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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Quoting PrivateIdaho:
Thanks, I will probably be taking you up on that offer. Another question, besides the obvious reasons....why build a hotrod golf cart?
Are you teeing me up? LOL. Because I could. That, and I have some latent childhood dreams. Seriously, I build and sell golf cars. I don't try to hot rod them all , but once in a while, something comes along that just works.
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Quoting mcmurray02:
When was the last time we had 3 active hurricanes in the Atlantic at once?
2005 .. didn't it have 4
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Quoting JLPR2:
That is some scary stuff to my east XD
That is an intimidating image!
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When was the last time we had 3 active hurricanes in the Atlantic at once?
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2682. GetReal
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2681. JLPR2
That is some scary stuff to my east XD
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8747
Quoting PSLFLCaneVet:
LOL. If I can help you out with any questions, don't hesitate to ask. Not a pro but, I've had this setup for 4 years. Got an HG10 for video as well.
Thanks, I will probably be taking you up on that offer. Another question, besides the obvious reasons....why build a hotrod golf cart?
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Quoting JLPR2:
So a huge eye like the one Igor is trying to create will probably increase the hurricane force wind ratio and with it the tropical storm force wind ratio as well, no?

I would imagine so.
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Quoting Hou77083:


Reading the last part of your post, madde me wonder if there is a way to maybe charter a plane and just circle around on top of the huricane, being able to observe it's beauty. (of course I have no idea how high the cloud tops are) Just picture how great it would feel to fly over the hurricane...

Yeah, that would be really cool! Unfortunately though, hurricanes tend to have this habit of extending all the way up to the tropopause, so that would make it quite hard to fly over one.

Quoting osuwxguynew:



Agreed it'd be neat to see! Katrina's smaller eye collapsed and became the massive one over the Gulf too, right?

I was doing some estimation using the size of the new possible eye to Puerto Rico, and the new eye would be maybe 70-80 miles across. Pretty unusual, that's for sure.

Katrina is another good example. That new eye is going to be massive. It'll probably contract a bit upon the full completion of the ERC, but still it would/will probably be in excess of 30 nm. One thing is for certain though: Igor is a behemoth!
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Quoting wjdow:


sounds like the blog is going thru an erc
LOL, good one.
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2676. xcool


10.N 39.W GFS -NGP STORMS.
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Quoting PrivateIdaho:
I just bought a Rebel xsi but I am just learning to use it. My mantra is "Electrons are cheap just take a million pictures and one is bound to come out good!
LOL. If I can help you out with any questions, don't hesitate to ask. Not a pro but, I've had this setup for 4 years. Got an HG10 for video as well.
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What is the forward speed on Karl? Is he going to be over the BOC long enought to really blow up?
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2673. JLPR2
So a huge eye like the one Igor is trying to create will probably increase the hurricane force wind ratio and with it the tropical storm force wind ratio as well, no?
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8747
HWRF has Igor track just left of Bermuda, putting it in the worst, right front quadrant.

The model does only show a Category 2 or so though by then thankfully. And those Bermudans are tough folk when it comes to Canes!

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2670. xcool
Igor moved west
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Quoting JLPR2:


it is a beautiful photo!
Added it to my favs. :D
I thank you. Glad you liked it as well.
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Quoting 1900hurricane:
From a purely meteorological standpoint, it would be really cool to see Igor's large eye clear out. Many times when a storm undergoes a large ERC like this, they are often caught up in the hostile forces of the mid-latitudes before they get a chance to finish. Two names on a short list of storms that were able to completely finish such a large ERC are Isabel and Ivan. Both storms subsequently became category 5 hurricanes.

Why can't Igor stay away from Bermuda so that I won't have to feel guilty for enjoying the observation of such a powerful storm?



Agreed it'd be neat to see! Katrina's smaller eye collapsed and became the massive one over the Gulf too, right?

I was doing some estimation using the size of the new possible eye to Puerto Rico, and the new eye would be maybe 70-80 miles across. Pretty unusual, that's for sure.
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Quoting PSLFLCaneVet:
I did. Canon Digital Rebel XTi, 24-105 wide angle, L-series lens. Circular polarizer filter only.
I just bought a Rebel xsi but I am just learning to use it. My mantra is "Electrons are cheap just take a million pictures and one is bound to come out good!
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2666. JLPR2
Quoting PSLFLCaneVet:
Thanks, glad you liked it.


it is a beautiful photo!
Added it to my favs. :D
Member Since: September 4, 2007 Posts: 7 Comments: 8747
Quoting 1900hurricane:
From a purely meteorological standpoint, it would be really cool to see Igor's large eye clear out. Many times when a storm undergoes a large ERC like this, they are often caught up in the hostile forces of the mid-latitudes before they get a chance to finish. Two names on a short list of storms that were able to completely finish such a large ERC are Isabel and Ivan. Both storms subsequently became category 5 hurricanes.

Why can't Igor stay away from Bermuda so that I won't have to feel guilty for enjoying the observation of such a powerful storm?


Reading the last part of your post, madde me wonder if there is a way to maybe charter a plane and just circle around on top of the huricane, being able to observe it's beauty. (of course I have no idea how high the cloud tops are) Just picture how great it would feel to fly over the hurricane...
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Quoting osuwxguynew:


There certainly is strong cirrus outflow to the northwest of Igor. But this outflow is at the 200mb level and higher in the atmosphere only.

The trough extends from 200mb or higher all the way to the surface of the ocean (more or less given tilting of a baroclinic trough).

So Igor may be pushing as you say, but it's like a little school girl trying to push on a an NFL lineman. The lineman will win every time and twice on Sunday...



That would depend on how hard she could bite him on the shin!!
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Quoting PrivateIdaho:
Nice pic! You took that I assume? What kind of camera do you have? Filter? New Smryna Beach is my favorite beach on the Earth.
Thanks, glad you liked it.
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Quoting PrivateIdaho:
Nice pic! You took that I assume? What kind of camera do you have? Filter? New Smryna Beach is my favorite beach on the Earth.
I did. Canon Digital Rebel XTi, 24-105 wide angle, L-series lens. Circular polarizer filter only.
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
Earl in 1998 in mid September was a hybrid system in the Gulf of Mexico.

Earl had to be at least in early September because Francis made landfall on September 11 in my area of that year. But yeah, Earl of '98 was an odd bird for sure.
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Quoting GetReal:



IMO an interesting WV loop... You can clearly see the Igor induced pumped ridge (to the NW of Igor; and se of Bermuda)pushing back against the trough..Something will have to give here...


There certainly is strong cirrus outflow to the northwest of Igor. But this outflow is at the 200mb level and higher in the atmosphere only (above 30k feet).

The trough extends from 200mb or higher all the way to the surface of the ocean (more or less given tilting of a baroclinic trough).

So Igor may be pushing as you say, but it's like a little school girl trying to push on an NFL lineman. The lineman will win every time and twice on Sunday...

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
From a purely meteorological standpoint, it would be really cool to see Igor's large eye clear out. Many times when a storm undergoes a large ERC like this, they are often caught up in the hostile forces of the mid-latitudes before they get a chance to finish. Two names on a short list of storms that were able to completely finish such a large ERC are Isabel and Ivan. Both storms subsequently became category 5 hurricanes.

Why can't Igor stay away from Bermuda so that I won't have to feel guilty for enjoying the observation of such a powerful storm?
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Quoting xcool:


ngp too

We need to take those brown crayons away from NOGAPS. Man 4 at once :O)!!
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2653. pcola57
Quoting btwntx08:
i wiah i can post the image but i dont have the image button or the other ones lol...if i was on my laptop i wouldve cause i have firefox there on here i only have ie


Yeah on my guest room P/C..
Igors been howling for days now..
What's your take on his forecasted turn...
Looks to me like he's dragging it out..
Gonna be close...IMO
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Sorry. "blobs" for lack of a better word. Would it have been better if I had asked if those were two hurricanes or TS's? IMO they look a little more serious than thunderstorms, and if they are, that would be a serious situation for many.
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2651. wjdow
Quoting PSLFLCaneVet:
It was nearly that wild. Shrapnel flying and lines drawn in the sand. Not sure how it will all shake out tomorrow. Glad to see you back on. Got a new avatar for you to check out.


sounds like the blog is going thru an erc
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00UTC HWRF takes Karl into the central Mexican coastline again. Here the 900mb winds are in the 70-80 knot range or Category 1 or so winds at the surface.

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Quoting PSLFLCaneVet:
It was nearly that wild. Shrapnel flying and lines drawn in the sand. Not sure how it will all shake out tomorrow. Glad to see you back on. Got a new avatar for you to check out.
Nice pic! You took that I assume? What kind of camera do you have? Filter? New Smryna Beach is my favorite beach on the Earth.
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2645. xcool


ngp too
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Man, I'm beat. Heading to bed. Should be an interesting day tomorrow! Igor's new eyewall and Karl blowing up! Woot!
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2642. GetReal



IMO an interesting WV loop... You can clearly see the Igor induced pumped ridge (to the NW of Igor; and se of Bermuda)pushing back against the trough..Something will have to give here...
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Quoting cat5hurricane:
Karl ate his Wheaties this morning
Sorry, no Wheaties in Mexico, may be some "pozole" or I think he grabbed a couple of bottles of Tequila.. andale! andale! vamonos!!
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Quoting hurricanerunaway:


I tried to paste it but it won't..boooo! What is the big blob to the NE of the blob over FL?
Ah those blobs!!! can't get enough of them! That reminds me, there was this movie back in the 60's? called THE BLOB! It was this goo that devoured anything it touched. I remember the goo coming out of a movie theater with feet and hands sticking out of it. Gave me nightmares as a kid.

You did want to talk about blobs right? Oh, I think the blobs you were talking about are just thunderstorms.
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Quoting Prgal:


Please dont start.
Joking I hope? Sorry I really don't know what went on to day just log on to see how strong Karl got and see if the westcasters had convinced Igor to drift their way.
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Im sure NHC is right with their forecast but Igor is jogging west and does look like he may miss the turn, just imo. I am ready to surf that puppy tomorrow night, bring it on :)
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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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