Karl makes landfall near Veracruz; Igor slightly weaker

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 8:29 PM GMT on September 17, 2010

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Hurricane Karl made landfall on the Mexican coast ten miles north of Veracruz at 1pm EDT today as a Category 3 hurricane with 115 mph winds. Veracruz was on the weak (left) side of Karl's eyewall, and did not receive hurricane force winds, except perhaps at the extreme northern edge of the city. Winds at the Veracruz Airport, located on the west side of the city, peaked at sustained speeds of 46 mph, gusting to 58 mph, at 11:54am local time. Radar out of Alvarado shows that Karl has kept its eyewall intact well inland, even as the storm moves into the high mountains east of Mexico City. Karl was the first major hurricane on record in the Bay of Campeche--the region of the Gulf of Mexico 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 storm 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 strongest hurricane on record so far east, Karl was the strongest hurricane so far south in the Gulf of Mexico, and Earl was the 4th strongest Atlantic 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. Hurricane Karl as seen by the MODIS instrument on NASA's Terra satellite at 12:20 pm CDT on Thursday, September 16, 2010. Image credit: NASA.


Figure 3. Radar image of Karl at 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 major damage to a 50-mile wide coastal area beginning ten miles north of Veracruz. Fortunately, the coast is not heavily populated there, and is not particularly low-lying, so the 12 - 15 foot storm surge will not be the major concern from Karl. The main concern will be flooding from Karl's torrential rains. The region has been hit by three Category 2 hurricanes over the past 55 years, and two of these storms caused flooding that killed hundreds. 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. Karl's high winds are also a major concern, and these winds are likely to extensive damage.

Igor
The Hurricane Hunters just left Hurricane Igor, and found that the hurricane has continued to slowly weaken. On their last pass through the eye of Igor at 1:49 pm EDT, an Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft found a central pressure of 947 mb. The eyewall was missing a chunk on its southwest side. Top winds at the surface as seen by their SFMR instrument were barely Category 1 strength, 76 mph, though the aircraft did see 117 mph winds at 10,000 feet, which suggests the surface winds were probably of Category 2 strength, 105 mph.


Figure 4. Hurricane Igor as seen by the MODIS instrument on NASA's Terra satellite at 10:50 am EDT on Thursday, September 16, 2010. Image credit: NASA.

Igor's impact on Bermuda
Hurricane warnings are now flying for Bermuda, and tropical storm force winds will arrive at the island late Saturday 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 70 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 if Igor weakens to Category 2 strength, as appears likely, damage on the island may be just a few million dollars. According to AIR Worldwide, "Homes in Bermuda are typically one or two stories and constructed of 'Bermuda Stone,' a locally quarried limestone, or of concrete blocks. Roofs are commonly made of limestone slate tiles cemented together. Commercial buildings, typically of reinforced concrete construction, rarely exceed six stories. In both residential and commercial buildings, window openings are generally small and window shutters are common. These features make Bermuda's building stock quite resistant to winds, and homes are designed to withstand sustained winds of 110 mph and gusts of up to 150 mph."

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.)

Elsewhere in the tropics
A tropical wave off the coast of Africa, a few hundred miles south of the Cape Verdes Islands, is disorganized, but has the potential for some slow development over the next few days. The NOGAPS model develops this wave into a tropical depression 4 - 5 days from now. NHC is giving the wave a 10% of developing into a tropical depression by Sunday.

I'll have a new post on Saturday.

Jeff Masters

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1248. flsky
Quoting futuremet:


Keep in mind that there is only a 24 hour difference between today's and yesterday's 00z run. Thus, you will barely notice the difference.

Thanks goodness you're posting again. You've been sorely missed.
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Quoting robj144:


I have to disagree a little. In a technical field or scientific field you really need a degree to make any headway whatsoever. Yes, once you start delving into your job, experience helps quite a bit.

By the way, where's everyone that said Igor was changing course to the west last night? The NHC has been doing an excellent job with the models this year and I would not doubt them in the future.
Always challenge the status quo...you ar right the NHC does better than anyone with there predictions. But what was Igors predicted path a week ago? What about Karl a week ago. A two or three day spot-on solution is great but should not be perceived as victory.
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Quoting washingtonian115:
Where's W456 when you need him.?


Yes, I miss him and hope he is well. His calm contributions to this blog have been invaluable.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Very large cyclone being depicted by the GFS. Kinda looks like Wil- nah, I'm not going to say it. Lol.


Wilma lol? (Sorry, had to do it for you.)
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1244. Seawall
For those that crave the wish of any storm, and I once did, the morning after is rather sobering, as evidenced in my yard...

Free Image Hosting by FreeImageHosting.net
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1242. angiest
Quoting StormJunkie:
Seems the GFS is popping the system up out of thin air in the SW Carib this time. And as noted earlier, it doesn't seem to be getting in closer in time with each run.


It isn't lost on me that GFS is currently showing this system developing in the same location that spawned Carla (an ITCZ disturbance). As to timing, last weekend it was showing development in about two weeks. now development is in a week or so.
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Quoting StormJunkie:
Seems the GFS is popping the system up out of thin air in the SW Carib this time. And as noted earlier, it doesn't seem to be getting in closer in time with each run.


Keep in mind that there is only a 24 hour difference between today's and yesterday's 00z run. Thus, you will barely notice the difference.
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Quoting WatchingThisOne:


Ouch! I'm glad that one is a long ways out, and I hope it goes away in subsequent runs.

Climatic patterns notwithstanding (troughs rolling off CONUS and taking things north) ... I worry that we are going to nailed with a bridging ridge that takes something into eastern FL or the gulf coast. Lets all hope that the troughs keep coming.


This troughing can actually be detrimental to us as we get into October and systems start to spin up in the western Caribbean.
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1237. NRAamy
How many times do I have to tell you guys....

456 is hiding because 7 8 9......
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1236. NRAamy
Pott!! Thank God! A friendly face.....now, where's my dinner, non-husband?????


;)


I'd settle for an early breakfast.....
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1235. robj144
Quoting KerryInNOLA:
Having a degree is analogous to having read the owner's manule before driving a new car. But you sooner have to get behind the wheel and navigate the interstate. Experience is the ultimate Doctorate!


I have to disagree a little. In a technical field or scientific field you really need a degree to make any headway whatsoever. Yes, once you start delving into your job, experience helps quite a bit.

By the way, where's everyone that said Igor was changing course to the west last night? The NHC has been doing an excellent job with the models this year and I would not doubt them in the future.
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Quoting xcool:


Ouch! I'm glad that one is a long ways out, and I hope it goes away in subsequent runs.

Climatic patterns notwithstanding (troughs rolling off CONUS and taking things north) ... I worry that we are going to nailed with a bridging ridge that takes something into eastern FL or the gulf coast. Lets all hope that the troughs keep coming.
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1231. pcola57
Quoting futuremet:
The ensemble mean have been very consistent lately. Nearly all of the show a tropical cyclone affecting the eastern Gulf of Mexico...


Buy looking at he models ,I have to agree.Looks like Oct.2 I'll be in hunker down mode.Good to see ya futuremet.
Member Since: August 13, 2009 Posts: 13 Comments: 6821
Member Since: July 12, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 6032
Quoting fatlady99:


Many ++++
Thank you.
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1228. angiest
Quoting xcool:
any from la to fl keep eye on gfs


Texas and Mexico as well. I don't care what climatology says. It seems if La Nina gives us warm winters it could eventually give us a later season hurricane.
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Seems the GFS is popping the system up out of thin air in the SW Carib this time. And as noted earlier, it doesn't seem to be getting in closer in time with each run.
Member Since: August 17, 2005 Posts: 26 Comments: 16546
We're still in the Invest Stage...

Quoting NRAamy:
Is it safe in here yet?
Member Since: August 2, 2010 Posts: 21 Comments: 9814
Well I've had enough WU for a day. Have a good night everyone!
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21193
1221. angiest
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Very large cyclone being depicted by the GFS. Kinda looks like Wil- nah, I'm not going to say it. Lol.


When it showed the storm hitting the TX/MX border at 6Z I noticed that the tight isobars for the storm extended all the way up here to Houston...
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Where's W456 when you need him.?
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1219. pottery
Quoting NRAamy:
Is it safe in here yet?

GRRRRRR!!!
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24311
1218. angiest
Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
Interesting. The GFS has it making landfall over southern Florida in this run. I betcha the next one has it hitting Texas, lol.



6Z was TX/MX border and 18Z was north of Tampa.
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Quoting futuremet:
The ensemble mean have been very consistent lately. Nearly all of the show a tropical cyclone affecting the eastern Gulf of Mexico...

Very large cyclone being depicted by the GFS. Kinda looks like Wil- nah, I'm not going to say it. Lol.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21193
1215. xcool
any from la to fl keep eye on gfs
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15670
Interesting. The GFS has it making landfall over southern Florida in this run. I betcha the next one has it hitting Texas, lol.

Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21193
1209. NRAamy
Is it safe in here yet?
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The ensemble mean have been very consistent lately. Nearly all of the show a tropical cyclone affecting the eastern Gulf of Mexico...

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Quoting PSLFLCaneVet:
Hello PI. Quoting oneself should occur infrequently, and, not be undertaken lightly. In this instance, I feel it to be apropos.We are all citizens of the Planet Earth. The depth and breadth of comments on the blog, should illustrate that sufficiently to all.
Well said, I took the family down to "El Vaquero" for our favorite mexican food dinner and talked with the owners about the storm striking Veracruz. They are from the Pacific side but were very worried about the impacts of Karl on their country.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
At 162 hours (below), the Caribbean system is beginning to develop along the SW Caribbean.

Not very good time-line progression being depicted by the GFS thus far.

Heh with all that heat stored up in the carribean I hear a bomb about to go off.Can't you?(no I really can't either.}
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 16971
1203. xcool
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15670
Quoting HaboobsRsweet:

yea which is probably why I respected his opinion over many others. there are still quite a few on here that I still do but man there is so much junk posted on here it is draning filtering through it all haha.
no laugh needed on that one
Member Since: October 25, 2005 Posts: 19 Comments: 22101
Quoting angiest:


I seem to be ignoring flsky for some reason, but I get the impression this is related to my posts about my daughter's cf?


Yes, I'm glad you are ignoring. Then my soft heart doesn't have to worry about his 'ruler up the...' attitude hurting you. If you didn't see it, then it had no impact. :)
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Quoting KerryInNOLA:
Having a degree is analogous to having read the owner's manule before driving a new car. But you sooner have to get behind the wheel and navigate the interstate. Experience is the ultimate Doctorate!
Good point.
Member Since: July 25, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 626
1155. BobinTampa 2:31 PM MDT on September 16, 2010
Gotta get this off my chest:

I think it is safe to say that everyone who visits this blog benefits in some way - whether through education or entertainment. The blog is far from perfect but, overall, I'd say it has been pretty beneficial to us all.

So it kind of baffles me that some would use this site to try to recruit members to another site they are creating. That is in extremely poor taste in my opinion.

We all have the ability to create our own blogs on WUnderground. Why leave completely when you could simply relocate on the same site, OR better yet, strive to improve this blog??

That strikes me as a great show of disrespect to Dr. Masters. Maybe this is addition by subtraction. Who knows?
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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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