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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Enough of this F Storm.
I hadn't realized Fiona was still problematic to anyone. Guess I need to pay a little more attention...

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Quoting KerryInNOLA:
No. Anyway we now have Jason.:)
Did you get your link Kerry? I had to split..
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looks like Igor is this about too have some in too eat here soon has it is about too eat up JULIA
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Quoting Neapolitan:


Oh, the irony... ;-)


a well appreciated chuckle....

What's the longest time we have gone in the last 60 days without a named storm? I'm sure someone has that statistic. TIA
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Quoting AtHomeInTX:


Thanks for the link. I got this earlier. Can't tell if it's the same cam though. Link


It's not the same link but i used to used that cam before...it's a good one too..in fact up until a couple of days ago i was able to get on there but i'm afraid too many people overloaded it when i was there too...this one is comparable but has less of a skyward view...more of an inlet and surrounding area shot..pretty good really as you get both the tide/wave view and land mass view..should be interesting to watch...the buildings look pretty rock solid to me..
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Quoting Levi32:


Thanks. I am trying to do them every day except perhaps Sundays.


Keep them coming! You're on our front page and I just listened to today's...great job yet again!
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485. 7544
gom 94l soon?
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482. mbjjm
Sept 5th,2003 Hurricane Fabian hits Bermuda with 120mph winds while moving NNE at 18mph.Unofficial gusts to 130mph. Over 300 Million dollars damage (US). Bermuda Harbor Radio gust to 143 kts
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For those that were talking about Igor's wind radii a bit ago, these plots have an analyzed radius for 34, 50, and 64 knots. I *think* it is the radii in the CIRA satellite analysis and not the official NHC numbers, though.



EDIT: This is actually showing more TS force diameter NW to SE, not the usual NE to SW. 540 vs. 455 (this is in nm, I *think*)

Will be interesting to see what changes as he gains latitude. Usually results in a broader system.
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26 days ago, the seasonal storm count stood at 3-1-0, and ACE was barely over nine. In those 26 days since, we've gone 8-5-5, and gathered nearly 106 ACE units. That is, quite literally, an entire average season's worth of ACE, nearly an entire average year's worth of both tropical cyclones and hurricanes, and double an average season's worth of major hurricanes. And, in case I need to remind you, we're only a week beyond the climatological peak, waters are at near-record high temps (especially in the western Caribbean, where they remain untouched), and atmospheric conditions are still more than primed for major action.

Read more here

ACE by Year
ACE by Year
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475. mbjjm
Sept 11th,2006 Hurricane Florence passes approx 50 to 60 miles west while moving NNE with 90 mph winds causing minor damage with gusts to 90mph on the island.
A few minor injuries occured with power outages.An automated observing station (elevation 157ft) reported sustained winds of 82mph with a gust to 112mph.

A high gust of 115mph was recorded at the Bermuda maritime operations centre.
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Quoting sammywammybamy:


45 HOURS:



Can You Say Ouch?
Yeah, there gonna get somethin...
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Quoting pcola57:
Been watching this cam from Bermuda off and on today...works during daylight hours only..been off for awhile and don't know if anyone has posted it yet but here's the link for it...shows a coastal inlet view from southern part of the mainland..was fairly breezy and cloudy today..like i said though only operational during daylight hours.

Link


Thanks for the link. I got this earlier. Can't tell if it's the same cam though. Link
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Long Karl loop up until a couple of hours ago:
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Quoting WeatherNerdPR:

Hey, do you think there is any chance of Alex being upped to a MH at Post-Season?


I'd give it a 50%/50% chance
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Quoting Levi32:


I am unfamiliar with how many cold fronts typically run into the GOM during the fall to cool the SSTs, but it's fairly safe to say that they will come with less frequency this year and the SSTs will take a bit longer to cool below TC formation criteria.


Thank you, Levi. I was afraid you were going to say that, but I expected to hear this. Yup, it's gonna be a loooooooong season here. I am only glad the front half was just some rain for me and very glad that most of the storms have missed most of the endangered landmasses. My heart goes out to the ones that have suffered from the effects of this season so far this year.
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Quoting Neapolitan:


Oh, the irony... ;-)
Caught that too, did you?
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Quoting Neapolitan:


Oh, the irony... ;-)


I was thinking that same thing ;) The Irony! It burns! What's going on with the little disturbance left in Karl's wake?
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Quoting xcool:
Pouch Name: PGI46L Official Name: Initial Center Point: 11N 38W
Notes:

The story is similar for the models. A vorticity/OW max is
initially located near 11N, 38W. Models hint that it initially
moves eastward, perhaps being pulled that direction by some help
from PGI45L. Then, another OW max develops farther west from a
circulation that seems to come out of the north. For the pouch
tracking for yesterday and again today, I then jump to that new
western OW max, which then develops a pouch and moves into our
area of operations. Perhaps in retrospect, I should have
started a new pouch number. So be aware, that going from east
to west at around day 2-3, it is possible to see PGI45L, the
initial eastern PGI46L, and then the eventual western PGI46L
that moves westward.


Other potential systems:
GFS depicts a tiny pouch over West Africa that dissipates after
just one day. Meanwhile, ECMWF keeps it as a slow, weak pouch
for longer, and then intensifies it just as it leaves the
African coast. The interesting thing about ECMWF is that it
doesn't seem to have the following AEW. While GFS dissipates
the western one and then moves a stronger eastern (~13E now)
pouch into the area and out over the Atlantic, ECMWF simply
slowly develops this initally small, weak, western pouch with no
hint of, what I thought should be(!), the stronger eastern pouch
currently around 13E. (See "Other Possible Systems".)

The models have been indicating development in the west
Caribbean. I determined a phase speed for GFS based upon what
appeared to be a westward-moving wave in the Hovmoller, but I'm
not sure if that's accurate. I used Cp=0 for UKMET, and tracked
a pouch moving northward from Panama. (GFS is similar, just not
tracked.) ECMWF is slow to develop a pouch near Panama, and
then it stays well to the south and does not move northward like
the other models. (See "Other Possible Systems".)


Go watch this Morphed Integrated Microwave Imagery at CIMSS - Total Precipitable Water (MIMIC-TPW), it takes a second to load, but in the last few frames you see the spin begin off the African coast.
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Quoting LongBeachNY:


Link?

That was the last time the most of city of Long Beach ny flooded from ocean to bay not the other way around. A classic for sure!


I'm sorry, I'm a newbie and can't find the videos. They were posted to the blog on the 15th, I think. Maybe.

Donna was mentioned again, after I was all grown up, this time in reference to Charley in 2004. Charley whipped through downtown Orlando, while I was on the side of town that got the tornadoes--Taking care of my mother in law who was practically thrown out of the hospital the day before Charley arrived.

~shiver~
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449. 7544
Quoting BahaHurican:
Really, REALLY don't like the fact that The Bahamas is still visible in this image of Igor.... lol

But I agree on the improved appearance. Do u think we are likely to see another round of strengthening overnight?


same here and fla lets hope this other trof will do what the other 2 seem too do and takes him away but if he gets stronger before the trof he cold brake thu that one too imo but yes he looks so close e yet so far away

s
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About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.