Category Archives: Hurricanes

TROPICAL CYCLONE ACTIVITY MOVES NORTH!

The Earth’s axis continues to tilt as we near the halfway point of the northern hemisphere’s spring, and as the Sun above moves toward the Tropic of Cancer the heat content of the ocean and surface water temperature steadily increase in the northern tropics. Together with this stage of the process of the seasons the factors that contribute to cyclogenesis, the formation of tropical cyclones, are falling into place and we are starting to have tropical cyclone activity in the northern hemisphere.

The month of May started with a newly formed large tropical cyclone FANI in the Indian ocean moving in the Bay of Bengal, infamous for favoring large, wet, damaging, and deadly cyclones.

The path of cyclone FANI, which made landfall in Odisha State, northeastern India this Friday 3 May 2019 around 0930.

FANI became a category 5 (Saffir-Simpson intensity scale) super cyclone as it aimed for the northern reaches of the Bay of Bengal. The cyclone had sustained winds of 240 kph (150 mph), gusting to 300+ kph, and generated copious rain and massive storm surge as it made landfall in the northeastern coastal region of Odisha state in India, in the morning hours of Friday 3 May 2019, near Kalkata the capital. FANI has continue to weaken as it moves inland causing widespread flooding in India and Bangladesh.

Civil protection authorities in India and Bangladesh implemented massive evacuation from the coastal regions ahead of the cyclone, more than one million evacuees in India alone, and activated storms shelters throughout the area. Initial reports from the affected regions in India confirm seven deaths already, a toll which is expected to increase. Sad as the news is, it is clear that emergency precautions and advanced forecasting undertaking by the authorities and heeded by the population have been quite effective in protecting residents of the affected areas from this dangerous and powerful cyclone.

Elsewhere, a disturbed area of low pressure between Florida and the Bahamas showing some potential for cyclonic development has continued to move northwestward toward the USA coastline. This system has generated disturbed weather and plenty of rain over the Florida peninsula and the southeastern coastal region.

Low-pressure disturbed-weather system moving generally NW between the Bahamas and Florida is showing a low probability of cyclonic development, but meanwhile it has caused rain and disturbed weather over the Florida peninsula.

A look beyond the Eastern Atlantic over equatorial Africa is already showing some tropical-wave activity moving westward north of the equator. These may become seeds for potential cyclonic activity as they move over the already warm waters of the Eastern Atlantic.

Satellite image shows tropical waves and disturbed weather cells over Equatorial Africa and waters of the Eastern Atlantic moving westward onto the southern fringes of ‘Hurricane Alley’

The region over waters of the Eastern Pacific near Panama, northern South America and Central America, are already populated by numerous disturbed weather and storm cells that have been typical of this region around this time over the past few years. So the possibility for some development in this sub-basin cannot be ignored.

Note conglomerate of storm cells off the coast of Panama and Central America over eastern Pacific waters, as well as a large storm system moving off the coast of Mexico toward Hawaii and the central Pacific.

At the opposite end of the vast ocean, the Northwestern Pacific has been quite active recently with numerous stormy weather systems moving near the Philippines, Japan, and neighboring mainland.

A train of large storm cells moves westward over waters of the Pacific Ocean north of the Equator. Other large storm systems are on the move near the Philippines and Japan.

Meanwhile in the USA large storms are raging over Texas and neighboring states, and over the Ohio river valley and surrounding region. The combination of weather fronts, Jetstream paths, and the supply of warm moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, is clearly contributing to these storms that are generating floods, tornadoes and other damaging effects across vast regions of the country.

The pattern is clear, potential tropical cyclone activity continues to move toward the north coinciding with the approaching summer and the “official” start of 2019 hurricane season in the Pacific and the Atlantic.

Residents of these ‘vulnerable parts’ will do well to be ready, stay prepared, remain alert and MITIGATE!

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.