Karl hits the Yucatan; two simultaneous Cat 4s in the Atlantic for 2nd time in history

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:37 PM GMT on September 15, 2010

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The Atlantic hurricane season of 2010 kicked into high gear this morning, with the landfall of Tropical Storm Karl in Mexico, and the simultaneous presence of two Category 4 hurricanes in the Atlantic, Igor and Julia. Tropical Storm Karl's formation yesterday marked the fifth earliest date that an eleventh named storm of the season has formed. The only years more active this early in the season were 2005, 1995, 1936 and 1933. This morning's unexpected intensification of Hurricane Julia into a Category 4 storm with 135 mph winds has set a new record--Julia is now the strongest hurricane on record so far east. When one considers that earlier this year, Hurricane Earl became the fourth strongest hurricane so far north, it appears that this year's record SSTs have significantly expanded the area over which major hurricanes can exist over the Atlantic. This morning is just the second time in recorded history that two simultaneous Category 4 or stronger storms have occurred in the Atlantic. The only other occurrence was on 06 UTC September 16, 1926, when the Great Miami Hurricane and Hurricane Four were both Category 4 storms for a six-hour period. The were also two years, 1999 and 1958, when we missed having two simultaneous Category 4 hurricanes by six hours. Julia's ascension to Category 4 status makes it the 4th Category 4 storm of the year. Only two other seasons have had as many as five Category 4 or stronger storms (2005 and 1999), so 2010 ranks in 3rd place in this statistic. This year is also the earliest a fourth Category 4 or stronger storm has formed (though the fourth Category 4 of 1999, Hurricane Gert, formed just 3 hours later on today's date in 1999.) We've also had four Cat 4+ storms in just twenty days, which beats the previous record for shortest time span for four Cat 4+ storms to appear. The previous record was 1999, 24 days (thanks to Phil Klozbach of CSU for this stat.)


Figure 1. A rare double feature: two simultaneous Category 4 hurricanes in the Atlantic, for only the second time in recorded history.

Karl
Tropical Storm Karl made landfall as a strong tropical storm with 65 mph winds and a central pressure of 991 mb at 8:45am EDT this morning on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, just north of the Belize border. Karl took advantage of nearly ideal conditions for intensification, and in just fifteen hours intensified from a tropical disturbance to a strong tropical storm with 65 mph winds. Had Karl managed to get its act together just one day earlier, it could have been a major hurricane at landfall this morning. Fortunately, Karl has a relatively small area of strong winds--tropical storm force winds extend out just 45 miles from the center of the storm, and wind damage is not the main concern. Heavy rains are the main concern, and Belize radar shows heavy rain bands from Karl spreading ashore over northern Belize near the border with Mexico. Cancun radar shows that heavy rains are relatively limited, though, near the tourist havens of Cancun and Cozumel.


Figure 2. Radar image of Karl at landfall this morning near the northern Belize/Mexican border. Image credit: Belize National Meteorological Service.

Forecast for Karl
Karl will traverse the Yucatan Peninsula today and emerge into the Gulf of Mexico's Bay of Campeche Thursday morning as a much weakened tropical storm, with perhaps 40 - 45 mph top winds. Once in the Gulf, conditions for intensification are ideal, with wind shear is expected to be low, 5 - 10 knots, SSTs will be warm, 29°C - 30°C, and the atmosphere very moist. These conditions, combined with the topography of the surrounding coast which tends to enhance counter-clockwise flow, should allow Karl to intensify into a strong tropical storm or a Category 1 hurricane before making landfall between Tampico and Vercruz, Mexico on Saturday morning. However, since Karl is a small storm, it is possible that passage over the Yucatan will disrupt the storm enough so that it will be much weaker. The ridge of high pressure steering Karl westwards is quite strong, and it is very unlikely that the storm will turn northwest and hit Texas. NHC is giving Brownsville, Texas, an 10% chance of receiving tropical storm force winds of 39+ mph.

Igor
Hurricane Igor put on a burst of intensification last night to put it at its strongest yet, a top-end Category 4 hurricane with 155 mph winds. Igor has weakened slightly this morning, but remains a formidable presence in the Central Atlantic with its 145 mph winds. Igor continues to show the classic appearance of a major hurricane on satellite imagery, with a well-formed eye, symmetrical cloud pattern, plenty of low-level spiral bands, and solid upper-level outflow on all sides.


Figure 3. Hurricane Igor as captured at 18 UTC Tuesday September 14, 2010, from the International Space Station. Image credit: Douglas Wheelock, NASA.

Intensity forecast for Igor
Wind shear is low, 5 - 10 knots, and is expected to remain low for the next 2 - 3 days. Waters are warm, 29°C, and will remain 29°C for the next 2 - 3 days. Igor is well armored against any intrusions of dry air for at least the next three days. These conditions should allow Igor to remain at major hurricane status for the next three days. The hurricane will probably undergo one of the usual eyewall replacement cycles intense hurricanes commonly have, where the eyewall collapses and a new eyewall forms from an outer spiral band. This will weaken the hurricane by 10 - 20 mph when it occurs, and may be responsible for the 10 mph weakening Igor experienced early this morning. Igor may regain its lost intensity over the next 36 hours. By Saturday morning, 36 hours before the core of Igor is expected to pass Bermuda's latitude, the trough of low pressure steering Igor northwestwards should bring moderate wind shear of 10 - 20 knots to the storm, weakening it. The SHIPS models predicts shear will rise to the high range, 20 - 30 knots, during the final 24 hours of the storm's approach to Bermuda. Igor will also be tracking over cooler 28°C waters during this period, and substantial weakening by perhaps 20 - 30 mph can be expected. Igor will still probably be at least a Category 2 hurricane on its closest pass by Bermuda on Sunday. NHC is giving Bermuda a 13% chance of experiencing hurricane force winds from Igor, but this probability is likely too low. The Bermuda Weather Service is calling for Category 1 or 2 hurricane conditions for the island on Sunday, with 20 - 25 foot waves in the offshore waters.

Track forecast for Igor
The track forecast for Igor remains unchanged. Igor has made its long-anticipated turn to the west-northwest, in response to the steering influence of a broad trough of low pressure moving across the Western Atlantic. This trough will steer Igor several hundred miles to the northeast of the Lesser Antilles, and high waves should be the only impact of Igor on the islands. Igor appears likely to be a threat to Bermuda, and that island can expect tropical storm force winds as early as Saturday. Igor will be moving at about 12 - 15 mph as it approaches Bermuda. Tropical storm force winds of 39+ mph will probably extend out about 250 miles to the north of Igor on Saturday, so Bermuda can expect 18 hours of tropical storm force winds before the core of Igor makes its closest pass. In all, Bermuda is likely to experience a very long pounding of 24 - 36 hours with winds in excess of tropical storm force.

The models have been in substantial agreement over multiple runs that Igor will miss the U.S. East Coast, and the danger to the U.S. will probably only come in the form of high waves. Large swells from Igor have arrived in the Northern Lesser Antilles Islands, and will spread westwards over the next few days, reaching the U.S. East Coast on Friday. By Saturday, much of the East Coast from northern Florida to Cape Cod Massachusetts can expect waves of 3 - 4 meters (10 - 13 feet), causing dangerous rip currents and significant beach erosion. These waves will continue through Sunday then gradually die down. The latest NOAA marine forecast for Cape Hatteras, North Carolina calls for 8 - 10 foot waves on Saturday, and 9 - 12 foot waves on Sunday.

Igor may pass very close to Newfoundland, Canada, but it is too early too assess the likelihood of this happening.

Julia
Hurricane Julia put on a remarkable and unexpected burst of intensification this morning to become the season's fourth Category 4 storm. Julia's 135 mph winds make it the strongest hurricane on record so far east; the previous record was held by the eighth storm of 1926 which was only a 120 mph Category 3 hurricane at Julia's current longitude. Julia's intensification was a surprise, since SSTs in the region are about 27.5°C, which is just 1°C above the threshold needed to sustain a Category 1 hurricane. Julia is headed northwest, out to sea, and it is unlikely that this storm will trouble any land areas. SSTs will steadily cool to 26.5°C today, and further intensification today is unlikely. Shear will be moderate, 10 - 20 knots, over Julia during the next two days, then rise sharply to 30 knots 3 - 5 days from now, as Julia moves within 1000 miles of Igor and begins to experience strong northwesterly winds from her big brother's upper level outflow. This should substantially weaken Julia.

Elsewhere in the tropics
The GFS and ECMWF models develop a new tropical depression a few hundred miles off the coast of Africa 3 - 6 days from now. The GFS also develops a tropical depression in the eastern Caribbean 6 - 7 days from now.

Portlight's 2-year anniversary
On September 14, 2008, the devastation wrought by Hurricane Ike on Texas and Louisiana moved members of the wunderground community to put into action their own impromptu relief effort. From this humble beginning has grown a disaster-relief charity I have been proud to support--Portlight.org. We've been blessed this hurricane season with relatively few landfalling storms, so Portlight's new disaster relief trailer (Figure 4), financed with a $21,500 grant from the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, has yet to be deployed. With five weeks of peak hurricane season still to come, the new trailer may yet get a call to action. The mobile kitchen in the trailer will be able to feed several hundred people per day, and the trailer is equipped with portable ramps to help with shelter accessibility, as well as durable medical equipment to facilitate mobility and independence for survivors. The trailer is mobile, and Portlight is willing to load it up and fly it to Bermuda, if Igor ends up making a mess there!

The lack of landfalling storms has allowed Portlight to continue to concentrate their efforts on Haiti, where their assistance has been a tremendous boost for those most in need, the disabled. Portlight is working on constructing steel shelters out of shipping containers for homeless Haitians, as detailed in the Haitian Relief Recap blog post. Please visit the Portlight.org web site or the Portlight blog to learn more and donate. A few other items of note:

Portlight has been able to facilitate providing assistance to people with disabilities in Pakistan, where the worst natural disaster in their history has left 4 million homeless. While not directly involved in delivering relief, Portlight has been able to connect local Disabled People's Organizations with important sources of food, water, filtration systems, and medical equipment.

ABC News4 in Charleston broadcast a story about the Portlight relief trailer, and Portlight has also been featured on the Pacifica Radio Network.

Portlight launched a quarterly newsletter, The Portlight View, which can be seen on the newly redesigned website.


Figure 4. The new Portlight disaster relief trailer, funded by their $21,500 grant from the Christopher and Dana Reeve foundation.

I'll have an update Thursday morning.

Jeff Masters

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835. IKE
Quoting DDR:
Ike was it last year you got alot of rain?
El nino has you drying out?


Think it was below average here for the year 2009.

It's been average to above average with rain here the last few months, until September started.
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834. DDR
Quoting tropicfreak:


You mean La Nina.

Yea sorry was now about to edit that lol
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Don't get me wrong. I LOVE football. Iv'e followed it since I was a child. However, should not posts be deleted due to the infraction of off topic discussion during peak season rule before an inference about the president's birthplace?
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Quoting DDR:
Ike was it last year you got alot of rain?
El nino has you drying out?


You mean La Nina.
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830. DDR
Ike was it last year you got alot of rain?
La nina has you drying out?
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Question: How big is Igor in size compared to other large hurricanes? Is it a pretty large storm?
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Check out our drought index.
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825. DDR
Quoting deepee:
a little off topic but here's some pictures of a water spot off the coast of padre island this morning.

have had numerous spouts and funnels the past couple of days.


Well done!
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Quoting WhoDat42:


Is that the f
orecast cone of uncertainty?


That is the line of certainty. Of course the accuracy of that line does not reflect errors or the uncertainty of any measurements taken.
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Quoting FLdewey:
LOL... it's a bit early for Bermuda panic... if it passes 100 miles away they'll be fine.


It's not too early in my opinion. Now is the time for them to making their preparations and being sure they have all the supplies they need. Even if Igor weakens and is a Cat 2 instead of a Cat 3 or 4 he will cause problems for the island.
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Igor does have that classic EWRC to him right now, rapid scan imagery shows hot towers, indictative of a newly forming eyewall.
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a little off topic but here's some pictures of a water spout off the coast of padre island this morning.

have had numerous spouts and funnels the past couple of days.

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815. IKE
Quoting CosmicEvents:
We get 2 major hurricanes at one time in the Atlantic Basin once every 30 years or so...and there's more talk about models 10-14 days out. I must be missing something.


"""pattern change"""


Quoting tornadolarkin:

Where are you?


Florida panhandle.
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Quoting twhcracker:
we have big time drought here in fla panhandle. Just like in 2005 after katrina. actually it was a drought for three or four years after katrina.


While folks in TX/MX are flood stricken.
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Quoting FLdewey:

Those don't count... mostly because they don't come to the F state.
I understand.
On this blog a model showing a cyclone hitting the CONUS 14 days from now trumps 2 MAJOR HURRICANES that we have right now.
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we have big time drought here in fla panhandle. Just like in 2005 after katrina. actually it was a drought for three or four years after katrina.
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808. 7544
now gem and gfs hmmmm 7 days out

Link
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Quoting IKE:


I've had .03 of an inch of rain for the month, with no end in sight the next 5 days and maybe beyond....

5 day Precipitation....


Where are you?
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Quoting CosmicEvents:
We get 2 major hurricanes at one time in the Atlantic Basin once every 30 years or so...and there's more talk about models 10-14 days out. I must be missing something.


Yep, they've been consistent with a storm forming in the Caribbean and coming to F******.
Member Since: October 8, 2008 Posts: 14 Comments: 4553
Quoting LTLROX:


I am waiting until January 1, 2011 to make my perdictions. That way I will not be wrong.

Previous comment was sarcasm directed toward those who change their predictions every few days.

If one is trying to predict the position of a storm three or more days out, this has value, but the horses are already out of the gate in betting on the season.



Is that the forecast cone of uncertainty?
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Quoting FLdewey:
LOL... it's a bit early for Bermuda panic... if it passes 100 miles away they'll be fine.



The "key" word here is "if"
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from the san juan office....

THE TROPICS ARE VERY ACTIVE AND SATELLITE IMAGERY ACROSS THE EAST
CNTRL ATLC SUGGESTS ADDITIONAL DEVELOPMENT IS POSSIBLE OVR THE
WEEKEND OR EARLY NEXT WEEK. SVRL AREAS OF STRONG CONVECTION ARE
EVIDENT EXTENDING FROM NEAR 45W TO THE W AFRICAN COASTLINE ALONG
OR JUST SOUTH OF 10N. OP AND ENSEMBLE GUIDANCE CONTINUE TO SUGGEST
ADDITIONAL TC DEVELOPMENT WITH ONE DISTURBANCE NEAR 45W AND
ANOTHER ONE EAST OF 20W. GFS AND SVRL GFES MEMBERS ARE VERY
BULLISH WITH THIS DISTURBANCE INDICATING A TC MOVING SOUTH OF PR
AROUND THE 23RD. GFES ENSEMBLE GUIDANCE SHOWS SIG TIMING
DIFFERENCES BUT SOME SUGGEST AT LEAST SOME WEAK DEVELOPMENT. IT IS
SEPT AND CONDITIONS ACROSS THE ATLC LOOK VERY FAVORABLE SO AM
EXPECTING SOMETHING TO DEVELOP. MODEL GUIDANCE HAS ALSO HAD A SLOW
BIAS WITH TROPICAL CYCLONES THIS YEAR SO ANTICIPATING WEATHER
ASSOCIATED TO THESE DISTURBANCES A DAY OR TWO THAN EARLIER
SUGGESTED BY MODELS. IN SUMMARY...SIG AMT UNCERTAINTY SEEN EARLY
NEXT WEEK ESPECIALLY REGARDING TIMING BUT ANTICIPATING A WETTER
AND MORE UNSETTLED PERIOD. MOST OF THE GLOBAL MODELS LIKE THE AEW
NEAR THE AFRICAN COASTLINE BUT THIS SYSTEM IS AT LEAST EIGHT DAYS
FROM REACHING THE LESSER ANTILLES IF IT WERE TO REACH THIS FAR
WEST.

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We get 2 major hurricanes at one time in the Atlantic Basin once every 30 years or so...and there's more talk about models 10-14 days out. I must be missing something.
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797. IKE
Quoting tropicfreak:


Looks like the setup of the bermuda high will change, forcing any storms that do pass very close to the leeward islands may get forced into the US. About time, we need the rain badly here in VA, our county is already under mandatory water restrictions. But its 10 or so days away.


I've had .03 of an inch of rain for the month, with no end in sight the next 5 days and maybe beyond....

5 day Precipitation....

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Quoting jason2010xxxx:

Classic ERC signature on visible right now.
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Quoting Jeff9641:
Dangerous Hurricane Igor Targets Bermuda
By Heather Buchman, Meteorologist
Sep 15, 2010; 9:55 AM ETShare

Igor could pass just to the west of Bermuda later Saturday. Unless the storm weakens considerably, this would be a worst case scenario.
Residents and visitors of Bermuda should make preparations and take precautions for a major impact from Hurricane Igor, set to pass through this weekend.


Some residents may be hesitant of preparation for Igor due to the recent glancing blows felt by Colin and Danielle earlier this season.

The third time may be a "bad luck" charm.

Igor poses a more significant danger to lives and property than the two tropical systems earlier this season.

Computer models and seasoned AccuWeather.com meteorologists take Igor within 100 miles of Bermuda Saturday night.


How true! If I lived in Bermuda I would definitely be on the phone with ticket counter of the airport. It is a scary situation. Let us all take a moment of prayer for them.
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Quoting reedzone:


Almost everyone on here has a season prediction. Scratch the 6-7, more like 5-6 majors. I'm still predicting 15-18 storms, 9-10 Hurricanes.


I am waiting until January 1, 2011 to make my perdictions. That way I will not be wrong.

Previous comment was sarcasm directed toward those who change their predictions every few days.

If one is trying to predict the position of a storm three or more days out, this has value, but the horses are already out of the gate in betting on the season.

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792. ackee
Quoting hydrus:
This is interesting. Check out the GEM model. It has a bunch of low pressure areas coming together in the Labrador Straits(Igor is one of the lows. It will make a giant superstorm of some kind.Link
IT ALSO SHOW STORMS OR TD in carrb almost the same place like the GFS
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Area to watch for development in the Caribbean is around 40W which is coupled with an 850mb vorticity maximum as indicated by the cimss 850mb vorticity product.
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Quoting IKE:


Euro goes out to 240 hours.

Here's the GFS at 168 hours...



Looks like the setup of the bermuda high will change, forcing any storms that do pass very close to the leeward islands may get forced into the US. About time, we need the rain badly here in VA, our county is already under mandatory water restrictions. But its 10 or so days away.
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Quoting Drakoen:
Interesting ECMWF showing the formation of another system in the EATL. The model also shows low pressures in the Western Caribbean, a hotspot for tropical cyclone development this season. Definitely could be hints of the possibility of storm formation in the Central or Western Caribbean in the long-range.


Rather difficult to ignore the run to run consistency of the GFS model for storm formation in the Caribbean.

Did the GFS show it again?
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787. IKE
AREA FORECAST DISCUSSION
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BIRMINGHAM AL
239 PM CDT WED SEP 15 2010

.DISCUSSION...

A FEW ISOLATED SHOWERS TODAY AND WILL AGAIN BE POSSIBLE TOMORROW AS
A WEAK UPPER TROUGH AND SURFACE FRONT APPROACH THE AREA. BEST
CHANCE FOR ANY MEASURABLE RAIN WILL BE IN THE EXTREME NORTH.

TEMPERATURES WILL REMAIN WELL ABOVE AVERAGE DURING THE AFTERNOON
HOURS THROUGH THE FORECAST PERIOD. AN ENHANCED UPPER RIDGE WILL
FIRMLY BUILD OVER THE SOUTHEAST EARLY NEXT WEEK TAKING DAYTIME
TEMPERATURES WELL INTO THE MID 90S FOR MUCH OF THE AREA. THE EURO
1000-850 THICKNESS FORECAST SUPPORTS UPPER 90S AND EVEN LOWER 100S
FOR NEXT TUESDAY. GUIDANCE TEMPERATURES HAVE YET TO PICK UP ON
THIS SO WILL SEE HOW THINGS PLAY OUT THE NEXT FEW RUNS BEFORE
GOING TOO CLOSE TO THOSE NUMBERS BUT WILL CONTINUE THE TREND OF
GOING ABOVE GUIDANCE FOR ALL OF NEXT WEEK. BY THE WAY...RECORD
HIGHS FOR NEXT WEEK ARE MOSTLY IN THE 97 TO 100 RANGE. OVERNIGHT
FORECAST TEMPS ARE MAINLY IN THE 60S. IT DOES LOOK LIKE THE
HUMIDITY WILL BE RELATIVELY LOW WHICH MAY ALLOW THE TEMPERATURES
TO FEEL A LITTLE MORE COMFORTABLE BUT WILL ONLY ACT TO AGGRAVATE
THE GROWING DROUGHT AND WILDFIRE CONCERNS.
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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.