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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If you follow the GFS charts, Karl appears to go across Mexico to emerge in the Pacific as a disorganized system, reforms and moves Southeast along the coast to cross Mexico again and into the Bay of Campeche on about September 30th. From there, the setup would have it drifting North over the Gulf in the wake of Lisa (or whatever that big GFS Gulf hurricane is named toward end-of-month).

Question: If Karl crosses Mexico, reorganizes in the Pacific, makes landfall again & crosses Mexico into the Bay of Campeche to re-organize for a 3rd time into a tropical storm... is it still named Karl?

I know storms have crossed over Mexico before to re-organize in the other basin... but has any storm ever done that twice?

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End of the ECMWF 12z run and notice the 1008mb isobar in the Western Caribbean. Definitely suggestive.

Link
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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


i am totally confused cause it shows some going east across the caribbean?? is that right?
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Quoting KeysieLife:

Yep, you're looking at the Fujiwara effect taking place between extratropical storms! LOL
It will be interesting to watch. Igor is forecast to be a monster extra-tropical cyclone in the same general area.
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Quoting HurricaneGeek:


Rhode Island is smaller than some of the COUNTIES in Texas! =)
I live in Palm Beach County FL. PBC is the biggest landmass county east of the Mississippi River!, and about the same size as RI. crazy

It is actually the 5th-but still very large
1. Aroostock County, Maine 6,829 square miles
2. Marquette County, Michigan 3,425 square miles

3. St. Lawrence County, New York 2,686 square miles

4. Palm Beach County, Florida 2,386 square miles
5. Collier County, Florida 2,305
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779. JRRP

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Quoting FLdewey:
Doom giddiness is building!
Colonel Dewey....that thing coming towards us...it's not an air breather. Darn russkies might have sent another one our way. You may want to consider DOOMCON 1.
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Quoting LTLROX:

When did you start working for the NHC


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.
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Woah didn't expect Julia to get that strong.She eally surprised me.
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Quoting IKE:


12Z NOGAPS @ 180 hours...Link

12Z CMC @ 144 hours...





Ok so they all 3 show similar development in the same general area. Different strengths and varying timeframes but all similar.
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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

Yep, you're looking at the Fujiwara effect taking place between extratropical storms! LOL
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Quoting reedzone:
Our totals so far...

11,5,4

Clearly amazing and more to come!! My count REMAINS at 18,9,5

I might have to bump the majors up to 6-7 since it is September and we are already at 4 majors.

When did you start working for the NHC
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CURRENT ESTIMATE
Date (yyyymmddhh): 2010091515
SATCON (2mem): MSLP = 960 hPa MSW = 105 kt
ADT: 945 hPa 120 kt Scene: EYE
CIMSS AMSU: 966 hPa 90 kt Bias Corr: 0 (TPC)
CIRA AMSU: NA hPa NA kt Tmax: NA
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Quoting TexasHurricane:


Hi AtHome - got umail


Sorry Tex. Crazy day. You got mail too. :)
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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

Several of the recent ECMWF runs have shown similar things:

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Quoting immaturehurjunkie:
Where did you get these numbers from? According to NHC, Julia is still a cat 4.



I got it.. from the ATCF files, that's data the NHC is feeding to the models.

ftp://ftp.tpc.ncep.noaa.gov/atcf/tcweb/
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Where did you get these numbers from? According to NHC, Julia is still a cat 4.

Quoting CybrTeddy:
Igor still a Category 4.
AL, 11, 2010091518, , BEST, 0, 198N, 552W, 115, 942

Julia a Category 3.
AL, 12, 2010091518, , BEST, 0, 186N, 330W, 110, 956, HU

Karl down to 50 mph.
AL, 13, 2010091518, , BEST, 0, 188N, 888W, 45, 994, TS
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Quoting Hurricanes101:


you are not mistaken, all 3 show development


Hey Hurricanes...do you have a link to what you're seeing? Thanks!
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Quoting JupiterFL:


I am wondering if this isn't a result of Julia's deepening. Looks like she helps the ridge bulge a little more west. Keeping Igor on a NW course for at least another day or so.
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
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That half of Julia that can be seen on the recent microwave pass still looks very good:

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758. IKE
Quoting JupiterFL:


Maybe I am looking at the wrong models but I see a similar system on the GFS, CMC and Nogaps. I just looked quickly though.


12Z NOGAPS @ 180 hours...Link

12Z CMC @ 144 hours...



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Quoting JupiterFL:


Maybe I am looking at the wrong models but I see a similar system on the GFS, CMC and Nogaps. I just looked quickly though.
Yeah, the CMC shows the development of a tropical cyclone over the far eastern Caribbean. Although the model does not exceed 144 hours all we see is when it becomes a tropical depression.

I haven't checked the NOGAPS.
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756. beell
Quoting sporteguy03:


GFS is good at sniffing these systems out first though might be out performing ECMWF this year?


Guilty of model dogma and ideology. Repost.

(lol) J/K!
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Very exciting! This season took a while to get going but it has not disappointed.
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Igor still a Category 4.
AL, 11, 2010091518, , BEST, 0, 198N, 552W, 115, 942

Julia a Category 3.
AL, 12, 2010091518, , BEST, 0, 186N, 330W, 110, 956, HU

Karl down to 50 mph.
AL, 13, 2010091518, , BEST, 0, 188N, 888W, 45, 994, TS
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Quoting JupiterFL:


Maybe I am looking at the wrong models but I see a similar system on the GFS, CMC and Nogaps. I just looked quickly though.


you are not mistaken, all 3 show development
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Quoting sporteguy03:


GFS is good at sniffing these systems out first though might be out performing ECMWF this year?


ECMWF has a 1007mb low in the Western Caribbean, I bet as we go forward it will develop the system too, just not as early as the GFS is
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Quoting TomSal:
714 Drakoen: What is your map showing? Not familiar with it at all. Thanks.


Forecasted sea level pressures by the ECMWF 12z model
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Quoting IKE:


I'm not convinced...yet. GFS shows a system, but the other 3 models I follow don't yet.




It could be.


Maybe I am looking at the wrong models but I see a similar system on the GFS, CMC and Nogaps. I just looked quickly though.
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I wouldn't be too worried about a system that is forecasted to develop in the next 6-7 days. We do have two category four hurricanes present and a tropical storm that made landfall on the Yucatan to watch right now. So I personally am not worried about then, but now and if Igor could reach category five status within the next 24 hours. This will be dependent upon the evolution of his inner core. Bermuda is in a dangerous place for this storm.
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714 Drakoen: What is your map showing? Not familiar with it at all. Thanks.
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Quoting Drakoen:
Indeed, the GFS does have a knack of sniffing out systems especially when it becomes very consistent.


nah you heard some people here, it is crazy to even think about a system affecting the US in the long range, no way it can happen

*sarcasm off*
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Quoting Drakoen:
Indeed, the GFS does have a knack of sniffing out systems especially when it becomes very consistent.
I agree. The GFS was the first model to show the development of Danielle. The consistency from run to run was also very impressive.

I've noticed that the GFS has been doing quite well this year when forecasting the cyclogenesis of tropical cyclones.
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Quoting reedzone:


12Z EURO doesn't recurve the system yet, it shows Igor moving away as a ridge builds over the potential system. That's what I see on the run.


Well, you may be right but the system is at 20N and 50W at the end of run - about the same position at Danielle and IGOR give or take - at that position it's hard to drive it straight west - it can happen but it's rare! GFS recurves that system BTW so...
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Gfs has been best model by far this year.
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Quoting Drakoen:
Indeed, the GFS does have a knack of sniffing out systems especially when it becomes very consistent.


The key is definitely the consistency.
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Quoting BreadandCircuses:



Yeah, 847 miles from Orange, TX to El Paso.

Putting it into perspective, it's further from Beaumont to El Paso than from El Paso to San Diego. Texas has 5 different weather "zones," 2 of them being adjacent to the GOM.
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Quoting breald:


you are right. sorry for what I post.

No prob It's hard to offend me. I post my opinion and that's all it is, and every 1 knows what they say about opinions. LOL
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Quoting BioChemist:
I have seen some people say that the GFS long range points to a florida hit, while all I have seen is a Northern to central texas hit. Am I missing something?


Don't pay attention to the track yet, it has run from the Yucatan to over Hispaniola. Just keep watching to see if GFS continues to develop the system. There is a long way ahead of us before it even forms, and then we can start to look at where it goes.
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736. IKE
Quoting help4u:
Hate to say it Ike but end of month looks bad for Gulf states.


I'm not convinced...yet. GFS shows a system, but the other 3 models I follow don't yet.


Quoting sporteguy03:


GFS is good at sniffing these systems out first though might be out performing ECMWF this year?


It could be.
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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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