Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tropical Storm Hanna (2014)

Storm Active: October 21-22, 27

On October 17, Tropical Storm Trudy formed in the eastern Pacific basin. The next day, it made landfall in Mexico and quickly dissipated over the mountainous terrain. On October 19, a low pressure system began to form over the Bay of Campeche from the remnants of Trudy. Producing scattered shower activity throughout the southwestern Gulf of Mexico, the system slowly meandered to the east-northeast and moved farther over water over the next few days. During the day of October 21, the low deepened significantly and gained definition, though the associated convection did not yet meet the criteria of a tropical cyclone. That night, however, a small but persistent area of thunderstorm activity developed near the center of circulation, and the system was designated Tropical Depression Nine.

Despite being over warm water, the system faced unfavorable atmospheric conditions, including shear out of the west and interaction with a frontal boundary to its northeast. This front caused heavy rain across the northern Yucatan through Cuba and the neighboring islands, but this moisture was not associated with Nine. On October 22, the system turned east-southeast towards the Mexican coast. Failing to strengthen, the system made landfall that evening as a weak tropical depression, and was downgraded to a remnant low just a few hours afterward.

On October 24, the system emerged over water on the eastern side of the Yucatan peninsula and began to drift generally east-southeast. Though atmospheric conditions were unfavorable, the low maintained its identity for the next few days, and concentrated thunderstorm activity reappeared during the day of October 26. By this time, the system had changed tack and was drifting westward toward the coast of Honduras. On the morning of October 27, despite the fact that a portion of the circulation was interacting with land, the low was producing gale force winds and had acquired an organized convective structure. It was therefore upgraded to Tropical Storm Hanna.

A few hours later, the center moved inland over northeastern Nicaragua. Hanna quickly lost definition and was downgraded to a tropical depression that evening. It then degenerated into a remnant low as it moved west-southwestward over the mountainous terrain of Central America. Despite this, heavy rains continued over portions of northern Nicaragua and southern Honduras, bringing 3-5 inches to many areas. On October 28, the low moved northwestward and emerged into the Gulf of Honduras, but it once again made landfall in Belize early on the 29th, eliminating any chance of redevelopment. Tropical moisture associated with Hanna eventually made it as far as the southwestern United States.

The above image shows Hanna on October 27, a few hours after regeneration into a tropical cyclone.

Despite mostly favorable conditions, Hanna did not significantly intensify during its lifetime due to land interaction.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Hurricane Gonzalo (2014)

Storm Active: October 12-19

During the first week of October, a tropical wave entered the eastern Atlantic and tracked generally westward. It did not show signs of organization until October 10, when shower activity began to increase in concentration. Despite a large mass of dry air to its north, the disturbance developed rapidly. On October 12, curved bands became evident around a well-defined center of circulation. Since aircraft data indicated that gale-force winds were occurring in the vicinity of the center, the system was designated Tropical Storm Gonzalo early that afternoon.

Situated over an environment of warm water, unstable air, and low wind shear, only dry air slightly slowed development. Convective bands wrapped around a primitive eye feature that evening and steady strengthening began. Meanwhile, a trough to the north of the system steered it westward toward the Leeward Islands. During the morning of October 13, Gonzalo's center passed among these islands, bringing tropical storm conditions to much of the region as it continued to intensify and deepen. Later that day, the system turned to the northwest and gained enough organization to be upgraded to a hurricane as it passed near the Virgin Islands. Though the center passed to the east, the large area of deep convection associated with Gonzalo stretched as far as Puerto Rico.

As the hurricane exited the Caribbean overnight, an eye began to consistently appear on satellite imagery. Pressures continued to decline, and the system underwent rapid intensification through the morning of October 14. Though the convection remained somewhat lopsided (with most of the deep convection south of the eye), Gonzalo became the second major hurricane of the 2014 season later that day. Meanwhile, the cyclone continued to round the edge of a ridge to its north, and its motion gradually turned poleward. The eye contracted during the morning of October 15, indicating that an eyewall replacement cycle had begun and stabilizing Gonzalo's intensity as a low-end Category 4 hurricane. Gonzalo was the first category 4 hurricane to form in the Atlantic since 2011's Ophelia.

As is usual in such cycles, the cyclone's eye clouded over late that morning as an outer eyewall formed, and internal dynamics caused Gonzalo to weaken slightly over the following 12 hours. Overnight, the system completed its northward turn and its eyewall replacement, with a large, symmetrical eye forming by the morning of October 16. Meanwhile, the banding structure and outflow had also improved, and Gonzalo restrengthened into a category 4. Later that day, the system reached its peak intensity of 145 mph winds and a minimum pressure of 940 mb before the inner core was once again disrupted that evening, leading to gradual weakening. Caught in a south-southwesterly flow, the cyclone also began to accelerate to the north-northeast toward Bermuda that evening.

By the morning of October 17, conditions were deteriorating in Bermuda, as outer bands began to sweep across the island. During the afternoon, the Gonzalo's eye reappeared, and weakening temporarily ceased, with the cyclone at category 3 hurricane strength. Around 8:30 pm EDT that evening, the center of the hurricane passed directly over Bermuda bringing significant storm surge to the coastline as well as sustained winds to hurricane force. During that evening, upper-level winds increased somewhat, putting Gonzalo on a steady weakening trend as it accelerated away from Bermuda.

The cyclone moved north of the Gulf stream during the morning of October 18, and convection began to disappear from the southern half of the circulation. As a result, the system weakened to a category 1 hurricane. Despite plummeting ocean temperatures however, Gonzalo maintained a well-defined eyewall through that evening. Overnight, the system sped past offshore of Newfoundland, causing gusty winds with its broadening windfield. By the morning of October 19, Gonzalo was racing northeast across the northern Atlantic at forward speed of over 50 mph. The cyclone finally became extratropical above 50°N that afternoon. The system subsequently passed near the United Kingdom on October 21 before being absorbed near the Arctic Circle.

Gonzalo experienced several fluctuations in intensity as a major hurricane due to internal dynamics. Even in the above image, a concentric set of eyeballs seems to be forming.

Remarkably, both Tropical Storm Fay and Hurricane Gonzalo passed very near or directly over Bermuda over the course within a period of less than one week!


Friday, October 10, 2014

Hurricane Fay (2014)

Storm Active: October 10-13

Around October 8, persistent shower and thunderstorm activity appeared in conjunction with a low pressure system located northeast of the Windward Islands. As the low moved west-northwestward over the following day, environmental conditions improved. On October 9, the trough associated with the circulation center became visibly curved with the development of a semicircular rain band about the low's north and east sides. Meanwhile, surface pressures continued to fall, and the circulation became much better defined by the morning of October 10. At this time, the system was organized enough to be designated Subtropical Depression Seven.

Through the evening, an area of deeper convection within the rain band developed northwest of the center. Since aircraft reconnaissance data indicated that higher winds were occurring in this area, the intensity of the system increased significantly, and Seven was upgraded to Subtropical Storm Fay. By the morning of October 11, Fay had come to the western edge of a subtropical ridge and had assumed a northward motion toward Bermuda. In addition, the area of deep convection moved close enough to the center and became symmetrical enough that Fay transitioned to a tropical storm that same morning.

Later that day, despite moderate shear aloft, the convective canopy covered Fay's center for the first time. The central pressure continued to drop meanwhile, and Fay intensified to near-hurricane strength. By this time, conditions were rapidly deteriorating in Bermuda. Early in the morning on October 12, the center of the cyclone passed almost directly over Bermuda, bringing winds gusting to hurricane strength, 3-5 inches of rain, and large sea swells. The system continued to curve to the east and accelerate as it passed the island that day. During the afternoon, Fay briefly developed a small eye, and became more symmetrical as shear temporarily lessened. As a result, the cyclone was upgraded to a minimal hurricane and reached its peak intensity of 75 mph winds and a pressure of 986 mb.

During the evening and overnight, however, wind shear increased substantially, quickly weakening the system back below hurricane strength and displacing its convection to the northeast of the center. On October 13, a frontal boundary moving off of the United States was steering Fay nearly due east, and the interactions between the two systems contributed to the tropical storm's dissipation later that day. The remnant vortex of Fay became embedded in the same front by the afternoon.

The above image shows Fay passing near Bermuda on October 12.

Fay's track includes square points, indicating a time at which the cyclone was subtropical.