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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434. Prgal
Amazing. Link
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
Later.


Actually the date was in 1969. August 17. And Camille was a Cat 5 all day, and Debbie was a major sometimes and sometimes not.

And I found a higher ACE day than that. This day had 13.795 in ACE. It was a day with 4 hurricanes, although not 4 hurricanes all at the same time, but at different times of the day.

Dang, that's even harder! Well, it's not 1995, 1998, or 1893, so I need to find other dates with four storms at once.

And good call on 1969 Cotillion!
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
Later.


Actually the date was in 1969. August 17. And Camille was a Cat 5 all day, and Debbie was a major sometimes and sometimes not.

And I found a higher ACE day than that. This day had 13.795 in ACE. It was a day with 4 hurricanes, although not 4 hurricanes all at the same time, but at different times of the day.


1893?
Member Since: August 23, 2008 Posts: 7 Comments: 5300
Quoting angiest:


The key is that GFS has been pretty consistent developing this system. (multiple runs over several days). That is a pretty good indication, based on recent history, that something may, in fact, form. Ignore tracks and intensities, those will vary too much this far out. But the formation of the system seems more likely as time goes on.


Newbie question: To my untrained eye, it looks as if GFS develops this almost "out of nowhere". What I mean is that there isn't really anything in the initialization that suggests something is going to develop there. Now, since (from what I understand) weather prediction is pretty much trying to solve a chaotic system, even a tiny error in the initialization could cause huge errors a few taus down the line. I get that the models should be able to accurately treat something like a tropical wave that's present in the initialization, but can you you really trust anything the model develops "out of nowhere" a few days away?
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430. MahFL
The BBC need a geography lesson.

"Triple storms threaten Caribbean".
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Quoting DookiePBC:


Ummm...does this loosely translate to "We are all Doom?"


Yes! Run! If you live anywhere in FL you/we are doomed! (just kidding guys and gals.)
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In 300 Hours, you will be lucky in Florida. Anyone can pay me an airline ticket to go overther and meet ....Lisa !
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Quoting DestinJeff:
I KNOW IT IS JUST THE GFS, but look here now:



Ummm...does this loosely translate to "We are all Doom?"
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Quoting 7544:
heard a local met say the last time the atlantic had 2 majors in the atlantic was 1922 wow


1922? I would say he/she is wrong
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423. CJ5
Quoting DestinJeff:
Has anybody checked on Igor?

AHHH.... fine. I'll be right back.


Yes, I checked on him. I took his keys away. He appeared drunk and staggering. I will give them back once he sobers up and can walk straight.
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421. 7544
heard a local met say the last time the atlantic had 2 majors in the atlantic was 1922 wow
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420. xcool
any from tx to fl keep on gfs
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419. Prgal
Just sharing this again. Link

"COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY FORECAST OF ATLANTIC HURRICANE ACTIVITY FROM SEPTEMBER 15 – SEPTEMBER 28, 2010

We expect that the next two weeks will be characterized by above-average amounts of activity (greater than 130 percent of climatology.) These new two-week forecasts have replaced the monthly forecasts that we have been issuing in recent years.
(as of 15 September 2010)

By Philip J. Klotzbach1 and William M. Gray2"
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This has probably been said b4 but I will say it again ... To all tose with negetive comments to one another (you know who you are) this is not a blog just weather Professionals, It is a blog for the ppl by the ppl and of the ppl. we are all here for/because of the same reason .. we are absolutely obsessed with tropical systems. IOW we are all the same. I look forward to hurricane season every year like some look forward to football season in may im like "ok 1 month till cane season oh goodie" so call we please just get along
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417. Prgal
Quoting jeffs713:

Its like a microcosm of society. Respect and Tolerance no longer apply. This is due in part to the anonymity and mass audience that the internet supplies.


Yeah, I agree.
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1969 at a guess (Camille and Debbie).

1950 might be a shot (Dog, Easy, Fox - but all were majors)
Member Since: August 23, 2008 Posts: 7 Comments: 5300
Levi,

morning. good to see you as always. nice update and scary as well for those of us who live in Florida and the gulf coast
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Was it in 1950?
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Quoting Prgal:


I know what you mean, I have been around since 2006. My opinion is that there is no respect. I think that people will always have differences but apparently we have forgotten the meaning of the word "tolerance" in this blog. And yeah, it bothers me a bit.

Its like a microcosm of society. Respect and Tolerance no longer apply. This is due in part to the anonymity and mass audience that the internet supplies.
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Out for now. Later all.

Tropical Tidbit for Wednesday, September 15th, with Video
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two simultaneous Cat 4s in the Atlantic for 2nd time in history, and no-one want to hit the north eastern caribbean. What a pity !
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Quoting Cotillion:


While that's true, the actuality is 160mph. For storms that far into the Atlantic, NHC rely a lot on Dvorak estimates. I haven't looked back, but I didn't ever see one hitting 7.0. If it did (and held it), it would have been upgraded.

It was very close, but probably just short. However, due to the margin, it is possible it could be revised in the post-storm analysis.


Thanks for the info.
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:


2 hurricanes. One major, one not.

Ok, so that must mean that one was insanely powerful and another was not a pushover either (probably high-end cat 2).
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405. 7544
Quoting DestinJeff:
I KNOW IT IS JUST THE GFS, but look here now:



wow wilmaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa all over again ?
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Quoting Levi32:


Was it in 1995?


Nvm bad question....didn't notice you added "not 3 or 4 hurricanes".
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Quoting 1900hurricane:


Oh gosh, I have no clue. Can I get a hint? Was it generated from just one storm or two ?


Disregard that post. It has to be from two or more storms.
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yikes
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Quoting DestinJeff:
I KNOW IT IS JUST THE GFS, but look here now:



DJ, did you ever see the youtube video "I think this drummer is at the wrong gig"?
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Quoting AtHomeInTX:


Nu uh!! I been watching it since yesterday. So far the western edge hasn't gotten any farther east. So far. :)


well thats good. still pulling for ya !
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Quoting PSLFLCaneVet:
Hi, Levi. Great update as usual. Interesting point about Julia. Thank you.


Thanks :)
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
However, I have now found a single day that had more than 11 in ACE, in fact it had more than 12. More than 13. 13.4 in ACE in one day. And today will not break that record.

Guess which day had 13.4 in ACE in the Atlantic :)

Oh gosh, I have no clue. Can I get a hint? Was it generated from just one storm or two ?
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Quoting Levi32:
Good morning all.

Tropical Tidbit for Wednesday, September 15th, with Video
Hi, Levi. Great update as usual. Interesting point about Julia. Thank you.
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I think so but then again no
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Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:
However, I have now found a single day that had more than 11 in ACE, in fact it had more than 12. More than 13. 13.4 in ACE in one day. And today will not break that record.

This day did not have 2 majors going on simultaneously. Neither did it have 3 or four hurricanes.

Guess which day had 13.4 in ACE in the Atlantic :)


Was it in 1995?
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Quoting will40:


looks like your secret may be moving a lil tho, You better get a handle on it


Nu uh!! I been watching it since yesterday. So far the western edge hasn't gotten any farther east. So far. :)
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Quoting ShenValleyFlyFish:
I understand they would need to be less than 900 mi. apart and of fairly equal strength. If I am understanding things correctly that scenario is unlikely with these 2 storms.


Yes in all probability it wont happen, but I like to believe anything is possible. If models got so good they could 100% accurately forecast a storm 10-14 days out I would no longer find it very interesting.
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Quoting headshaker:
The trolls have ruined this blog. Ultimately guys like StormW will cease to post here, why bother with the aggravation?

Thanks to all who have contributed over these years in a positive and productive manner. As for the others, get a life. Oh, and you win, I'm out. Godspeed.

I disagree, this is one of the better managed forums that I've seen. If anything, I think it's a bit tight during high doom. You just have to set your filter accordingly.
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Quoting ShenValleyFlyFish:
I understand they would need to be less than 900 mi. apart and of fairly equal strength. If I am understanding things correctly that scenario is unlikely with these 2 storms.
If I'm reading the NHC forecast correct and doing the math correct...the 2 storms are forecast to be at that outer limit(900nm, and their is a cone that could bring them within 500 nm)) in the Friday-Sunday time frame. Plus...at about the same latitude.
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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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