Tropical Storm Karen: The Post-Mortem

Karen Fizzles Before Even Coming Ashore in Gulf

Perhaps history will show that Tropical Storm Karen was the epitome of the 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season. As a storm typical of the season, Karen had a a lot of potential, but ultimately was done in by hostile environmental factors. Dry air and wind shear did this storm in much like it had killed Chantal, Dorian, Erin, and Gabrielle earlier in the season. Karen began falling apart as the week ended last week, and by mid-morning on Sunday, it had been downgraded to a remnant low.

The storm did its best to hang on for a good 24 to 36 hours starting on Friday evening, but the odds against it were too great. A strong westerly shear over the Western and Central Gulf blew at about 25 miles per hour, and totally separated the brunt of the convection associated with Karen away from its center of circulation. With that separation occurring, there was no room for growth and development. Being a weaker storm, Karen took a more westerly track towards Louisiana before running out of gas some 85 miles to the southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River.

At its peak, Karen closed in on becoming the season’s third hurricane with 65 mile per hour winds. By the time it was reclassified as a remnant low on Sunday, the winds had decreased to 30 miles per hour. Pressures with the storm had risen some 10 millibars. The European model was right on with Karen. It had indicated that the tropical system would take a more westerly track towards Louisiana as a weaker storm. Many forecasts had followed the GFS thinking of a more easterly track into Alabama and the Florida Panhandle as a more powerful storm. Another result from Karen fizzling was less significant rainfall from the powerful storm system that moved into the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic on Monday afternoon and evening.

Towards the end of last week, GWC had posted about the possibility of significant rains from the combination of the powerful storm system that brought historic snowfall to the Black Hills section of South Dakota and EF4 tornadoes to Nebraska and Iowa, and what was left of Karen. Projections at that time had indicated that the one-two punch would bring anywhere from 1.5 to 2.5 inches with isolated areas seeing as much as 4 inches. However, Karen’s remnants stayed more to the west, weakened, and were easily absorbed by the large frontal system. Instead of tracking northward into the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, Karen’s remains ended up pushing across Florida, and sparking thunderstorms there.

Consequently, there was very little rain on Monday in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. Here at GWC in South Plainfield, New Jersey, there was only 0.40 inches of rain. The rainfall came in several rounds of brief downpours as the leading edge of the front pushed through. There were some gusty winds as high as 50 miles per hour. Other towns in New Jersey had more significant weather. Paramus, New Jersey in Bergen County had an EF1 tornado. with winds as high as 100 miles per hour. Places in West Jersey such as Hunterdon County had severe thunderstorms with winds up to 60 miles per hour.

With Karen fizzling out, the 2013 season remains below average in terms of the number of hurricanes and major hurricanes. While there have been 11 depressions and 11 named storms, there have only been two hurricanes, and no major hurricanes. Most importantly though, there have been minimal impacts on the United States coastline. There is still another 53 days left in the season so there’s still time for something to flare up. As a matter of fact, a new disturbance is in the Eastern Atlantic, but it is currently not in an area favorable for development this time of year.