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Twin Typhoons in Philippines; Nicole of the North; Hundred-Degree Heat in Plains

By: Bob Henson 2:18 PM GMT on October 17, 2016

The northern Philippines island of Luzon may soon experience its second typhoon strike in less than a week. Typhoon Sarika rapidly intensified from tropical storm to Category 4 strength in just 30 hours before plowing across central Luzon early Sunday local time, causing widespread power outages and forcing more than 15,000 people to evacuate. At least two deaths have been attributed to Sarika, according to weather.com. Sarika is now en route to the southern Chinese island of Hainan, where it should strike as a Category 1 typhoon, then weaken before reaching far northern Vietnam on Wednesday.

An even more fearsome storm is now on its way toward the Philippines: Typhoon Haima. Another rapid intensifier, Haima zoomed from tropical storm strength at 2:00 pm EDT Saturday to Category 4 strength as of 8:00 am EDT Monday. Light wind shear, a very moist atmosphere, and extremely warm water (sea surface temperatures close to 30°C) will provide Haima with very supportive conditions for strengthening. Already boasting a large circulation--its tropical-storm-force winds extend out up to 150 miles--Haima is predicted by the Joint Typhoon Warning Service to become a super typhoon with Category 5 sustained winds of 160 mph by Tuesday, weakening only slightly before it reaches the northern tip of Luzon by Wednesday night local time.

Figure 1. Enhanced infrared Himiwari-8 satellite image of Typhoon Haima at 7:00 am EDT Monday, October 17, 2016. Image credit: NOAA/NESDIS.

Among our top three track models, the 00Z Monday GFS and UKMET runs agree closely with the JWTC forecast, while the 00Z Monday European run takes Haima just a bit further south. Any of these tracks could produce rains of 10 - 15” over much of northern Luzon. This will fall atop the heavy rains produced by Sarika over the weekend, which will greatly exacerbate the risk of flooding. Assuming that Haima only nicks the northernmost part of the island, it may still be a formidable typhoon as it begins a gradual recurvature before striking the southeast China coast around Friday, perhaps in the vicinity of Shantou as a Category 2 or 3 storm.

Figure 2. Joint Typhoon Warning Center forecast for Typhoon Haima as of 8:00 am EDT Monday, October 17, 2016.

Figure 3. Typhoons Sarika (left) and Haima (right) as captured by the Himiwari-8 satellite at 4:00 am EDT Monday, October 17, 2016. Image credit: CIRA/CSU/RAMMB.

Nicole is venturing awfully far north for a hurricane
Don’t look now, but Hurricane Nicole is making a run for Greenland. Nicole regained hurricane strength on Saturday, the first Atlantic storm to cross the hurricane threshold at least three times in its life since Hurricane Tomas in 2010 (thanks to Phil Klotzbach at Colorado State University for researching this statistic and to wunderground member Oxfordvalley for updating it]. Nicole has stubbornly retained its warm-core characteristics well north of the tropics, making it to 41°N as of 5 am EDT Monday. Nicole was heading north-northeast at about 9 mph and should accelerate in that direction. Eventually, Nicole will become a cold-core system, although that transition may happen extremely far to the north. The National Hurricane Center predicts that Nicole will become a post-tropical cyclone by Tuesday. However, a phase-space diagram produced by Robert Hart (Florida State University) for Nicole on Sunday, October 16, suggested that Nicole would remain a warm-core system (though increasingly asymmetric) until Thursday. On Thursday morning, the NHC forecast has Nicole as a post-tropical cyclone located between Greenland and Iceland, less than 70 miles from the Arctic Circle. Even then, Nicole should still be a powerful storm, with a surface pressure below 970 millibars and peak winds on the order of 60 mph. After Nicole finally dissipates somewhere near Greenland, its core of warm, moist air will continue into the Arctic, where the extent of sea ice is at its lowest mid-October level for any year on record except 2007 and 2012.

One of the few potential analogs for Nicole is Hurricane Faith (1966), which was still classified as a Category 1 hurricane at latitude 61.1°N, the furthest-north position of any tropical cyclone in the Atlantic. Faith also carved out the longest track of any Atlantic hurricane on record.

Figure 4. Visible satellite image of Hurricane Nicole as of 1245Z (8:45 am EDT) Monday, October 17, 2016.

Figure 5. NHC forecast for Hurricane Nicole as of 0900Z (5:00 am EDT) Monday, October 17, 2016. Although Nicole is predicted to maintain hurricane-strength winds through Tuesday and tropical-storm-strength winds through Thursday, the National Hurricane Center predicts it will be a post-tropical cyclone by Tuesday.

Disturbance near Bahamas may develop later this week
An area of disturbed weather that lingered over the Bahamas over the weekend continued to fester on Monday morning. NHC gives the area only a 20% chance of developing into at least a tropical depression by Wednesday, but a 50% chance by Saturday. The GFS, European, and UKMET models all showed at least modest development of this system by late in the week, as do most members of the GFS and Euro ensemble runs from 00Z Monday. If a tropical or subtropical cyclone does form, it will likely angle northwest but then get swept out to sea by the strong front crossing the U.S. this week.

Mid-October heat sweeping across the central, eastern U.S. this week
It’s not every October that Dodge City, Kansas, gets up to 99°F. In fact, until Sunday, the city had never recorded a temperature that high in any October. The same intense jet stream that brought high winds and tornadic storms to the Pacific Northwest (see below) helped to force air downward over the central and southern Great Plains, leading to an oddly scorching weekend of clear skies and summer-like highs. In records going all the way back to 1873, Dodge City’s previous latest 99°F was on September 29, 1994. Its previous high for this late in the season was 94°F.

Amarillo, Texas, rocketed to 98°F on Sunday, its hottest reading on record for so late in the year after 99°F on October 3, 2000. A few readings over the Southern Plains managed to top 100°F, including 101°F at Borger, TX (another all-time monthly high) and an amazing 102°F at the town of Slapout, OK (see Figure 4 below). Breaking a monthly high is noteworthy in itself, but it’s especially impressive to do so right in the middle of a transition-season month like October.

Figure 6. High temperatures across Oklahoma on Sunday, October 16, 2016. Image credit: Oklahoma Mesonet.

Both Amarillo and Dodge City may soar into the upper 90s again on Monday before a strong front moves through the Southern Plains. Ahead of this front, warm air will surge northeastward, plastering most of the eastern U.S. with unseasonably warm air for mid-October. Temperatures could reach the mid-80s as far north as Albany, NY, by Tuesday. Dozens of daily record highs are likely this week, and a few more locations could notch their warmest readings ever so late in the season. Among those are St. Louis, MO, where 92°F is possible on Monday (current record 94°F on October 11, 1963, followed by 90°F on October 30, 1950) and Louisville, KY, which may hit 89°F on Tuesday (current record 89°F on October 16, 1946, followed by 88°F on October 21, 1953).

Figure 7. After temperatures moderate later this week, another surge of above-average temperatures is likely to spread across most of the contiguous U.S. during the 6-to-10-day period from next Saturday, October 22, through Wednesday, October 26, 2016. Image credit: NOAA/NWS Weather Prediction Center.

Big wind in Pacific Northwest spares Seattle, Portland
The much-feared prospect of a destructive windstorm failed to materialize across Oregon and Washington this past weekend. The surface low tracking near the coast on Saturday (containing the remnants of Typhoon Songda) ended up deepening to an impressively low 969 millibars near the northwest tip of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. However, its track was farther northwest than expected, keeping the strongest winds away from the Seattle and Portland metropolitan areas. Even so, more than 10,000 customers lost electricity across the Puget Sound area, as wind gusts topping 40 mph blew down numerous trees and branches. Gusts in Oregon reached as high as 102 mph atop Marys Peak and 55 mph at Portland International Airport. Heavy rains extended as far south into California as the Northern Sierra Nevada and even the Santa Cruz Mountains south of San Francisco (as much as 11.33” fell there).

Chastened by the weaker-than-expected storm in the Pacific Northwest, National Weather Service forecasters took pains to explain what happened. “Yes, our forecast did not turn out as predicted. We are not pleased about it either,” said the NWS/Seattle in a Facebook post on Sunday. NWS/Portland filed a similar Facebook post, explaining that the surface low was significantly weaker than expected as it passed near the Oregon coast. The office also noted that a secondary surface low, unpredicted by models, appears to have pulled energy away from the main low.

A rare significant tornado in Oregon
The weekend storm in Oregon was partially upstaged by a different kind of wind. A sizable tornadic waterspout swept onshore from the Pacific Ocean into the town of Manzanita at around 8:20 am PDT Friday morning (see embedded video at bottom; despite the caption that mentions lightning, the flashes you will see are transformers popping). Though its onshore path was just 0.7 miles long and about 700 feet wide, the tornado was rated as an EF2 twister, with a preliminary estimate of peak winds at 125 - 130 mph. No injuries were reported, although a number of structures were damaged. Another waterspout moved onshore near the town of Oceanside, OR, about 40 minutes later.

The NWS/Portland office issued 10 tornado warnings on Friday, only 3 less than the office issued in the entire 30 years from 1986 to 2015! According to the Tornado History Project, Oregon recorded a total of 106 tornadoes from December 1951 to April 2015. Only six of those were rated as significant (F2/EF2 or stronger).

We’ll be back with more on Tuesday, including our summary of global climate for September.

Bob Henson

Figure 8. An officer walks past debris on Laneda Avenue in Manzanita, Oregon, after a tornado moved into town on Friday morning, October 14, 2016. Image credit: Danny Miller/Daily Astorian via AP.

Hurricane Heat High Wind Tornado

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