Saturday, October 30, 2010

Hurricane Tomas (2010)

Storm Active: October 29-November 7
On October 25, a tropical wave formed in the extreme southeastern Atlantic Ocean, near 5ÂșN. The wave produced only scattered shower and thunderstorm activity as it moved west over the next few days. It was a vigorous tropical wave, however, and it developed a low pressure center on October 27. The low adopted a general northwest motion, and deepened significantly over the next two days. By the afternoon of October 29, the system had a very organized circulation and outflow, and the confirmation of a closed low at its center merited the upgrading of the system into Tropical Storm Tomas.

Tropical Storm Tomas was already in a state of rapid intensification, and the winds increased rapidly as the cyclone approached the Caribbean Islands, moving westnorthwest between 10 and 15 mph. During the morning of October 30, Tomas passed directly over Barbados, with peak winds of 70 mph, causing fairly significant damage. Tomas developed a very wide eye feature (about 40 miles across) just before noon on October 30, and it was then organized enough to be upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane.

The system promptly made a direct landfall in St. Vincent during that afternoon, and heavy rain and tropical storm winds affected islands up to 100 miles north and south along the Windward and Leeward Islands. The wide eye clouded over with a flare of convection, and Tomas continued to strengthen, becoming a Category 2 by later that night. However, southwesterly shear and dry air began to impact the west side of the system early on October 31, weakening it to a Category 1 storm by the afternoon. The center became ragged in appearance, and lost definition as a result of harsh atmospheric conditions.

Tomas weakened further into a tropical storm during the night, and only stabilized on November 1, when the winds dropped to 45 mph. Tomas was pushed on a general westsouthwest course during the day. Tomas's intensity fluctuated with large variations in convection over the day of November 2. The cyclone's forward speed also decreased as it reached the edge of a ridge to its north and steering currents weakened. For a brief period on November 3, Tomas degenerated into a wide area of scattered convection covering the entire southwest Caribbean, and was therefore downgraded to a depression, but the conditions for development drastically improved later in the day and Tomas turned towards the north, and the storm underwent a fast strengthening process, regaining tropical storm status. Tomas reached an intensity of 50 mph winds, and maintained it for the next day as it slowly moved northward. Wide rain bands began to sweep across Jamaica, Haiti and Cuba by the afternoon of November 4. As Tomas approached land, it rapidly strengthened into a hurricane, reaching its secondary peak intensity of 85 mph winds and a pressure of 984 mb as it passed just west of Haiti on November 5.

Cuba and Haiti both experienced tropical storm conditions, as well as hurricane force in some areas of Haiti, as the day went on, and as Tomas began to accelerate northeast, it interacted with the land around it briefly, and weakened back to a minimal Category 1 hurricane later in the evening. Tomas passed over the Turks and Caicos islands overnight, but emerged over open Atlantic waters on November 6, weakening back to tropical storm. Unexpectedly, Tomas once again regained hurricane strength late on November 6, but a cold front quickly overtook the system, and Tomas rapidly transitioned into an extratropical low on November 7. 41 fatalities and $572 million in damage directly resulted from Tomas in the Caribbean Islands, but Tomas is also indirectly linked to an epidemic of cholera in Haiti.

Hurricane Tomas intensifying as it enters the Caribbean. A fair amount of wind shear is evident on the south side of the system.

Track of Tomas.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Hurricane Shary (2010)

Storm Active: October 28-30
A trough of low pressure formed in the Caribbean on October 26. The trough was associated with an area of convection, but strong upper-level winds prevented development. However, on October 28, the shear relaxed enough for a central low pressure to form. However, the convection remained disassociated with this low until late on October 28, when the system developed an eyewall. At this point, the low was upgraded to Tropical Storm Shary.

Tropical Storm Shary sped to the northwest through the night, and shear began to increase on the system once again, giving it a lopsided appearance. This shear was produced by a strong front moving east off of the U.S. and this front also began to turn Shary to the north and then northeast. Despite adverse conditions, Shary strengthened as it began the turn, intensifying to 60 mph winds and a pressure of 1000 mb during the afternoon of October 29. The cyclone then made its closest approach to Bermuda, causing only showers and gusty winds however, as it passed well to the east. Shary's circulation was largely exposed through the coming day, but it continued to strengthen, becoming a minimal hurricane early on October 30.

By this time, Shary was speeding off to the northeast, and it briefly reached its peak intensity of 75 mph winds and a pressure of 989 mb before quickly becoming extratropical and being absorbed by a front later that afternoon. No damage resulted from Shary.

Hurricane Shary at peak intensity.

Track of Shary.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hurricane Richard (2010)

Storm Active: October 20-26
On October 16, an area of showers and thunderstorms developed in the extreme southwestern Caribbean. The area drifted to the northwest, and interaction with the Nicaragua-Honduras area inhibited development for a time on October 18 and 19. However, after emerging over open water, the circulation improved, and the system moved slowly northeast. Late on October 20, the system became organized enough to be Tropical Depression Nineteen. By this time, steering currents had weakened, and the cyclone had reverted to a slow southeast movement. Dry air existed near the circulation over the next day, but intensification occurred nonetheless, and Nineteen became Tropical Storm Richard on October 21.

The system did not intensify for almost a day, but convection increased as dry air moved away from the system and a ridge built over the Gulf of Mexico, steering Richard back to the west by October 22. The system finally began to strengthen that day, rapidly intensifying into a strong tropical storm the next morning. Due to its proximity to Honduras, tropical storm conditions began for coastal areas by late on October 22. Richard began accelerating to the westnorthwest late on October 23, and a burst of convection the following morning caused Richard to intensify rapidly, becoming a category 1 hurricane.

The cyclone continued to intensify and made landfall in Belize at its peak strength of 90 mph winds and a minimum pressure of 981 mb during the evening of October 24. It quickly weakened over the next day, becoming a tropical depression by October 25. The system reemerged over the Gulf of Mexico early on October 26, but conditions were hostile for restrengthening and Richard swiftly weakened to a remnant low. The effects of Richard were $24.7 million in damage and 2 fatalities.

Richard as a Category 1 hurricane before landfall.

Track of Richard.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hurricane Paula (2010)

Storm Active: October 11-15
On October 7, a broad area of low pressure developed in the southwestern Caribbean. Disorganized showers and thunderstorms remained associated with the system as it drifted generally to the northwest over the coming days. A low pressure center formed on October 9, and deepened thereafter, becoming a tropical depression during the morning of October 11, although not being formally recognized as a tropical system until later that afternoon. By that time, the cyclone was already a strong tropical storm, and was named Paula.

The system was in the midst of rapid intensification, and was a hurricane by the morning of October 12. It turned more to the northnorthwest over the next day, but continued to strengthen, exploding into a Category 2 (albeit a small one) by the afternoon of that same day, as it approached the Yucatan Peninsula. It stalled just offshore to the east later on October 12, still maintaining its peak intensity of 100 mph winds and a pressure of 981 mb. Since Paula was a small storm, only minimal rain and wind affected the Yucatan itself, and a jet stream just to the north of the system started to push Paula to the east and weaken it by the afternoon of October 13. The system accelerated eastward slightly, and made landfall in western Cuba on October 14, as it weakened to a tropical storm. Paula continued to degenerate, becoming a remnant low by October 15. It dissipated the next day. Paula was a very small storm, and damage was therefore limited, with only one fatality recorded.

Paula at peak intensity. The system remains very small, with a correspondingly small eye feature.

Track of Paula.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Hurricane Otto (2010)

Storm Active: October 6-10
On September 28, a tropical wave over the Central Atlantic began to produce an area of showers and thunderstorms. The next day, another tropical wave to its east also began to be monitored for development. The two systems moved west, but the second caught up with the first and the two waves combined on September 30. The combined disturbance produced a wide area of showers and thunderstorms as it moved westnorthwest, but wind shear increased, and the system remained disorganized. A low pressure center began to form in association with the system, and the low deepened as it passed over the Leeward Islands on October 3-5. By October 6, a surface circulation had formed. However, unlike a tropical cyclone, the center of the system had an upper-level low situated above it, rather than an upper level high, and this fact, combined with the limited convection that was only prevalent on the southeast side of the center, resulted in the classification of the system as Subtropical Depression Seventeen early on October 6. Seventeen's convection wrapped around the center the next day, and the winds reached gale force that evening, meriting the naming of the system as Subtropical Storm Otto.

By late on October 6, Otto's winds had rapidly increased, and the cyclone had reached an intensity of 65 mph winds and a pressure of 990 mb. However, the convection remained very sparse throughout the night, and intensity was difficult to judge, although the ragged appearance of the circulation suggested a slight weakening during the morning of October 7. By later in the morning, the upper-level low that had been shearing the circulation weakened, the core had warmed, and a distinct central eyewall had appeared as the system turned northeast. Otto was now a tropical cyclone, and it was officially classified as such at 11:00 am EDT on October 7. Otto's cloud cover continued to increase as it accelerated eastnortheast, and the system strengthened further, becoming a hurricane by October 8. The system reached its peak intensity of 85 mph and a minimum central pressure of 972 mb, before beginning to weaken. The system picked up speed as it moved out to sea, and it became a tropical storm late on October 9. Otto lost most of its central convection and was displaced to the north over the next 12 hours. As a result, the system was extratropical by midmorning on October 10. The cyclone subsequently impacted the Azores with some rain and wind as it weakened, dissipating on October 12.

Otto caused $20 million in damage but no deaths were reported, most damage being caused by flooding in the Caribbean Islands when the cyclone loitered to the north. As much as 17 inches of rain was reported in parts of Puerto Rico over a six day period from October 3-8 (this and similar rainfall reports courtesy of the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center).

Hurricane Otto at peak intensity speeding off into the open Atlantic.

Track of Otto.