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Hurricane Rita final report issued

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 2:03 PM GMT on March 24, 2006

The National Hurricnae Center has released its final report on Hurricane Rita. The report revises Rita's strength at landfall downward by 5 mph. Doppler radar data not available at the time the storm hit suggests that Rita's peak winds were 115 mph, not 120 mph as was previously thought. However, Rita was still a tremendously strong Category 3 hurricane at landfall, and carried a storm surge characteristic of a Category 4 hurricane with her to shore. The NHC report mentioned that storm surge values were hard to figure out, since most of the tidal gauges were destroyed. A maximum storm surge of 15 feet and perhaps a few feet higher probably occurred along the Louisiana coast to the right of where the eye came ashore. This storm surge destroyed nearly every building in the towns of Holly Beach, Cameron, Creole, and Grand Cheniere. The surge reached up to 30 miles inland in same locations, and flooded downtown Lake Charles-- with up to six feet of flood waters. Rita's central pressure at landfall is estimated at 937 mb based on dropwindsonde data from the Hurricane Hunters. This landfall pressure is the lowest on record in the Atlantic basin for a Catgegory 3 hurricane with 115 mph winds. Similar to Katrina one month earlier, the relatively weak winds in Rita for such a low pressure resulted from the fact that Rita grew to enormous size, spreading its broad pressure field over a huge area.

Figure 1. The eye of Hurricane Rita shortly after reaching its peak intensity. Rita had 180 mph winds and the 4th lowest sea-level pressure on record, 895 mb. Image taken from the NASA's MODIS satellite.

Rita's peak intensity while out over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico's Loop Current was higher than previously thought--the maximum winds were 5 mph stronger, and the central pressure 2 mb lower. There was a 6-hour gap in hurricane reconnaisance flights during the time that Rita underwent its rapid deepening phase, and it is thought the the storm continued to strengthen for a few hours while there was no one there to see it. Rita's maximum winds are now estimated at 180 mph, and her lowest pressure, 895 mb. This is the fourth-lowest pressure on record in the Atlantic, behind 882 mb in Wilma (2005), 888 mb in Gilbert (1988), and 892 mb in the 1935 Florida Keys hurricane. Rita's pressure dropped an astonishing 70 mb in just 24 hours, and strengthened from a tropical storm to a Category 5 hurricane in less than 36 hours just after it passed 70 miles south of the Florida Keys. We are very fortunate that this deepening phase did not start 24 hours earlier and the storm did not track 70 miles further north, or else the U.S. might have had two hurricane disasters with major loss of life in 2005. The Florida Keys need a full 72 hours of evacuation time to get everybody out, and the evacuation order would likely have been given only 24 hours in advance. Next to New Orleans, the Keys are the number one most vulnerable place in the U.S., and a storm that causes major loss of life there is probably only a matter of time.

Jeff Masters

Figure 2. Radar image of Hurricane Rita as it began its explosive deepening to a Category 5 hurricane, barely sparing the Florida Keys.

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

***Happy 21st Birthday*** to me
ant would some one tell me what that photo is
Good Morning Dr.Master's thank you for all the information that you provide to us during and after the season.
would some one tell me what that photo is on top of dr M blog and that would be the frist photo that he put on to his blog
Are you talking about the picture of Rita's eye? I don't see what you mean by "first photo"; there have always been pictures in Masters' blogs.
When we can see the final report for hurricane Beta,because he was a simply cat-3 and I can't imagine what kind of probblem are with him!

That's not the ocean surface in Rita's eye. Those are actually low level clouds swirling about in the eye.
my tunnels would help KRWZ celebrate his birthday tonight.

happy 21st KRWZ.
Yes Hurricane Myles, can you or Dr. Masters perhaps, or anyone else expound on the geometric formations of low level clouds inside the eyes of these monster hurricanes? There was most certainly a five pointed star cloud formation in Katrina as it approached the Gulf coast. Would anyone at all like to post thoughts on that? How can five rows of clouds twenty miles across make a star formation in the natural world? I'll tell you something: somebody better rethink quantum physics and chaos theories if things like that appear naturally.
Could somebody tell me somethink about the low in center Atlantic: 965mb with gales winds
I didnt see the five pointed star in Katrina, but I did clearly see a number '2' in the center of Wilma's eye on radar as it made landfall.

I would say it's just random formation. Just because it's what we would see as orginized does not make it so. So for right now I'd say quantum theory and such are safe. Now if we start seeing these kinds of things all of the time, then you can start questioning things, expecially if the same formations appears twice.

Looks like any ordinary strong upper level low. From WV it look a little less defined then 24 hours ago.

An interesting side note - Cyclone Phase Analysis says the low is making a transition into a warm core system.

Now I have a question - Is this upper low really going warm core, and have temps in the center warmer then the surrounding air, or the analysis wrong? If the analysis is not wrong, why does an upper low go warm core when it doesn't appear to be going tropical at all, or is it?
This low is going now on more cold waters,but even the SSt is around 60's I think that it could have some subtropical charactheristics,but I'm not sure exactly.
The low in the north Atlantic is just a big, strong gale center. Big storms like this over the relatively warmer water of the Atlantic basin often acquire a warm-core characteristic or two.

With regard to the Rita's eye photo, when you have near calm wind in the center of the eye and 150+ mph wind in the eyewall you are naturally going to get some eddy swirls in the transition area.
Yes, the 'star' was there in the most distinctive form once could imagine, five streaks of clouds forming a five pointed star crisscrossing the eye. It was most evident for several days running as part of the coverage of the storm on MSNBC. It must have been there for viewing a thousand times. If you want some por pictures of it, yahoo search 'Katrina pentagram', and you'll get some photos. 'Pentagram' is what mystics are calling it, so the best search results come from plugging this word rather than 'star'.
Hawkeyewx..yes 'swirls' is a word applicable to the physical nature of cloud formation, but 'star' is not, never....ever.
Just visit.
Is this what you're talking about?


These guys think WAY TOO MUCH about it.
The human visual system excels at finding patterns, even -- one might say, especially -- where none actually exist.

To me, most of those photos look pretty much like a navel.

Wait a second...

[peeping under my shirt]

AAAUUUGGGHHH! There's a pentagram in my belly button! I've been a victim of scalar directed energy weapons since the day I was born!
Checked that out and all I can say is wow. I never ever anything he was talking about. Vortec this and hexagon that. He was pointing at thing and saying things about them and I would look and be like huh? Personally, I think that guy has convinced himself that this is true to such an extent that he actually does 'see' these things, but I never did. Maybe my eye for sat pictures isnt good enough, but I doubt it.
This is also my opinion.We try to find any stupid like this pentagram,hexagonal vortex eye...and actually we don't know what exactly happened at the end of the 2005 hurricane season,because in 2003 for example we dont believe that a hurricane could form on 22-23 degrees waters or intesify under 20-25kt winds shear.
Well those photos of the beams dont impress me much--everyone has seen those in photographs with the sun out, especially when taking pictures through a glass window with the sun shining through it. Steve Gregory had some awesome pictures of Rita's eye. Anyway, I don't know how those patterns in the low-level scud clouds in the eye form, but they look durn cool. Be interesting to see how fast they change in real time, like with a 30 second interval between pics, not 5 minutes.
I see a big sea serpant/turtle head coming out of the eye of Rita there:)

I remember in the indicators for a bad season a warm Alaska was one of them...& that's what their calling for, the 3rd one in a row.
What strikes me about Rita is that she reached her peak intensity and lowest pressure without pinholing (unlike Wilma and Gilbert). I find this uniquely impressive--a pressure of 882 mb with a 2-mile-wide eye is not that surprising, if you contemplate the physics of it; a pressure of 895 mb with an eye of more conventional size bespeaks real power. If Rita had not had such a strong capping anticyclone from the get-go, she might have pinholed in the early stages too, and racked up who knows what numbers.
Did you forget Katrina? She developed her huge eye before reaching her minimun pressure aswell.
I almost did mention Katrina, as a matter of fact..she was no slouch in that department, either.
A question for Dr. Masters or anyone else:

In his December 5 blog entry, Dr. Masters explained that the unusual number of hurricanes to strike the US in 2004 and 2005 has been linked to unusually warm SSTs in the central North Pacific during 2004-2005. Does anyone know what's going on in that area now? From what I could find, the temperatures look normal recently, but I don't know what I'm doing.

The 1995 - 2003 hurricane seasons were quite active, but only 3 of 32 (9%) major hurricanes that formed in the Atlantic made landfall in the United States, much below the climatological average of 30% for the entire 20th century. This lack of hurricane strikes occurred because a trough of low pressure was frequently located over the East Coast during these years, and the flow of winds through the trough tended to recurve hurricanes northeastward out to sea before they could strike land. However, in 2004 and again in 2005, this trough was mostly absent, and an unusually strong ridge of high pressure was in place which tended to steer hurricanes into the U.S. and not allow recurvature. Seven of 13 (54%) major hurricanes that formed in the Atlantic made United States landfall as major hurricanes during 2004 and 2005.

So, what caused this unusually strong ridge of high pressure to develop over the eastern U.S.? According to Dr. Bill Gray's hurricane forecast team at Colorado State University, this ridge formed in response to a strong warming of the ocean in the central North Pacific. Figure 3 shows the difference in Pacific sea surface temperatures during August-October 2004-2005 from August-October 1995-2003. Central North Pacific sea surface temperatures were up to 1.3C (2.3F) warmer in 2004-2005 compared to 1995-2003, leading to a deflection of the jet stream dowstream of the warm pool. The jet stream assumed a standing wave pattern, resulting in a ridge of high pressure over the central Pacific, trough of low pressure over the western U.S., and high of high pressure over the eastern U.S. It was this ridge of high pressure over the eastern U.S. that steered so many storms into the country during 2004-2005. Why did the ocean warm in the central North Pacific, and will that warm pool remain in place for the 2006 hurricane season? That is unknown.
I found an interesting article, which says that Katrina may have been only a warning, and it is only a matter of time before a much more destructive hurricane hits New Orleans. It makes a comparison to the 1926 and 1928 hurricanes that caused Lake Okeechobee to breach its levees, saying that nobody learned their lesson from 1926 when 400 people were killed and as a result 2,500 died two years later.

Katrina: The Big One Or Just a Warning Shot?
I would agree with the final report on Rita. That seems about right on the top winds. With what we learned from both Katrina and Rita, I think the most important thing to remember is the size of the hurricane and the intensity while still well out at sea. Even if a 'cane weakens from a Cat 5 to a Cat 3 by landfall, if it's huge like Katrina or Rita, it will still come in with a Cat 4 or 5 surge.
Very interesting article about how humans continue to repeat mistakes over and over. Thanks for providing the link..

very interesting read MichaelSTL
Happybirthday KatrinaRitaWilmaZeta

Looks like a good storm for the Sothwest coming up on Tuesday. This looks to be one of the strongest of the year if it holds together. Not a lot of cold air but if you are high enough in elivation you could get some good snow ^_^.
Katrina was not worst-case. Worst case is a storm strengthening quickly 24 hours or less before landfall, fortunately Katrina lingered in the GOM a little longer. Had she hit 6 hours earlier, the shear and dry air that eroded her western side would not have done so, and NOLA would have been annihilated.
Very true.
G'morning to all in the good Dr.'s blog. or is it g'nite? What day is it? What time zone am I in? Has anyone checked the SST's recently? How's that african dust situation looking? Where's the bermuda high? And that whole La Nina-El Nino deal....this is just too much for me...I need a practice refill on my tagamet! Where's my duct tape? What's the price of gas? Is the Wal-Mart parking lot full? Do I need new sparkplugs for my chainsaw? Is it time to put away the yard furniture? How many MRE's do I really eat in a week?/


Where's STORMTOP when I need him????
Ageed as far as Katrina could have been worse. As for the rebuilding effort being kin to what happened in the everglades, it does seem we're failing to look at history a bit. But the process is born out of how areas are rebuilt. People have the right to protect or rebuild what they can, leaving the local govt to do what they can for the levies with what they've got.
lol aquak~g'nite. Sunday. We live on GMT here. You like your SSTs in 3-D? 2 small dust storms already. Not over fl. La NIna's on...

The rest could wait til closer to season, but ya might want to switch to MREs for a week (I for one would be interested in thats experiment outcome)lol.

Katrina definitely could have been worse. The worst case scenario would be a storm with Hurricane Floyd's wind field, Hurricane Camille's maximum winds, along with Katrina's storm surge, at high tide.
Ahhh...skye....good to know I can stll make some one smile!
smile? I's LMAO...

louastu~ Yeah, Floyd had come to mind for me as well, that was 1 big scary storm when it was movin toward FL.
SSTs have actually cooled substantially in the last three weeks in the Gulf region. My sister in the Keys says it may not hit 60 there tomorrow! They put on coats over sweaters down there for that!
Floyd..was that the one east of mid Florida, about the size of the whole state?
If I remember right, Floyd was about 1,400 miles across.

I wish that it had been in the 60's here. I had to be outside for about 4 hours. It was in the mid 30's, with periodic rain, sleet, and snow. It was absolutely miserable.
Well, I am not sure, but I may have been wrong about the size of Floyd. The extent of tropical storm force winds was only about 600 miles across. However, I may still be correct about the overall size of the circulation.
I feel really stupid. I need to read things more thoroughly before saying things.

The extent of tropical storm force winds in Hurricane Floyd was 580 miles in diameter. Also, at it's peak, Floyd had winds of 155 mph, and a minimum central pressure of 921 mb.
To Acedancer
In his December 5 blog entry, Dr. Masters explained that the unusual number of hurricanes to strike the US in 2004 and 2005 has been linked to unusually warm SSTs in the central North Pacific during 2004-2005. Does anyone know what's going on in that area now? From what I could find, the temperatures look normal recently, but I don't know what I'm doing.

During 2004 there was a prevailing upper level high pressure ridge over the Eastern US which prevented low pressure troughs and fronts from penetrating southward and causing tropical cyclones from recurving NEwd as they have done in previous years. This is better explained by:


William M. Gray and Philip J. Klotzbach

with special assistance from William Thorson3

Favorable formation conditions as occurred this year are not uncommon and have occurred in many prior years (but not usually with high Atlantic SLPA values and a warm Pacific SSTA pattern that was present this year). What is unique about this year is not the large amount of activity in the tropical Atlantic but having this high number of formation events occur in combination with anomalously high West Atlantic upper-level ridge activity in the latitude belt between 35-50N (Fig. 6). The Bermuda high was stronger than normal and caused anomalously strong upper-level easterly steering current winds in the west Atlantic sub-tropical belt. This caused a high percent of the systems to take long westward tracks up to the longitudes of the United States.

The mean westerly wind conditions of August-September of this year showed a trough along and over the western North American continent and a ridge over the eastern North American continent and western Atlantic. This East Coast ridge protected this year's west-northwest moving hurricanes against the impinging influence of the middle-latitude westerlies that act to turn the westerly moving cyclones to the right and then recurve them. Most of this season's hurricanes kept moving westward and did not recurve until they got in the longitude of the southeast United States. These long-lived and intense hurricanes were the ones that affected the U.S. severely this year. We were thus unlucky in the positioning of the westerly ridge-trough patterns relative to the tropical Atlantic.
Source (see part 5:

Hawaii's latest round of weather has brought, hail, a tornado & more mudslides. Forecast rain today, maybe a break tommarrow, then good chance of rain through April 3rd. Link
New iceburg on the loose

Credit NOAAthe highlights~
March 24, 2006 An iceberg about the size of Marthas Vineyard broke off from the Fimbul Ice Shelf, a large glacial ice sheet, located along the northwestern section of Queen Maud Land, in the eastern Weddell Sea near Antarctica.
That's scary. The scariest thing about it is, part of the world is so advanced that photos can be made of this, but the minds which actually control actions on earth are so primitive, nothing will be done about it.
I would not be surprised if icebergs breaking off become very common in the future; I remember hearing about an iceberg the size of Long Island breaking up last year, and I wouldn't be surprised if a large part of the Antarctic ice cap simply broke apart one day and slid into the ocean (perhaps in a few decades or so, especially if what recent findings say are true).
Well, if you'll notice from the photo, there is a row of hills on this particular iceberg. No doubt this additional tremendous weight helped it break off when the ice thinned to the east of the hills.
Inland the icecap is progressively thicker. Therefore, much more melting will be necessary to break away huge chunks, unless earthquakes enter the equation causing premature fissuring. From what I read last week though, this is already occuring.
Yeah, as the ice lurches & moves as a result of melting that causes a type of quake. Another kind of feedback that makes things happen quicker than previously thought.
You also have to remember that meltwater helps lubricate the land under the glaciers, which causes them to slide into the ocean faster, as well as placing stress on the surrounding ice because of the loss of support (earthquakes are caused by ice abruptly sliding downhill and cracking).

LOL - Tunnels? Have you ever proved that they work; and I mean real proof (in other words, that somebody has actually used them to do what you say they can do), not formulas. If you can show that they work, then I might believe that they can do what you say.
Yes, this is not the same article I read last week, but a similar one. The slippage you allude to due to flowing or standing water underneath the ice was a main point of the article.
Is there any way for me to make it so I don't see posts by cyclonebuster? I am getting extremely annoyed. If there is no way, then there is a chance that I will quit coming to this site on a regular basis.
louastu..you learn from every stimulus, even what you might regard as negative. What you absorb or disregard is your choice. But the forum has to remain open.
I am not suggesting that he be banned from posting his ideas. I am simply asking if there is a way to make it so I don't see his posts.

I understand that there might be a chance to learn something,and honestly if he truly has discovered something, I would greatly appreciate it if he would let us in on what he knows, because I do enjoy learning new things. However, so far all I have seen from him is exactly the same. If he would begin providing proof, rather than just an idea, then I would have no problem reading what it is he has to say.

I will say that I should not threaten to avoid coming to this site. It would be foolish of me to let one person's comments prevent me from coming to a site that I otherwise, greatly enjoy. I have had a pretty miserable day so far and that did contribute to my earlier comment, and if I offended anyone, then I am sorry.
Unfortunantly, some others (like whitewabit and atmosweather) have left because of what others have said, and there is no way to tell them to come back.
is there any one in here tonight???
Yeah, there are a few weather roaches around.
I'm looking around, but not much is going on. I guess tunnel talk scared everyone away.
globalize good point on the hills on the iceburg. Seems those would have taken longer to melt & in a very small way help keep the area cooler, if the hills weren't floating away. The pic seemed just amazing.
Here's an example of a new NOAA product~ Tropical Cyclone Cumulative Wind Distribution~ we'll be seeing next season. It widens the path of where a cane has been, showing what areas were affected by TS & hurricane force winds. It goes into operation May 15th.
Wonder what happens to these super icebergs which are detaching? Where is the one which broke loose just a while back? Are they drifting away or staying close to the land mass? I would think there are commercial projects to pull them around to thirsty Arabs. That plan was out there fifty years ago.
Saw a documentary the other night about how several countries are already staking and mapping the polar sea lanes. When melting completely opens things up, they will be ready. They even have estimated when they can expect to begin cross polar routing. It is obvious capitalism plans to exploit/promote global warming.
This spring on the West Coast so far is remarkably similar to last spring, with yet another stubborn "standing wave" trough parked over the Eastern Pacific. If anything, it is actually worse this year. I just hope this is a coincidence and does not bode ill for my family in Florida.
Here's the changes for the Tropical Cyclone Probabilistic Surface Wind Speed Text(kts, mph & km/hr), graphic (looks alot like the UCF experimental graphic we looked at last year) & table. Gasp, that's right, the chart is gone. Effective May 15th.
Havent they been using those for a while now?Are they just becoming official now?
The last 3 on the page is what they'd been using (marked discontinued), that was the Tropical Cyclone Strike Probability text, graphic & chart. The new & improved has a friendlier name (lose word~ strike~ replace with surface wind speed), text is more user friendly (including mph, etc) & the graphic is way better.
so what is all of this this year for the hurricane year 2006 is there going to be some in new
Yea Skyepony I know thats what they were officially using in forecasts, but the other graphics, except maybe Tropical Cyclone Probabilistic Surface Wind Speed Text, have been floating around for at least a few seasons.
Agreed, seems i've seen that orange one end of last season & it seems similiar to what the UCF site was putting out.
They've been around, but were 'experimental', not operational. That's all that's changed.
Another Australian cyclone (JTWC says 40kt, despite that nice eye on microwave, but meh)
Is it just me or has the cyclones really been pounding Australia this year?
No, we've just been following them this year. Activity is a bit above average, somewhat like 12 atlantic storms in a year. Above average, but not exceptional. Larry, however, was exceptional.
In south-east Indian average cyclone/season is 7.This year was 8 but the season is not over yet.In south-west Pacific the average is 11 and in this season was 9 wich is below average.
Sorry I should have detailed my question a little more (part of it may be due to the fact I really didn't care about hurricane/cyclone/typoon seasons in other parts of the world until a couple of years back.

But it seems this year almost all the cyclones that has formed has brushed or hit Australia
The JTWC has issued a tropical cyclone formation alert for a system located west of Australia and south of Sumatra; these models predict it to harmlessly move west and out to sea.

I dont think there's just not enough convection there to updrade to a stronger strom based on Sat appearance, Colby.

Doesnt have much of a CDO now, it had even less then. However, that eye is only better defined now.

Oops, here the picture.

Glenda is predicted to make landfall on the extreme western end of Australia.


Looks good to me.
Also, everyone should note the radar of Rita above, and compare to Rita at landfall.
Well, WTF. Let's try one more time.

Well, cleary I'm doing something wrong. Dont know what, but the image html wont work for me.

Glenda has an impressive eye though, for being a 40kt storm.
A microwave loop of Rita can be seen here (intensifying from 70 to 150 kt).
Great loop, Michael. Myles, you can't copy the URL. Right click on the image you're trying to post and copy+paste the whole path into this tag, using a lesser-than sign instead of [ and a greater-than sign instead of ]:

[img src="pasteimagepathhere" width="500" height="500"]

For NRL images, height/width should be the same.
I'm really curious if Glenda will explode at one moment like Larry and Floyd,but I almost 90% believe it she will doing this.