Tropical Storm Agatha one of the top ten deadliest Eastern Pacific storms on record

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:56 PM GMT on May 31, 2010

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The Eastern Pacific hurricane season of 2010 is off to a bad start. The mounting death toll from Central America's Tropical Storm Agatha has made that storm one of the top ten deadliest Eastern Pacific tropical cyclones on record. Agatha was a tropical storm for just 12 hours, making landfall Saturday on the Pacific coast of Guatemala as a 45 mph tropical storm. However, the storm brought huge amounts of moisture inland that continue to be wrung out as heavy rains by the high mountains of Guatemala and the surrounding nations of Central America. So far, flooding and landslides have killed at least 83 people in Guatemala, 13 in neighboring El Salvador, and one in Honduras. Guatemala is also suffering from the Pacaya volcano in Guatemala, which began erupting four days ago. At least three people have been killed by the volcano, located about 25 miles south of the capital, Guatemala City. The volcano has destroyed 800 homes with lava and brought moderate ash falls to the capital.


Figure 1. Flood damage in Zunil, Quetzaltenango, in Guatemala on May 29, 2010, after heavy rains from Tropical Storm Agatha. Image credit: Sergio Huertas, climaya.com

Agatha is the deadliest flooding disaster in Guatemala since Hurricane Stan of 2005, which killed 1,513. In a bizarre coincidence, that storm also featured a major volcanic eruption at the same time, when El Salvador's Santa Ana volcano blew its top during the height of Stan's rains in in that country on October 1. The eruption killed two and injured dozens, and worsened the mud flow damage from Stan's rains. The deadliest Eastern Pacific tropical cyclone on record for Guatemala was Hurricane Paul of 1982, which made landfall in Guatemala as a tropical depression. Flooding from Paul's rains killed 620 people in Guatemala.


Figure 2. Two-day rainfall totals for Central America as estimated by satellite, for the period 7pm EDT Friday May 28 - 7pm EDT Sunday May 30, 2010. Rainfall amounts of 350 mm (14 inches, orange colors) were indicated for portions of Guatemala. The Guatemala government reported that rainfall exceeded 36 inches in some regions. Image credit: Navy Research Lab, Monterey.

Oil spill update
Light onshore winds out of the south to southwest are expected to blow over the northern Gulf of Mexico all week, resulting increased threats of oil to the Alabama and Mississippi barrier islands, according to the latest trajectory forecasts from NOAA. These persistent southwesterly winds will likely bring oil very close to the Florida Panhandle by next weekend.

Oil spill resources
My post, What a hurricane would do the Deepwater Horizon oil spill
My post Wednesday with answers to some of the common questions I get about the spill
My post on the Southwest Florida "Forbidden Zone" where surface oil will rarely go
My post on what oil might do to a hurricane
Gulf Oil Blog from the UGA Department of Marine Sciences
NOAA trajectory forecasts
Deepwater Horizon Unified Command web site
Oil Spill Academic Task Force
University of South Florida Ocean Circulation Group oil spill forecasts
ROFFS Deepwater Horizon page
Surface current forecasts from NOAA's HYCOM model
Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery from the University of Miami
The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and its Aftermath
What You Need to Know about Mercury in Fish and Shellfish

Jeff Masters

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Quoting kuppenskup:


It's so funny you said that I just mentioned that to my wife.
lol.
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Quoting Levi32:


The Yucatan can be a flat friend for a developing system.


Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Could become a TD soon.


Not even close!
Member Since: January 22, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1723
needs to clear the coast a little more to anyway.
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Quoting beell:


Surface high pressure building in from the east?


Looking at the last few surface maps, barely....a little, from the SW Atlantic High pushing the 1016 isobar southwestward towards the NW Caribbean. That might be what it is.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26698
yea an easterly movement would help the system
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
The discussion coming out late, something's up.


It's so funny you said that I just mentioned that to my wife.
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Quoting Levi32:


Interesting.


It is interesting, but the bouy's location is northeast of the system, in the area where the trough seems to be weakening, explaining the rise in pressures there.
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http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/goes/flt/t1/wv-l.jpg

They put Agetha on the Atlantic Floater at NHC
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Quoting Hurricanes101:
not sure if being near the Yucatan would inhibit it any, we have seen more systems develop over or near the Yucatan more than any other landmass in the Atlantic Basin

heck Opal in 1995 develop while over the Yucatan


But the problem is if this system moves due north a good portion of it will be over land then it's gonna be in the Gulf and with that sheer it's not going to have time to organize very much. That's why I was saying it's chances of surviving are a lot better with any kind of a NE movement.
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Quoting xcool:
Nice little flare upCaribbean
Could become a TD soon.
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Quoting Hurricanes101:
not sure if being near the Yucatan would inhibit it any, we have seen more systems develop over or near the Yucatan more than any other landmass in the Atlantic Basin

heck Opal in 1995 develop while over the Yucatan


The Yucatan can be a flat friend for a developing system.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26698
489. beell
Quoting Levi32:


Interesting.


Surface high pressure building in from the east?
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488. xcool
Nice little flare upCaribbean
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15684
The discussion coming out late, something's up.
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Quoting beell:
NDBC Buoy 42056
19.874 N 85.059 W



Link


Interesting.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26698
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Shear in the GOM just below climatological:



Shear in the Caribbean astonishingly low:



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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
I do.

Very small system, looks about the size of Marco (2008). If I were the NHC I would classify it as a 30 MPH TD later today.

They will. And if not today, some time tonight. That water is primed up to fire this tiny thing.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 22264
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Shear over the the COC is about 5-10 knots.


Wow that's not much at all
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shes needs to come about 30 degrees ne another ten mile
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All you guys see are the midlevel clouds. The LLC is almost open now and weakening. The trough extends down to Belize. W winds you see in Belize is just above the surface. Local Obs have SE winds up to 1,100 ft. This thing has under a 10% chance of development
Member Since: January 22, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1723
478. WAHA
You do not have to reply to this, but it's like I'm one of the people here that you have to click to view.
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not sure if being near the Yucatan would inhibit it any, we have seen more systems develop over or near the Yucatan more than any other landmass in the Atlantic Basin

heck Opal in 1995 develop while over the Yucatan
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They will probably have this puppy clipping S Florida and riding up the east coast. Looks very impressive.
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Also, kudos to all. Has been an excellent discussion, imo, since Agatha formed.

Appreciate all the inputs.
Member Since: September 9, 2008 Posts: 6 Comments: 3414
Quoting Seastep:


NRL is centered over the agatha dissipation point.

Looking at that should be perfect hit when it is updated on the ASCAT page.

The L has been repositioned quite a bit E on the sat overlay from the 12Z NHC surface map position.


Did not look like it would catch much of it to me. Looking further south you can see the Ascat swath width.
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Quoting kuppenskup:


She's becomming a little better organized and thunderstorms are starting to increase around the center. Are you seeing what Im seeing?
things can happen
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472. beell
NDBC Buoy 42056
19.874 N 85.059 W



Link
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
I do.

Very small system, looks about the size of Marco (2008). If I were the NHC I would classify it as a 30 MPH TD later today.



The approx to the Yucatan may inhibit some strenghting but any shift to the NE at all and I believe we have a full blown TS by tomorrow.
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Quoting Drakoen:
Shear over the the COC is about 5-10 knots.
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469. WAHA
Quoting kuppenskup:


She's becomming a little better organized and thunderstorms are starting to increase around the center. Are you seeing what Im seeing?

Yes. Ironically, we have separate eyes.
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Weak, northerly low-level steering with a slightly stronger tug at the mid-levels.
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Quoting kuppenskup:


She's becomming a little better organized and thunderstorms are starting to increase around the center. Are you seeing what Im seeing?
I do.

Very small system, looks about the size of Marco (2008). If I were the NHC I would classify it as a 30 MPH TD later today.

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Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:
ASCAT solution from NRL does not catch the circulation.



Click on image to view original size in a new window





NRL is centered over the agatha dissipation point.

Looking at that should be perfect hit when it is updated on the ASCAT page.

The L has been repositioned quite a bit E on the sat overlay from the 12Z NHC surface map position.
Member Since: September 9, 2008 Posts: 6 Comments: 3414
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
True.
Bullish and vague.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 22264
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It's got nowhere to go but North & NE
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Quoting USSINS:
Most of the global models, especially the GFDL, do not do well with cyclogenesis anyways. And, while the trough may be weakening the area of low pressure is growing convection. There's adequate convergence and divergence with this closed center, albeit small, it's still has all the characteristics of a developing system - not a collapsing one. It may be short-lived indeed, but in the present it has all the makings of a TD and possible TS before getting sheared as it moves into the GOM.
Me thinks the same thing..:)
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 22264
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Circulation strength continues to increase, it was a 3 knots on the 06z map.


She's becomming a little better organized and thunderstorms are starting to increase around the center. Are you seeing what Im seeing?
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Quoting weathersp:


All factors point to a very active hurricane season, even NOAA was bullish in their outlook, and their usually one of the most conservative.
True.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Which isn't good considering record SSTs in the MDR, cooling Gulf of Guinea, well defined Atlantic tri-pole, Negative NAO, low SAL.


All factors point to a very active hurricane season, even NOAA was bullish in their outlook, and their usually one of the most conservative.
Member Since: January 14, 2007 Posts: 17 Comments: 4140
Quoting stillwaiting:
looky here:
Circulation strength continues to increase, it was a 3 knots on the 06z map.
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I read that as of april when TSR gave their outlook for this year that an ACE index of 159 is expected and that 2005 season had a 259.. Do any of you feel we'll probably have a ACE this year of at least 200 or more???
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looky here:
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Quoting StormW:
TROPICAL WEATHER SYNOPSIS MAY 31, 2010 ISSUED 12:45 P.M. PHTFC


As a South Florida resident I speak for all of us when I say Thank you sir!
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10 hrs to go

The formation of tropical cyclones is the topic of extensive ongoing research and is still not fully understood. While six factors appear to be generally necessary, tropical cyclones may occasionally form without meeting all of the following conditions. In most situations, water temperatures of at least 26.5 °C (79.7 °F) are needed down to a depth of at least 50 metres (160 ft); waters of this temperature cause the overlying atmosphere to be unstable enough to sustain convection and thunderstorms. Another factor is rapid cooling with height, which allows the release of the heat of condensation that powers a tropical cyclone.High humidity is needed, especially in the lower-to-mid troposphere; when there is a great deal of moisture in the atmosphere, conditions are more favorable for disturbances to develop. Low amounts of wind shear are needed, as high shear is disruptive to the storm's circulation. Tropical cyclones generally need to form more than 555 kilometres (345 mi) or 5 degrees of latitude away from the equator, allowing the Coriolis effect to deflect winds blowing towards the low pressure center and creating a circulation. Lastly, a formative tropical cyclone needs a pre-existing system of disturbed weather, although without a circulation no cyclonic development will take place.

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Quoting Levi32:


Courtesy of the positive Indian Dipole...which means enhanced African wave activity for us in the Atlantic this year.
Which isn't good considering record SSTs in the MDR, cooling Gulf of Guinea, well defined Atlantic tri-pole, Negative NAO, low SAL.
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Most of the global models, especially the GFDL, do not do well with cyclogenesis anyways. And, while the trough may be weakening the area of low pressure is growing convection. There's adequate convergence and divergence with this closed center, albeit small, it's still has all the characteristics of a developing system - not a collapsing one. It may be short-lived indeed, but in the present it has all the makings of a TD and possible TS before getting sheared as it moves into the GOM.
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Quoting nrtiwlnvragn:
ASCAT solution from NRL does not catch the circulation.



Click on image to view original size in a new window





The westerly winds east of belize speak for themselves. We have ourselves a closed surface circulation. How well-defined it is, is the question. It almost has an elongated look on visible satellite loops.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26698

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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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