GOING OUT WITH A BANG?

In the course of just over one week since SANDY generated from a tropical depression in the Caribbean, became a tropical storm and reached hurricane strength as it hit Jamaica and then Cuba, also affecting Haiti and the Dominican Republic. It then continued over the Bahamas, creating concerns among residents of Florida as all of the peninsula’s east coast found itself within the “cone of uncertainty used by The National Hurricane Center to surround the predicted track of a tropical cyclone.

Atlantic wide satellite view (NOAA) on 28 October 2012 showing water vapor in the atmosphere to highlight Tropical Cyclone SANDY, other areas of disturbed weather, as well as vast regions of mainly dry air

In moving over The Bahamas hurricane SANDY began following what could best be  described as a zigzagging track, first aiming toward the northwest paralleling the coast of Florida, but then turned north and later on toward the northeast paralleling the coast of Georgia and South Carolina, only to start describing another turn to the north and then the northwest aiming toward the mid-Atlantic and northeastern coastline of the USA.

Projected track for Hurricane SANDY as of 28 October 2012 developed by the U.S. Navy Research Laboratory on the basis of observational data from NOAA

In the process of meandering over the western Atlantic following the USA coastline Hurricane SANDY also began growing in size until it has become quite a large storm menacing hundreds of miles of USA coastline from North Carolina to Maine. It appears storm surge will be the main hazard as this behemoth of a tropical cyclone interacts with the numerous bays, sounds, inlets and other topography along the coastal region, which generate a funneling effect on the rushing waters contributing to storm surge and waves of enormous height. However, inland flooding and strong winds will also add to the impact, and could cause sever damage and human suffering.

GOES color-enhanced infrared satellite image (NOAA) showing Hurricane SANDY on 28 October 2012 as it approaches the coast of the USA

With SANDY being the 19th named storm of the 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season are we already seeing the last of the season? Is this the 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season going out with a bang, or is there more fuel left in the tropics so that we may still see additional cyclonic activity in days and weeks to come? After all the “official” season, as if Mother Nature really pays attention to this,  still has more than four weeks left to go.

Satellite image (NOAA) showing two tropical waves over hurricane alley and the eastern Atlantic on 28 October 2012

Regarding the possibility of more fuel left in the tropics to support additional tropical cyclone activity in the Atlantic, there are currently two tropical waves moving along hurricane alley that may warrant paying attention to over coming days, for any signs of potential further development.

Color-enhanced infrared satellite image on 28 October 2012 showing Typhoon SON-TINH over the Gulf of Tonkin about to make landfall in Viet Nam near Haiphong and Hanoi

Elsewhere in the world, there is tropical cyclone activity in the South China Sea at the northwestern extreme of the Pacific Ocean, where Typhoon Son-Tinh is making landfall over Viet Nam over the Gulf of Tonkin near Haiphong and Hanoi. Also in the Pacific there is a good sized tropical wave half way between Hawaii and the Philippines while closer to our region, over the Eastern Pacific,  there is a large elongated cell of disturbed weather and low pressure extending from just off-shore Central America to about 1,000 kilometers SSW of Acapulco, Mexico, which may show some potential for cyclonic development.

Color-enhanced infrared GOES satellite (NOAA) image on 28 October 2012 showing a region of low pressure and disturbed weather off the coast of central America and Mexico

There is also plenty of stormy weather over the northern Indian Ocean where we see a large cell of low pressure, showing some signs of potential cyclonic activity, over the southern end of the Bay of Bengal, off the coast of India near Madras and the nation of Sri Lanka, which may warrant close monitoring over the next couple of days. On the other side of the subcontinent, off the west coast of India over the Arabian Sea there are some areas of disturbed weather that may warrant monitoring.

Color enhanced infrared satellite image showing a potential tropical cyclone near India and other regions of disturbed weather over the Indian Ocean on 28 October 2012

The southern hemisphere is relatively quiet at this time, except for a couple of areas near New Zealand and over Australia, although there are large areas of disturbed weather and strong winds near the extreme southern latitudes.

Full-disk satellite image of Earth over the Pacific Ocean on 27 October 2012 showing the ‘belt of tropical activity’, spanning from just off the coast of Mexico to near the Philippines, as well as a cell of low pressure near Mexico
Full-disk satellite image of Earth’s western hemisphere on 28 October 2012 showing a discontinuous ‘belt of tropical activity, a couple of tropical waves along hurricane alley and in the eastern Atlantic, as well as Hurricane Sandy approaching the USA coastline

How damaging will the impact of Hurricane SANDY be over the USA? Is SANDY the last activity of the 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season? How much more cyclonic activity will there be in the northern hemisphere? When will the southern hemisphere start to see more tropical cyclones? How will 2012 rate in terms of total tropical cyclone activity worldwide compared to previous years? Yes, there are a number of questions that we would like to have answered, but we will have to wait until after the end of the year for some of those answers.

Tell Mother Nature is time to wind down!

Today is Monday 22 October 2012 and we are about 80% done with the “official” 2012 Atlantic Hurricane season, but Mother Nature appears to be busy stirring potential cyclonic activity in the Caribbean and west-central Atlantic that could end-up affecting interest around the Caribbean basin, the Bahamas or Florida.

Let us take a look at what our neck-of-the-woods tropics may have in store tat may warrant a closer look:

GOES color-enhanced infrared satellite image (NOAA) showing some potential cyclonic development in the Caribbean and west-central Atlantic Ocean on 22 October 2012

First we see two large and strong storm cells close to one another in the central Caribbean to the south of Hispaniola moving generally toward the SW in an environment of rather warm surface waters and low wind shear aloft, which looks favorable for tropical cyclone generation over the next few hours. Beyond any potential cyclonic development today a combination of atmospheric features over the Gulf of Mexico and Florida may contribute to a change of course for this system to a more northerly or even northeasterly track over the next couple of days, which would take the potential storm into an environment of strong wind shear. Should this speculative forecast actually take place Jamaica, Hispaniola, Cuba and the Bahamas could be impacted by some strong winds and plenty of rain and thunderstorms later on this week. Interaction with Florida may also take place, but we’ll have to wait  until mid-week to get a better read on that.

Visible light satellite image (NASA) showing the cell of low pressure and disturbed weather in the central Caribbean on 22 October 2012 that is showing potential for cyclonic development as early as today

Beyond the Caribbean over the open waters of the west-central Atlantic Ocean some 1,100 kilometers northeast of the Virgin Islands there is a region of low pressure with plenty of thunderstorms, which is showing signs of getting better organized and potential for cyclonic development over the next 36-48 hours. This system is moving toward the north and all indications are that it may turn toward the northeast posing no threat to Florida or other USA coastal regions along the Atlantic seaboard.

Satellite image under visible light (NASA) showing a cell of low pressure and stormy weather over the west-central Atlantic that may develop further over the next 36-48 hours as it moves over open waters

Farther to the East the assembly line over Equatorial Africa is generating tropical waves, but it appears that with the change in seasons and the movement of the Sun’s zenith southward of the equator this tropical wave activity has also shifted southward toward the equator, which could mean traffic along ‘hurricane alley’ may also take the southerly route and either move over Panama and Central America and beyond over the eastern North Pacific ocean or possibly get into the Caribbean to threaten interest in central America, the Yucatan or the Antilles. So, we still need to keep an eye of  this activity and be prepared for any eventuality over the next few weeks.

Color-enhanced infrared satellite image (NOAA) showing tropical wave generation over Equatorial Africa and the eastern Atlantic on 22 October 2012

Elsewhere in the world there is wide-spread storm activity over the Indian Ocean including one cell off India’s west coast that is showing signs of potential cyclonic development. While in the Philippine Sea near the Philippine’s eastern coast there is an area of low pressure and stormy weather that may potentially develop into a tropical cyclone over a region that has seen significant activity so far in 2012.

Color-enhanced infrared satellite image (NOAA) showing plenty of tropical activity over the Indian Ocean on 22 October 2012 including a potential tropical cyclone off shore to the west of India

Color-enhanced infrared satellite image (NOAA) showing potential tropical cyclone activity over the Philippine Sea off the east coast of the Philippines on 22 October 2012

In summary there are several ‘hot spots’ with potential for cyclonic development around the world on this Monday 22 October 2012, but the tally of actual tropical cyclones that have been generated so far this year still points to another sub-par worldwide season for this year at least although there are still seventy days left until the end of the year.

Against this background of worldwide tropical cyclone activity, it should be noted that the threat pose by sea level rise continues unabated. While many may tend to dismiss sea level rise as a significant hazards, some for ideological reasons and others because they focus on the current average rise of 3 mm per year and believe that is truly insignificant, the reality is that this hazards is already causing serious problems in the coastal regions of many countries and island nations. Just last week numerous scientists had their eyes on the coastal region of southeastern Florida where several instances of flooding took place at high tide in locations that used to be “high and dry” just a few years ago. On this topic it is important to note that every storm surge event that impacts the coasts of Florida or other states along the Gulf or Atlantic regions already carries the imprint of sea level rise in the form of higher water depth and waves. It is clear that quietly, but yet surely and irreversibly, sea level rise has the potential for contributing to vast amounts of damage along our coastal regions, which in some cases may include a significant alteration of our own way of life as we have known it up to now.