Earl: 3rd strongest hurricane on record so far north in U.S. coastal waters

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:36 PM GMT on September 02, 2010

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Hurricane Earl strengthened significantly overnight, and its Category 4 140 mph winds make it the third strongest Atlantic hurricane on record so far north in U.S. coastal waters. Only Hurricane Esther of 1961 and Hurricane Connie of 1955 made it farther north in U.S. coastal waters at a higher strength. Both storms had winds 5 mph stronger than Earl--145 mph. One other Atlantic hurricane was stronger than Esther and Connie at a more northerly latitude--the second storm of 1922, which had winds of 150 mph. However, this hurricane was far out at sea, north of Bermuda.

Earl has made its turn to the north, and is headed for a close brush with North Carolina's Outer Banks. Rain bands from the hurricane are now visible on long-range Cape Hatteras radar, and these rain bands will begin to spread over coastal North Carolina this afternoon. Recent satellite imagery shows an extremely impressive major hurricane, that will be resistant to sudden changes in intensity.


Figure 1. MODIS image of Earl taken at 2pm EDT September 1, 2010, by NASA's Aqua satellite. Image credit: NASA.

Forecast for Earl
The latest set of model runs from 2am EDT (6Z) this morning show little change to Earl's track. The latest SHIPS model forecast shows wind shear will remain moderate, 10 - 15 knots, through Friday morning. This should allow Earl to maintain major hurricane status as it passes North Carolina early Friday morning. By Friday night, as Earl gets caught in the jet stream and accelerates to the northeast, wind shear will rise to 20 - 30 knots and ocean temperatures will plunge to 20°C, resulting in considerable weakening. Earl will still probably be a Category 2 hurricane early Saturday morning, when it will make its closest approach to New England. Earl is more likely to be a Category 1 hurricane early Saturday afternoon, when it is expected to make landfall in Nova Scotia, Canada.


Figure 2. Wind field analysis of Hurricane Earl from 9:30am EDT Thursday, September 2, 2010. Note the asymmetry in Earl's wind field, caused by the storm's forward motion of 18 mph to the north-northwest at the time. The highest contour has top winds of 110 kt (130 mph) surrounding the "X" on the NNE side of Earl--the strong right front quadrant of the storm. However, winds in the left front quadrant (on the SSW side) were just 80 - 85 knots (92 - 97 mph.) Image credit: NOAA/AOML/Hurricane Research Division.

Earl is a large hurricane, which gives it a higher potential for storm surge damage than a smaller hurricane with the same top winds. One measure of a storm's power, useful for gauging storm surge threat, is to measure the speed of the winds and multiply by the area over which those winds blow. This total is called the Integrated Kinetic Energy (IKE). Based on the storm's IKE, one can come up with a scale from 0 - 6 rating the storm's destructive power from its storm surge. A separate rating can be given to the destructive potential of the storm's winds. The IKE value of 99 Terrajoules for Earl, at 9:30am EDT today, gives its storm surge a destructive power of 4.9 on a scale of 0 - 6. Earl's winds have a similar destructive power, 4.9 on a scale of 0 - 6. Let's hope the right front quadrant of Earl, where the main storm surge would occur, stays offshore! For comparison, the small Category 5 Hurricane Camille of 1969 had an IKE of 80 Terrajoules, and the very large Category 2 Hurricane Ike of 2008 had an IKE of 116 Terrajoules, higher than Category 4 Earl's.

Impact of Earl on North Carolina
Earl's eye is expected to stay offshore of North Carolina. However, much of coastal North Carolina will experience tropical storm-force winds of 39+ mph for a period of 12 - 18 hours beginning this afternoon or early this evening. Earl's expected radius of hurricane-force winds of 90 miles to the west may bring hurricane conditions to the Outer Banks, but probably not to mainland North Carolina. Earl's radius of tropical storm-force winds to the west, over land, will probably be about 150 miles, so locations from Wilmington to Norfolk could see sustained winds of 40 mph. Storm surge will likely be less than two feet along the North Carolina coast west of Cape Hatteras facing the open ocean, since winds will be offshore. However, a significant storm surge of 3 - 5 feet can be expected on the south side of Pamlico Sound, due to strong northerly winds. A 3 - 5 foot storm surge is also likely along the Outer Banks from Cape Hatteras northward 50 miles to Nags Head. NHC is giving a 10% chance that the storm surge will reach 7 - 9 feet along the coast near Nags Head. It is possible that Coastal Highway 12 out of the Outer Banks will be blocked by sand and debris, or washed out, resulting in a multi-day period where everyone on the Outer Banks will be stranded. Since Earl's forward speed will be about 20 mph as it passes Cape Hatteras, the winds on the hurricane's west side will be about 40 mph less than on the east side (Figure 2.) (I regret that I misstated this yesterday. To think about this, imagine a stationary hurricane with 120 mph winds on all sides. Now, put the hurricane in motion. The winds are still 120 mph on all sides, relative to a frame of reference that moves with the storm, but an observer on the ground will see 140 mph winds in the right front quadrant, and 100 mph on the left side.) The NHC wind probability forecast is calling for a 13% chance of hurricane-force winds on Cape Hatteras, 1% for Morehead City, and no chance for Norfolk, Virginia.


Figure 3. NHC is giving a 10% chance that the storm surge will reach heights of 7 - 9 feet along the Outer Banks of North Carolina near Nags Head. Image credit: National Hurricane Center.

Impact of Earl on New England
Residents in Eastern Long Island, Rhode Island, and Southeast Massachusetts need to complete all of their hurricane preparations by early Friday morning. By Friday afternoon, winds will rise quickly. Earl's recent increase in strength means that New England will see a stronger hurricane than was expected. The latest track forecasts still keep the eye barely offshore, or have it passing over Nantucket and the extreme eastern tip of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The 5am NHC intensity forecast calls for Earl to have top winds of 100 mph at 2am Saturday, when the storm is expected to be over or just offshore of the eastern tip of Cape Cod. Earl will be moving near 25 mph at that time, meaning that that top sustained winds on the north side of the eye, over land, will be 50 mph, and the winds will be 100 mph on the south side over water. NHC is giving a 10% chance that a storm surge of 3 - 5 feet will occur in Long Island Sound (Figure 4), and 2 - 3 feet along the south coast of Long Island. A small deviation in Earl's track to the left, resulting in a direct hit on eastern Long Island and Providence, Rhode Island, would probably be a $10+ billion disaster, as the hurricane would hit a heavily populated area and drive a 7 - 15 foot storm surge up Buzzards Bay and Narragansett Bay. The odds of this occurring are around 3%, according to the latest NHC wind probability forecast. The forecast is calling for a 28% chance of hurricane-force winds on Nantucket, 7% in Providence, 4% in Boston, 7% in Eastport, Maine, and 17% in Hyannis.


Figure 4. NHC is giving a 10% chance that the storm surge will reach heights of 3 - 5 feet from Long Island Sound to Southeast Massachusetts. Image credit: National Hurricane Center.

Impact of Earl on Canada
Winds will begin to rise on the southwest coast of Nova Scotia early Saturday morning, and all preparations need to be completed by Friday night. By late morning Saturday, Earl is expected to make landfall somewhere between the Maine/New Brunswick border and central Nova Scotia. At that time, Earl will probably be a Category 1 hurricane. Earl will be moving at a very rapid 25 - 30 mph when it arrives in Canada, and regions on the right side of the eye can expect winds 50 - 60 mph greater than on the left side, due to the fast forward motion of the hurricane. It is unlikely that Earl will be as damaging as Hurricane Juan, the 2003 Category 2 hurricane which made a direct hit on Halifax, Nova Scotia, causing over $200 million in damage. Earl's impact is likely to be greater than 2008's Hurricane Kyle, the last hurricane to hit Nova Scotia. Kyle hit near Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, as a Category 1 hurricane with 75 mph winds. Kyle produced a storm surge of 2.6 feet, and did $9 million in damage to Canada. The NHC wind probability forecast is calling for a 14% chance of hurricane-force winds in Yarmouth, and 4% in Halifax.

Beach erosion
Regardless of Earl's exact track, the U.S. East Coast can expect a long period of high waves today and Friday. Significant beach erosion and dangerous rip currents will be the rule, due to waves that will reach 10 - 15 feet in offshore waters. Waves are expected to reach 25 - 30 feet along the Cape Hatteras, North Carolina shore tonight. Beach erosion damage in the mid-Atlantic states will likely run into the millions, but will probably not be as bad as that suffered during Nor'easter Ida in November of 2009. That storm (the remains of Hurricane Ida that developed into a Nor'easter) remained off the coast for several days, resulting in a long-duration pounding of the shore that caused $300 million in damage--$180 million in New Jersey alone.

Fiona
Tropical Storm Fiona is struggling due to high wind shear, courtesy of strong upper-level northerly winds from Hurricane Earl's outflow. Satellite loops show the classic signature of a tropical storm experiencing high wind shear--an exposed center of circulation, and all the heavy thunderstorms pushed to one side (the south side in this case). Wind shear from Earl and dry air should keep Fiona from attaining hurricane status over the next two days. The shear may be strong enough to destroy Fiona, as predicted by the NHC. However, by this weekend, Earl may pull far enough away for shear to drop and Fiona to survive. It is possible Fiona may pose a threat to Bermuda on Saturday or Sunday.

Gaston
Tropical Depression Gaston has lost most of its heavy thunderstorms this morning, as it battles dry air. Water vapor satellite images show a large area of dry air to the north and west of Gaston, and this dry air will be the dominant inhibiting factor for development for the next few days. The latest SHIPS model forecast predicts shear will remain low to moderate, 5 - 15 knots, for the next five days. Assuming Gaston can fight off the dry air--which seems likely, given the low shear--the storm should be able to intensify into a hurricane by Sunday, as predicted by the many of the intensity models. Gaston appears likely to threaten the Lesser Antilles Islands as early as Tuesday. Historically, 25% of all tropical cyclones at Gaston's current position have gone on to hit the U.S. East Coast.

Special Hurricane Earl Update At 4:30 pm EDT on the Weather Underground Broadcast Network
The Weather Underground Broadcast Network will air a special edition of the Daily Downpour featuring meteorologists Rob Carver, Tim Roche, Shaun Tanner, and myself. This live update will feature the most up-to-date information on this dangerous storm and its possible effects on the East Coast.

There will be a three ways to contact the show panelists:

1. Call 415-983-2634 to ask specific questions about anything tropical related.

2. Send an email to broadcast@wunderground.com, and your email may be read on the air.

3. The chat room on the Weather Underground Broadcast Network homepage will be monitored throughout the broadcast for any related questions.

Lastly, if you are along the East Coast somewhere that could be affected by Hurricane Earl, we want to hear from you during the broadcast. Tell us what local officials are doing to prepare for Earl, and how it is affecting you. Please call 415-983-2634 or email broadcast@wunderground.com with your experiences.

Listen to the live, special broadcast beginning 4:30 p.m. EDT, 1:30 p.m PDT, by going to the Weather Underground Broadcast Network.

Links to follow today
Cape Hatteras weather
Cape Hatteras radar

Next post
I'll have an update late this afternoon.

Jeff Masters

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Quoting JeffM:
Is there anything more annoying than Local on the 8's when you want to see storm coverage?


Yes...Storm Stories and Al Roker commercials.
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Quoting angiest:


Yes, Storm Stories.


+1
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Quoting reedzonemyhero:


The problem is look where Earl's coordinates are in reference to the models:-(


Its west of the coordinates rite?
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I am in NC, Manns Harbor on the Dare County mainland, 15 miles from the Nags Head Coast. Weather here isn't too bad blowing about 15 with some little gusts. It's cloudy but no rain. Just crossed the bridge into Manteo and realized that alot of tourists waited to evacuate. Now gas lines are huge and traffic is terrible.
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Quoting JeffM:
Is there anything more annoying than Local on the 8's when you want to see storm coverage?


Yes. Those annoying Storm Stories are even more annoying when you want to see current storm coverage.
Member Since: July 23, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 133
This image came out just a few moments ago. Earl isn't really visible here, though Fiona is (the smallish blob just north of Puerto Rico), as is Gaston--the non-too-impressive semi-swirl in the Atlantic north of the jutting eastern triangle of Brazil. Far more impressive is the (pre-Hermine?) AOI with nice rotation just of the African coast, and the could-very-well-be-Igor-late-next-week swirl in central equatorial Africa.

(My out-on-a-skinny-limb-all-by-myself guess: we'll be up to 9/5/3 by September 10th or 11th, with an A.C.E. of around 80 or 85.)

Click for larger image:
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Quoting JeffM:
Is there anything more annoying than Local on the 8's when you want to see storm coverage?


Yes, Storm Stories.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
684. bwi
Looks like the center of the latest HH pass was: 18:29:00Z 31.717N 75.200W
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Earl just took a Western wobble
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Quoting cYcLoN1C86:
Here are the newest models on Gaston. Models have shifted a tad south on the 12Z update, and as a result the NHC is further north of most of the models.

Gaston looks bad on the wv-loop but the visisble indicates it has a nice spin despite a lack of convection
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Quoting bwat:


I know nothing about computer models, by that NGFDL has been the most accurate in the last 24 hours. I though that was one of the more unreliable models? Is there any truth to what I have just said? Enlighten me.


The problem is look where Earl's coordinates are in reference to the models:-(
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Quoting PSLFLCaneVet:
Lmao, but seriously, I have the current loop running as I type. No apparent issue here.

No problem with my loop either, I refreshed it just to make sure. When I first brought up Wilmington radar about an hour ago, it said that it was down, but it seems fine now.
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678. bwat
Quoting OBXNCWEATHER:


Yes, I am on mainland Dare County... zip code 27953


Did you hear Dixie 105.7 talking this morning? There held nothing back, at one point the guy told everyone who was a visitor needed to leave now or they might die. I know he was just trying to get his point across, but it was a shocker to me. You could tell he was frustraied because they had reports of tourist still on the beach taking pictures.
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Actually, the local news here in MS is that there is a mile long oil sheen starting from the site.

Quoting cajunkid:
Reported that sand blasting caused it. Not confirmed.

"The Mariner Energy Platform in Vermillion Block 380 remains engulfed in flames. The platform is fixed in 340ft of water (update to previous report) and was in production at the time of incident. The platform can produce 1800 barrels of oil and 12 million cu ft of natural gas a day. The platform workers reported emergency shutdown procedures were started before abandoning the platform, success of shutdown procedures unknown at this time. Mariner Energy reports the platform does not have a standard blow-out preventer. The OSV CANDY APPLE is on-scene with fire fighting capability, unknown at this time if they have employed same. Mariner Energy has confirmed that there were 13 POB on the platform, and all 13 POB were recovered by OSV CRYSTAL CLEAR, and is transporting them to the reporting platform in Block 371. CG-6561 on-scene and determining which personnel if any require medevac to Terrebonne General Hospital. The FAA has established a 10NM in diameter 1000ft high temporary flight restriction at the site of the incident. Sector NOLA is leading the Marine Environmental Pollution response, and MSU Morgan City will lead the investigation. There is still no report of pollution at this time. D8 retains SMC."

its a big deal, but not as big a deal as Earl
Link
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676. JeffM
Is there anything more annoying than Local on the 8's when you want to see storm coverage?
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Quoting raggpr:
wow PR is in the eye of Gaston!


not really.
Member Since: August 31, 2009 Posts: 3 Comments: 252
Quoting TheMom:

TEAM DRY AIR!! Goooo Air gobble him up!


That's just mean. Poor Gaston.
Member Since: July 23, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 133
Quoting clwstmchasr:


Gaston had better get some thunderstorms going or the dry air just might completely kill him.

TEAM DRY AIR!! Goooo Air gobble him up!
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Quoting FLWeatherFreak91:
80W is Miami. I don't think it's getting into the gulf. I see a hurricane crossing either PR or Hispaniola and moving wnw into fl then hooking north
80W is only Miami if it goes north of the islands. It is also western Caribbean if he goes into the basin. Nhc said in their 11am discussion there is a chance he moves wsw at one point. Models have shifted further south.
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If you are able to give us some idea of conditions around that time?
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HH date

31.717N 75.200W 944.8 mb
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667. bwat
Quoting reedzonemyhero:
Disturbing and this does make a huge difference.

Click on image to zoom in and you'll see what I am talking about.

Link


I know nothing about computer models, by that NGFDL has been the most accurate in the last 24 hours. I though that was one of the more unreliable models? Is there any truth to what I have just said? Enlighten me.
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Quoting will40:


yes i am but evacuated to the Mainland


Yes, I am on mainland Dare County... zip code 27953
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Quoting MahFL:
The eye cleared out again on IR. Pinhole eye.....


Do you have a link so i can see it? tia
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Quoting ecflweatherfan:
Can you believe it? just got a message on the top of my radar screen for Moorehead City that "Radar down due to Maintenance."


The link is working for me:

Link
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Quoting jason2010xxxx:
WOW!!!!!


that wave is going to eat Gaston!
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Thank you for the info!
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Quoting Barbados:


There are more than 2.


Hey.... :) Good to meet all of you. Keeping an eye on Gaston now...We'll see
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Can someone give me the link as to the website that CycloneOz will be broadcasting from?

Thanks.


I'm gonna try to ucast (nighfalling storm...) if i can during the storm... if i do, i'll post the link in here to the channel :)
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Quoting plywoodstatenative:
NCStorm, what type of conditions are you under right now?


We got one little shower and wind is right now around 23 mph..cloudy and breezy..local news said between 4 and 8 tonight, we should feel the worst from Earl
Member Since: August 19, 2006 Posts: 13 Comments: 15288
656. MahFL
The eye cleared out again on IR. Pinhole eye.....
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j/k
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Disturbing and this does make a huge difference.

Click on image to zoom in and you'll see what I am talking about.

Link
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652. Jax82
The eye is very close to the edge of the radar now.

Member Since: September 2, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 1261
wow PR is in the eye of Gaston!
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Quoting LAlurker:

If it didn't work what would you do?
Lmao, but seriously, I have the current loop running as I type. No apparent issue here.
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That is our government at work.... maintain just before a major storm so you can't get data on it and then have to repair it and whatever else gets damaged because you didn't have it after the storm
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Quoting barbadosjulie:
Hey, barbados246, didn't realize we have another bajan here:)


There are more than 2.
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HH so far made it in as far as 75.06 W and still 92 knot winds at that point. The eye is still well past 75W right now. The data that comes in next (about ten minutes) should have eye data.
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Quoting barbados246:
Yes you do...i come on here to try to gather as much info as i can, can't rely on the broadcast here for info lol lol.


That is so true lol. I am here for the same reason. Nice meeting you :)
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I just placed a marker on the radar for my first center fix. Note that I am likely off reality at this point but I only just starting seeing the backside of the eye. I am using 31.8/75.1.
Member Since: August 26, 2006 Posts: 16 Comments: 4766
@StormW: You have been tolerant enough to answer some previous inquiries for me. Thank you. Without meaning to abuse your patience, here is another.

It has been said all week that the main influence to Earl's proposed turn N & NE would be the trough. It appears, at least by various accounts, that the trough is either late, weak or improperly oriented. I can only imagine that the NHC is aware of the current position of that trough. Why, then, does the track forecast remain the same? Is the trough not really as important as we believe or is it actually still going to do it's job? Help me out here, please.
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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