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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Quoting JupiterFL:


I totally agree Miami.


see the edited version - got the words in the right order--lol
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578. IKE
Hour obs from the Vera Cruz,MX. airport...

Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
Quoting reedzonemyhero:


Are you kidding me! Go stand outside in 110 mph winds in tell me it's not much of a problem.


I don't know about you but I tend to go inside when the wind gets to 110. Sure some structures will be damaged but what I am saying is that the rain will be what kills not the wind.
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576. JRRP
Quoting WeatherfanPR:
but what about this area ? it has a very nice rotation and is around 37 west.

yes nice rotation
Link
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Quoting MrMixon:


+1

Creepy antagonism ain't the same as humor.

Does Mexico City have a radar? If someone already posted the link I probably missed it among all the nonsense drama posts...


Link

This is a link the the Mexican Wx Svc....They have the radar sites listed .... hit "RADARES"....Now, this being said, I am having trouble getting to the site....guessing it is overloaded at present.
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Quoting tkeith:
Good post WPB...

It's only gonna last a little while. This is not admins first rodeo with selfish, childish bloggers. But he is the only "featured blogger" to do this.In hindsight, Doc should have not let him back after his last stunt.


True, but it was the kind thing to do to give him that second chance and Dr M certainly fits that category.

So many just do not know the history of it all.
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Quoting JupiterFL:


At this point the winds shouldn't be too much of a problem but the rain definetly will be.


Are you kidding me! Go stand outside in 110 mph winds in tell me it's not much of a problem.
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mudslides and flash floods will be the death of many, I fear.
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Quoting LeMoyne:

I believe that area is anti-cyclonic and the visible stuff is the end of Igor's incredibly long East side straight spiral (15N-30N) and Igor's outflow.


:-S
Member Since: August 23, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1592
Quoting zoomiami:
My one and only post on this subject: what has happened over the past week on the blog was, in my opinion, mean spirited. Saying something is a "joke" is one of the easiest ways to deny you are responsible for the words you say.

If you don't like what someone else says, ignore them, don't bait them. If you do, both parties are guilty. A blog by definition is a group of people, not an individual, so there has to be some community standards. Many on here so behavior they didn't like, and the result was the melt down.

Yesterday and today has been much better, easier read to find out what is going on.

With three (sort of) active storms, its nice to be able to see the information.


I totally agree Miami.
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564. IKE
12Z ECMWF @ 24 hours....

Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
Quoting watchinwxnwpb:

Quite frankly, i'm suprised Doc let him still post here after abusing the blogs email system for aforementioned "not weather related" reasons....just saying...keep using your plus signs people, it's bound to dirupt all the flagging!!
Good post WPB...

It's only gonna last a little while. This is not admins first rodeo with selfish, childish bloggers. But he is the only "featured blogger" to do this.In hindsight, Doc should have not let him back after his last stunt.
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560. txjac
Quoting cat5hurricane:
Karl's winds down to 110mph according to NHC 1pm advisory.


Thank goodness for that. I received a text message from a co-worker in Veracruz and she mentioned that the winds were horrid ...worried as I havent heard back from her since then

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Quoting cat5hurricane:
Karl's winds down to 110mph according to NHC 1pm advisory.


At this point the winds shouldn't be too much of a problem but the rain definetly will be.
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558. IKE
...HURRICANE HUNTER PLANE FINDS IGOR SLIGHTLY WEAKER...HURRICANE WARNING ISSUED FOR BERMUDA...
2:00 PM AST Fri Sep 17
Location: 23.4°N 60.7°W
Max sustained: 115 mph
Moving: NW at 9 mph
Min pressure: 946 mb

.................................................
Quoting cat5hurricane:
Karl's winds down to 110mph according to NHC 1pm advisory.


I bet he weakens and unwinds in a hurry.
Member Since: June 9, 2005 Posts: 23 Comments: 37860
Quoting swlaaggie:


Gustav, then Ike?


Both were Cat 2's at landfall.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
My one and only post on this subject: what has happened over the past week on the blog was, in my opinion, mean spirited. Saying something is a "joke" is one of the easiest ways to deny you are responsible for the words you say.

If you don't like what someone else says, ignore them, don't bait them. If you do, both parties are guilty. A blog by definition is a group of people, not an individual, so there has to be some community standards. Many on here were so upset by the behavior that the result was the melt down.

Yesterday and today has been much better, easier read to find out what is going on.

With three (sort of) active storms, its nice to be able to see the information.
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Quoting MrMixon:


+1

Creepy antagonism ain't the same as humor.

Does Mexico City have a radar? If someone already posted the link I probably missed it among all the nonsense drama posts...


Mexico City radar
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Quoting 1900hurricane:

Although they had large impacts, they did not meet the SSHS requirements to be classified as a major hurricane, which is dictated solely by windspeed.


Gotcha, thanks
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Quoting WeatherfanPR:
What about this area ?
@433 S of Igor and Julia


I believe that area is anti-cyclonic and the visible stuff is the end of Igor's incredibly long East side straight spiral (15N-30N) and Igor's outflow.
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Quoting swlaaggie:


Gustav, then Ike?

Although they had large impacts, they did not meet the SSHS requirements to be classified as a major hurricane, which is dictated solely by windspeed.
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 47 Comments: 11709
Quoting Levi32:
Once again, the GFS is seeing the buildup of heat in about a week or so in the Caribbean that eventually culminates into a hurricane that moves into the Gulf of Mexico by the end of the month.

12z GFS Day 14:



The size of that storm in crazy looking at the ROCI
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Quoting ConchHondros:


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


I got me a hammer and some shingles!!!
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Quoting blakels:
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! ---


Wow, this drama has even brought out a person from 2005 with, 1 count them, 1 post.:) I'm giving you a
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sai ?
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but what about this area ? it has a very nice rotation and is around 37 west.
Member Since: August 23, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 1592
It really looks like the northern half of Karl broke off and is pounding Texas...pretty crazy sight.

As for the drama, until someone gets serious about moderating I doubt it will get better. ~10 IP bans would do wonders I imagine....
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539. JRRP
Quoting breald:


JRRP what does this map mean?

wind speed and wind direction
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538. amd
Quoting StormJunkie:






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.


+1. Getting rid of those who thrive on drama, and their sycophants will do some wonders for this blog.

This is part of the reason why for the most part I post at nights (other than grad school commitments). There is much less drama at night on WU then during the day.
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Quoting CybrTeddy:
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.


Gustav, then Ike?
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Quoting JupiterFL:
Man I wish this slow hurricane season would pickup....What a show mother nature is putting on for us this week.


Maybe someday...maybe... :-P
Member Since: August 29, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 376
Once again, the GFS is seeing the buildup of heat in about a week or so in the Caribbean that eventually culminates into a hurricane that moves into the Gulf of Mexico by the end of the month.

12z GFS Day 14:

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Man I wish this slow hurricane season would pickup....What a show mother nature is putting on for us this week.
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To anyone defending the censorship going on.....if there were posters that you didn't like..that's what the ignore function is for.
At the moment the blog is worthless to me. I find it too aggravating. You have to read it from the last comment up lest something was said that offended the sai. But this too shall pass.
.
.
For all of us, like or dislike the censorship...this is what it's like to be on a blog in Communist China. If the sai there doesn't like you, he directs his forces to block you.
.
Oh, and btw, China has gotten very lucky so far with the quiet EPAC tropical season.
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Quoting ConchHondros:


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


Sounds like the guys that Allstate wanted me to hire after Katrina...You are NOT in good hands with them.
Member Since: July 29, 2005 Posts: 21 Comments: 794
516. I believe the names and spelling will become more odd with time as more 'typical' names are retired.
Member Since: September 14, 2007 Posts: 3 Comments: 3963
529. Prgal
Geez, can we stop the drama? Move on.
Member Since: September 7, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 921

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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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