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

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.

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.

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.

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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829. flsky
Quoting StormChaser81:
NASA's CloudSat satellite captured a slice of Hurricane Karl's clouds at 07:59 UTC (3:59 a.m. EDT) Sept. 17. CloudSat shows clouds are over 8 miles high. The blue areas along the top of the clouds indicate cloud ice. The highest clouds in Karl at the time of the image were as cold as -40 Celsius (-40 Fahrenheit) to -60C (-76 Fahrenheit). That line disappears where there is strong rainfall exceeding 30mm/hr (1.18 inches/hour).

Hey! Incredible image!
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Quoting shadoclown45:
I live on ny city and i believe a tornado went through, well staten island is where i live and i believe i got hit with RFD winds can anyone validate that a tornado went through. TY in advance...



They have not released the results of the survey yet, but check back with that link, it should be posted there when it is completed.
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Cloudgatherer #813----you might want to edit---it is Bermuda paying the price---Bahamas getting the business.
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NASA's CloudSat satellite captured a slice of Hurricane Karl's clouds at 07:59 UTC (3:59 a.m. EDT) Sept. 17. CloudSat shows clouds are over 8 miles high. The blue areas along the top of the clouds indicate cloud ice. The highest clouds in Karl at the time of the image were as cold as -40 Celsius (-40 Fahrenheit) to -60C (-76 Fahrenheit). That line disappears where there is strong rainfall exceeding 30mm/hr (1.18 inches/hour).

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Response UpdateLink
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823. xcool

12zEuro on board
stalled in cab
Member Since: September 26, 2009 Posts: 2 Comments: 15718
Quoting 7544:
igor at 62 west now hmmmm
Id\'d put Igor at about 23N and 62W now and spinning blob on Dvorak covers the new eye (still in cleanup)

Not sure Igor will complete monster eye or if that eye changes recurve in next few days,
but Igor will have a huge eye even after contraction or some kind of spiral eye and maybe struggling ...
Circulating cleanup is gonna win I think - it is vigorous.
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Quoting atmoaggie:
A little long, but I thought it was neat.

Not only "neat", it's kinda mesmerizing. Thanks for posting that Aggie.
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814. flsky
Quoting shadoclown45:
I live on ny city and i believe a tornado went through, well staten island is where i live and i believe i got hit with RFD winds can anyone validate that a tornado went through. TY in advance...

If you go up on this page to menu item, you will find Tornado Report under the Severe Storm menu.
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Igor starts to exact its price from the Bahamas:
A cruise ship set to depart Boston today for Bermuda will instead set its course for Florida and the Bahamas ahead of Hurricane Igor, company officials announced today.

As weather forecasters predicted Igor will slam into Bermuda this weekend, The Norwegian Cruise Line ship “Norwegian Spirit,” set to leave at 4 p.m. from Black Falcon Avenue port for the small island country, will instead hug the eastern seaboard, stopping in Port Canaveral, Fla. and Nassau, Bahamas.

Other cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean and MSC Cruises, have also rearranged some of their itineraries amid concerns about the Category 3 storm.

When it comes time to add up the economic damage from the storm, the loss of at least a week or two of cruise-line revenue and passengers - and if the port is damaged, or needed for relief operations, perhaps the whole season - will be a not insubstantial part of the whole. But the real damage here is reputational. The Bahamas thrives as an island of tranquility. Every time a storm like this ruins vacation plans, that image takes a hit.
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Quoting DestinJeff:
How many among us here go to to our prefered news website for the news? Be it CNN, MSNBC, FOX, etc....

We go to that site for news, which is delivered in the site entry and authored by an employee of AP, UPI or whatever.

Now how many among us go to the COMMENTS SECTION of a particular story "to get the news" about that story? Hopefully, none.

Same here, this is the comments section of a blog entry ... not necessarily the first place emergency officials would you have you turn, in the event of an actual emergency, for official news, information, or instructions.

To take the good with the bad in the comments section.

You still do not get the point, DestinJeff. We, in the houston area, do not have Dr. Neal Frank any more. Dr. Neal Frank would field questions on air and give his fairly detailed insight on what he thinks will happen. Our local weather forecasters are good, but they do not go into the detail that Dr. Neal Frank would. CNN/Fox as a source is only gathering generic information and with no real topics open for discussion. I, as others here, come to see "the big picture" and what possibilities may lay ahead. There are only a few on here that will take the time to give knowledgeable information to those that seek it. Levi32 is one that will and I fell that Reed is an up and coming future star. There are some others as well. StormW and Levi32 are the stars worth paying serious attention to now and they will answers questions and concerns. You have done an excellent job, at times, with your maps and charts that I also find informative, if I knew how to read them. I am getting a grasp on doing so now, but it is becuase of people like Levi32 and StormW that I am finally learning how to interpret some of this information. Your style of humor is very enjoyable. Your attacks on the ones that seem to know considerably more than you is nothing more than a distraction. I am quite serious when I say that if you and the other "class clowns" open an act at Comedy Central I will pay to come see your antics. Please, continue with the humor, but delay the practice of attacking those that really are more knowledgeable than you on the tropics. When you have lost your home and all of its belongings to a hurricne, as I have, the "cuteness" becomes a little grating. Still, I like your humor and that of the other "class clowns". Just keep it funny and belay the attacks on those that provide SERIOUS information. .... I wonder how long you would last in a board meeting with your attempts at humor on a serious topic. Afterall, they are not bored meetings, even when they are boring.
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I live on ny city and i believe a tornado went through, well staten island is where i live and i believe i got hit with RFD winds can anyone validate that a tornado went through. TY in advance...
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A little long, but I thought it was neat.

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802. 7544
igor at 62 west now hmmmm
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Hurricane Karl plows into Mexico mainland, weakens
By the CNN Wire Staff
September 17, 2010 2:43 p.m. EDT

Mexico City, Mexico (CNN) -- Hurricane Karl weakened Friday afternoon after making landfall, but the heavy rain and storm surge it spawned still could pose significant problems in the Mexican interior, forecasters said.

Karl was a Category 3 storm when it came ashore about 10 miles (15 kilometers) north of Veracruz, Mexico, CNN's satellite and radar estimates showed, but is now classified Category 2.

The storm delivered torrents of rain and fierce winds several hours before it arrived around 11:30 a.m. (12:30 p.m. ET).

Maximum sustained winds at landfall were near 110 mph (175 kph) with higher gusts, according to the National Hurricane Center. The hurricane was moving west at about 8 mph (13 kph), it said.

The homes of at least 3,000 families in central Mexico were damaged, the state-run Notimex news agency reported.

At 1 p.m. Karl was 15 miles (25 kilometers) west of Veracruz.

High winds and seas could be a threat to oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, said CNN meteorologist Chad Myers.

"A dangerous storm surge will raise water levels by as much as 12 to 15 feet above normal tide levels along the immediate coast near and to the north of where the center makes landfall," the Hurricane Center said. "Near the coast, the surge will be accompanied by large and destructive waves."

Potentially dangerous rain also is forecast.

"Karl is expected to produce rainfall accumulations of 5 to 10 inches across the central and southern Mexican Gulf coast region with isolated amounts of 15 inches possible in the interior mountains," the center said. "These rains could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides."

Some local flooding had already been reported, the Mexican Interior Ministry said.

Officials closed some roads and urged evacuations for large areas.

Mexico's National System for Civil Protection issued a red alert, the highest level, for central and southern Veracruz. An orange alert was in place for northern Veracruz and the states of Hidalgo, Tlaxcala and Puebla. A yellow alert was issued for the states of Tamaulipas, San Luis Potosi and Oaxaca.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon also issued a warning Friday morning on his Twitter account.

"An alert for Hurricane Karl in the nation's central states," Calderon said. "(It) could convert to a Category 4. It will enter through Veracruz around midday."

Texas could be spared any major problems because a storm surge occurs only near the landfall location, said CNN meteorologist Sean Morris.

Coastal flood advisories have been issued for south Texas, which means forecasters expect a small amount of coastal flooding but nothing serious, Morris said.

A larger threat to south Texas will come from several inches of rain that could cause flooding and mudslides. The area could see as much as 4 inches by Sunday, with isolated amounts of up to 6 inches in far southern Texas.
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Quoting BobinTampa:

how does that compare to normal rainfall Pottery?

I will need to check my records to give that answer. But...

Average rainfall for 12 years is 228.6" (about 7.25 Feet)
In that figure is 2 @ 7.9' ('98 and '99) and a 4.2' ('01).
Heaviest rains are traditionally Aug. and Nov.

This year hes been more very heavy rains than the norm. None of those long, drippy periods that seem to go and on. Rather, daily cloudbursts that drop up to 4.5" in an hour.
Today was 1.5" in about 40 mins, with loads of energy.
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usually with a spin like that out in the mdr I look for development before the windwards
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Reports coming in of 3000 Homes damaged in Veracruz.
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791. Bonz
Quoting PSLFLCaneVet:
Since you are speaking to me, I'll tell you that the ignore button is perfectly suited to your situation. You are free to use it on any poster you wish. You are not free to try to stop others from expressing an opinion you do not agree with or dislike. In my opinion.

And why must I be obliged to push a button and ignore people who are acting badly?

I haven't spoken up in ages. Unlike those who do the minus bit or use the ignore button, before today, I just hopped past their posts after rolling my eyes. I only minus-ed people who used all caps.

There is no reason to allow those who refuse to behave to have free rein. I have run a large website for six years and I don't tolerate that crap. We have ignore buttons too, but if people show a pattern of misbehaving, heave-ho, off they go.

* *

"Doesn't make the majority right though."

Bad behavior is never right. It's annoying, boring and detracts from a place.
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Karl isn't maintaining the deep convection he had. (He did maintain a lot over the Yucatan).

Could be good news for those denizens (scream! Word of the day!) in and around Veracruz.

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Quoting atmoaggie:
(commas save lives)

I, was nearly run-over, by one, this morning, at about 10:30.
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See plenty of spinning between 32-37W; 11-13N...although convection is relatively low.

This is the area in front of the system which NHC is giving the 10% chance.
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Dr. Masters co-founded wunderground in 1995. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990. Co-blogging with him: Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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