Thoughts on Hurricane Matthew

Posted in Storm Track, Commentary, Storm History, Storm Facts, Storm Preparation, Storm Safety, Hurricane Intensity, Tracking the Tropics, Model Forecasts at 4:51 pm by gmachos

Another Powerful October Storm to Worry About

Over the last week, I have been watching developments in the Tropical Atlantic with interest as Matthew grew into a threat for the East Coast of the United States although I hadn’t blogged about it until now.

For the second year in a row, and for the third time in five years, we have a hurricane that is menacing the Caribbean, Bahamas, and the East Coast of the United States. Once again, a hurricane spins up amidst a fall like circulation pattern in the Western Atlantic.

Four years ago, it was Hurricane Sandy, which many in New Jersey are still trying to recover from today. Last year, it was Hurricane Joaquin, which combined with another area of low pressure to produce gusty winds and heavy rains as far north as New Jersey.

This year, it is Hurricane Matthew. At one time, Matthew was a Category Five Hurricane with winds near 160 mph. Matthew was the first Category Five Hurricane in the Atlantic in 9 years. The last one was Hurricane Dean, which made landfall in the Mayan Riviera section of Mexico in August 2007. Dean was ranked as a Top Ten Atlantic storm in terms of intensity at the time.

Matthew’s path has so far been a bit eerily similar to Hurricane Sandy. However, Matthew has been much stronger with Sandy only being a Category Three storm with 125 mph winds at peak strength. The hurricane developed much earlier in the season than Sandy did. Matthew also was the first hurricane to make landfall in Haiti since 1963. Nevertheless, both storms impacted portions of Cuba.

Ok. Enough of the history and comparisons. Matthew had been interacting with the rugged mountains of Cuba and Hispaniola, which go as high as 7,000 to 10,000 feet above sea level. The interaction tore up Matthew significantly despite the fact that it also produced torrential rains on those islands. Wind speeds dropped from 145 to 115 miles per hour in about 24 hours. Now, the storm is back over water near the Bahamas, where sea surface temperatures run about 86 degrees, and Matthew has already responded to that with some strengthening.

As of 11:00 AM on Wednesday morning, sustained winds with Matthew increased to 120 miles per hour, and it may not be done yet. Dr. Jeff Masters of Weather Underground indicated earlier that the storm is getting better organized. The NHC’s official intensity forecast indicates that Matthew could become a Category Four Hurricane again with 130 mph winds. So, the storm is likely skirt the East Coast of Florida on Friday at major hurricane strength.

The storm will then continue to hug the coast along Georgia and South Carolina, and weaken to a Category Two storm with between 100 and 110 mph winds due to a hostile upper level wind environment. Then, things get crazy. The major forecast models: GFS, European, and UKMET are all indicating that Matthew will turn to the east into the Atlantic, and then turn south and towards the Bahamas and Florida again early next week.

Why is that you ask? First, the trough that was much hyped earlier this week, didn’t pan out since it wasn’t as strong or digged as deep as expected. So, there is nothing to pick up the storm. Hence, Matthew is in a situation much like the cutoff low that affected New Jersey and the Mid-Atlantic over the past week. It has nothing to kick it out. There is also a new player in this game: Tropical Storm Nicole.

Nicole is a newly formed tropical system that became a tropical cyclone over the past 24 to 36 hours. The storm is close by in the Western Atlantic, and its circulation is also influencing Matthew’s movement. The combination with the trough that wasn’t and Nicole’s development now brings a bizarre scenario that shows Matthew possibly entering the Florida Straits next week.

This is all good news for now in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, which are now looking at great weather through this weekend. Tropical storms and hurricanes are very fickle though, and things can change so all New Jersey and Mid-Atlantic residents reading this should continue to monitor the progress of this storm.


Looking Back on Hurricane Irene Five Years Ago

Posted in Storm Track, Storm Experiences, Storm History, Storm Facts, Storm Aftermath, Storm Footage, Storm Stories, Tracking the Tropics at 7:15 pm by gmachos

Anniversary of Irene’s Impact on New Jersey This Weekend

The past two days here in New Jersey were filled with plenty of sun along with heat and humidity. Five years ago this weekend, there was a lot of humidity as well with the approach of what eventually became Tropical Storm Irene here in the Garden State. While the storm had lost much of its punch, it still brought plenty of rain, which many locations in New Jersey didn’t need.

Prior to Hurricane Irene, the Garden State experienced perhaps the wettest August on record. Many locations had over a foot of water thanks to torrential downpours occurring numerous times over the course of the month. Here at GWC in South Plainfield, located in the Northwest corner of Middlesex County, there had been 10 inches of rain.

Then came Irene, which brought to GWC approximately 5.34 inches. Winds gusted to near 70 miles per hour while the barometric pressure bottomed out at 970 millibars, or 28.64 inches of Hg (Mercury), the lowest level ever at GWC at that time. It would be surpassed some 14 months later when Hurricane Sandy came along and shattered it.

Despite the tremendous flooding across the Garden State including the worst flooding in the 45 years that I’ve lived in my neighborhood in South Plainfield, NJ (View the video of the flooding from Irene outside of GWC). Places in Monmouth County such as Howell received much more rain (up to 10 inches). Irene also churned up the surf along the Jersey Shore including Raritan Bay at South Amboy’s Waterfront Park (View video of the rising tides at Raritan Bay from Irene).

Driving home from South Amboy was also very treacherous since portions of I-287 and Route 440 had overwash and flooding. The storm produced winds near 70 miles per hour at GWC. Central Jersey as well as other parts of the state were hit with power outages. A tornado was spawned in Lewes, Delaware which is a ferry service away from Cape May on the southern tip of the Garden State. The combination of losing power combined with the rising flood waters in my neighborhood forced my family to evacuate to a hotel in a nearby town. We stayed at the hotel for several days.

All of the chaos from the storm as well as the evacuation to the hotel put a lot of stress on our cat, Socko. Unknown to us, Socko had already been suffering health wise from a cancerous growth that had developed in his chest a few years before. However, the stress of going to an unfamiliar location caused him to suffer panic attacks. He eventually adjusted, but then was brought back to the house, where the air was stifling and had an odor that seemed toxic.

Socko died a week later on the Sunday morning before Labor Day. Our family hasn’t gotten a cat or dog since. To my amazement, the historic flooding in my neighborhood didn’t last long. Within a day, the flood waters had receded, which allowed my family to return home by Thursday of that week. Power and gas came on that day. One great thing that came out of all of this was the fact that the new GWC Wx Station, installed in June, kept running throughout, and I was able to retrieve the historic data.

The storm did damage further north as well. Irene brought storm surge between 3 and 6 feet in New York City and Long Island. It also produced torrential rainfall in New England, especially Vermont, which experienced some of the worst flooding since 1927. Many covered bridges, which dot the landscape throughout Vermont, were destroyed by the raging waters that developed as a result of the heavy rains from Irene there.

Despite all the tremendous damage from Irene, I must say that New Jersey, New York, and New England were very fortunate. Irene could have been much worse. After the storm had ravaged the Bahamas with Category Three strength winds of 120 miles per hour, it had strengthened to 125 miles per hour, but dry air was able to get into the system, and gradually sapped Irene of her strength and fury. The storm became a jogger struggling to get to the finish line. It had simply run out of gas.

By the time, Hurricane Irene had made landfall along the Outer Banks of North Carolina, the storm had winds of minimal hurricane strength, but more importantly, the core structure of the system had turned into Swiss cheese from the dry air intrusion. Originally, Irene had reached Cape May, and Brigantine Island as a Category One Hurricane with 75 mph winds, but it was later revised to be a tropical storm with 70 mph winds.

Irene was more typical of tropical systems that affect the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast although it took a more coastal track through the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and eventually up into New Jersey. Sandy was much different in that it was a tropical system that formed in the final days of October, where the upper level winds and jet stream are starting to become more winter like. In addition, blocking high pressure formed to the north of Sandy, which forced it to make its move toward the Jersey Shore.

It was a memorable week or two in New Jersey, but the experience with Irene, which was more of a rainmaker, would pale in comparison to the onslaught brought by Sandy some 14 months later. Irene and Sandy did serve as a reminder that New Jersey is a coastal state and despite the protection from the Carolinas to the south, it is still vulnerable to tropical storms and hurricanes.

Invest 99L Beginning to Show Signs of Development

Posted in Storm Track, Storm History, Storm Facts, Storm Preparation, Tracking the Tropics at 1:42 am by gmachos

Disturbance Getting Its Act Together Along North Coast of Cuba

During the late afternoon and early evening on Saturday, I had indicated that Invest 99L was still struggling to rebound after the hit it took on Thursday. Upper level atmospheric dynamics were still hindering the storm as it continued to progress westward along the north coast of Cuba.

However, satellite imagery is starting to show a different trend with Invest 99L. The area of low pressure associated with the disturbance is beginning to get better organized and defined. Much of the clouds and convection remain to the north and east of the low, but it is definitely more significant that it was on Friday or earlier on Saturday.

Conditions will gradually become more favorable toward development as it moves into the Gulf of Mexico, but right now Invest 99L is still battling the rugged and mountainous terrain of Cuba, and that is hindering further development. Right now, the National Hurricane Center has increased the odds of formation to 40 percent in the next 48 hours, and 50 percent over the next five days.

As of 8:00 PM EDT, there were reports coming out of Cuba of approximately 3 to 5 inches of rain that has fallen in towns and villages there. So, there is a ton of tropical moisture to work with. We could see a scenario similar to Hurricane Frederick in 1979, where the storm was torn apart by the rugged terrain of Cuba and Hispaniola only to rebound and become a Category Three Hurricane when it slammed into Mobile Bay.

The reason why I say that is because Invest 99L is headed toward the Gulf of Mexico where water temperatures can be much like bath water, especially the area called the Loop Current, which served as high octane fuel for the last major hurricanes to make landfall in the United States back in 2005: Katrina, Rita, and Wilma. There are still a lot of unknowns here, but there is a chance that this disturbance could blossom into a powerful storm.

Andrew was another storm that appeared to be given up for dead in the Western Atlantic before it showed tremendously resiliency and found an area where it rapidly intensified into the monster that slammed into Homestead in South Florida some 24 years ago this past week. The moral of the story here is that people along the Gulf Coast from Texas to the West Coast of Florida should continue to monitor this disturbance, and be ready for the possibility of a dangerous storm In the coming days.


Timeline–Weather Observations–Blizzard of 2016

Posted in Storm History, Storm Facts, GWC News at 1:47 pm by gmachos

Below is a timeline on the Blizzard of 2016 constructed from observations made from Friday afternoon, January 22nd to Sunday afternoon, January 24th.

January 22, 2016

6:30 PM–Getting ready to go to basketball game between Metuchen and Bishop Ahr.  No snow falling yet.  Forecast accumulation, 12 to 18 inches according to local TV station out of NYC.

8:15 PM–Game just ended at Bishop Ahr in North Edison.  No snow falling yet.

8:30 PM–Just arrived home.  Still no snow falling yet.

10:11 PM–Snow has been falling for a little while now.  Have a coating on the ground already.

10:30 PM–Now in the center of town taking video and pictures of the storm.  Snow falling moderately.  About an inch of accumulation already.  

10:45 PM–Return to the house.  Checked the latest forecast info from Eastern Pennsylvania Weather Authority via Facebook, and they have updated their snow total forecast to 18 to 24 inches for much of Middlesex County and Central Jersey.

January 23, 2016

4:47 AM–Woke up to the sound of the wind outside.  Things have picked up significantly.  Pressure is down to 29.82 inches of Hg (Mercury).  Looked outside, and the snow is falling heavily right now with blowing and drifting as well.  At least several inches has fallen.

5:02 AM–Submitted a Weather OBS to NJWO.  Barometer has fallen another 0.03 inches to 29.79 inches.  Winds sustained at 15 to 20 miles per hour with gusts up to 35.  Near white out conditions outside.  Temperature down to 23 degrees.

5:49 AM–Checked the Weather Station at GWC.  Temperature has risen a degree to 24 degrees.  Barometer has risen a tick to 29.80 inches of Hg.  Winds sustained at 15 mph.    

6:10 AM–Checked Weather Station at GWC again.  Temperature still steady at 24 degrees, but the barometer has fallen another 0.03 inches to 29.77.  Winds sustained between 15 and 20 mph.

6:46 AM–Another look at the GWC Weather Station.  Barometer continues to fall, and at a bit more rapid pace.  Now down to 29.71 inches of Hg.  A drop of 0.06 inches in just the last 35 minutes or so.  Temperature still steady at 24 degrees.  There appears to be a dry slot approaching the area from the south on the radar and satellite imagery from local TV.  

7:24 AM–White out conditions outside.  Barometer holding steady at 29.71 inches after rising a bit to 29.72 inches of Hg.  Temperature is up to 25 degrees.  Winds sustained at 10 to 15 mph with gusts up to 30 mph.  

10:06 AM–Pressure has fallen again.  Barometer now down to 29.66 inches of Hg.  Winds now sustained between 20 to 30 miles per hour.  Temperature up to 26 degrees.  Heavy snow.  Blowing and drifting.

12:01 PM–Now in the brunt of the storm.  Pressure down to 29.58 inches of Hg.  Temperature up to 27 degrees.  Heavy snow with blowing and drifting.  Winds now gusting between 45 and 50 mph.  

12:37 PM–Winds sustained between 25 and 35 mph with gusts in upwards of 55 mph.  Barometer has risen slightly to 29.60 inches of Hg.  Temperature steady at 27 degrees.  First official measurement of the snow has 10.5 inches here at GWC in South Plainfield.  Still have heavy snow with blowing and drifting. 

1:33 PM–Did another measurement of the snow.  This time, it was done in the front of the house while the previous measurement was done in the backyard.  This time, there was a snowfall total of 17 inches.  Barometer is holding steady at 29.58 inches of Hg.  Temperature remains steady at 27 degrees.  Winds sustained at 10 to 15 mph.

2:33 PM–Stepped outside for another measurement of the snow in the front of the house.  Now up to 18.5 inches of snow.  Had a wind gust of about 40 mph earlier.  Pressure has been steady at 29.60 inches.  Temperature steady at 27 degrees.            

4:47 PM–Just came in from doing another measurement outside.  At GWC in South Plainfield, there is roughly 21 inches of snow.  Barometer is rising at 29.63 inches.  Winds still pretty strong sustained between 15 to 25 mph with gusts over 30 mph.    Still have moderate to heavy snow with blowing and drifting.  Temperature has gone down to 25 degrees.      

8:39 PM–Snow tapering off.  The snowfall intensity is much lighter than it was earlier.  Temperature steady at 25 degrees.  Winds still strong at 20 to 40 mph.  Pressure continues to rise at 29.68 inches of Hg.    

10:52 PM–Snow has stopped falling here at GWC in South Plainfield.  Winds are still gusting between 40 and 45 mph at times.  Barometer has been rising at 29.69 inches of Hg.  Temperature up slightly to 26 degrees.  Final snowfall total approximately 24.8 inches.

January 24, 2016


12:35 AM–No residual snow since the last entry.  There is still some blowing snow.  Winds sustained at 10 to 15 mph with gusts over 30 mph.  Barometric pressure continues to rise at 29.74 inches of Hg.  Temperature up a little more to 27 degrees.

10:00 AM–Woke up a little while ago.  Skies have cleared out and it is bright and sunny outside.

12:41 PM–One last check for the weather station shows the temperature is up to 31 degrees with little or now wind, and the barometer is steady at 29.94 inches.  Pressure has risen 0.36 inches since the low pressure from the blizzard made its closest approach on Saturday afternoon.


Hurricane Joaquin Raking Bahamas with Winds and Heavy Rains

Posted in Storm History, Storm Facts, Storm Preparation, Storm Footage, Storm Warning, Storm Safety, Tracking the Tropics at 10:32 am by gmachos

Storm’s Slow Path Through Bahamas Bringing Category Four Hurricane Conditions for Almost 24 Hours

With the storm threat to the Mid-Atlantic Coast of the United States easing, the focus with Hurricane Joaquin has shifted to the impact the storm is having on the Bahamas.  The storm has been bringing hurricane conditions to the archipelago for the past couple days, and Category Four effects for close to the past 24 hours.  The combination of wind, rain, and surge with the storm’s slow movement (now to the Northwest at 3 miles per hour), has created significant damage in places such as San Salvador, Exuma, Long Island, and Inagua Island.

Since moving into the Bahamas earlier in the week, Joaquin has been plagued by slow moving steering currents.  On Wednesday, the storm has was moving to the Southwest at 7 miles per hour.  On Thursday, it slowed down some more, but began changing direction to the WSW at 5 miles per hour.  Now, it has begun the move toward the north with a NW trajectory at 3 miles per hour.  Slow moving hurricanes can cause extensive damage.  A classic example was Hurricane Frances to Florida in 2004.  A big part of the problem with slow moving hurricanes is the rain.

We saw this with both Hurricane Floyd (1999) and Irene (2011) here in New Jersey.  These slow moving storms dumped a lot of rain on the Garden State and caused significant inland and river flooding.  Tropical cyclones always bring with it a ton of moisture, and when it is moving at a slow rate, and encountering mountainous terrain that causes the air in the circulation to lift and condense, you have the situation like what is happening now in portions of the Bahamas were rainfall amounts could end up being anywhere between 12 to 18 inches with isolated areas receiving as much as 25 inches.  Other parts of the Bahamas further to the south along with the Turks and Caicos Islands, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and Eastern Cuba could still see anywhere between 2 to 4 inches despite the fact that the center of the storm is many miles away.

Earlier this morning, I happened to see pictures posted on Facebook by Wayne Neely, a meteorologist in the Bahamas, who has written several books on hurricanes.  The pictures showed extensive damage to places such as Exuma, Long Island, and Inagua.  In addition, Jim Williams of Hurricane City reported on Thursday morning, that San Salvador was being hit hard by hurricane force winds.  These dangerous Category Four conditions are expected to continue over the Bahamas for several more hours, but the calvary is coming now that Joaquin has started to make that expected turn to the north.  The forecast is calling for hurricane and tropical storm force winds to continue in the Central and Southwestern Bahamas for much of today, but a northward turn is expected to continue with increased forward speed before Joaquin turns to the northeast and picks up more steam on Saturday.

As of the 8:00 AM Advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Joaquin still had winds of 130 miles per hour with gusts at or near Category Five strength on the Saffir-Simpson Scale.  Barometric pressure has remained steady (only an increase of one millibar since last night) at 937 millibars, or 27.67 inches of Hg.  The latest forecast discussion calls for fluctuations in strength over the next 24 hours before a gradual weakening trend commences on Saturday.  The future track of the storm has it pulling away from the Bahamas, and becoming more of a threat for Bermuda, Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket in Massachusetts, and Nova Scotia in the Canadian Maritimes.  However, the storm is one of several players affecting weather in the Mid-Atlantic right now.  In addition to Joaquin, there is strong high pressure moving down from Canada, and a storm system pushing in from the west.  These three will combine to create a pressure gradient that will produce a strong easterly fetch along the coast for several high tide cycles.

So for residents from the Carolinas into the New York/New Jersey Metro area, you can expect heavy surf from swells propagating out from Joaquin to begin arriving in your area over the next several days.  Expect heavy surf, dangerous rip currents, elevated water levels and coastal flooding for up to 6 high tide cycles.  Also, keep in mind that despite the fact that the model guidance has been showing more and more of an eastward track offshore and away from the United States coastline, there is still a possibility that the storm could change in direction and head for the coast.  Bottom line:  Don’t let your guard down yet.  Please continue to monitor reports on the storm from your trusted media sources, and be prepared to act if necessary.


Things Getting More Serious with Joaquin

Posted in Storm Track, Commentary, Storm History, Storm Preparation, GWC News, Storm Safety, Hurricane Intensity, Tracking the Tropics, Model Forecasts at 7:11 am by gmachos

A New Month Begins with Joaquin Strengthening to Category Three While Forecast Uncertainty Remains

Since the last post to the GWC and Hurricaneville blog last night on Hurricane Joaquin in the Western Atlantic.  Things have become more serious.  As I had indicated last night, Joaquin appeared to be rapidly deepening.  If you recall, Hurricane Hunter aircraft detected a much stronger storm with 105 mile per hour winds, and a minimum central pressure of 954 millibars, or 28.17 inches of Hg.  Over a three hour span, the pressure dropped some 13 millibars.

Well, after the last report was posted to the blog, Joaquin further intensified.  As of the 5:00 AM Advisory on Thursday morning from the National Hurricane Center, Joaquin’s winds have increased to 120 miles per hour, and the minimum central pressure in its eye has dropped another 6 millibars to 948 millibars, or 27.99 inches of Hg.  So, in the last 12 hours (from 5:00 PM on Wednesday to 5:00 AM on Thursday), Joaquin’s pressure has dropped some 21 millibars, or about 0.63 inches of Hg (Mercury).  Another concern is the uncertainty of the forecast.

When I woke up this morning, I checked my Facebook feed, and found a post by The Weather Channel’s Bryan Norcross, which was posted late last night.  It basically points out that the situation with Joaquin is becoming more dire:  A strengthening storm with no real consensus on where it will go.  Yesterday, the models had a fairly wide range of solutions with the GFS and several other models pointing to a U.S. landfall from North Carolina’s Outer Banks to the Tidewater region of Virginia while the European, or ECMWF model, had the storm heading to the east toward Bermuda, and eventually out to sea.  There are many players coming into this game right now, and that is what is creating the forecasting challenge.

The bottom line here is that although the National Hurricane Center has a cone of uncertainty pointing in general direction of the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast, there is still a great deal of uncertainty in the forecast that the cone should be wider.  In other words, all residents along the East Coast from Florida to Maine should pay close attention to this storm, and be prepared to act quickly if and when Joaquin makes a definitive move.  Another concern with Joaquin is that if the storm does decide to head toward the Eastern Seaboard, it could pick up in forward speed like many East Coast Hurricanes in the past do.  Two strong examples of that scenario off the top of my head would be the Long Island Express of 1938 and Hurricane Gloria, which struck Long Island and New England almost 30 years ago to the day (September 27, 1985).

When you have a strong hurricane moving up the East Coast in a mostly south to north trajectory, the forward motion adds to or subtracts from the speed of the sustained winds rotating around the storm’s center.  For example, if you have a hurricane with say 120 mph winds like Joaquin, and it is moving up the coast at a rate of 45 to 50 mph, locations on the eastern side, particularly in the dreaded northeast quadrant of the storm, where you have the highest winds and surge, sustained winds could easily be 165 to 170 mph.  Meanwhile, to the west, winds will slacken to only about 70 to 75 mph.  Those were the types of situations that happened with the Long Island Express of 1938, where the storm was moving up to 70 miles per hour up the East Coast.  To put a real fix on that type of motion, the Long Island Express was near Cape Hatteras at about 7:00 AM on September 21, 1938, and by 2:00 PM, it was crossing Long Island.

Now, while I have gone into a good deal of detail about this scenario, it may not happen at all.  Instead, we could see a scenario similar to Hurricane Floyd, or Hurricane Irene, where the storm slowly creeps up the coast.  A slow moving storm would be great news in terms of the wind and surge, but it would be a big problem in terms of rain.  With hurricanes and tropical storms, rainfall is proportional to how fast the storm is moving.  With both Floyd and Irene, the storms were slow movers, and as a result, there was a good deal of rain.  On the other hand, Sandy was a bit more of a fast mover, and as a result, there was less rain.  Getting back to the storm, here are the most recent particulars on Joaquin as of 5:00 AM on Thursday.  The storm is located some 65 miles to the Southeast of San Salvador in the Bahamas, or 20 miles to the North of Samana Cays in the Bahamas.

Maximum sustained winds with Joaquin are up to 120 miles per hour with gusts in upwards of 150 miles per hour.  Minimum central pressure is now down to 948 millibars, or 28.17 inches of Hg.  The storm is moving to the West-Southwest at a slow pace of 7 miles per hour.  A Hurricane Warning is in effect for the Central Bahamas and the Northwestern Bahamas including:  the Abacos, Berry Islands, Eleuthera, Grand Bahama Island, and New Providence.  A Hurricane Watch is in effect for Bimini and Andros Island in the Bahamas. A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for Southeastern Bahamas excluding the Turks and Caicos Islands, and Andros Island.  To repeat, there is still a great deal of uncertainty in the forecast with Joaquin.  Not only in the projected path of the storm, but also with the intensity.  It is imperative that residents along the East Coast of the United States pay very close attention to this storm.


Looking Back on Hurricane Katrina and the Monster 2005 Season

Posted in Storm Track, Commentary, Storm History, Storm Facts, Storm Aftermath, Hurricane Intensity, Hurricane Records, Tracking the Tropics at 6:44 pm by gmachos

Tropics Have Been Relatively Quiet Since Record Breaking Season in Atlantic

Last week marked the 10th Anniversary of the most deadly and devastating storm in the modern era in the United States.  Despite mercifully weakening just before landfall near Buras, Louisiana with Category Three strength 125 mile per hour winds after being as strong as a record making Category Five Hurricane with 175 mile per hour winds and a minimum central pressure of 902 millibars or 26.64 inches of Hg.  Katrina then made a second landfall near the Louisiana/Mississippi border with 120 mph winds. The combination of the weakening with a track that took the storm’s strongest side east of New Orleans appeared to put the Big Easy in the clear.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be.

A near natural disaster had become a major man-made disaster as the levee system around New Orleans failed, and waters began pouring into the surrounding parishes such as St. Bernard’s, and the section of the city known as the Lower Ninth Ward.  Meanwhile, further to the east, Katrina was still powerful and large enough to generate a storm surge even greater than the monster storm of August 1969 known as Hurricane Camille.  The storm struck many, if not all of the same towns along the Mississippi Gulf Coast such as Gulfport, Biloxi, Pass Christian, Bay St. Louis, and Pascagoula, and brought a storm surge that ended up being the highest ever in North America.

Hurricane Katrina ended up killing some 1,800 people, which seemed unfathomable in this day and age.  On top of that, the storm left at least $80 billion dollars in damage, which is three times more than the previous high mark from a natural disaster set by Hurricane Andrew when it impacted Homestead and South Florida back in August 1992.  The storm also brought out the worst in a country that is supposed to be the leader of the “free world.”  Katrina exposed problems with federal government agencies such as FEMA, and even more glaring, the lack of coordination between local, state, and federal agencies so that the necessary resources could efficiently be distributed to those directly impacted by the storm.

Two examples of that failure were deploying resources such as National Guard Troops, buses, and other kinds of essentials to those affected in shelters of last resort such as the Superdome and the New Orleans Convention Center.  Numerous horror stories from these two sites were brought into viewers homes by all the cable news and regular broadcast news networks.  The storm’s aftermath provided an image of the United States that wasn’t one of superpower, but instead one of a third world country.  It demonstrated how out of touch politicians in Washington and Louisiana had grown so far out of touch with its constituents in New Orleans.  In addition, Katrina’s aftermath also showed the wide chasm between rich and poor in the United States.

The 2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season didn’t stop with Katrina though.  As a matter of fact, the year produced an astounding five Category Five Hurricanes on the Saffir-Simpson Scale.  Those kind of numbers are usually only seen with typhoons in the Western Pacific.  However, the combination of several factors such as abundant moisture around the Atlantic Basin, above normal sea surface temperatures, La Nina conditions in the Pacific that brought about favorable upper level wind conditions, and the positioning of the subtropical ridge in the Atlantic, which helped drive these powerful storms into the Gulf of Mexico, and over the Loop Current there, where conditions were optimal for explosive tropical development. Katrina, Rita, and Wilma were prime examples of the effect of the Loop Current.

During the historic 2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season, there were a total of 31 depressions, 28 named storms, 15 hurricanes, and 7 major hurricanes.  Of those 7 major storms, 71 percent of them reached the highest level possible for a tropical cyclone, which is extremely rare.  It is very rare to have one Category Five storm in the Atlantic during the course of the season.  So, when you have five:  Dennis, Emily, Katrina, Rita, and Wilma, that is record book material.  Recently, I put together an article on the busy season in the WESTPAC where there have been 6 Super Typhoons of Category Five strength on the Saffir-Simpson Scale.  This has been largely due to the emergence of the strongest El Nino at least since 1998.  Remember, ENSO produces above normal sea surface temperatures and favorable upper level wind conditions in the Pacific. Rita appeared on its way to give another blow to the Big Easy.

Like Katrina a little less than a month earlier, Hurricane Rita tracked over South Florida and the Florida Keys and then grew into a monster as it traversed the Loop Current.  The storm grew to be an even more powerful Category Five Hurricane than Katrina was in terms of wind (180 mph) and pressure (895 mb or 26.43 inches of Hg).  Like Katrina though, Rita eventually weakened before making landfall, and spared the major population centers of New Orleans and Baton Rouge in Louisiana as it made landfall over to Louisiana Bayou.  About a month after that, Hurricane Wilma spun up in the Northwestern Caribbean, and approached the Yucatan Penninsula.  The storm grew to be even a notch better than Katrina and Rita with winds of 185 mph and the lowest pressure ever recorded in the Atlantic Basin at 882 millibars or 26.05 inches of Hg surpassing the marks set by Hurricane Gilbert and the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935.  After reaching its peak intensity, Wilma began feeling the effects of shear from a dipping jet stream over the United States, but it did re-energize before clobbing South Florida from west to east and causing significant damage along the Sunshine State’s Gold Coast.

Apparently, the 2005 Atlantic Season squeezed more than enough out of the earth’s atmosphere.  Since that time, there hasn’t been a landfalling major hurricane in the United States.  True, there has been active seasons such as 2008, 2010, 2011, and 2012 with deadly and devastating storms such as Gustav, Ike, Irene, and Sandy, but none of them approached the pure power that the 2005 storms had.  In addition, there have been quite a few below normal hurricane seasons since then including 2006, 2007, 2009, 2013, and 2014.  The change in behavior pattern in the Atlantic since the 2005 season may be an indication that the active cycle that dominated the basin since 1995 may be coming to an end.


Another Busy Summer in the Western Pacific

Posted in Storm Track, Storm History, Storm Facts, Eastern Pacific, Central Pacific, Western Pacific, Tracking the Tropics at 2:57 pm by gmachos

Goni, Kilo, and Soudelor Top Another Big Season of Typhoons

Last night, Hurricaneville reported on Kilo crossing the International Date Line on Tuesday, and becoming another Typhoon for the Western Pacific.  Kilo appears to be on course to be the longest lasting tropical cyclone of 2015 although it will fall far short of the record set by Typhoon John back in 1994.  Kilo is one of many noteworthy typhoons that have traversed the Western Pacific this summer.  Soudelor and Goni are two other storms that left significant impacts in Taiwan and Japan respectively.

Those aforementioned storms are just the tip of the iceberg for this year’s typhoon season in the Western Pacific though.  According to Wikipedia, there have been a total of 24 depressions, 18 named storms, 11 typhoons, and 6 super typhoons.  The Super Typhoons in 2015 include:  Maysak (Chedeng), Noul, Dolphin, Soudelor (Hanna), and Atsani.  In addition, there were four powerful typhoons of Category Four stregth named Higos, Chan-hom (Falcon), Nangka, Goni (Ineng).  The first system formed right after the start of the new year on January 2nd.  A total of 135 deaths and $5.1 billion in damage around the Pacific Rim have been attributed to these storms.  Here are capsules on the more notable storms in the WESTPAC:

Typhoon Higos

Higos was a Category Four typhoon with a peak intensity of 940 millibars, or about 27.76 inches of Hg, and winds of 105 miles per hour.  The storm lasted for just under a week from February 6th to February 12th.  At its peak, Higos became the strongest typhoon recorded during the month of February since 1970.  The storm weakened just as rapidly as it had to become a powerful typhoon.  Higos didn’t impact land.

Typhoon Maysak (Chendeng)

Forming originally to the southwest of the Marshall islands of March 26th, Maysak  lasted nearly two weeks, and had a minimum central pressure of 910 millibars, or 26.87 inches of Hg and maximum 10 minute sustained winds of 120 miles per hour at peak intensity.  One minute maximum sustained winds topped 155 miles per hour.  Maysak moved through portions of Micronesia where it caused extensive damage.  Initial reports indicated that five people had lost their lives in the storm.

Typhoon Noul (Dodong)

Noul was the 2nd Super Typhoon of 2015.  Forming on May 2nd near Micronesia, the storm lasted for approximately 10 days.  At peak intensity, minimum central pressure with Noul was 920 millibars, or 27.17 inches of Hg while 10-minute maximum sustained winds were 125 miles per hour.  The storm underwent some fluctuations in intensity before rapidly deepening in a Super Typhoon on May 10th.  Noul eventually made landfall over Pananapan Point, Santa Ana, Cagayan in the Northeastern tip of Luzon in the Philippines.  The storm began to weaken afterwards.

Typhoon Dolphin

Dolphin was the third Super Typhoon of the season, and the second straight.  Forming southeast of Pohnpei, Dolphin would linger in the Western Pacific basin for two weeks from May 6th to May 20th.  Reaching peak intensity on May 16th, Dolphin’s minimum central pressure dipped to 925 millibars, or 27.32 inches of Hg while its 10 minute maximum sustained winds topped out at 115 miles per hour.  Dolphin sustained Super Typhoon intensity for 30 hours.  Fortunately, the storm recurved well east of Japan and Russia.

Typhoon Chan-hom (Falcon)

Forming in the final days of June near the island of Kosrae, Chan-hom reached Category Four strength on July 9th with 935 millibars, or 27.61 inches of Hg minimum central pressure, and 105 mile per hour 10-minute maximum sustained winds.  The typhoon lasted for about 15 days before weakening after going through an eyewall replacement cycle, and coming ashore southeast of Shanghai in China.  The weakened storm also traveled into the Korean Peninsula before transitioning into an extratropical cyclone.  Chan-hom was responsible for just under a billion dollars in damage in East China while indirectly contributing to the deaths of 4 people and $90,000 in damages in the Philippines.

Typhoon Nangka

Another powerful typhoon that lasted over two weeks in the Western Pacific, Nangka formed on the 2nd day of July.  At peak intensity on July 9th, Nangka with a minimum central pressure of 925 millibars, or 27.32 inches of Hg, ten minute maximum sustained winds of 115 miles per hour, and a one minute maximum sustained wind of 155 miles per hour.  The storm had some fluctuations in intensity from July 9th to July 12th when Nangka reached its secondary peak as a Category Three strength typhoon.  The typhoon then made two landfalls in Japan on July 16th.  The first one was over Muroto, Kochi while the second landfall was hours later over the island of Honshu.

Typhoon Soudelor

Forming on July 29th, and lasting some two weeks before dissipating, Soudelor has been the most powerful storm to date in the WEST PAC, strengthening to Super Typhoon status with a pressure that dropped down to 26.58 inches of Hg, or 900 millibars on August 4th, making the storm an equivalent of a Category Five Hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale.

Soudelor’s highest 10 minute sustained winds were 130 miles per hour while its one minute sustained wind topped out at 180 miles per hour.  The storm’s path took it through the Philippines, Taiwan, Mariana Islands, Japan, East China, and South Korea.  The storm left behind damage that has been initially estimated at $3.2 billion while causing 38 deaths.  

Typhoon Goni (Ineng)

A fierce storm that was documented going through the southern portion of Japan by iCyclone, Goni first formed to the southeast of Guam on August 13th, and lasted for a dozen days as it first headed westward toward the northern Philippines before turning to the north just to the east of Taiwan, and coming through Southern Japan before going between the rest of Japan and the Korean Peninsula in the Sea of Japan.  

At peak intensity, Goni had a minimum central pressure of 935 millibars, or 27.61 inches of Hg with 10 minute maximum sustained winds of 110 miles per hour.  The storm underwent rapid intensification prior to becoming a Category Four storm the first time.  Then, Goni underwent some fluctuations in strength before reaching Southern Japan as a Category Four storm again.  See video of Goni impacting Southern Japan at iCyclone.com

Typhoon Atsani

Forming around the same time as Goni (actually a day later), Atsani took a path to the north and east before recurving well to the East of Japan.  The storm lasted just under a dozen days and peaked on August 19th with a minimum central pressure of 27.32 inches of Hg or 925 millibars with a 10 minute maximum sustained wind of 115 miles per hour and a one minute maximum sustained wind of 160 miles per hour.  Wind shear and dry air entrainment doomed the storm soon after that.

Typhoon Kilo

Kilo actually originated in the Central Pacific where it peaked as a Category Four Hurricane with 145 mile per hour winds as it trekked past Hawaii.  Moving past the International Date Line on Tuesday, Kilo became a Category One Typhoon with 85 mile per hour winds.  The storm is expected to strengthen to Category Four intensity as it approaches Japan around September 15th.  The storm is expected to become the longest lasting tropical cyclone this year, but fall short of the duration mark set by Typhoon John in 1994.  See more details on Kilo in the blog at http://www.hurricaneville.com/blog/?p=1530.

Normally, the Western Pacific is the most active basin in the tropics with the most intense storms as well, but with the emergence of El Niño, more storms are forming in the Eastern and Central Pacific, and in the case of Kilo, crossing the International Date Line into the Western Pacific as Typhoons.


Kilo Becomes Typhoon in the Pacific

Posted in Storm Track, Storm History, Storm Facts, Eastern Pacific, Central Pacific, Western Pacific, Hurricane Anomalies, Hurricane Records, Tracking the Tropics at 11:55 pm by gmachos

Central Pacific Hurricane Crosses International Date Line

Things continue to be active in the Pacific, especially in the Eastern and Central basins.  We now have four tropical systems from the West Coast of Mexico to beyond the International Date Line.  First, in the Eastern Pacific, the 11th named storm of the season formed as Kevin emerged within the past 24 hours.  Meanwhile, in the Central Pacific, Hurricane Kilo, which had been one of three Category Four Hurricanes in the Pacific earlier this week, crossed the International Date Line, and, as a result, became a Typhoon.

Although it is rare, hurricanes that form in the Eastern and Central Pacific have traveled far enough over the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean to cross the International Date Line, and become a typhoon, which is the name given to tropical systems in the Western Pacific.  The most memorable example was Hurricane/Typhoon John in 1994.  The storm began in the Eastern Pacific, and spent some 31 days, an entire month traversing the Pacific Ocean.  While Kilo’s feat is quite impressive, and will probably make it the longest lasting tropical cyclone this year, it will likely fall about a week short of John’s mark.

As of Wednesday, Kilo had weakened to a strong Category One Hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale with 85 mile per hour winds.  The much cooler waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands in the Central Pacific took the starch out of Kilo, which had been a major hurricane over the weekend.  However, as Kilo heads into the high octane warm waters of the Western Pacific, the storm is forecast to undergo a major rejuvenation, and return to Category Four strength and become a Super Typhoon.  Some model forecasts indicate that Kilo could become a threat to Japan by next weekend according to an article written by the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang.

On Tuesday, satellite imagery depicted the western half of Kilo in the Western Pacific, and classified as a typhoon on September 2nd while the eastern half was still on September 1st and a hurricane.  Looking at the future of Kilo, the GFS produced a scenario where Kilo will pass through Japan into the North Pacific by September 15th, and then move into Alaska, where it become a powerful extratropical system that will create a dip in the jet stream, and push eastward into the continental United States.  The Western Pacific has been active as well as the Eastern and Central Pacific this year as a result of the El Nino.

The WESTPAC has seen more than its fare share of typhoons including Souledor recently, which created havoc in Taiwan including tornadoes.  Meanwhile, Typhoon Goni lashed portions of Japan with fierce winds.  Sometimes, these typhoons recurve much like hurricanes that come up the East Coast of the United States.  As they recurve, they gain new life as an extratropical system that can pull down the jet stream and much colder air from the arctic and Alaska.  There were a couple of occasions this past winter when typhoons in the West Pacific recurved into the North Pacific, and spawned a “polar vortex” episode for the Continental United States.


Active 2015 for Central Pacific

Posted in Storm History, Storm Facts, Central Pacific, Hurricane Records, Tracking the Tropics at 6:17 pm by gmachos

Kilo and Ignacio Just the Latest Storms in a Rare Busy Season

After a busy season in 2014 for the Central Pacific including the Hawaiian Islands, the Central Pacific has had even more storms, and there is still time remaining in the season.  To date, there has been 8 named storms that have emerged in the Central Pacific including three that crossed into the area from the Eastern Pacific:  Guillermo, Hilda, and Ignacio.

Ignacio and Kilo are currently spinning near the Hawaiian Islands.  Both storms along with Hurricane Jimena in the Eastern Pacific have done something that has never happened before in recorded history.  All three storms reached Category Four strength.  It is the first time ever that three Cat Four storms were in existence in the Pacific at the same time.  All three have looked impressive on satellite.

Of the eight storms that have emerged in the Central Pacific, five have become hurricanes, and three have reached major hurricane strength:  Hilda, Kilo, and Ignacio.  Jimena could make it 9 storms, 6 hurricanes, and 4 major hurricanes if it can hold up its intensity.  Much of this increased activity is attributed to a strong El Nino episode in the Pacific.  This current episode of ENSO is very close to matching the El Nino of 1997, which also produced a lot of storms in the Eastern and Central Pacific.

The 2015 Central Pacific Hurricane Season has been the most active since 2005.  The numbers posted so far have even surpassed the mark set in 2009 of seven named storms.  The last three seasons have combined to produce 19 named storms:  6 in 2013, 5 in 2014, and 8 so far in 2015.  Fortunately for Hawaii, none of these storms had a big impact other than some rain and heavy surf for the islands.  Cooler sea surface temperatures in that part of the world help protect the Hawaiian Island chain.  The last major hurricane to impact Hawaii was in 1992 with Hurricane Iniki, which slammed into the island of Kauai on September 12th as a Category Four Hurricane.

The Central Pacific Hurricane Season runs from June to November.  On the average, there are between 4 and 5 tropical cyclones per year in the CPAC.  The number of storms in a particular season range from 0 in 1979 to 11 in 1992 and 1994.  From 1971 to 2008, there were 163 tropical cyclones in the Central Pacific:  59 tropical depressions, 58 hurricanes, and 46 tropical storms.   There have only been three seasons with double digit tropical cyclones in the CPAC:  1982 (El Nino year), 1992, and 1994.  The most active month in the Central Pacific is August, which from 1971 to 2013 had 74 tropical cyclones.  July had 45 during that span, September had 37, and October had 17.

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