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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WTH...I guess I need to update my ignore lists. According to admin, 92% of the posts today are removed for violating the community standards...looks like a selective shock and awe operation is underway...wtg...
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For those of you who haven't figured it out yet, everything that's not related to weather has been getting flagged. I fully expect this post to get flagged and removed as well, but I do see how this is cutting down on a lot of the garbage in the blog. Some good stuff is going too, but it's questionable good stuff or loosely weather-related.

Post gone in 5...4...3...2...
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thanks for your update levi. though you did an excellent job, i didn't like what you had to say very much :( looks like the GOM can't call it a season yet.
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421. Prgal
Quoting divdog:
post got blocked

Mine or the cam's?
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tacoman, that's a good possible forecast but the series of highs sitting over Ontario/Erie and the midwest are set to stay in the northeast/mid/atlantic region the next few days and maintain a formidable barrier to any system trying to move onto the coast.
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Quoting Prgal:
Good afternoon. I see admin is still cleaning the blog and its awsome! The posts being erased are from the same bunch of people.

Anyway, someone posted a live cam from Veracruz and its not working for me. Is there another one?
post got blocked
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Quoting wxvoyeur:


Thanks Levi, do you think Karl will hold together enough to redevelop in the Pacific?


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.
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416. IKE
12Z NOGAPS through Sept. 25th...Link
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Quoting 1900hurricane:

Depends on if you classify Rita as a western Gulf hit.


Yeah, I was specifically thinking from the base of the BoC up to... Victoria, TX? That sort of area. The western coast (where Rita hit could be considered more of the Northern coast of GoM)
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Quoting Neapolitan:


No chance; Mexico at that latitude is wide, high, mountainous, and dry, and many a storm much larger than Karl has met its demise trying to traverse it. No, in 48 hours, all that'll be left of Karl--besides the destruction in his path, that is--will be a few puffs of harmless cumulus clouds over the hills of central Mexico.


Believe it or not the 12z CMC run shows it happening
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412. Prgal
Good afternoon. I see admin is still cleaning the blog and its awsome! The posts being erased are from the same bunch of people.

Anyway, someone posted a live cam from Veracruz and its not working for me. Is there another one?
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411. IKE
Quoting KeysieLife:
I'd like to know, from whomever decide to flag this:

What the Fujiwara is going on in here, I left for 5 minutes, come back and the blog looks like IT got hit by Igor. 1/2 the posts were blown away!

Why is it such an issue to incorporate humor into an arena that can be so full of destruction and mayhem? It's a basic life necessity folks...if we can't laugh at ourselves we are ALL DOOM! If you post here, don't cry like a little girl if you get a little ribbing...

Exactly why was I flagged? I mearly commented on current issues including tropical weather! I said I loved the action in the Atlantic this year and believe that qualifies w/o breaking any rules. Anyone have a link to the latest models for the run into the gulf before I get wishcasted out to sea?


Latest GFS...Link
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
12Z NOGAPS 120HR:

Appears that GFS, CMC and NOGAPS want to develop a piece of energy from the Colombian Low and either take it into BOC or C GOM. While NOGAPS still shows 2 more systems (one entering the Carib) and one on the C ATL.

Now looking at the overall picture... notice the A/B High, in all of the 3 models so far you have a strong bridge from the C ATL all the way into the W ATL. This is the main variable that should be focused since any disturbance that develops will most likely end up heading W for quite some time.
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Quoting Cotillion:
First major hit on the Western side of the GoM since Bret?

Depends on if you classify Rita as a western Gulf hit.
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I'd like to know, from whomever decide to flag this:

What the Fujiwara is going on in here, I left for 5 minutes, come back and the blog looks like IT got hit by Igor. 1/2 the posts were blown away!

Why is it such an issue to incorporate humor into an arena that can be so full of destruction and mayhem? It's a basic life necessity folks...if we can't laugh at ourselves we are ALL DOOM! If you post here, don't cry like a little girl if you get a little ribbing...

Exactly why was I flagged? I mearly commented on current issues including tropical weather! I said I loved the action in the Atlantic this year and believe that qualifies w/o breaking any rules. Anyone have a link to the latest models for the run into the gulf before I get wishcasted out to sea?
Member Since: September 10, 2010 Posts: 3 Comments: 409
Quoting PSLFLCaneVet:
Good Lord, seems things haven't changed much. Still chaotic, here and weather-wise.
Yep .. some are discussing a trough that is 2 weeks out that is going to block the progress of a storm that has not developed and may never develop. so they argue about the tilt of the trough and whether it will turn our figment of our imagination storm or allow it to drift in the gulf until the next imaginary trough comes and kicks it out. Or will the high pressure in europe circumvent the globe and block the figment of our imagination storm into mexico.
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why would my last comment be blocked?

I have no idea? about what? this is coming from someone with a sign up date of July 24th 2010?

whatever...
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Quoting wxvoyeur:


...do you think Karl will hold together enough to redevelop in the Pacific?


No chance; Mexico at that latitude is wide, high, mountainous, and dry, and many a storm much larger than Karl has met its demise trying to traverse it. No, in 48 hours, all that'll be left of Karl--besides the destruction in his path, that is--will be a few puffs of harmless cumulus clouds over the hills of central Mexico.
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First major hit on the Western side of the GoM since Bret?
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399. IKE
Responding to post #396...

I have little to no faith in models beyond about 7 days. Yeah...it's like throwing darts at a board.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37858
Water vapor...

Member Since: September 14, 2007 Posts: 3 Comments: 3963
Somebody tell me all this moisture in the GoM isn't a direct result of Karl.

Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 6010
Quoting IKE:
Heading for Texas/Mexico again!



...,as you know ike landfall accuracy for 10+ days is as accurate as throwing sand in the wind imo
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Quoting Levi32:
Good morning all.

Tropical Tidbit for Friday, September 17th, with Video
Hello Levi, a good day to you.
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Quoting StormJunkie:
The 12z run of the GFS just seems to toy with the W half of the Gulf Coast. No landfall through 384hrs.

Good Lord, seems things haven't changed much. Still chaotic, here and weather-wise.
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000
WTNT63 KNHC 171702
TCUAT3
HURRICANE KARL TROPICAL CYCLONE UPDATE
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL132010
1200 PM CDT FRI SEP 17 2010

...KARL MAKES LANDFALL ON THE SOUTHWEST GULF COAST OF MEXICO...

MEXICAN RADAR OBSERVATIONS AND SATELLITE IMAGES INDICATE THAT THE
CENTER OF HURRICANE KARL MADE LANDFALL ON THE SOUTHWEST COAST OF
MEXICO ABOUT 10 MILES...15 KM...NORTH OF VERACRUZ MEXICO NEAR 1130
AM CDT...1630 UTC. THE MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS AT LANDFALL WERE
ESTIMATED TO BE 115 MPH...185 KM/HR.

SUMMARY OF 1130 AM CDT...1630 UTC...INFORMATION
--------------------------------------------------
LOCATION...19.3N 96.2W
ABOUT 10 MI...15 KM N OF VERACRUZ MEXICO
MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...115 MPH...185 KM/HR
PRESENT MOVEMENT...WSW OR 255 DEGREES AT 8 MPH...13 KM/HR
MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...976 MB...29.82 INCHES

$$
FORECASTER BEVEN

Good luck, Mexico. Hope it won't be too bad.
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stormw and levi32

with the pacific being so quiet this season, how will that effect this winter for the west coast?

thanks guys
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Karl made landfall as a 115 mph system. First major hurricane to hit the Gulf Coast (yes, Mexico counts as the Gulf coast) since Hurricane Wilma.
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304. LeMoyne 4:46 PM GMT on September 17, 2010

I was just about to comment that Igor has been looking a lot better lately, but you and another beat me to it. Julia started to implode a couple of hours ago, but she's still getting closer to Igor. It's kind of fun to watch their interaction.
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Quoting Levi32:
Good morning all.

Tropical Tidbit for Friday, September 17th, with Video


Thanks Levi, do you think Karl will hold together enough to redevelop in the Pacific?
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This blog has become disgraceful. Who care who posts or what as long as they are not attacking someone. The bickering and middle school like fighting here is exactly what a troll does, and exactly why some leave. I have been reading this blog for many years and i used to be able to just sign on and get info on the tropics, now i have to search for it.

Even if you give good information out, if you annoy, drive off or isolate anyone you are no better than a Troll. All you who think you are above StormW are acting like children.

This blog used to be a great place to get information and discuss weather. Now it is a place full of attacks and has transformed to where you better be right in what you post otherwise one of you Know-It-All armchair forecasters is going to jump all over the poster.

Get over yourselves. this is a weather blog not Jr. High.
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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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