Major Hurricane Maria Could Hit 150 Mph+ Intensity as it Barrels Toward Puerto Rico

As of early afternoon on September 18, Hurricane Maria had reached major hurricane intensity of 125 mph maximum sustained winds and a 956 mb minimum central pressure. Moving west-northwest at 10 mph, the storm is tracking through already the hurricane-weary eastern Caribbean islands on a path toward a Puerto Rico still recovering from its close brush with Category 5 Hurricane Irma.

(National Hurricane Center’s [NHC] projected path and intensity for Maria shows a major hurricane threatening Puerto Rico over the next two days. Image source: NHC.)

Maria is expected to track over very warm Caribbean waters in the range of 84 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit (29+ C) as it enters a favorable atmospheric environment. And forecasters now call for Maria to rapidly intensify. Hurricane watches have already been issued for the American territory of Puerto Rico. And the present official Hurricane Center track and forecast intensity for Maria (see above image) shows a severe blow by a powerful category 4 storm striking somewhere along southeastern Puerto Rico early Wednesday with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph.

2017 Already a Season for the Record Books

It’s worth noting that some models presently show Maria tracking north of Puerto Rico. So the island could still avoid a direct hit. But the current official consensus is a rather grim forecast.

(IR satellite imagery of Maria shows an increasingly organized storm. Forecast points and sea surface temperatures included for reference. Image source: National Hurricane Center.)

Maria is the fourth major hurricane to form in the Atlantic during 2017 — which has been an exceptional season in many respects. This year saw the early formation of Arlene in April — only the second named storm recorded to have formed during that month. It saw the strongest hurricane ever to form outside of the Carribbean or Gulf of Mexico — Irma — which was also tied as the strongest land falling hurricane in the Atlantic. Both Category 4 Harvey and Irma struck the continental U.S. — the first time two Cat 4 storms have struck the states in a single month. And Harvey produced the heaviest recorded rainfall total from a tropical system at 51.88 inches. Overall damage estimates from the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season presently stand at 132 billion dollars — which makes this season the second costliest so far (behind 2005).

How Climate Change and Other Global Factors Contributed

With damages from Harvey and Irma still uncounted, with Maria barreling in, and with a week and a half left to September and all of October remaining, it’s likely that 2017 will see more to come. Though Irma and Jose have churned up cooler waters in their wakes, large sections of the Gulf, Caribbean, and North Atlantic remain considerably warmer than normal.

(Sea surface temperature anomaly map shows that much of the North Atlantic and Carribbean are between 0.5 and 2 C warmer than the already warmer than normal 30-year average. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

Meanwhile, a very vigorous Inter-Tropical-Convergence-Zone (ITCZ) is still producing powerful thunderstorms over Africa. And cool water upwelling in the Pacific has generated La Nina-like conditions that tend to cut down on Atlantic wind shear — allowing more storms to fully develop and tap those warmer than normal waters to reach higher maximum intensities. Some of these factors — particularly the warmer than normal surface waters and possibly the increased intensity of ITCZ thunderstorms are climate change related. So yes, statements from those like Dr. Michael Mann claiming that this season’s hurricanes were made worse by climate change are absolutely valid.

(UPDATES TO FOLLOW)

RELATED STATEMENTS AND INFORMATION:

Links:

National Hurricane Center

Earth Nullschool

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20 Comments

  1. Slightly off topic for this post, but I found a fascinating article while following links from a comment a few posts back. I know we need to cut down on eating meat because of how much food and energy goes into creating a pound of meat. However, like the conversations around electric vehicles vs. ICE, people are not likely to give up meat immediately any more than they will give up cars. While we try to move people in that direction, this could help with the other issue of the beef and dairy industry- methane.

    Of All Things, Seaweed Could Drastically Reduce Cow Farts and Burps
    https://modernfarmer.com/2016/10/seaweed-livestock-methane-emissions/

    It looks bizarre to see a cow browsing for food at the seashore, but a new discovery could mean that becomes a much more common sight.

    The Conversation alerts us to a particularly strange and charming new discovery: A team of Australian researchers experimented to figure out what happens to a cow’s methane emissions when it eats seaweed.

    This particular discovery is both very new and very old; studies note that livestock kept near the sea has always shown a proclivity for eating seaweed. But with the vast majority of cattle kept in the interior of the continent, the effects of the diet haven’t been well studied.

    The researchers experimented with 20 different kinds of seaweed, to varying effects, but found that two varieties found off the coast of Queensland in Australia have completely bonkers results.

    A. taxiformis, the researchers found, reduced methane emissions in cows by more than 99 percent, at fairly low doses—making up only 2 percent of the cow’s diet. Apparently the seaweed contains a compound called bromoform that prevents the cows from producing methane as a byproduct. (The second species, Dictyota, reduced methane emissions by 92 percent.)

    Reply
    • eleggua

       /  September 18, 2017

      Wow, that’s really neat! Thanks for posting. Wasn’t aware of the benefits for bovines; great for humans, for sure.

      ’13 of the Planet’s Healthiest Seaweeds and Sea Vegetables’

      https://bodyecology.com/articles/planets-healthiest-seaweeds.php

      Sea vegetables have the following benefits:

      Prevent aging and chronic disease.
      Lower cholesterol.
      Solve mineral deficiencies.
      Detoxify your body from heavy metals, environmental pollutants and carcinogens.
      Helps control the growth of pathogenic viruses, candida, and pathogenic bacteria.
      Balance thyroid function.
      Fight constipation.

      Reply
  2. utoutback

     /  September 18, 2017

    The new face of homeland security:
    “Even if no one else in Donald Trump’s Washington is ready to deal with climate change, the military will be. It’s already long been preparing in its own fashion to take a pivotal role in responding to a world of recurring natural disasters.”
    From: TomDispatch
    http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/176327/tomgram%3A_michael_klare%2C_the_new_face_of_%22war%22_at_home/

    Reply
  3. eleggua

     /  September 18, 2017

    Excellent piece.

    ‘This is How South Florida Ends’
    Maddie Stone 8/23/16

    http://gizmodo.com/this-is-how-south-florida-ends-1783803198

    “It’s a scorching midsummer day, and the sawgrass is still under a pale blue sky. Waist-deep in water and sinking slowly into the muck, I fend off mosquitos as a man from South Florida’s Water Management District mixes a bag of salt into a hot tub-sized bucket on the side of the road. Thirty feet away in the marsh, another city official wearing waders and a bug hat stands on a narrow steel walkway, dangling the end of a long hose over a plexiglass chamber.

    The experiment seems innocuous enough. Seawater is being added to a freshwater wetland, and scientists are observing what happens. The grim subtext is that this same experiment is about to play out in real life and on an enormous scale, from here in the southern Everglades, to Miami forty miles east, to the Florida Keys due south. If scientists are correct, much of South Florida will be underwater by the end of the century…..”

    Reply
  4. eleggua

     /  September 18, 2017

    ‘CNN Storm Tracker’

    ‘See the latest maps and forecast below. ‘

    http://www.cnn.com/interactive/storm-tracker/

    Reply
  5. saladyears

     /  September 18, 2017

    It just hit Cat 5 after dropping 40 MB in 6 hours. I think we need new words for “rapid intenfisication.”

    Reply
    • eleggua

       /  September 19, 2017

      And rapidly needed. 8 weeks to go in this hurricane season.
      Harvey topped by Irma; Irma topped by Maria. Intesifying intensifications.

      Reply
  6. wharf rat

     /  September 19, 2017

    Reply
  7. bostonblorp

     /  September 19, 2017

    St. Croix escaped Irma and was being used as the staging area for recovery efforts elsewhere. A number of folks from STT and STJ went there after their own islands were devastated.

    All the intensity forecast models from just yesterday had this topping out at a Cat3 or barely making it to Cat4.

    Choice comments from Cat6 blog: “This is beyond rapid intensification this is freakish hellish intensification.”

    Reply
    • eleggua

       /  September 19, 2017

      ‘Hurricane Maria Is Now A Cat 5 Storm; St. Croix To Sustain Direct Impact’
      September 18, 2017

      http://viconsortium.com/featured/hurricane-maria-is-now-category-5-storm/

      “Earlier in the day, at about 2:00 p.m., Governor Kenneth Mapp somewhat cautiously announced that Maria would pass to the south of St. Croix some 22 miles away. But at 6:00 p.m. Monday, after being briefed by the National Weather Service, the governor relayed grim news to Virgin Islanders, especially those living on St. Croix.

      “Let me start out by saying I do not have good news,” Mr. Mapp began.

      Maria now has maximum sustained winds of 160 miles per hours with higher gusts, and is expected to become more powerful. The governor was told by the National Weather Service that St. Croix was less than 10 miles away from the storm’s center, a projection that places the island directly in Maria’s path. “In effect, it will be a direct hit,” the governor said.

      Maria, the governor went on — reading carefully from notes provided by the National Weather Service — would bring torrential rainfall of up to 12-18 inches to St. Croix and 8-12 inches to St. Thomas. And when Maria eventually moves away from the territory, rainfall would continue for about a week, he said.

      Tropical storm-force winds on St. Thomas and St. John are expected to last from 6:00 p.m. Tuesday through 10:00 p.m. Wednesday. On St. Croix, tropical storm-force winds are expected from 2:00 p.m. Tuesday through 7:00 p.m. Wednesday, with hurricane-force winds being felt on St. Croix from midnight Tuesday through 8:00 a.m. Wednesday.

      While the territory will start feeling the effects of the storm from 2:00 p.m., outer band winds and rain will start before that time, the governor said. He also revealed that by 2:00 p.m. Tuesday the Water and Power Authority will turn off power on St. Croix in preparation for the storm.”

      Reply
  8. eleggua

     /  September 19, 2017

    Tropical Tidbit : ‘Monday Evening Update on Hurricanes Maria and Jose’

    “Maria…an amazing hurricane…this feels eerily similar to when we were tracking hurricane Irma…
    the eye…has now appeared with ferocity…perhaps a disaster for Dominica…
    US Virgin Islands and St.Croix…right in the line of fire…
    eye is small…might see a brief weakening tomorrow…usually bad news…
    could be category 4 or 5 by this point (hitting Puerto Rico)…
    this is as extreme as it gets…just as bad (as Irma) for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands this time…this time it’s not Barbuda…these islands could see the kind of destruction that Barbuda saw from Irma…
    recurve out to sea seems likely but cannot rule out a track toward North America here in the longer term…too much uncertainty…”

    Reply
  9. bostonblorp

     /  September 19, 2017

    36 hours from TS to Cat 5. Unreal.

    Reply
  10. eleggua

     /  September 19, 2017

    “The tiny outline overlapped by the eye of Hurricane Maria is Dominica – it has now been swallowed up by the storm’s eyewall, with winds of 160mph (260kph) as it lashes the island.”

    Reply
  11. Abel Adamski

     /  September 19, 2017

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2017/sep/19/hurricane-maria-landfall-dominica-caribbean-category-five-storm-live
    Maria is the first category five hurricane in recorded history to hit Dominica.

    In 1979, Hurricane David hit the island as a category four storm, the deadliest to date. In all, 56 people died and three-quarters of the population were left homeless.

    Hurricane warnings remain in effect for:

    Dominica
    Guadeloupe
    Montserrat
    St Kitts & Nevis
    US Virgin Islands
    British Virgin Islands
    Puerto Rico, Culebra and Vieques

    Reply
  12. Abel Adamski

     /  September 19, 2017

    Dominica has experienced at least 3 hours of sustained winds of 260 KM/H with gusts in excess of 315KM/H.

    Reply
  13. Abel Adamski

     /  September 19, 2017

    https://theconversation.com/as-a-warming-climate-changes-kodiak-bears-diets-impacts-could-ripple-through-ecosystems-83131

    mpacts beyond streams
    What about the rest of Kodiak’s ecosystem? Salmon accumulate nutrients in their bodies as they grow in the ocean and then deliver these nutrients into fresh water when they head upstream to spawn. When they die after spawning, their bodies provide fertilizer for plants and tasty snacks for scavengers.

    Bears spread the bounty onto land by carrying fish from streams and leaving partially consumed carcasses far from water. This makes salmon available to smaller animals that cannot capture fish themselves, and fertilizes plants far from spawning streams. When bears ditch salmon, this carcass distribution stops, potentially harming species that depend on bear-caught salmon.
    Rescheduling nature

    When people think about how wildlife is impacted by a warmer world, they often think of overheating animals or polar bears standing on melting icebergs. We discovered a more subtle effect of warmer temperatures: By rescheduling bears’ feeding options, climate change dramatically altered bear behavior, halting an iconic predator-prey interaction. Scientists, naturalists and even gardeners are seeing changes in biological timing throughout nature, so we should expect to witness more surprising species interactions in the future.

    Reply

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