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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To all those that good morning'ed me, Good morning!

Okay, got to get back to work...BBL
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Quoting Bonedog:
thanks flood, its from the other blog. I posted it and in the mean time Doc made a new blog. Figured i would pull it over.

Give FLDewy the props too though, it was his idea LOL


I'm glad you did, that was HILARIOUS. *snickers like a loon*
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Is it possible that Karl pulls a Hermine (?) and intensifies over land?

Moist conditions, still pulling moisture from the hot-tub, etc?

Might just carry some more strength than expected.
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Quoting Floodman:


Seems your family is scattered across the Carib...you Aussies really get around

; )

wife's niece in Hamilton, Bermuda. I have a cousin in Calgary, Canada.
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takes bow

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bonedog that was great, love the beat. got to love the eye
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Quoting Floridaweathergirl:
I don't see where Dr. M. mentions Igor being a danger to Florida? Does he mean it like it could be a threat for Florida? I don't think so. Igor is headed exactly where the NHC has him going.


I guess there is the possibility a Fujiwhara Effect could happen between Igor and Julia. I doubt it though.
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thanks flood, its from the other blog. I posted it and in the mean time Doc made a new blog. Figured i would pull it over.

Give FLDewy the props too though, it was his idea LOL
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Quoting barotropic:


He / She is just saying that to get a reaction......always pay attention when a storm is south of your latitude but Florida is not really at issue with Igor.


If anything, he probably only meant the rips and increased wave action..
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Quoting AussieStorm:

I have a niece in Bermuda, I hope you all there don't have to deal with much of Igor's wrath


Seems your family is scattered across the Carib...you Aussies really get around

; )
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Hurricanes are becoming more powerful because the Mayans predicted it.
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Hurricane ANT!Link
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Quoting MTWX:
morning Flood!! Morning everyone else!!. I think this season will hit its pre-season estimates. Pattern could be more perfect though. There can be as many majos as nature want as long as they continue turning out to sea. I do feel sorry for bermuda though. I believe they got the short end of the stick this season.

They get the short end if the stick every 7 years, Last time they got hit by a Cat 4, was hurricane Fabian 2003, 7 years!!! someone must of broken a mirror there.
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Amazing how much quieter it gets in here once all threat of a Conus strike is lost.

Anywho, got to hit the books...At least they don't fight back.

See y'all this afternoon
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Quoting txag91met:
How do we know for sure there weren't 2 category 4 storms in the past at the same time? Data was unreliable before satellites. Without satellite data, Julia could have been classified a CAT 1/2 storm. Ship data would have been too sparse too.


First time in known history. Of course there were other times we do not know about that two cat 4's have existed at the same time. I'm even willing to bet that at some point in time several cat 5's have existed at the same time globally. Our view of the planet is but one slide of a feature length film.
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Quoting AussieStorm:

I have a niece in Bermuda, I hope you all there don't have to deal with much of Igor's wrath


Men in Puerto Rico we have our finger crossed for you, hope it go to your east.
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OMG, bone! bonedog, street poet (by way of Sir Mix A Lot)

LMAO
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Just read through the Portlight site....Kudos to all the Bloggers on here who helped put it in motion and keep it going.....Real easy to "talk trash" all the time and put others down but much harder, and nobler, to actually go out and help people affected by tropical systems and other disasters with your own money and blood and sweat.
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Great update! It certainly does appear that a warmer globe might have something to do with it...
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Quoting ConsejoBelize:


I was a bit concerned when it looked like he was going to form south of Jamaica on Monday. I had Andrew's eye pass over in the Bahamas, and was 30 miles from Dean's landfall hear in Belize. I've had enough of Cat 4 and 5 hurricanes!

09:00 CST
Conditions in Consejo, Belize
Est. Winds 35mph gusts to 45mph.
Steady rain, Heavy at times
Power is flickering, will probably go out soon.



I don't blame you, stay safe!
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62. MTWX
morning Flood!! Morning everyone else!!. I think this season will hit its pre-season estimates. Pattern could be more perfect though. There can be as many majos as nature want as long as they continue turning out to sea. I do feel sorry for bermuda though. I believe they got the short end of the stick this season.
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Quoting Floodman:


While I have kept my diatribes to minimum this year it's been quite a struggle...when one as naturally verbose as myself feels the urge, it's nearly impossible to quash. On the other hand, one does want to follow the wise old saw "'Tis better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt"...LOL
lol... oops i opened my mouth. hehe
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Quoting hydrus:
Karl was forming an eye as it was moving inland. If it had a few more hours to organize, we would have had a hurricane landfall. Glad you are protected,,:)


I was a bit concerned when it looked like he was going to form south of Jamaica on Monday. I had Andrew's eye pass over in the Bahamas, and was 30 miles from Dean's landfall here in Belize. I've had enough of Cat 4 and 5 hurricanes!

09:00 CST
Conditions in Consejo, Belize
Est. Winds 35mph gusts to 45mph.
Steady rain, Heavy at times
Power is flickering, will probably go out soon.

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Quoting NEwxguy:


Yes,Flood,we all know you as a man of few words.LOL,couldn't say that with a straight face.


While I have kept my diatribes to minimum this year it's been quite a struggle...when one as naturally verbose as myself feels the urge, it's nearly impossible to quash. On the other hand, one does want to follow the wise old saw "'Tis better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt"...LOL
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LMAO Bonedog....
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Quoting Floodman:


G'morning!

Mornin' Mate!
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Quoting will40:


look at the NHC discussion. Dr Masters isnt the only one it fooled

I didn't say Julia fooled anyone, maybe caught them off guard.
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Quoting Floridaweathergirl:
I don't see where Dr. M. mentions Igor being a danger to Florida? Does he mean it like it could be a threat for Florida? I don't think so. Igor is headed exactly where the NHC has him going.


He / She is just saying that to get a reaction......always pay attention when a storm is south of your latitude but Florida is not really at issue with Igor.
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Morning flood. Doing good, just on a short flyby before getting ready for an accounting exam tomorrow.

Yeah, sarcastic was not that choice of a word to describe apoc. NEwx did a much better job of accurately describing the situation.
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btw theoretically we could have every hurricane become a major hurricane this year if they upgrade Alex in post season analysis
Member Since: August 1, 2006 Posts: 28 Comments: 3716
Quoting AussieStorm:
Dr. Masters,
In your previous blog you said Julia would only reach a max of Cat 2 before being sheared to death by Hurricane Igor's outflow. What did you miss in you analysis to be 2 categories off? The conditions all over the ATL are ripe for R.I even with marginal yet viable sst's and TCHP energy to tap into. Did you miss anything or Julia's R.I took everyone off guard?

It's a great question. The closest Dr. Masters came to addressing it was in writing that
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.
Well, yeah. In other words, based on everything we thought we ever knew about the preconditions for the formation of major hurricanes, Julia shouldn't have intensified the way it did. So either our understanding of the conditions around Julia at the time of its strengthening was off, or our basic assumptions about the formation of major storms need modification. I suspect that, in the off season, a bunch of folks are going to spend a fair amount of time reviewing the available data from that storm to figure out what happened, and why, so that we can improve our models in the future.

This is what makes the subject interesting. Our knowledge has come so far, and yet almost every year, we learn something else we didn't even know that we didn't know.
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Quoting gittyup1:
Thank you Dr. Masters. Those of us in Bermuda look forward to your updates.

I have a niece in Bermuda, I hope you all there don't have to deal with much of Igor's wrath
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Quoting StormsAreCool:


Good morning, Flood.


G'morning!
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Thanks Dr. Masters.
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Quoting Floridaweathergirl:
I don't see where Dr. M. mentions Igor being a danger to Florida? Does he mean it like it could be a threat for Florida? I don't think so. Igor is headed exactly where the NHC has him going.


apocalyps is an extremely persistent troll. Most users have him ignored, but he keeps trying to stir panic and general agitation in new readers. But as long as he restricts his lies to the weather, technically nothing he says is a bannable offense.

Pity, that.
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Troll alert.
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Quoting StormJunkie:


Hey Flwg...Igor is not a threat to Florida other than increased waves and rip currents. That blogger was being sarcastic.


Sarcastic? Is that what the young folks are calling ti these days?

LMAO

SJ, how are you this morning?
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Quoting AussieStorm:
Dr. Masters,
In your previous blog you said Julia would only reach a max of Cat 2 before being sheared to death by Hurricane Igor's outflow. What did you miss in you analysis to be 2 categories off? The conditions all over the ATL are ripe for R.I even with marginal yet viable sst's and TCHP energy to tap into. Did you miss anything or Julia's R.I took everyone off guard?


look at the NHC discussion. Dr Masters isnt the only one it fooled
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Quoting Floodman:


Thank you...saved me having to say it, as everyone knows I am a man of very few words LOL


Yes,Flood,we all know you as a man of few words.LOL,couldn't say that with a straight face.
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Quoting Floodman:


Thank you...saved me having to say it, as everyone knows I am a man of very few words LOL


Good morning, Flood.
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38. HCW
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Quoting NEwxguy:
For those new to the blog,please ignore apocalyps,he is not new to the blog,he is a well known troll who makes ridiculous statements,please do not quote him,most of us have him on our ignore list.


Thank you...saved me having to say it, as everyone knows I am a man of very few words LOL
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Quoting StormJunkie:


Hey Flwg...Igor is not a threat to Florida other than increased waves and rip currents. That blogger was being sarcastic.




Oh okay. Thank you =)
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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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