurricane and Superstorm Sandy
FIRST A NOTE ON THE NWS WARNING STRATEGY FOR SANDY. IN ORDER TO
AVOID THE RISK OF A HIGHLY DISRUPTIVE CHANGE FROM TROPICAL TO
NON-TROPICAL WARNINGS WHEN SANDY BECOMES POST-TROPICAL…THE WIND
HAZARD NORTH OF THE TROPICAL STORM WARNING AREA WILL CONTINUE TO BE
CONVEYED THROUGH HIGH WIND WATCHES AND WARNINGS WARNINGS ISSUED BY
LOCAL NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE OFFICES.
SANDY CONTINUES TO MAINTAIN AN AREA OF DEEP CONVECTION NEAR THE
CENTER…WITH AN EYE OCCASIONALLY VISIBLE ON SATELLITE IMAGERY.
ALTHOUGH THE SATELLITE PRESENTATION OF THE SYSTEM IS NOT VERY
IMPRESSIVE…SFMR MEASUREMENTS…FLIGHT-LEVEL WINDS…AND DROPSONDE
DATA FROM THE AIR FORCE HURRICANE HUNTERS INDICATE THAT THE WINDS
HAVE INCREASED TO NEAR 75 KT. SINCE THE HURRICANE WILL TRAVERSE
THE GULF STREAM THIS MORNING…AND THE SHEAR IS NOT TOO STRONG AT
THIS TIME…SOME MORE STRENGTHENING AS A TROPICAL CYCLONE IS
POSSIBLE IN THE NEXT FEW HOURS. HOWEVER…THE MAIN MECHANISM
FOR INTENSIFICATION LATER TODAY SHOULD BE BAROCLINIC FORCING. THE
OFFICIAL WIND SPEED FORECAST IS CLOSE TO THE LATEST GFS PREDICTION
AS THAT MODEL SHOULD BE ABLE TO HANDLE THE EVOLUTION OF THIS TYPE
OF SYSTEM FAIRLY WELL.
THE CONVECTIVE STRUCTURE OF SANDY HAS DETERIORATED TODAY…EVEN AS
THE CENTRAL PRESSURE HAS CONTINUED TO SLOWLY FALL…SUGGESTING THAT
THE CONVECTION IS NO LONGER DRIVING THE BUS. THE INTENSIFICATION
OBSERVED THIS MORNING WAS ASSOCIATED WITH STRONG WINDS OCCURRING TO
THE SOUTHWEST OF THE CENTER…OUTSIDE OF THE CENTRAL CORE…AND WAS
ALMOST CERTAINLY DUE TO BAROCLINIC FORCING.
SATELLITE…RADAR…SURFACE…AND RECONNAISSANCE AIRCRAFT DATA
INDICATE THAT SANDY MADE LANDFALL NEAR ATLANTIC CITY NEW JERSEY
AROUND 0000 UTC. THE INTENSITY OF THE POST-TROPICAL CYCLONE WAS
ESTIMATED TO BE NEAR 80 KT AT LANDFALL WITH A MINIMUM PRESSURE OF
946 MB. AT LANDFALL…THE STRONGEST WINDS WERE OCCURRING OVER
WATER TO THE EAST AND SOUTHEAST OF THE CENTER. HURRICANE-FORCE
WINDS GUSTS HAVE BEEN REPORTED ACROSS LONG ISLAND AND THE NEW YORK
METROPOLITAN AREA THIS EVENING. IN ADDITION…A SIGNIFICANT STORM
SURGE HAS OCCURRED ALONG A LONG STRETCH OF THE MID-ATLANTIC AND
SOUTHERN NEW ENGLAND COAST.
Satellite imagery indicates that Hermine has become a post-tropical
cyclone, with the coldest convective tops now located more than 200
n mi northeast of the exposed center. Despite this change in
structure, surface data from the Outer Banks indicate that some
strong winds persist near the center, and the initial intensity is
set to 55 kt for this advisory. During the next 48 to 72 hours,
Hermine will interact with a strong mid-latitude shortwave trough
and all of the global models show the system re-intensifying during
that time and a redevelopment of a stronger inner core, albeit one
situated underneath an upper-level low. Regardless of its final
structure, Hermine is expected to remain a dangerous cyclone through
the 5 day period.
Hermine is still a big storm and will affect eastern regions to some degree, but the storm never reformed as a hurricane, and is not not expected to do so. Also, the storm has jinked out to the east more than expected and will likely move farther east. So, there will be some coastal effects, but not much out of the ordinary.
POST-TROPICAL CYCLONE HERMINE FORECAST/ADVISORY NUMBER 30
NWS NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL092016
2100 UTC SUN SEP 04 2016
CHANGES IN WATCHES AND WARNINGS WITH THIS ADVISORY…
A TROPICAL STORM WARNING HAS BEEN ISSUED FROM WATCH HILL…RHODE
ISLAND EASTWARD TO SAGAMORE BEACH…MASSACHUSETTS INCLUDING BLOCK
ISLAND…MARTHA’S VINEYARD…AND NANTUCKET.
THE TROPICAL STORM WARNING HAS BEEN DISCONTINUED FROM FENWICK
ISLAND…DELAWARE SOUTHWARD…AND ALSO DISCONTINUED FOR DELAWARE
BAY NORTH OF SLAUGHTER BEACH.
SUMMARY OF WATCHES AND WARNINGS IN EFFECT…
A TROPICAL STORM WARNING IS IN EFFECT FOR…
* NORTH OF FENWICK ISLAND TO SAGAMORE BEACH
* DELAWARE BAY SOUTH OF SLAUGHTER BEACH
* BLOCK ISLAND
* MARTHA’S VINEYARD
Hermine was bad enough for florida, though of course, nothing like a Major Hurricane. But, the downgraded storm may not be done with us yet. There is a very good chance that Hermine will reform into a hurricane, or at least something that we’ll call a hurricane because it will look like a hurricane, blow like a hurricane, and hurt like a hurricane, over the next several hours. This will happen after the land-damaged storm passes over global warming heated ocean waters. Sometime between mid day and early evening on Saturday, Hermine could gain hurricane strength and directly affect New Jersey and nearby places.
Barrier islands from the Carolinas to New Jersey, but especially around Delmarva, New Jersey, and New York, are at risk for storm surges, with a major risk in southern Delmarva and Virginia Beach, and the lower Tidewater. Outer New Jersey may experience something like a 6 foot storm surge Sunday night or early Monday AM.
This is Labor Day Weekend. A very large number of people go to these areas over this Final Weekend before the perceived end of summer. Causeway roads that connect these barrier islands to the mainland may be washed out, and the barrier islands themselves are not great places to be.
The big question at hand is this: Will the state authorities in these areas have the will and the wiles to warn their citizens and visitors off these dangerous areas, or will they avoid damaging business by sitting on their hands. Then, either way — whether a particular area is damaged by the storm or damaged by safety in light of the storm — will there be some help for those businesses? Oh, and lets not forget to include these considerations in the costs of this storm.
So be careful, watch the weather, and pay attention, if you live anywhere on the US East Coast.
Hermine has grown in strength, and may even make landfall as a Category 2 storm. At least a strong Category 1.
The right front quadrant of the storm is where the main “punch” (of winds) is located. If the storm winds come into an embayment, they can really build up the storm surge. Look at this image:
You can see the right front quadrant of the storm heading right into Apalachee Bay. Barrier islands to the west of the bay’s head, and the communities right in the bay, are very much at risk for severe flooding.
Here is a blowup of part of the NWS’s experimental storm surge product for the area:
You can see the increase in storm surge intensity/risk in the bay.
Also, there is a small possibility that the storm, which will turn “extratropical” as it passes over Florida and joins an existing storm system, will later move out to sea in an area conducive to re-formation. Not too likely but the idea is being bandied about.
Update (Noon Thursday):
It is very likely that Hermine will become an actual hurricane by the end of business day today, or during the early evening. It is really starting to look like one now, as of this writing.
The storm is likely to make landfall (as a hurricane?) before mid day tomorrow (Friday). There is a very serious storm surge threat from some point east of Apalachicola, all the way over to about Spring Hill, or even a bit farther south (heading towards Tampa). Especially at risk are areas around Big Bend Wildlife Management area and Suwanee River, where embayments may focus the storm surge.
Some of these places may have storm surges over over 9 feet above the ground.
After that, the National Weather Service is trying to be vague, because Hermine will interact with a large existing low pressure system. How much rain, where, how much wind, where, all that, is not clear. By the time the storm gets to near Norfolk, it might not even be near Norfolk. This could become a land threatening Nor’Easter affecting New York or Boston, or it could to out to sea and rain mainly on boats. Stay tunes.
This is not a major hurricane, but it is likely to be a significant flooding and rain event for a lot of people over a large area. This is also going to mess up Labor Day weekend, which will have a significant economic impact on many areas where people usually visit and recreate.
For a while there it looked like the Atlantic might develop up to four simultaneous named storms, but that has not worked out. One of the storms will never get a name, one of the disturbances now looks like it may never be a storm. Gaston continues to chug away towards the Azores.
But one of these four weather events is now a named storm that will matter.
Tropical Storm Hermine is a global warming enhanced storm that will produce record rainfall events, catastrophic inland flooding, and likely, coastal storm flooding, in many locations in the US east.
Paul Douglas of Aeris Weather notes that this storm reminds him, somewhat of Sandy, because of its bigness and wetness and potential to reach far inland. It will not be as bad as Sandy, but, he notes, “there is a growing potential for disruptive weather all up and down the East Coast from Friday into Sunday; coastal Georgia and the Carolinas right up I-95 into Washington D.C. and New York City may be impacted by 40-60 mph winds, flash flooding and coastal flooding and beach erosion as Hermine churns north.”
Also like Sandy, a blocking pattern in the Atlantic will cause Hermine to stay longer off the coast than otherwise.
Places that normally flood are likely to flood. The storm will come over land at the base of the Florida Peninsula and the Florida Panhandle. It is possible that the storm will be a weak Category One hurricane just before landfall, but not likely. It will then cross florida and run up the coast, either just on land or just off shore. One model h as the storm curving back from the Atlantic into southern Newe England, another model has it staying on land until New York City, then curving back out over Long Island. That gives you the range of uncertainty for the storm’s activity in several days from now.
But the track for the first several days is pretty well understood. Across the base of florida, then across Georgia, South Carolina, and into or near the Tidewater area, staying near the coast the whole time, more or less straddling the strandline.
It will be windy and wet with a lot of rainfall. The loss of Labor Day business will be bad for tourism regardless of any damage to such facilities that may occur as well.
Is Hermine enhanced by global warming?
Hermine is a weather event. Global warming caused by the human release of greenhouse gasses (and other human effects) is a climate phenomenon. So how can we possibly connect them?
Well, we have moved well past the days when one could pose such a lame brained question. Climate is weather, long term, and weather is climate, here and now. So, if climate is fundamentally changed, then the wether is fundamentally changed. The question is not whether weather that drenches or withers and climate wither are bound! The question is, what ways are a particular untoward weather event and the recent changes in the climate bound?
Warmer seas and warmer air, causing generally more moisture in the air; and changes in air currents due to Arctic warming and other effects, causing a more uneven distribution of moisture in the air causing big dry areas and big wetter areas, and large wet blobs to form up and then move more slowly than usual across the landscape, make something like this storm (which at the base of it could have happened anyway) be bigger, wetter, slower-moving and thus rainier.
Lester is going to skim along to the north of the Hawaiian Islands. This is an estimate of the probability of the distribution of 50mph winds:
Surf’s up, it will be stormy, but the significant threat is moderate.
Update (Noonish Thursday):
Madeline sort of hit Hawaii, but it also did a funny little shrug as the medial to outer bands got close to the big island, and the rematerialized on the other side, keeping with the mysterious tradition (see below) of hurricanes magical avoiding the island state. But, the storm surge did in fact swamp a lot of places along the coast and it is a bit of a mess there.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Lester is still pointed roughly at the island, but likely to pass to the north, still affecting but not directly landing on Hawaii. But, these storm tracks can change, so stay tuned.
Hawaii is tiny. And huge. Look:
Hawaii is larger in land area than Rhode Island, Delaware, or Connecticut, but smaller than all the other states. The big island is a bit larger in land area than all the other islands put together. Yes, the entirety of Hawaii covers a huge area of the Pacific. The longest linear dimension of the state of Hawaii is longer than the longest linear dimension of any US state, and of most countries. This is a property of many Pacific polities, including most Pacific island nations.
Yet, even though Hawaii, located in the Pacific tropics, should be a virtual catcher’s mitt for cyclones (hurricanes), the big island has hardly ever been hit directly by anything. Hawaii as a state is often affected by tropical storms, but usually in the form of surf (and Hawaii is where they invented surfing, so that is mostly a good thing). Is this simply because Hawaii is big (east-west wise) yet small (north-south wise) and thus is simply very lucky?
Or, is Hawaii located in an area that major tropical cyclones tend to go around, or at least, not through. Like this:
Hawaii’s apparent immunity to most hurricanes
The islands of Hawaii, with Kauai as the notable exception, appear to be remarkably immune from direct hurricane hits. The USGS states that “more commonly, near-misses that generate large swell and moderately high winds causing varying degrees of damage are the hallmark of hurricanes passing close to the islands.” This has also drawn media attention. One notion is that Hawaii’s volcanic peaks slow down or divert storms. A partial source of this idea may be the long list of hurricanes … that dissipated into tropical storms or depressions upon approaching the islands. Satellite images of Hurricane Flossie’s breakup when approaching Hawaii Island fueled this idea. Another example may be Hurricane Felicia which dropped from Category 4 down to a tropical depression with residual winds predicted at only 35 miles per hour (56 km/h).
Tropical Storm Flossie (not to be confused with Hurricane Flossie in 2007) provides still another example. On July 28, 2013, the storm appeared headed for a direct hit to the Big Island, home to Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. Both mountains rise to elevations in excess of 13,000 feet above sea level, and as Flossie approached the island, its track shifted abruptly overnight and assumed a more northerly alignment, heading instead to the island of Maui on July 29.
Wind data in particular supports the USGS assertion that hurricane damage has been low on all islands except for Kauai. Data collected by the Western Regional Climate Center show no hurricane-strength winds on any Hawaii Islands with the exception of Kauai. Despite this data, FEMA classified all of Hawaii as being in a “Wind-Borne Debris Region”.
Before Hurricane Iniki in 1992, a standard homeowner’s insurance policy with extended coverage provided hurricane coverage. Since Iniki, many insurance policies exclude hurricane and a separate hurricane policy is required to obtain hurricane coverage.
At present, Hawaii, in particular the big island, is threatened with a tropical cyclone, likely to be a full on hurricane. Will it hit? Will it magically turn away from the island state?
Hurricane Madeline is weakening but at the same time heading for the big island, and should start affecting the island over the next day or two. This chart from Weather Underground lays out the expected timing:
But wait, there’s more. Hurricane Lester is also in the area and is heading for Hawaii as well. This would happen some time over the labor day weekend. Lester has less of a chance of being a full blown Hurricane when hitting Hawaii than Madeline, but it is way to early to be certain of much.
If two hurricanes hit Hawaii over the next several days, that would be rather amazing. If one hits Hawaii over the next several days that would notable. If both Hurricanes magically turn their course or dissipate before hitting Hawaii during the next several days, that will be data. Very interesting data!
Two different systems are poised to become named storms, but it is not clear which one will be awarded the name Hermine, and which one Ian. If the storm recently near Cuba develops as expected, it could become a weak hurricane before making landfall along Florida’s Gulf coast. This will not likely be a very impressive hurricane, but it will be big and wet, and the area is already experiencing too much water. Flooding will ensue.
A third system is moving off of Africa, with 40% chance of forming into a storm over the next several days. This system looks really promising for a hurricane.
Hurricane Gaston is still hanging out in the middle of nowhere, but it will likely menace the Azores.
Update (Wednesday AM):
Gaston is at present a Major Hurricane, and will continue heading east, weakening to a tropical storm before arriving in the Azores.
There are three other systems of interest. The Cuban storminess that has been on everyone’s mind for a while refuses to get organized into a namable storm. Another, in the Atlantic, is also developing slowly. Both disturbances are likely to become sufficiently organized and strong to become named tropical storms, and that is likely to happen before sunset today. Which one will get organized first to claim the name of Hermine? Which one will become Ian? Neither is likely to spin up to hurricane strength.
The more southerly of the two storms, in the area of Cuba, is likely to sweep across the base of the Florida Peninsula and cause a mess (but as a tropical storm, not a hurricane). the other is likely to stay out to sea, in the Atlantic.
Meanwhile, the disturbance off the African Coast (to the right of the map) retains a certain amount of ambiguity as dry air reduces its chances of formation. But, it will reveal its will over the next several days as it moves west. We will see.
It is possible that we could see four names storms churning away simultaneously in the Atlantic. That is probably not a record, but it could be. My impression is that this happens now and then. Do you know? There have been as many as 8 storms formed in a given month (but not necessarily extant at the same time) a few times. So, four at the same time may be highly unusual.
OK, I found this about simultaneous storms:
Four hurricanes have existed simultaneously twice: August 22, 1893 and September 25-27, 1998 with Georges, Ivan, Jeanne and Karl as hurricanes. In 1971 there were 5 tropical cyclones simultaneously, but only 2 were hurricanes. [source]
Note, that refers to hurricanes, not named storms. So it is not an answer to the question.
Update (Wed PM):
Hermine exists and is expected to strengthen over the next two days or so, but not to full hurricane strength, before hitting florida near the base of the peninsula. After that, it will come out the other side, and hug the coast until at least North Carolina. Then it will go off to sea.
The second disturbance in the Atlantic will turn into a named storm, perhaps within a day or two, and Gaston will still be a named storm, so there will be three named storms at the same time. Gaston will be on or near the Azores by the end of the day Friday. The fourth stormy event, off the coast of Africa, is looking less likely to turn into a named storm any time soon.