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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Quoting KerryInNOLA:
Even Drs make mistakes



I am just wondering if I am not really looking at the correct models.. thats all.

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Quoting Levi32:


I'm afraid it won't be coming your way GeauxGirl. It may take its time getting inland but it will be moving gradually WNW or eventually northwest into Texas and Mexico.


Thanks for posting on this. I noticed for the last week the models showed Karl into Mexico. But I couldn't figure out what they seemed to be showing to its north. I kept saying to my husband, "What are they trying to fling up here?" He will be so happy when hurricane season ends. More than just for the obvious reasons. Lol.
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394. txjac
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.


What temperature is "below TC formation criteria"? Thanks
Member Since: April 24, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 2538
Quoting Levi32:


But it's not a tropical wave. It's an envelope extending north of Karl that developed as he entered the Bay of Campeche, because that area is currently favored for lowering pressures, and they ended up lowering over a broad area even though the hurricane itself was small.

txjac

Close to me too, thats why I asked ...lol

Well looks like the envelope is closer to you then me
Lots of rain and i think its going to be around a few days.

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Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:
Levi, should you get a chance would you look at post #278? TIA


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.
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Quoting LADobeLady:


I just watched the local weather and the forecast for next week highs in the low 90's all week. It's time for some fall, but I need to be careful what I wish for...


I'm with you on that one. At least the dew point has been down some though, not in the mid to upper 70's. Doesn't feel quite as bad outside.
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Quoting MiamiHurricanes09:
A BROAD LOW PRESSURE SYSTEM LOCATED ABOUT 225 MILES SOUTHWEST OF
THE CAPE VERDE ISLANDS IS PRODUCING DISORGANIZED SHOWERS AND
THUNDERSTORMS. ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS APPEAR SOMEWHAT CONDUCIVE
FOR SOME SLOW DEVELOPMENT OF THIS DISTURBANCE DURING THE NEXT
COUPLE OF DAYS AS IT DRIFTS WEST-NORTHWESTWARD. THERE IS A LOW
CHANCE...10 PERCENT...OF THIS SYSTEM BECOMING A TROPICAL CYCLONE
DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS.
My concern about this is that this makes it more likely that this will NOT be a true CV storm but rather one that spins up closer to the Lesser Antilles, making it more likely we will see a developing storm in the Car or along the Northern Antilles, heading west rather than N out to sea....
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Quoting LADobeLady:


LALALALALALA you didn't just say that


Lol, well it is unlikely to acquire a closed circulation, it may be a very nasty low coming ashore bringing heavy rain and gusty winds to the west gulf coast.
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Quoting xcool:
Igor claims his first victim in Puerto Rico
Girl drowns when she was taken away by the seas. Used to surf in that beach, and I know how trocky it gets with an 8 fot swell. Imagine with Igor's swells


I'd get banned for the word I want to post. Suffice to say that is sad. :(
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Currently we are at:
11 Tropical Storms
6 Hurricanes
5 Majors

At this time in 2005 there were
15 Tropical Storms
8 Hurricanes
4 Majors

At this time in 1995
13 Tropical Storms
7 Hurricanes
3 Majors
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Quoting KerryInNOLA:
There must be a cold front coming around Sept 28 to Oct 1. Something is making the track of that possible GOM storm on the GFS to jump all over the place from below Brownsville to Apalachicola


I just watched the local weather and the forecast for next week highs in the low 90's all week. It's time for some fall, but I need to be careful what I wish for...
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Alex was officially upgraded to a Category 2 w/ 110 mph winds, and a pressure of 946.

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Levi, should you get a chance would you look at post #278? TIA
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Quoting Levi32:


No because they are not really part of Karl's circulation. He is a very small storm. The convection to the north is forming into bands, not because of Karl, but rather because of the envelope of low pressure extending to his north. This is the reason the ensembles were at one point showing Karl going into Texas because there is low pressure up that way, but Karl is now leaving the scene rapidly and this other end of the envelope may have a chance to develop on its own.


LALALALALALA you didn't just say that
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Why is Dr. masters saying the GFS dropped the storm in the gulf? I still see it on NOAA s GFS loop? Is it subtropical in nature? It keeps shifting it from Clearwater to Texas
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Quoting KBH:
Is hurricane karl being absorbed by Igor? if so is this a regular occurance?


Karl is in Mexico and Igor is in the Atlantic, so no. I'm thinking maybe you meant Julia?
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Igor's past outflow stretches from Nova Scotia to 10N and has just reached Bermuda.
Igor exploded all day and exploding now - also looks to be getting a hold of Julia.
Can see the front coming in the North Atlantic view.
Blessed Be! people of Bermuda
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Quoting Levi32:


But it's not a tropical wave. It's an envelope extending north of Karl that developed as he entered the Bay of Campeche, because that area is currently favored for lowering pressures, and they ended up lowering over a broad area even though the hurricane itself was small.


Gotcha. Thanks.
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WV Scene
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366. txjac
Quoting blsealevel:


Well i'm not a Met sooo I'm going to have to go with showing how unorganized the area is for the time being you never know though I watch for these things when their close to home, sure is a mess out their ant it?



Close to me too, thats why I asked ...lol
Member Since: April 24, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 2538
365. KBH
Is hurricane karl, rather julia being absorbed by Igor? if so is this a regular occurance?
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Quoting StormSurgeon:


So in essence, it's really a westward moving tropical wave unassociated with Karl.


But it's not a tropical wave. It's an envelope extending north of Karl that developed as he entered the Bay of Campeche, because that area is currently favored for lowering pressures, and they ended up lowering over a broad area even though the hurricane itself was small.
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Quoting txjac:
blsealevel,

Could you please explain why you posted the wind charts at the two levels? Does this indicate that another storm could form? Or are you showing how unorganized the area is?

Thanks


Well i'm not a Met sooo I'm going to have to go with showing how unorganized the area is for the time being you never know though I watch for these things when their close to home, sure is a mess out their ant it?
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Quoting Levi32:


No because they are not really part of Karl's circulation. He is a very small storm. The convection to the north is forming into bands, not because of Karl, but rather because of the envelope of low pressure extending to his north. This is the reason the ensembles were at one point showing Karl going into Texas because there is low pressure up that way, but Karl is now leaving the scene rapidly and this other end of the envelope may have a chance to develop on its own.


So in essence, it's really a westward moving tropical wave unassociated with Karl.
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I guess it rains down in Africa...

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A BROAD LOW PRESSURE SYSTEM LOCATED ABOUT 225 MILES SOUTHWEST OF
THE CAPE VERDE ISLANDS IS PRODUCING DISORGANIZED SHOWERS AND
THUNDERSTORMS. ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS APPEAR SOMEWHAT CONDUCIVE
FOR SOME SLOW DEVELOPMENT OF THIS DISTURBANCE DURING THE NEXT
COUPLE OF DAYS AS IT DRIFTS WEST-NORTHWESTWARD. THERE IS A LOW
CHANCE...10 PERCENT...OF THIS SYSTEM BECOMING A TROPICAL CYCLONE
DURING THE NEXT 48 HOURS.
Member Since: September 2, 2009 Posts: 130 Comments: 21194
Karl reminds me somewhat of Beulah back in 1967 although I was only 12 at the time so I just really remember all the rains after Beulah went into Mexico (I'm in S. TX on the Gulf Coast--Corpus).
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Will Kalr emerge in the Pacific??
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Quoting Levi32:


No because they are not really part of Karl's circulation. He is a very small storm. The convection to the north is forming into bands, not because of Karl, but rather because of the envelope of low pressure extending to his north. This is the reason the ensembles were at one point showing Karl going into Texas because there is low pressure up that way, but Karl is now leaving the scene rapidly and this other end of the envelope may have a chance to develop on its own.

Shhhhh!
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Quoting txjac:
Since the blog is quieter now can someone please take a minute to explain what makes up this "T" number? I dont kno what ADT stands for so I'm at a loss

Thanks in advance


Intensity is assigned with intensity units (called T-numbers ranging from 1 to 8, in 0.5 increments), where one T-number represents one day’s intensity change at an average rate.
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Quoting Hurricanes101:


is that convection that has gone into Texas over the last 24 hours, Karl's spiral bands?


No because they are not really part of Karl's circulation. He is a very small storm. The convection to the north is forming into bands, not because of Karl, but rather because of the envelope of low pressure extending to his north. This is the reason the ensembles were at one point showing Karl going into Texas because there is low pressure up that way, but Karl is now leaving the scene rapidly and this other end of the envelope may have a chance to develop on its own.
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Quoting Levi32:


I'm afraid it won't be coming your way GeauxGirl. It may take its time getting inland but it will be moving gradually WNW or eventually northwest into Texas and Mexico.



other MX storm???


how many dos this make?
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348. txjac
Wow, thanks Calico ...nice explanation. Much appreciated
Member Since: April 24, 2010 Posts: 1 Comments: 2538

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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.