Category Archives: Weather

Hurricane MICHAEL: the aftermath!

Hurricane MICHAEL ran out of ocean before it could intensify any farther, but still managed to make landfall as the strongest category 4 hurricane, borderline with a cat 5 storm, in the Florida Panhandle region on 10 October 2018.

Satellite view (NOAA) of Hurricane Michael just before making landfall in the Florida Panhandle on 10 October 2018

The rapid intensification Michael underwent as it traversed the Gulf of Mexico in its final approach toward Florida is not that unusual. We have in fact witnessed similar occurrences with other storms reaching the northern Gulf. The shape and bathymetry of the Gulf, the so-called “loop current” that swishes around the Gulf before feeding the gulfstream over the Atlantic, and the fact that surface waters in the basin were rather warm at about 30+ Celsius, were all contributors to such rapid intensification.

What is somewhat unusual is that  Hurricane Michael decayed in intensity as expected after landfall and moving inland, but remained at tropical storm strength despite being deprived of its main source of energy, the warm surface waters of the Gulf, and being at times more than 360 kilometers (~225 miles) from the ocean, managing to travel some 1200 kilometers (750 miles) overland before exiting back over the Atlantic and re-strengthening. It is clear the tropical cyclone derived enough energy from the saturated atmosphere and waterlogged ground to remain a tropical storm during this trek over land. Amazing indeed, and something to explore by those who study cyclogenesis, and the exacerbating effects of global warming on hydro-meteorological hazards.

Projected track of Hurricane Michael (courtesy of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory) as on 10/10/2018

The headlines and media coverage following the impact of Michael, as expected, are full of photos showing the destruction and damage caused by Michael as well as articles describing and/or questioning what worked and what did not, and what to expect in the future.

There is plenty of topics and material to write about in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. At the moment what is most important, in my opinion, is to treat this event as an opportunity to learn from the survivors, meaning both the human beings and the buildings and infrastructure that managed to remain intact and functional.  What we empirically learn from studying these surviving buildings can provide invaluable lessons to guide future decisions regarding rebuilding efforts, building codes, and hazard mitigation solutions to prevent a repeat of the level of damage next time a hurricane comes calling on the affected region, or elsewhere.

Relative to the above please read the article by Daniel Cusick, published by EE News’ Climate Wire featuring an interview with yours truly and others about Hurricane Michael and its consequences on Mexico Beach, which is being called “ground zero” because of the level of damage and destruction it suffered.

You can get to the article by using the following URL:

https://www.eenews.net/stories/1060102515

There is a lot to learn and even more to write and talk about when it comes to Hurricane Michael.

# 14 IS HERE! A DELUGE IN NICARAGUA!

Some ten days ago, around September 26 or 27, a couple of disturbed weather cells formed in the southeastern Caribbean to the east of Costa Rica and Nicaragua, just as we were monitoring tropical cyclones KIRK and LESLIE in the Atlantic basin.

Satellite image (NOAA) of 27 September showing disturbed weather cells in the Caribbean including the seed for what today became Tropical Depression #14

Although relatively small, these disturbances caught my attention mainly because of their location and a surrounding favorable ocean-atmosphere environment in the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the East Pacific waters off Central America. On that basis I tagged  this cells for further monitoring.

Satellite image (NOAA) of 5 October showing interacting disturbed weather systems on the east Pacific and the Caribbean causing a deluge of torrential rain over Nicaragua and other countries in the region

Sure enough, these disturbances in the Caribbean congealed into a large stormy weather cell just as a disturbance over the east Pacific also grew. The interaction of these systems generated heavy rains in Panama, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua, and eventually over an entire region from northern Colombia to southern Mexico.

In Nicaragua’s Pacific coast region it has rained daily for the last ten days. In Managua, the capital city, and other areas they have had up to 100 mm (4″) on rain per day for the past 3 – 4 days. Widespread flooding has taken place throughout the country. Civil Defense authorities issued a Red Alert for several municipalities. In some areas the ground was so saturated that water was coming into houses from the ground up through the floor. Reports of heavy damage and at least eight dead are evidence of a potential disaster in the making. Other countries in the region, especially El Salvador and western Honduras have suffered similar impacts.

The storm system off the coast of Belize and the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico

Collaterally with the deluge over Nicaragua and devastation over the entire region, the tropical disturbance in the Caribbean has continued to grow and get better organized as it  moved generally northward near the coast of Nicaragua, Honduras, and Belize.

Satellite image (NOAA) of 7 October, taken with water-vapor filter, showing Tropical depression # 14 in the northwestern Caribbean

Today, Sunday 7 October, this system if off the coast of the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico, in the Yucatan Peninsula, and has been classified as tropical depression #14 of the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season. The storm is rather large, generating torrential rain over a wide region of the northwestern Caribbean, and it is showing strong cyclonic tendencies as it progresses toward the Gulf of Mexico where surface water are rather warm at around 30 Celsius.

Satellite image (NOAA) showing rather warm surface waters in the Gulf of Mexico ahead of the path of TD #14

Given these aspects and the favorable environment around and ahead of the storm, it is highly probable it could become a tropical storm within the next 12 – 24 hours, and entirely possible that it may reach hurricane strength once in the Gulf.

Projected track for Tropical depression #14 as of 7 October 2018 (Courtesy of the U.S. Navy Naval Research Laboratory)

The storm’s current projected track, which takes into account numerous factors over a wide region that will influence it, has the storm starting to turn toward the northeast once it reaches the south-central Gulf. This means Florida is within the projected track and needs to monitor this system closely starting now, especially along the central-northern Gulf coast and the Panhandle.

While the priority now is Tropical Depression #14, we also need to monitor several tropical waves and stormy cells currently moving westward along ‘hurricane alley’ and to the north of Puerto Rico. as well as others over Equatorial Africa.

Satellite image (NOAA) of 7 October showing several tropical waves and potential ‘seeds’ for potential cyclonic activity

There is plenty of hurricane season still left in 2018 in the Atlantic basin and elsewhere. Hurricane SERGIO is forecast to turn northeastward toward the Baja California peninsula for a repeat impact on Northwestern Mexico and the Southwestern USA, which were hammered with wind and torrential rain from ROSA just a few days ago.

Remain alert. Be prepared. MITIGATE!