Prior Weather Linked to Rapid Intensification of Hurricanes Near Landfall

Hurricane Michael ISS

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Hurricane Michael was recorded from the International Space Station on October 10, 2018, after the storm made landfall as a Category 4 cyclone over the Florida Panhandle. The National Hurricane Center reported optimal continual winds near 145 miles per hour (233 kph) with the prospective to bring unsafe storm rise and heavy rains to the Florida Panhandle. Credit: NASA

New research study results program that ocean heat waves can offer adequate fuel for cyclones to get momentum as they approach land.

Although most cyclones tend to deteriorate as they approach land, some quickly boost in strength simply prior to landfall — a phenomenon that is both unsafe and difficult to anticipate. As the environment continues to warm, the variety of storms that fall under the latter classification is most likely to increase, providing a plain truth for neighborhoods in their courses. Because present weather condition designs can’t precisely anticipate this abrupt increase, neighborhoods getting ready for a lower storm typically don’t have time to react to the arrival of a much more powerful one or to the magnitude of damage it is most likely to leave.

The great news? The outcomes of a brand-new research study released in September in Nature Communications determine pre-storm conditions that can add to this quick increase — an essential action in enhancing our capability to anticipate it.

Hurricane Michael NOAA GOES East

NOAA’s GOES-East satellite recorded this picture of Hurricane Michael as it came ashore near Mexico Beach, Florida, on October 10, 2018. Credit: NOAA

“We analyzed the events that led up to Hurricane Michael in 2018 and found that the storm was preceded by a marine heat wave, an area of the coastal ocean water that had become abnormally warm,” stated Severine Fournier, a NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory researcher and a co-author of the research study. “Marine heat waves like this one can form in areas that have experienced back-to-back severe weather events in a short period of time.”

In October 2018, Hurricane Michael magnified from a Category 2 to a Category 5 storm the day prior to it made landfall in the Florida Panhandle. Michael is the most extreme storm on record to strike the location, having actually left some $25 billion in damage in its wake. Using a mix of information collected from weather condition buoys and satellites, the science group behind the research study took a look at ocean conditions in the past, throughout, and after the cyclone.

High Sea Surface Temperatures Before Hurricane Michael

This map of the Gulf of Mexico reveals locations with abnormally high sea surface area temperature levels prior to Hurricane Michael. The location from land to the green line, and the little, enclosed locations listed below the green line experienced a severe ocean heat wave in this duration. The smaller sized circles reveal the course of Tropical Storm Gordon (TS), which preceded Michael; bigger, darker circles reveal Michael’s track and increase. The legend’s very first 4 icons mark information stations. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of South Alabama/DISL

About a month prior to the cyclone got here, Tropical Storm Gordon moved through the Gulf of Mexico. Under regular scenarios, a hurricane or cyclone — Gordon, in this case — blends the ocean water over which it takes a trip, raising the cold water that is deeper in the water column to the surface area and pressing the warm surface area thin down towards the bottom. This freshly present chillier water at the surface area normally triggers the storm to deteriorate.

But Tropical Storm Gordon was instantly followed by a serious climatic heat wave throughout which the warm air warmed the cooler ocean water that had actually just recently been given the surface area. This, integrated with the warm water that Gordon had actually lowered through the water column, eventually produced a lot of warm-water fuel for an inbound cyclone.

“In that situation, basically the whole water column was made up of warm water,” stated Fournier. “So when the second storm — Hurricane Michael — moved in, the water it brought up during mixing was warm just like the surface water being pushed down. Hurricanes feed off the heat of the ocean, so this sequence of weather events created conditions that were ideal for hurricane intensification.”

West End CP Mooring Site

A buoy marks the West End CP mooring website south of Dauphin Island, Alabama, in the Gulf of Mexico. It is among numerous stations that gather information on ocean conditions like temperature level and salinity. Credit: University of South Alabama/DISL

Although the research study focuses thorough on Hurricane Michael, the researchers keep in mind that the pattern of weather condition occasions leading up to a significant storm — and the resulting storm increase — doesn’t seem special to Michael.

“Both Hurricane Laura and Hurricane Sally, which affected the U.S. Gulf Coast in 2020, appeared to have comparable setups to Michael, with both storms being preceded by smaller sized storms [Hurricane Hanna and Hurricane Marco, respectively],” stated lead author Brian Dzwonkowski of the University of South Alabama/Dauphin Island Sea Lab. “Combined with warmer-than-average summer conditions in the region, this pre-storm setup of the oceanic environment likely contributed to those intensifications prior to landfall as well.”

NASA researchers have actually been taking on the concern of what triggers cyclones to heighten quickly right before landfall from several angles. Another current research study led by JPL’s Hui Su discovered that other elements, consisting of the rains rate inside a typhoon, are likewise great indications that can assist anticipate if and just how much a typhoon is most likely to heighten in the hours that follow. Both research studies bring us closer to comprehending and being much better able to anticipate quick increase of cyclones near landfall.

Reference: “Compounding impact of severe weather events fuels marine heatwave in the coastal ocean” by B. Dzwonkowski, J. Coogan, S. Fournier, G. Lockridge, K. Park and T. Lee, 22 September 2020, Nature Communications.
DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-18339-2

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