Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:27 PM GMT en Octubre 18, 2009
Hurricane Rick intensified in dramatic fashion yesterday into the second most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the Eastern Pacific. Truly deserving of the title "Super Hurricane", Rick grew into a monstrous Category 5 storm with 180 mph winds and a central pressure of 906 mb early this morning. The only Eastern Pacific hurricane that was stronger was Hurricane Linda of 1997, which had 185 mph winds and a 902 mb pressure. Reliable satellite measurements of Eastern Pacific storms go back to about 1970, and Rick is the 11th Category 5 hurricane in the Eastern Pacific since 1970. Meteorologists like to talk about a hurricane's Maximum Potential Intensity (MPI), the theoretical upper limit of a hurricane's intensification given the prevailing ocean heat content and atmospheric stability and moisture. Less than 5% of all hurricane reach their MPI, due to wind shear, interaction with land, entrainment of dry air, or other factors. Hurricane Rick was able to take advantage of nearly ideal conditions for intensification--light wind shear, high ocean heat content, and plenty of mid-level atmospheric moisture--to reach its MPI and intensify into one of the strongest and most spectacular tropical cyclones ever recorded. The last tropical cyclone to attain Rick's intensity was Australia's Cyclone Monica of 2006, which also had 180 mph winds. Only nine Atlantic hurricanes in recorded history have been stronger than Rick.
Figure 1.Hurricane Rick at peak intensity on Sunday morning, October 18, 2009: 180 mph winds and a central pressure of 905 mb.
Wind shear will gradually increase and ocean heat content decrease over the next few days as Rick approaches Baja, and the hurricane should weaken considerably before landfall on Wednesday. The latest GFDL model run puts Rick at Category 2 strength, but Rick could still be a major Category 3 hurricane at landfall, as predicted by the HWRF model. More rapid weakening into a Category 1 hurricane is also a distinct possibility, and the official NHC intensity forecast of a Category 2 forecast at landfall is a good middle-of-the-road forecast. Rick will make a second landfall in Mainland Mexico on Thursday, and the moisture from Rick should reach southern Texas by Saturday, possibly leading to heavy rains there next weekend.
Typhoon Lupit a potential major catastrophe for the Philippines
Category 4 Super Typhoon Lupit is stalled out over the Philippine Sea east of northern Luzon Island in the Philippines, but is expected to resume a westerly track towards the Philippines on Monday. Depending upon whether the storm makes landfall in northern Luzon or not, Lupit (the Filipino word for cruel) has the potential to live up to its name if it makes landfall as a major typhoon on Thursday, as currently forecast. A week ago, Super Typhoon Parma crossed over the northern Philippines three times, dumping over twenty inches of rain in many locations. Over 300 people died in the resulting flash floods and landslides. A visit by Typhoon Lupit would bring another 12+ inches of rain to the already-soaked soils of the region, creating a major catastrophe. However, there is hope that storm's current slow and erratic movement will carry Lupit far enough north that the typhoon will miss the Philippines.
Early snow in Northeast U.S. sets records
This weekend's snowstorm in the Northeast set records for the earliest date with an inch of snow in Binghamton, Ithaca and Olean in New York and Altoona and State College in Pennsylvania. State College received 4.8 inches of snow from the storm, and snow amounts as high as ten inches were recorded in the surrounding mountains.
A Western Caribbean tropical storm coming?
In the Atlantic, there have been some modest flare-ups of heavy thunderstorm clusters in the extreme Southwest Caribbean off the coasts of Nicaragua and Panama over the past day. This activity has been too disorganized and limited in extent to prove a threat to develop. However, for the past three days, the ECMWF model has been predicting the eventual development of a tropical storm in this region, sometime during the period October 23 - 25. The GFS and NOGAPS models have also been hinting that conditions may become favorable for tropical storm formation in the Western Caribbean early next week, and we should anticipate the possibility of a late-season tropical storm forming. The regions most likely to be affected by such a storm would be Honduras, Nicaragua, western Cuba, the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, South Florida, and the Bahamas. Stay tuned.
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