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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hey guys new surface map is out and we have a low in the gulf of honduras



Member Since: June 13, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 12710
I've got to believe the boys and girls at the NHC have got to be saying dammit, not on Memorial day weekend don't want to go there.
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Quoting DentalPainDMD:
check out the BP live feed. they are drilling the riser as we speak (type?)


Yeah. Probably gonna fail again though... :(

Have to go guys, see ya!

-Snowlover123
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247. IKE
Quoting DentalPainDMD:
check out the BP live feed. they are drilling the riser as we speak (type?)


Yup...I see them.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
Quoting Levi32:


In my blog I gave it a moderate chance to become a tropical depression. From there we will decide how likely it is to get named. Shear is already low enough because the system decided to wait down there which allowed the upper ridge to expand northward over it.

What I don't believe is that the subtropical jet is just going to vacate the Gulf of Mexico. I don't know where you guys are seeing 20 knots of shear anywhere in the gulf any time over the next 5 days.




LOOK inbetween the 2 areas of higher shear....shear is dropping between the 2 as the graphic show.....that is the window i have been talking about as shear could drop to 20kts from the Tampa South.....anything above Tampa will be into higher Shear
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check out the BP live feed. they are drilling the riser as we speak (type?)
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Quoting stillwaiting:
I'm not saying no sheer,what I am saying is I believe it w/be low enough for a sheered Alex to be named!!!


I agree.
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Quoting tropic:
Yeah, Skyepony,, The low pressure just may be the trigger.
It would make sense. At sea level air pressure is 14.7 pounds per square inch. Even just a moderate drop in pressure would could have an effect. Volcanoes have a lot of square inches. :)
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Quoting AussieStorm:
Agatha is still classified as an EPAC system on the Navy Site


It may just be agatha again lol
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I'm not saying no sheer,what I am saying is I believe it w/be low enough for a sheered Alex to be named!!!
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Shear in the Gulf isnt favorable no matter how you slice it

25 knots is still too high for development in almost all cases

If this area is going to do any developing, it has to be while its in the NW Caribbean; a situation that is plausible
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Agatha is still classified as an EPAC system on the Navy Site
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If you check the "Wind" and the "HDW-L" on the Agatha floater in the animation you can see all the surface observations. Supports a closed low.
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Quoting stillwaiting:
notice the bulge on the sheer map it comes up thru the yucatan strait and then moves towards key west and weakens a bit(the area of less sheer)....this could be the area of less sheer I was commenting could be possible allowing for a "alex" or atleast TD1 To effect KW!!!


Then Robert The Doll in Key West won't see any people to posess!



Robert is in the East Martello Museum in Key West. Care to visit him? :)
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Quoting Snowlover123:


To repost #211's graph to answer your question.



The SE Gulf looks favorable for development it seems.


That's 25 knots of shear in the most extreme southern reaches of the gulf. The 200mb GFS forecast from the same time shows the subtropical jet still screaming through the gulf.

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Quoting Hurricanes101:


I think he meant the TWO and TWD


Well I doubt there would be a TWO for this yet.
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233. BDAwx
In my opinion, if there is a surface circulation under that convection, it looks better than 90L did as a tropical system. Then again I wouldn't call 90L tropical.
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Anybody got the former princes androgynous sign handy.
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notice the bulge on the sheer map it comes up thru the yucatan strait and then moves towards key west and weakens a bit(the area of less sheer)....this could be the area of less sheer I was commenting could be possible allowing for a "alex" or atleast TD1 To effect KW!!!
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Quoting Dr3w:
What are the Chances that the artist formerly known as Agatha will become Alex?
and if it does redevelop where would it be heading?
I believe it will get the name Alex. But it will probably only survive as long as Agatha did as a named storm.
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Quoting Levi32:


In my blog I gave it a moderate chance to become a tropical depression. From there we will decide how likely it is to get named. Shear is already low enough because the system decided to wait down there which allowed the upper ridge to expand northward over it.

What I don't believe is that the subtropical jet is just going to vacate the Gulf of Mexico. I don't know where you guys are seeing 20 knots of shear anywhere in the gulf any time over the next 5 days.


To repost #210's graph to answer your question.



The SE Gulf looks favorable for development it seems.
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Quoting BenBIogger:


How about Cancun Mexico?


Higher around 25 knots:

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Yeah, Skyepony,, The low pressure just may be the trigger.
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Quoting Stormchaser2007:


For what?

Theres nothing out there that warrants any NHC product.


I think he meant the TWO and TWD
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Quoting gordydunnot:
Should be an update at 2:00 pm from NHC right?


For what?

Theres nothing out there that warrants any NHC product.
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Quoting stillwaiting:
I believe this is just a bit conservative,notice the extreme SEGOM 48-72hrs


And that's where Ex-Agatha is heading!

Quoting atmoaggie:

Did you surmise that from the SSMI surface winds?


No. It's a product for Wind Shear. The SE Gulf has little shear, and the comment I replied to above shows little if any shear for the SE Gulf- where Ex-Agatha is headin'.

-Snowlover123
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Quoting Drakoen:
This morning's sounding shows light wind shear over Belize:



How about Cancun Mexico?
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Quoting TampaSpin:
Levi so you don't think lower Shear will open enough for this to deepen into a named storm?


In my blog I gave it a moderate chance to become a tropical depression. From there we will decide how likely it is to get named. Shear is already low enough because the system decided to wait down there which allowed the upper ridge to expand northward over it.

What I don't believe is that the subtropical jet is just going to vacate the Gulf of Mexico. I don't know where you guys are seeing 20 knots of shear anywhere in the gulf any time over the next 5 days.
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Quoting Skyepony:
Thanks for updating on a holiday.. I'm not really buying the bizzare coincidence, volcanoes erupting seem fairly common with tropical disturbances when the opportunity comes together. Maybe it's the extreme atmospheric lift taking pressure off the volcano while the vibrations of the wind & rain beat the mountain.
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Should be an update at 2:00 pm from NHC right?
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218. Dr3w
What are the Chances that the artist formerly known as Agatha will become Alex?
and if it does redevelop where would it be heading?
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Shallow steering currents continue to favor a nearly due north movement, while mid-level steering argues for more of an eastward component. If the circulation has indeed come down to the surface, then it would tend to be steered by the shallow layer, which according to this will take it nearly due north.

Shallow steering:



Mid-layer steering:

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Quoting Snowlover123:
Shear actually doesn't look that strong, where Ex-Agatha is heading.




Did you surmise that from the SSMI surface winds?
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This morning's sounding shows light wind shear over Belize:

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Gonna leave for sure now (on my parent's slow 15 year old computer.....LOL).....If Alex does materilize, albeit for a short lived career due to sheer, it might be a good thing to give folks the heads up to really prepare for this season....Gonna grab lunch and hit the road....BYE.
Member Since: August 8, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 9372
Quoting clwstmchasr:
Is the NHC closed today for Memorial Day?:)


Or they're asleep on the job. :)
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Quoting clwstmchasr:
Is the NHC closed today for Memorial Day?:)


I wouldn't think so, those people are never closed, and especially not one day before the season begins.
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Levi so you don't think lower Shear will open enough for this to deepen into a named storm?
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I believe this is just a bit conservative,notice the extreme SEGOM 48-72hrs
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Posted cuz I'm seeing odd vertical vs horizontal distortions on some maps

and wondering if it's due to something new in the automatic resizing function
Edit in: It's not.
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Quoting Drakoen:


I'm pretty sure he was talking about hurricane season lol


Ya i think we all was talking about this Hurricane Season
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Quoting Snowlover123:
Shear actually doesn't look that strong, where Ex-Agatha is heading.





Maybe 5-15 kts. of shear...
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Quoting Levi32:
The center appears to be farther north than I had it, closer to 18.2N. This is more under the deep convection.


18.2 and 87.5 from looking at the IR2 loop. Also appears to be on a due N heading which would take it just along the coast of the Yucatan and over Cozumel if it were to continue.
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From east to sw but hopefully ex-Agatha wont get big enough to affect the oil.IMO but a good direction for the oil if stays S. of Tampa
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Q: Mr. StormW, how may I sign up for mailling list?
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Quoting Levi32:


Based on this, I'm willing to believe that is part of the circulation.
Ex Agatha is organizing. If it remains stationary, I believe it will reach tropical storm strength. jmo
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Shear actually doesn't look that strong, where Ex-Agatha is heading.



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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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