Tag Archives: Cyclogenesis

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:


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


Today is Saturday 27 May 2017. Just a couple of days ago the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its updated forecast for the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane season, which officially starts this coming Thursday 1 June 2017.

Available names for tropical cyclones forming in the Atlantic basin during upcoming 2017 hurricane season. (World Meteorological Organization)

NOAA’s forecasters have called for an above average Atlantic season with a possible 17 named-storms this year. An ‘average’ season, if there is such a thing, usually produces 11 named-storms. Just to be ready for what eventually will happen, or not, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has prepared a list of 21 names for tropical cyclones in the Atlantic.

Ocean waters are getting warmer already, having reached 30 degrees Celsius over large areas as shown on this sea surface temperature map of 26 May 2017. (NOAA)

While NOAA’s forecast has several caveats regarding the various factors that may contribute to this year’s Atlantic hurricane season, such as whether or not El Niño will stay away, we are already seeing some of the contributors begin to fall in place. For example, the tropical waters in the northern Atlantic are already getting rather warm, with sea surface waters over large  regions reaching 30˚ C, thus the heat energy content of the ocean is conducive to feeding tropical cyclones.

Several storms cells and areas of disturbed weather are already present in regions of the tropical northern Atlantic as seen in the GOES EAST satellite view of 05/27/2017 (NOAA)

We are also seeing the trains of tropical waves over equatorial Africa, ‘hurricane alley’, and the eastern Pacific starting to line-up north of the equator as they march toward the west. A sign that conditions are favorable for thunderstorm and rain cell formation, another contributor to cyclogenesis.

The train of tropical waves over Equatorial Africa, marching west toward the Atlantic, is already in place. (NOAA)

Elsewhere, we have already had the first named-storm  of the 2017 Eastern Pacific Hurricane Season, tropical storm ADRIAN formed on 10 May 2017 off the Pacific coasts of Central America and Southern Mexico becoming the earliest named-storm of record in that basin. Farther west, over the northwestern Pacific near the Philippines there are currently two large areas of disturbed weather that are showing some potential for tropical cyclone formation.

Tropical storm ADRIAN became the earliet named-storm of record over the northern eastern Pacific, when it formed last 10 May 2017 off the coasts of Central America and Southern Mexico (NOAA)

So, it is that time of the year in the northern tropics.  The 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season is right upon us, ready for its ‘official’ starting date of 1 June 2017. Beyond the Atlantic, conditions appear already favorable for tropical cyclone generation throughout the Pacific ocean, to the northern Indian ocean and the Arabian sea.

It is time to be prepared, and remain alert. It is time TO MITIGATE!