Hurricane Karl: first major hurricane ever in the Bay of Campeche; Bermuda eyes Igor

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:47 PM GMT on September 17, 2010

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Hurricane Karl explosively deepened into a dangerous Category 3 hurricane this morning, becoming the fifth major hurricane of this remarkably active 2010 Atlantic hurricane season. Karl is the first major hurricane on record in the Gulf of Mexico's Bay of Campeche--the region bounded by the Yucatan Peninsula on the east. There were two other major hurricanes that grazed the northern edge of the Bay of Campeche, Hurricane Hilda of 1955 and Hurricane Charley of 1951, but Karl is by far the farthest south a major hurricane has been in the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane records go back to 1851, but Karl is a small storm and could have gotten missed as being a major hurricane before the age of aircraft reconnaissance (1945).


Figure 1. Tracks of all major hurricanes since 1851 near Mexico's Bay of Campeche. Karl is most southerly major hurricane on record in the Gulf of Mexico. Image credit: NOAA Coastal Services Center.

With Karl's ascension to major hurricane status, we are now ahead of the pace of the terrible hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005 for number of major hurricanes so early in the year. In 2005, the fifth major hurricane (Rita) did not occur until September 21, and in 2004, the fifth major hurricane (Karl) arrived on September 19. Wunderblogger Cotillion has put together a nice page showing all the seasons with five or more major hurricanes. The last time we had five major hurricanes earlier in the season was in 1961, when the fifth major hurricane (Esther) arrived on September 13. This morning we continue to have three simultaneous hurricanes, Hurricanes Igor, Julia, and Karl. This is a rare phenomena, having occurred only eight previous years since 1851. The last time we had three simultaneous hurricanes in the Atlantic was in 1998. That year also had four simultaneous hurricanes--Georges, Ivan, Jeanne and Karl--for a brief time on September 25. There has been just one other case of four simultaneous Atlantic hurricanes, on August 22, 1893. The year 2005 came within six hours of having three hurricanes at the same time, but the official data base constructed after the season was over indicates that the three hurricanes did not exist simultaneously.

Also remarkable this year is that are seeing major hurricanes in rare or unprecedented locations. Julia was the easternmost major hurricane on record, Karl is the most southerly major hurricane on record in the Gulf of Mexico, and Earl was the 4th strongest hurricane so far north. This unusual major hurricane activity is likely due, in part, to the record Atlantic sea surface temperatures this year.


Figure 2. Triple trouble, day two: From left to right, Hurricanes Karl, Igor, and Julia roil the Atlantic at 9:45 am EDT, September 17, 2010. Image credit: NASA/GSFC.

Karl
Hurricane Karl put on a burst of intensification this morning unprecedented in this part of the Atlantic, bottoming out as a Category 3 hurricane with a 957 mb pressure and winds of 120 mph. Karl's pressure dropped 10 mb between 1am EDT and 7 am EDT, but the pressure during the Hurricane Hunters' latest pass through the eye, at 10:12 am, had risen 12 mb, likely indicating that Karl's winds may weaken quickly in the next few hours. Karl is getting very close to land, and interaction with land will probably limit further intensification. Mexican radar out of Alvarado shows the eye is very close to the coast.


Figure 3. Radar image of Karl approaching landfall in Mexico. Image credit: Mexican Weather Service.

Impact of Karl on Mexico
Given that the Bay of Campeche coast has never experienced a hurricane as strong as Karl, its impact is likely to cause unprecedented damage to a 50-mile wide coastal area between Veracruz and Poza Rica. The strongest hurricanes in history to affect the region were Item in 1950, with 110 mph winds, Janet in 1955, with 100 mph winds, and Diana of 1990, with 100 mph winds. Flooding from Janet killed over 800 people in Mexico. and flooding from Diana killed at least 139 people. Fortunately, the Mexicans have one of the best disaster preparedness programs in the world, and it is likely that evacuations from the storm surge zone of Karl will greatly limit the loss of life from storm surge. The section of coast expected to receive Karl's maximum 12 - 16 foot storm surge is moderately populated, but is low-lying only in limited regions. Of greatest concern are Karl's torrential rains, since the region has high mountains near the coast that will experience extreme rainfall and flooding. Karl's high winds are also a major concern, and these winds are likely to damage thousands of buildings near the coast.

Igor
Hurricane Igor has slowly weakened over the past day, but remains a large and dangerous Category 3 hurricane with 120 mph winds. Igor passed just north of buoy 41044 last night, and the buoy recorded a lowest pressure of 942 mb. Top winds during Igor's passage were sustained at 74 mph, but this reading was on the weak left front side of the hurricane. The buoy recorded a significant wave height of 38 feet (the significant wave height is the average of the highest 1/3 of the waves.)


Figure 4. Morning satellite image of Igor.

Intensity forecast for Igor
Wind shear is low to moderate, 5 - 15 knots, and is expected to remain in this range through Saturday afternoon. Waters are warm, 29°C, and will remain 29°C through Saturday morning, then slowly decline. Igor is well armored against any intrusions of dry air for at least the next two days. These conditions should allow Igor to remain at major hurricane status through Saturday afternoon. It is possible the hurricane will undergo another eyewall replacement cycle, where the eyewall collapses and a new eyewall forms from an outer spiral band. This will weaken the hurricane by 10 - 20 mph if it occurs, but Igor may regain its lost intensity once the cycle is over, as it has done after its previous two eyewall replacement cycles. By Saturday afternoon, the trough of low pressure steering Igor northwestwards should bring moderate wind shear of 10 - 20 knots to the storm, potentially weakening it. The SHIPS models predicts shear will not rise to the high range, 20 - 30 knots, until the hurricane reaches the island, which may be soon enough to induce substantial weakening by perhaps 20 - 30 mph before Igor arrives at Bermuda. Igor will still probably be at least a Category 2 hurricane on its closest pass by Bermuda on Sunday night, and perhaps a Category 3. NHC is giving Bermuda a 29% chance of experiencing hurricane force winds from Igor, but this probability is likely too low. The Bermuda Weather Service is calling for Category 2 hurricane conditions for the island on Sunday, with 20 - 40 foot waves in the offshore waters, and 6 - 12 foot seas in the inland waters.

Igor's impact on Bermuda
The track forecast for Igor remains unchanged. Igor is moving northwest, in response to the steering influence of a broad trough of low pressure moving across the Western Atlantic. This trough will steer Igor to the northwest and north over the next three days, bringing the core of the storm very close to Bermuda late Sunday night. Igor is a huge storm, and tropical storm force winds extend out 290 miles to the north of its center. As the hurricane moves north, it will expand in size, as it takes advantage of the extra spin available at higher latitudes due to Earth's rotation. By Saturday night, Igor's tropical storm force winds are expected to extend outwards 320 miles from the center. Igor will be moving at about 11 - 13 mph during the final 24 hours of its approach to Bermuda, so the island can expect a period of 39+ mph tropical storm force winds to begin near midnight Saturday night--a full 24 hours before the core of Igor arrives. Igor will speed up to about 15 mph as it passes the island near midnight Sunday night, and Bermuda's battering by tropical storm force winds will not be as long as Igor moves away, perhaps 10 hours long. Hurricane force winds will probably extend out about 60 miles from the center when the core of Igor reaches Bermuda, and the island can expect to be pounded by hurricane force winds for up to 6 - 8 hours. In all, Bermuda is likely to suffer a remarkably long 36-hour period of tropical storm force winds, with the potential for many hours of hurricane force winds. Long duration poundings like this are very stressful for buildings, and there is the potential for significant damage on Bermuda. However, buildings in Bermuda are some of the best-constructed in the world, and damage on the island will be much lower than might otherwise be expected.

Bermuda's hurricane history
Igor is similar in strength and projected track to Hurricane Fabian of 2003. Fabian hit Bermuda as a Category 3 hurricane with 120 mph winds. It was the most damaging hurricane ever to hit the island, with $355 million in damage. Fabian's storm surge killed four people crossing a causeway on the island. These were the first hurricane deaths on Bermuda since 1926. The most powerful hurricane on record to strike Bermuda was the Category 4 Havana-Bermuda Hurricane, which hit on October 22, 1926, with 135 mph winds. The hurricane sank two British warships, claiming 88 lives, but no one was killed on the island. The deadliest hurricane to affect the island occurred on September 12, 1839, when a Category 3 hurricane with 125 mph winds and an 11-foot storm surge hit, tearing off the roofs of hundreds of buildings and wrecking several ships. An estimated 100 people were killed (source: Encyclopedia of Hurricanes, Typhoons, and Cyclones, by David Longshore.)

Igor's impact on the rest of the Atlantic
The models have been in substantial agreement over multiple runs that Igor will miss the U.S. and Canadian coasts--with the possible exception of southeast Newfoundland, which the ECMWF model predicts could see a close pass by Igor. The chief danger to the U.S. and Canada will come in the form of high waves. Large swells from Igor are pounding the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and the Northern Lesser Antilles Islands, and will spread westwards to the U.S. East Coast today. 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 6 - 11 foot waves on Saturday night, and 9 - 13 foot waves on Sunday.

Julia
Strong upper level winds from big brother Igor are creating a high 20 - 30 knots of shear over Hurricane Julia this morning, and the hurricane is destined to weaken to a tropical storm soon. The high shear has eroded away the northwestern portion of Julia's heavy thunderstorms, and should be strong enough to destroy Julia by early next week. Julia is not expected to threaten any land areas.

Unusually quiet in the Pacific
The unusually quiet Western Pacific typhoon season has its 11th named storm of the season, Typhoon Fanapi. Fanapi, a Category 1 storm, is located 400 miles east of Taiwan, and is expected to intensify into a Category 2 storm before making landfall on the island Sunday. Ordinarily, the Western Pacific should be up to seventeen named storms by now. It has also been unusually quiet in the Eastern Pacific. On average, that ocean basin should have had 11 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 2 intense hurricanes by now. This season, we've had about half the normal activity--just 6 named storms, 3 hurricanes, and 1 intense hurricane.

Elsewhere in the tropics
The ECMWF model develops a new tropical depression a few hundred miles off the coast of Africa 4 - 5 days from now. The GFS and NOGAPS models have backed off on their predictions of a Caribbean development late next week.

I'll have an update this afternoon.

Jeff Masters

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529. Prgal
Geez, can we stop the drama? Move on.
Member Since: September 7, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 921
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:


Drakoen, the early indications are that that area would be another Bermuda or ocean track?


Yup
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Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Nor have I, and my e-mail addy was accessible.

Seems to me that a very few bloggers are having a problem with the flags. Think about that guys. Is there a good reason? I never flag a good post, I give many more plus signs.
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Quoting Minnemike:
i find the downhill nature of this blog indicative of the state of social dysfunction plaguing our society. it is directly proportional to our media and entertainment based institutions... we call em' trolls here, but these folks really just mirror the informative (or lack thereof) discourse milling about this country, ever bent toward drama and sensation. just look at the news... all news outlets. there's my soapbox rant, and though I've got soooo much more to say about what has gone on here in the last month at least, i'm backing off now.


Amen. Me thinks there is nothing comparable in history
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Quoting poknsnok:
Are you guys implying we will have a Florida Strike in 2 weeks?? do I need a roofers License??


Yeah...you can get it online for 19.95 comes with free ordained ministership in the denomination of your choice
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Quoting StormJunkie:


Admin is not cleaning the blog. This is a result of an email that a blogger with his ... in a wad sent requesting that people report posts. And yes, the report post function, if done X number of times WILL lead to t he Community Standards violation.

I get that you are upset by all of the PR, as many of us are. The folks that have been around for the four year reign, know that Sai is not what he seems. He has showed that to a large extent over the past few days.

As for "why" I keep posting in relation to this. It is not going away on it's own for one. Secondly, when you send out an email to members of this community and ask them to report anything you don't like...Well it is just a childish, ego pumping, way of not being able to handle open communication and discussion. I won't WUmail any of you and ask t hat you report anything. What I have to say; for better or worse, I'll do it where everyone can see it.


Quoting FLdewey:

Well said... but we'll have to keep quoting each other to get it to stay around.


Quoting yonzabam:


It doesn't look that way to me. There has been a concerted and sustained troll attack on this board, only some of which was directed at StormW.

Some have decided they're not going to take it any more. Unfortunately, there might be some 'friendly fire' damage, but that's reality.


Trolls will always be a part of this community. Actually, they are part of what makes it what it is...just like the comedians, the weather gurus, the hobbyists. This is completely different. This is a hijacking of the blog by a "clique". It is censorship in it's ugliest form. Yeah, there are always going to be some comical, off the wall, and even personal posts in this forum. Again, it is what makes it what it is. To arbitrarily try to censor anything "you" don't like does an injustice to everyone here, and especially what Dr M and the weatherunderground has given us.

On top of that, if someone can't handle people disagreeing with them, debating them, or even throwing out a verbal punch every now and then...Then they should be posting in a blog which does not allow comments. The problem is that the type of person that can not handle that "realness", many times, has a tendency to thrive on the comments.
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517. HCW
Tornado warning in Texas

Member Since: August 10, 2002 Posts: 0 Comments: 1408
Quoting StSimonsIslandGAGuy:


I gotta go with Matthew and Richard.


Some strange names. Shary? Virginie? I don't know anyone with the name Shary or Virginie. What happened to Sherry and Virginia? Believe it or not I do know an Igor...LOL.
Member Since: May 28, 2008 Posts: 38 Comments: 5303
Just sitting here at the forecast desk (my kitchen table) analyzing the blog steering currents and realize that this is way overdue. It happened a few years ago but he came back as I'm sure he will again when he starts jonesing for an ego fix. Return fire! ---
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Quoting Jax82:
Which one of these remaining names do you think will impact the US? (just for fun people)

Lisa
Matthew
Nicole
Otto
Paula
Richard
Shary
Tomas
Virginie
Walter


Matthew
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Some rotation is getting going south of the CV islands. This is the area the models want to develop.

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Quoting 1900hurricane:
I'd put the chances of Karl crossing over at extraordinarily low. Those mountains that he has to cross are some of the tallest in North America and by far the tallest that an Atlantic Hurricane would have to encounter.


I agree that Karl will likely be destroyed trying to cross the interior mountains of Mexico. However, if you look at the GFS and follow it's progression over the next 6-7 days, it shows a low-pressure system emerging off the Mexican Pacific coast coinciding with the re-emergence of Karl. The GFS model seems to be pretty indicative of ghost-of-Karl at least merging with other energy and re-forming into a tropical storm or hurricane in the Pacific.

Also, please be aware that the GFS has been insistent over the past 5-days that an East Carribean tropical storm will develop about Friday of next week. It's projections are consistent about the storm becoming a hurricane that moves through the straight below Cuba and into the Northern Gulf between Sept. 28-30th. What strength & where it makes landfall is anyone's guess... but the GFS has clearly indicated a strong storm will form and where it will head. All interests in the Northern Gulf should pay attention to that, because the model's long range has been pretty accurate so far.
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510. HCW
Member Since: August 10, 2002 Posts: 0 Comments: 1408
Quoting btwntx08:
WOW 6-7 inches here



And, Dr. Masters said yesterday that Karl would not be big enough to bring rain as far north as Brownsville.

Just goes to show you, even the EXPERTS can be fooled by weather.
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Are you guys implying we will have a Florida Strike in 2 weeks?? do I need a roofers License??
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Quoting Titoxd:


It's practically impossible. Karl would need to survive the Sierra Madre Oriental and the Sierra Madre Occidental in order to reach the Pacific. Also, it seems that it will cross the Eje Volcánico Transversal lengthwise, so there is a greater chance of all of us hitting the lottery in the next drawing than Karl surviving.


That's more or less what I was thinking, I was surprised to see all the model tracks in Levi's post extending out into the Pac. tnx.
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Quoting FLdewey:

That would be FOX news by any chance would it?

it is ALL news... it's a societal slip imo. objective reporting has been done away with, and it's replacement with entertainment has made an enormous impact on so many facets of sociology. i prefer not to point in political directions here, because that's like a GW debate. from your local networks to the fox/cnn thing... facts are malleable and drama rules all. seem familiar???
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Quoting Neapolitan:


Oh, I'd believe that the CMC would show Karl's remnant low catching the solar wind and generating a new storm on Mars...but then again, it is the CMC you're talking about. :-)

Continuously Manufacturing Cyclones
Constantly Missing Cyclones
Computer-Made Confusion


Point taken lmao
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
501. HCW
5:42 PM GMT on September 17, 2010
BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE CORPUS CHRISTI TX
1240 PM CDT FRI SEP 17 2010

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN CORPUS CHRISTI HAS ISSUED A

* TORNADO WARNING FOR...
WESTERN KLEBERG COUNTY IN SOUTH TEXAS...

* UNTIL 115 PM CDT

* AT 1237 PM CDT...TRAINED WEATHER SPOTTERS REPORTED A FUNNEL CLOUD
NEAR RICARDO...OR NEAR KINGSVILLE...MOVING WEST AT 15 MPH.

* LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE...
RURAL CENTRAL KLEBERG COUNTY...
RURAL WESTERN KLEBERG COUNTY...
Member Since: August 10, 2002 Posts: 0 Comments: 1408
500. breald
5:42 PM GMT on September 17, 2010
Quoting JRRP:


JRRP what does this map mean?
Member Since: May 28, 2008 Posts: 38 Comments: 5303
497. PSLFLCaneVet
5:41 PM GMT on September 17, 2010
Quoting DestinJeff:
This blog has really gone downhill since I first began coming here in 2006.

I used to be able to come here and make a few sarcastic or satirical references to another comment, tied loosely or tightly to the weather, without fear of repercussion.

And I used to be able to log in quickly to get a dose of off-beat tropical humor from other like-minded immature adults, but now I have to really search for it among all the Holier Than Thou posts. And usually the really good stuff is whacked in 2 minutes or less. Sad, really.

It is unfortunate that we as consenting adults can't come here collectively and enjoy some fair-game satire and even self-deprecating humor.

I HOPE YOU ALL ENJOY WHAT YOU HAVE DONE TO THIS ONCE VALUABLE TROPICALLY COMEDIC RESOURCE!

Hang your heads in shame, Blog. Do it. Go on, hang your heads.

Not like that! I said hang them in shame.
Quoting LADobeLady:


I happen to enjoy your comments, and think it's a shame. You also have a good grasp of the English language, with good typing skills. Your posts didn't make me want to rip out my eyes and beat you with the dictionary. :) The weather here in Louisiana is very breezy, the partial cloud cover is helping to keep out temperatures down to 83 today. Thanks Karl!
Agreed, and Agreed.
Member Since: July 23, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 12414
495. Jax82
5:40 PM GMT on September 17, 2010
Quoting Jeff9641:


Lisa, Nicole, otto, and Tomas. 2 out of the 4 majors hitting the US.


I think Shary will be scary.
Member Since: September 2, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 1261
493. yonzabam
5:39 PM GMT on September 17, 2010
Quoting StormJunkie:


Admin is not cleaning the blog. This is a result of an email that a blogger with his ... in a wad sent requesting that people report posts. And yes, the report post function, if done X number of times WILL lead to t he Community Standards violation.

I get that you are upset by all of the PR, as many of us are. The folks that have been around for the four year reign, know that Sai is not what he seems. He has showed that to a large extent over the past few days.

As for "why" I keep posting in relation to this. It is not going away on it's own for one. Secondly, when you send out an email to members of this community and ask them to report anything you don't like...Well it is just a childish, ego pumping, way of not being able to handle open communication and discussion. I won't WUmail any of you and ask t hat you report anything. What I have to say; for better or worse, I'll do it where everyone can see it.


It doesn't look that way to me. There has been a concerted and sustained troll attack on this board, only some of which was directed at StormW.

Some have decided they're not going to take it any more. Unfortunately, there might be some 'friendly fire' damage, but that's reality.
Member Since: July 20, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2919
489. JRRP
5:38 PM GMT on September 17, 2010
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 5748
488. 1900hurricane
5:37 PM GMT on September 17, 2010
I'd put the chances of Karl crossing over at extraordinarily low. Those mountains that he has to cross are some of the tallest in North America and by far the tallest that an Atlantic Hurricane would have to encounter.
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 46 Comments: 11666
487. pearlandaggie
5:37 PM GMT on September 17, 2010
479. Nah, don't apologize. It's cool. I'm just from that area, so I'm familiar with the spelling.
Member Since: September 14, 2007 Posts: 3 Comments: 3963
481. Prgal
5:36 PM GMT on September 17, 2010
Quoting StormJunkie:


Admin is not cleaning the blog. This is a result of an email that a blogger with his ... in a wad sent requesting that people report posts. And yes, the report post function, if done X number of times WILL lead to t he Community Standards violation.

I get that you are upset by all of the PR, as many of us are. The folks that have been around for the four year reign, know that Sai is not what he seems. He has showed that to a large extent over the past few days.

As for "why" I keep posting in relation to this. It is not going away on it's own for one. Secondly, when you send out an email to members of this community and ask them to report anything you don't like...Well it is just a childish, ego pumping, way of not being able to handle open communication and discussion. I won't WUmail any of you and ask t hat you report anything. What I have to say; for better or worse, I'll do it where everyone can see it.


Can we just stick to tropical conversations? I havent received any email and I dont know what you are talking about. I am happy that the posts are being blocked tho.

Member Since: September 7, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 921
479. CalTex
5:36 PM GMT on September 17, 2010
Quoting pearlandaggie:
435. It's actually Matagorda Bay, fyi...


Sorry, I should've taken the time to look...just moved to Victoria from California.
Member Since: September 7, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 138

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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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