Tag Archives: the Yucatan Peninsula


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!

2011 Atlantic Hurricane Season: a New Level of Activity Ahead?

In my recent post 2011 Atlantic Hurricane Season: an Empirical Assessment I shared some thoughts on the relative inactivity during the first seven weeks of the 2011 season, based on my observations thus far.

Now, here I am just one week later observing signs of new levels of activity in the various components of the larger Atlantic basin. Does this mean Mother Nature is shifting into a higher gear as various triggers and factors, all potential contributors to cyclogenesis, appear to have become better coordinated in recent days?

This potential recent change in the level of activity of the 2011 Atlantic Hurricane Season illustrates the need for a continuum of predictive efforts rather than relying on seasonal forecasts, such as those issued by folks in Colorado early in the calendar year to be subsequently reviewed prior to or early during the season, which are truly of little value for preparedness and mitigation purposes despite their anecdotal flavor.

In my opinion, the possibility for a new and higher level of cyclonic activity just ahead reinforces my thinking along the following lines: (a) one of the constants in nature is continuous change; (b) cyclogenesis is driven by the conjunction of numerous factors and external triggers, some of which act over long distances, influencing the coupled ocean-atmosphere at a specific point in time, that constant monitoring is required for effective forecasting and prediction; (c) to be effectively useful hurricane prediction must be relevant at the local level.

Among the changes I’ve noticed since my previous posting regarding the 2011 Atlantic Hurricane Season the following merit mentioning:

* A more continuous and regular, almost sinusoidal, pattern of pulses has begun to appear along the ‘Tropical-wave assembly line” over equatorial Africa, leading to a train of tropical waves moving westward toward the eastern Atlantic;

* Recent weather pulses and tropical waves over equatorial Africa appear to be better organized  and capable of generating stronger rainfall and thunderstorms;

* Hurricane Alley is now populated by a more continuous chain of tropical waves, while also following a track that has shifted ever so sightly northward, which takes them toward the Lesser Antilles and the Caribbean rather than through the northern portion of South America. This increases the potential for cyclogenesis to occur in sub-basins of the Atlantic with a higher probability of affecting interests in the Caribbean, Gulf and USA Atlantic regions.

* Surface waters have become quite warmer along Hurricane alley, the Caribbean and especially in the Gulf, raising the potential for cyclogenesis in any of those sub-basins.

Evidence of the increased activity mentioned above is seen on the satellite images that follow:

Color-enhanced infrared GOES satellite image showing a tropical wave near Cancun, Mexico in the channel between the Yucatan and Cuba in the early morning hours on 27 July 2011
Close-up on a GOES satellite image for the aviation industry on 27 July 2011 showing a strengthening tropical wave some 180 kilometers to the east of Cancun, moving west by northwest at 25 kph
Color-enhanced infrared METEOSAT satellite image on 27 July 2011 showing a chain of tropical waves along western equatorial Africa and the eastern Atlantic
Map of sea surface temperature based on satellite data on 26 July 2011 confirming a continuing warming trend along 'Hurricane alley', the Caribbean and the eastern Gulf of Mexico and Florida Straits