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 MiamiHurricanes09:
I'm in one of the NOAA buildings right now, pretty cool.
My bad I quoted Weather456. About the surface analysis, exactly what I was saying.
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Quoting superweatherman:
Hey Weather456 is back... So what do you think of Ex-Agatha? Maybe thinking of having a sex change soon.


Still not being too optimistic about this one...However, I cannot ignore the facts that convection is trying to sustain over the what I see as a low level circulation offshore, and that an upper anticyclone is helping to aid in low shear. Not really surprised tho it did this since I covered it in my blog this morning:

Currently the system is located in weak steering flow, but should begin a gradual motion towards the north-northeast over the next day or two. Conditions in the northwest Caribbean will be somewhat favourable for redevelopment of Agatha but that remains a small window of opportunity considering hostile conditions await in the Gulf of Mexico over the next 3-5 days. Nevertheless, I will continue to monitor the progress of this system as this morning satellite imagery showed thunderstorms forming offshore which in these cases can cause center relocations.
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TPC 24 hour forecast still expects it to be around the same general area tomorrow morning:

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Quoting Weather456:
12Z maps - one dominant surface low pressure area analyzed over NW Caribbean...

I'm in one of the NOAA buildings right now, pretty cool.
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Quoting IKE:
SYNOPSIS FOR CARIBBEAN SEA AND TROPICAL N ATLC FROM 07N TO 22N
BETWEEN 55W AND 65W...CORRECTED
1130 AM EDT MON MAY 31 2010

.SYNOPSIS...A 1010 MB LOW NEAR 18N86W WITH TROUGH SW TO NW HONDURAS
WILL DRIFT N THROUGH WED. ELY TRADES WILL RETURN TUE THROUGH FRI AND
STRENGTHEN SOME AS ATLC RIDGE REBUILDS N OF AREA. A TROPICAL WAVE
ALONG 62W IS MOVING W 15 KT. THE WAVE WILL MOVE ACROSS THE REMAINDER
OF THE EASTERN CARIBBEAN THROUGH EARLY TUE MORNING...THROUGH THE
CENTRAL CARIBBEAN LATER TUE THROUGH WED...AND INTO THE WESTERN
CARIBBEAN THU TO INLAND CENTRAL AMERICA FRI.



Yep there you go.. trough extending down into Honduras.... and this is weakening.
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Quoting Weather456:
12Z maps - one dominant surface low pressure area analyzed over NW Caribbean...



That proves the dominance of the center over the water, but the NHC may be picky about the vort max still over Belize. I see no reason why there should be no TWO out for this.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
394. WAHA
Quoting superweatherman:
Hey Weather456 is back... So what do you think of Ex-Agatha? Maybe thinking of having a sex change soon.

Whoa! You could've said that it transitioned to the atlantic!
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393. IKE
SYNOPSIS FOR CARIBBEAN SEA AND TROPICAL N ATLC FROM 07N TO 22N
BETWEEN 55W AND 65W...CORRECTED
1130 AM EDT MON MAY 31 2010

.SYNOPSIS...A 1010 MB LOW NEAR 18N86W WITH TROUGH SW TO NW HONDURAS
WILL DRIFT N THROUGH WED. ELY TRADES WILL RETURN TUE THROUGH FRI AND
STRENGTHEN SOME AS ATLC RIDGE REBUILDS N OF AREA. A TROPICAL WAVE
ALONG 62W IS MOVING W 15 KT. THE WAVE WILL MOVE ACROSS THE REMAINDER
OF THE EASTERN CARIBBEAN THROUGH EARLY TUE MORNING...THROUGH THE
CENTRAL CARIBBEAN LATER TUE THROUGH WED...AND INTO THE WESTERN
CARIBBEAN THU TO INLAND CENTRAL AMERICA FRI.
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How many storms in the Atlantic have been named on june 1st?
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Quoting scott39:
Well if you can see it why cant they?


They may consider it a sign of disorganization, at least until the vort max over land dissipates. I resent the fact that they have not issued a TWO on this yet, though.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
No it's not. There is one dominating area of low pressure over the northern coast of Belize. Take a look at the 12z surface analysis.


There is no LLC over belize.. check your latest Wx St obs and sat obs
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12Z maps - one dominant surface low pressure area analyzed over NW Caribbean...

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Quoting MZV:
Levi32, interesting comment. I wonder if there are any examples of a system that decoupled over land, the low level and mid levels moving in different directions, with each resulting in a new storm over water.


Center relocations in that fashion do happen a lot with systems developing close to land. If memory serves me, Hurricane Cindy in 2005, which also developed near the eastern Yucatan, was decoupled and eventually reformed the center under the mid-level low. I am barely remembering the satellite loops from her depression days though so I am not positive. It may have been the surface center that eventually became dominant.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
387. WAHA
Ex-Agatha caught on Metop:
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Hey Weather456 is back... So what do you think of Ex-Agatha? Maybe thinking of having a sex change soon.
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Gotta go.......everyone have a good Memorial Day and thank god for our Troops and those that have sacrificed so much. NO FIGHTING KIDS
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Quoting Levi32:


It actually may slightly decrease the chances of the NHC labeling it, because they may still be hanging onto the surface circulation over land, and doubting the integrity of the one over water.
Well if you can see it why cant they?
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Quoting scott39:
Does this mean at least an invest?


It actually may slightly decrease the chances of the NHC labeling it, because they may still be hanging onto the surface circulation over land, and doubting the integrity of the one over water.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
Quoting scottsvb:
Chances go down every 6hrs.

Chance of this thing being classified by 5pm
20% or less (I really give it 0%)

Chance of this thing being classified by 11pm
10% of less

Chance after 11pm

2%

Its just a midlevel trough leftover from the TS Agatha.. there are weak LLC vortexs under the MLC but pressures are rising and no model support from the GFS,GFDL and ECMWF


I said by 5am.....if its not developed by then before pushing northward.....just a Low Level windy rain event........
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Quoting scottsvb:


Its already decoupled.2 areas of weak low pressure.. 1 under the MLC and another extending down SSW to off Belize. There is no main LLC, its mostly in the midlevels and will weaken more tonight. Just look @ the wind obs along the coast of Belize and the Yucitan in the Maya area up to Cozumel.. E or ENE winds all the way down to Belize. Again there is a LLC near the MLC but there are muliple ones so its not fully stacked.
No it's not. There is one dominating area of low pressure over the northern coast of Belize. Take a look at the 12z surface analysis.
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Low level circulation as viewed from satellite winds and surface observations:



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If you look east of the convection you can see arc bands of low level cloudiness. There is some inflow going on.
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378. MZV
Levi32, interesting comment. I wonder if there are any examples of a system that decoupled over land, the low level and mid levels moving in different directions, with each resulting in a new storm over water.
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Quoting Levi32:
Now this is interesting....the 15z 850mb vorticity. At first I considered the vort max still over Belize to be wrong based on the relocation of ex-Agatha's center, but, guess what, the map is correct.



Looking at high-resolution visible satellite imagery, daytime heating is spawning cumulus cloud streets over central America. This is providing an excellent view of the low-level winds. Watch west-central Belize. There is vorticity there with a clear spin in the cloud streets.

Why is this there? My guess is this is what is left of ex-Agatha's old circulation that has not moved in the last 24 hours. The convective blow-up this morning was associated with the mid-level circulation that moved out over the water and left the surface circulation behind. However, the convection induced a relocation of the surface center to the east underneath the mid-level low, leaving the old center behind while the new one spins up over the water.
Does this mean at least an invest?
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Some smart weather minds on now. Great time to ingest some knowledge.
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Well that about covers it thanks Storm. Off to badminton and barbecue land.Take a short look after 2, see if nhc says something. As noted earlier everyone have a safe and happy holiday all though one hell of a price has been paid for this one. May God bless them all.
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Chances go down every 6hrs.

Chance of this thing being classified by 5pm
20% or less (I really give it 0%)

Chance of this thing being classified by 11pm
10% of less

Chance after 11pm

2%

Its just a midlevel trough leftover from the TS Agatha.. there are weak LLC vortexs under the MLC but pressures are rising and no model support from the GFS,GFDL and ECMWF
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Not going to get much better than this. The only thing left for it to do is actually develop.

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Strongest vorticity aloft overlaid

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Now this is interesting....the 15z 850mb vorticity. At first I considered the vort max still over Belize to be wrong based on the relocation of ex-Agatha's center, but, guess what, the map is correct.



Looking at high-resolution visible satellite imagery, daytime heating is spawning cumulus cloud streets over central America. This is providing an excellent view of the low-level winds. Watch west-central Belize. There is vorticity there with a clear spin in the cloud streets.

Why is this there? My guess is this is what is left of ex-Agatha's old circulation that has not moved in the last 24 hours. The convective blow-up this morning was associated with the mid-level circulation that moved out over the water and left the surface circulation behind. However, the convection induced a relocation of the surface center to the east underneath the mid-level low, leaving the old center behind while the new one spins up over the water.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
morning everyone, well almost afternoon...nice to see the regs in here doing an awsome job...even if it does get shred apart in the GOM just the fact alone that we are even talking about something so soon just sets up for what sure looks to be a very big year..just hope that it stays far enough away to do anything about moving the oil around...but expect the unexpected if we have learned anything these past few years is that for sure...
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Closed low based on satellite derived winds:

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Quoting Levi32:
Upper anticyclone becoming more centered over the disturbance as of the new 15z maps. Shear has lowered further accordingly.



As i was saying......a small window will exist in my opinion in the Southern GOM also...just short term tho.
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Quoting WAHA:

Are you saying that God wants to kill hundreds of lives??


Considering the amount of people that die daily, I doubt he (God) really cares.

We live, die, and move on. Though this isn't the place to discuss people's personal religious beliefs.
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Low pressure area as seen from satellite imagery

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Quoting Drakoen:


100%


Its already decoupled.2 areas of weak low pressure.. 1 under the MLC and another extending down SSW to off Belize. There is no main LLC, its mostly in the midlevels and will weaken more tonight. Just look @ the wind obs along the coast of Belize and the Yucitan in the Maya area up to Cozumel.. E or ENE winds all the way down to Belize. Again there is a LLC near the MLC but there are muliple ones so its not fully stacked.
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Quoting StormW:
Afternoon Drak;Levi!


Afternoon
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Thats gotta be pretty dangerous what they are about to do right now by cutting the riser like that with the Gas coming out too......geesh
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360. beell
Quoting Drakoen:


100%
Quoting Levi32:


Lol, 100%
LOL...
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Quoting StormW:
Afternoon Drak;Levi!


Good afternoon!
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
Upper anticyclone becoming more centered over the disturbance as of the new 15z maps. Shear has lowered further accordingly.

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26647
Quoting Ocean24:
Drak, do you see this getting classfield, or not?


I give it a 30% chance
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Quoting beell:
Drak, Levi,
What are the chances of decoupling when it moves into the jet?
Very very high. O would say 99.99%
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354. MZV
re: decoupling scenarios. Sounds like TS Chris in 2006. It basically shed it's CDO to the shear, with the low level circ wandering off west for a few more days.
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353. WAHA
Quoting scottsvb:
I already stated it has a tight weak low but pressures are rising in the NW carribean. I would love for this thing to become a named system. Just it wont happen.Only chance is before the 5pm update but as we go into tonight and by Tuesday. It just wont happen unless God does something about it.

Are you saying that God wants to kill hundreds of lives??
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Quoting Levi32:
I fully expect a TWO to be issued on this disturbance soon. If one isn't, well then that's just pretty dumb. There should have been at least a yellow circle on this before now.
I respect the NHC, but I dont understand them sometimes!
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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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