WWT meteorologists increase 2017 Atlantic hurricane season forecast

Wilkens Weather’s annual spring outlook includes a forecast for the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season. This spring, our meteorologists predicted a near normal 2017 Atlantic hurricane season with 12 named storms, including five hurricanes.

One of the key parameters factored into each year’s tropical outlook is the long-range forecast of the El Niño – Southern Oscillation (ENSO). When our 2017 tropical outlook was initially released, long-range forecast models indicated a higher likelihood that an El Niño would develop than is currently being seen in recent climate models.

In late April, there was about a 50% likelihood that El Niño would develop over the tropical Pacific in the late summer months, extending into September.  However, the most recent climate model issued by the International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University now projects a 35-45% likelihood of an El Niño phase developing over the next several months. With consideration to the updated ENSO forecast, Wilkens Weather has increased their 2017 Atlantic tropical outlook from 12 to 14 named storms, and 3 major hurricanes.

Since an El Niño phase in the central Pacific Ocean can produce a harsh environment for tropical development in the Atlantic basin, a reduced probability yields an increased chance of hurricanes in the North Atlantic. There is also consideration that the time frame for El Nino developing was before the peak of Atlantic hurricane season. Therefore, a lesser chance of El Nino would give a greater chance to more favorable atmospheric conditions for hurricanes during the peak season. 

(Author’s Note: this forecast does not include Tropical Storm Arlene, which formed during the month of April before the official start of hurricane season. TS Arlene was only the second tropical storm on record during the satellite era to form during April in the Atlantic basin.)

Tropical Low Brewing in the Caribbean Father’s Day Weekend

Chances continue to increase for a tropical low to develop in the Caribbean for Father’s Day weekend. The time-frame for any tropical formation is Sunday-Tuesday.

So the big question on everyone’s minds, will we have a tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico?

ir
Infrared Satellite of the northwestern Caribbean valid for 17:00Z.

The answer is much more complicated than a simple “yes” or “no”. Storminess is beginning to increase across the northwestern Caribbean, however a disturbance has not been detected yet and Wilkens Weather is not expecting tropical development over the next 24 hours. Several factors are analyzed when forecasting tropical weather including sea surface temperatures (SST), vertical wind shear, and tropical atmospheric moisture. The sea surface temperatures in the southern Gulf are around 28°C, indicating favorable conditions for development. Atmospheric moisture, explained in a previous blog here, surges into the southern Gulf this weekend providing ideal conditions for tropical development. The third and final key ingredient meteorologists are monitoring is vertical wind shear. Light winds are vital to sustain and strengthen the structure of tropical systems.Read More »

Why we treat some Invest areas like tropical storms…

It’s critical that offshore operators are aware of tropical hazards well in advance of tropical storm development. 

Tropical Storm Bill, June 16 2015
Infrared Satellite of Tropical Storm Bill approaching the Texas coast.

Two years ago we were monitoring an area of disturbed weather near the Yucatan Peninsula. At the time, forecast models indicated that a trough of low pressure would move offshore the Yucatan within the next 24 hours and form a closed circulation as it tracked northwest toward the Texas coastal bend. Hurricane Carlos, off the southern coast of Mexico, was feeding in abundant tropical moisture from the Pacific, aiding thunderstorm development. Over the next few days, upper-level winds over the Gulf weakened, enhancing convection and improving the low-level circulation. Within 36 hours a tropical storm was designated over the northern Gulf of Mexico. About 15 hours later, Tropical Storm Bill made landfall over Matagorda Island, Texas with maximum sustained winds near 60 mph.Read More »

On The Road: Jacob Banitt in Louisiana

What an appropriate week to discuss weather forecasting with the people who rely on it the most. Heavy rain, strong winds and flash flooding with the cold front that moved through southwestern Louisiana on Monday, caused me to postpone one meeting with a client near the Gulf coast. “Your weather report says we are expecting up to four inches of rain today,” David said to me on the phone. “If we get that much, you’ll be stuck in town for a day or two; we better reschedule.”Read More »

Hurricane Preparedness: Offshore Operations

Tropical cyclones have significant impacts on marine operations worldwide. Prior to experiencing tropical cyclone threats, offshore facilities must secure equipment, shut-in wells, and evacuate personnel. Operations can remain shut down for extended periods in the event that an offshore platform or rig is damaged or destroyed. Damaged pipelines along the seafloor are a common cause of interruptions to oil and gas supply.

To prevent structural damage and spills, control costs, and ensure the safety of personnel, accurate weather forecasts and advanced notification of tropical hazards are paramount. Even a weak tropical cyclone can produce hazardous weather conditions and put coastal and offshore operators at risk. Be sure to determine your exposure to the risks associated with tropical cyclones before the start of this Atlantic hurricane season.

Wilkens Weather provides a suite of online and mobile tracking tools to warn our customers of these risks. To be confident that you’re prepared this hurricane season, trust in the tropical expertise and tools provided by WWT: Read More »

Major Hurricane Wilma, 11 years later

CIMSS NOAA Satellite Montage WilmaHurricane Wilma was the 21st named storm of the infamous 2005 Atlantic hurricane season. From her formation on October 15th to her demise on the 26th, Wilma would become one of the most memorable hurricanes in Atlantic basin history. As the 4th category 5 hurricane of the year, Wilma would become a monstrous bookend to an incredible, record-setting season.Read More »

1PM ET: about as close to landfall as Hurricane Matthew can get

Early Friday morning, Hurricane Matthew was downgraded to a Category 3 before brushing along the coast of Cape Canaveral. As of 12pm ET, the eye is less than 30 miles east-northeast of Daytona Beach, Florida. According to the National Hurricane Center, sustained winds have been reported up to 73 mph with gusts of 91 mph in Daytona Beach. However, the storm has yet to make an official landfall but that doesn’t mean we’ve lost our chance. The eyewall of Matthew is currently brushing along the Florida coast. With one slight wobble to the west in the next hour or two, we could see a U.S. landfall.

WWT Hurricane Matthew Radar Loop
Wilkens Weather Technologies

Read More »

A quick mid-year review of the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season

To this date, the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season has recorded twelve named storms and one tropical depression, including Hurricane Alex from January. By the end of September we will likely see the next storm develop as signs of strengthening continue with an active tropical wave (97L). Currently, 97L is located roughly 470 miles east-southeast of Barbados tracking to the west about 15-20 knots. The tropical wave will either intensify into Tropical Depression Fourteen or Tropical Storm Matthew. The 30-year average (1981-2010) for the Atlantic basin consists of twelve named storms. With two months left in the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season, one can conclude that an above average recording of named storms will likely occur.

midyear-review-graphic

Read More »

Remembering 2005’s Major Hurricane Rita in the Gulf of Mexico

Hurricane Rita made landfall in extreme southwestern Louisiana on September 24th, 2005 with an intensity of 100 knots (Category 3). About 48 hours earlier, Rita was a Category 5 hurricane with a minimum pressure of 895mb, the fourth-lowest central pressure on record in the Atlantic basin. Although Rita’s history was overshadowed by Katrina, which made landfall just a few weeks earlier, the storm provided a unique challenge for both forecasters and public officials.

NASA Rita Terra satellite_20050918
NASA satellite image of Tropical Depression Eighteen over the Bahamas on Sept. 18, 2005

Rita originated as a weak tropical wave off the western coast of Africa on September 7th. The Saharan Air Layer, commonly known as Saharan Dust, and high levels of wind shear prevented the wave from producing thunderstorm activity as it moved across the tropical Atlantic. Conditions became more favorable for development later in the month as the wave reached the Bahamas. A tropical depression formed on September 17th and the system was designated as Tropical Storm Rita the following afternoon.

Rita continued to strengthen as it tracked across the Florida Straits, reaching Category 2 status by the time it reached the Gulf of Mexico on the 20th. Over the next 18 hours, the storm underwent rapid intensification over the Loop Current, becoming a Category 5 storm with an intensity of 145 knots. Rita continued to intensify and recorded an incredible 70mb drop in central pressure in a 24-hour period. At maximum intensity on September 22nd, Rita’s central pressure was estimated to be 895mb with winds near 155 knots (178 mph).

NASA Aqua satellite_20050923
NASA satellite image showing Hurricane Rita approaching the Gulf coast on Sept. 23, 2005

Thankfully for the residents of the Gulf Coast, Rita did not maintain its unprecedented strength as it pushed ashore. After moving past the Loop Current the system gradually weakened to a Category 3 before making landfall near Sabine Pass as a major hurricane. Hurricane force winds spread over 150 miles from the center while tropical storm force winds stretched as far north as the Louisiana/Arkansas border. Peak storm surge of nearly 17 feet occurred on the eastern side of Rita, causing severe flooding in several parishes in southwestern Louisiana. Heavy rainfall worsened this situation, with most of southwestern Louisiana receiving 7-10 inches, with some areas receiving over 15.

Rita continued to progress northeastward after being absorbed by a front across the central United States. That accelerated movement prevented a significant flood event in the Ohio River valley, with most rainfall totals being limited to around 2-3 inches as the remnant low raced toward the Great Lakes.

Although meteorological impacts to extreme southeastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana were unforgettable, only seven direct deaths occurred as a result of Rita in the United States. Most citizens in the southwestern Louisiana coastal areas evacuated before the worst impacts arrived, likely significantly reducing the death toll in that area.

The majority of the storm’s causalities occurred during the evacuation iWWT Hurricane Rita Wind Speed Analysisn Texas, where poor planning and heightened fears, resulting from Katrina, resulted in mass gridlock around Houston. Over 100 Texans perished due to accidents, fires, and health related issues during the evacuation. Much work has since been done to streamline the evacuation process from the Houston area, including the streamlining of the contraflow process on major highways exiting the city.

 

 

Remembering 2008’s Hurricane Ike

Hurricane Ike produced devastating storm surge as it came ashore over the east end of Galveston Island on September 13th, 2008.

Formation & Impacts to the Caribbean

Ike originated as a tropical wave off the coast of Africa and moved west-northwest across the Atlantic. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) designated the system as a tropical depression on SepteNHC forecast track for Hurricane Ikember 1st. The storm became significantly better organized by the 3rd and was upgraded to a hurricane that afternoon. Early the next morning, Hurricane Ike reached major hurricane status (Category 4) with maximum sustained winds of 125 knots and an estimated central pressure of 935mbThe storm weakened over the next few days due to moderate wind shear from high pressure to the northwest. This high, over the western Atlantic, was strong enough to force an unusual turn to the west-southwest. This heightened the threat for the Bahamas and northwestern Caribbean. 

This uncharacteristic turn led Ike into a more favorable environment, causing the storm to re-intensify to Category 4 status. The cyclone made its first landfall on Great Inagua Island in the southeastern Bahamas the morning of September 7th. 5-7 inches of rain were reported on the island and high winds destroyed several structures including a cruise ship terminal.  The economic impacts for Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas was estimated between $50 and $200 million (USD). Additionally, Ike’s rainbands caused deadly flooding and mudslides in Haiti – a country still recovering from three tropical systems that hit earlier that year (Fay, Gustav, and Hanna).

Hurricane Ike continued tracking west and made its second landfall near Cabo Lucrecia, Cuba on the morning of September 8th. Winds were estimated to be 115 knots (Category 4 status) at landfall. Large waves, as high as 50 ft, were likely responsible for damaged coastal homes and structures in the city of Baracoa. As much as 12-14 inches of rain fell on parts of the island.  Additionally, over 300,000 homes were damaged, 13% of which were total losses.  Destruction of crops, roadways and buildings also resulted in an estimated $3 and $4 billion (USD) in damages.  

Gulf of Mexico & Early Impacts to the Oil & Gas Industry

The mountainous island weakened Ike to a Category 1 hurricane as it passed briefly over the waters south of Cuba and entered the Gulf of Mexico near San Cristóbal, Cuba on the evening of September 9th.  Since Ike had weakened and lacked a tight inner core, high nasa_trmmsatwinds and heavy rains spread over an unusually large area as the storm tracked northwest across the Gulf of Mexico: Tropical storm and hurricane force winds extended 240nm and 100nm, respectively, from the center. The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite passed over Ike early on the 12th, showing rainfall rates in excess of two inches per hour in the southeast quadrant of the storm.

Early preparations for Hurricane Ike caused at least 14 oil refineries in Texas and Louisiana to be shut down in advance of the storm, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. This was significant since over 1.3 million barrels per day of crude oil and over 7.3 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas could not be delivered to these facilities.

Landfall over Galveston Island, TX & Impacts to the United States & Canada

Ike maintained a large wind field over the central Gulf of Mexico as it tracked west-northwest toward the upper Texas coast through September 12th. In the hours before landfall, high water levels began impacting the Gulf coast as Ike turned north-northwest and strengthened to a Category 2 hurricane. Ike would make its third landfall along the northeast end of Galveston Island, TX early  on September 13th with maximum sustained winds near 95 knots (110 mph).

 

Ike Storm Surge Galveston Harris County Flood Control District

West of Grand Isle, Louisiana storm surge heights increased significantly: 10-13 feet from the southwest Louisiana coast to Port Arthur, Texas. The maximum storm surge recorded by any NOS tide gauge was 12.79 feet at Sabine Pass North, Texas. However, many USGS sensors indicated that there were likely localized areas with surge heights up to 17 feet. The Bolivar Peninsula and portions of Chambers County, Texas were most severely impacted by Ike’s storm surge. Most of this area was inundated by 10 feet of water. Widespread 5-7 inches of rain were reported across southeast Texas, with the highest amount measured north of Houston at 18.90 inches.  

NOAA Hurricane Ike Radar Loop

Tornadoes touched down in Texas (1), Louisiana (17), and Arkansas (9).  All of these were either EF0 or EF1 rating, which is typical within tropical air masses.  Storm-related fatalities totalled 19 in Texas, one in Louisiana, and one in Arkansas.  Damages across the three states totalled about $29.52 billion dollars, making it the second costliest hurricane to impact the United States, after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Although Ike weakened inland, the storm merged with a cold front on the 14th, which resulted in hurricane force wind gusts and 3-5 inches of rain across the Ohio Valley, an area just flooded by a passing low pressure system the week before. Storm-related fatalities across Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Michigan and Pennsylvania totalled 28.  Damage estimates for these states were nearly $4.7 billion. Hurricane force wind gusts and record rainfall were also reported across portions of southeastern Canada in the subsequent days.  

Remembering Galveston: The Great Hurricane of 1900

If you have been to Galveston, Texas, you are quite familiar with the city’s seawall. Construction began in 1902 as a response to the Great Hurricane of 1900, which devastated the city exactly 116 years ago today.

galveston1900On Sept. 4, 1900, Galveston was notified of a hurricane moving north of Cuba. Without the aid of modern forecasting technology, Galveston residents were unaware of the precise movement and potential track of the impending hurricane. As the hurricane progressed through the Gulf of Mexico it experienced rapid strengthening before it made landfall just a few miles southwest of Galveston. Meteorologists estimated winds of at least 130 miles per hour as the storm barreled through the city. With a storm surge of over 15 feet, Galveston was inundated with water. Residents received warnings of the hurricane the morning of Sept. 8, however many neglected the advisories. Texas’ fourth largest city had lost nearly 6,000 – 8,000 residents when the sun rose the next day. The Great Hurricane of 1900 is known as the “deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history”.Read More »

Spaghetti… what? Forecast models broken down

By now I’m sure you have seen the “spaghetti plot”- ensemble of forecast models-regarding Tropical Depression Nine. If you’re not a meteorologist or everyday weather guru, then you have every right to be confused by this graphic of overwhelming lines. With a little background on the models, you’ll be sure to impress your coworkers when they begin to bring up TD Nine or soon to be Tropical Storm Nine.
Read More »