Catastrophic Category 5 Maria Strengthens as it Tracks Toward Puerto Rico

As of the 9:00 PM advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Maria was located 145 miles southeast of San Juan Puerto Rico. The very dangerous storm was tracking toward the west-northwest at 10 miles per hour. Packing maximum sustained winds of 175 miles per hour and a minimum central pressure of 909 mb, the storm is now stronger than it was just prior to devastating Dominica yesterday evening and features a lower central pressure than Irma at maximum intensity. Furthermore, the storm is now one of the ten strongest ever to form in the Atlantic by measure of central pressure alone.

 

Along its present and projected path, the storm will reach the vicinity of St. Croix in the Virgin Islands a bit after midnight. Following a close encounter with St. Croix, the storm should approach Vieques and the Puerto Rican southeast coast by early morning on September 20th. Hurricane force winds should arrive about three to four hours prior to passage of the storm center. Tropical storm force winds are already affecting parts of the Virgin Islands and should begin to impact Puerto Rico soon.

In addition to catastrophic winds, the National Hurricane Center expects 7-11 foot storm surges in the Virgin Islands and 6-9 foot storm surges in Puerto Rico topped by powerful breaking waves. Rainfall totals are likewise expected to be quite extreme — totalling 10-20 inches in the Virgin Islands and 12-25 inches in Puerto Rico.

Some of the far outer bands of Maria are presently lashing Puerto Rico with rains and gusty winds. Meanwhile, St Croix in the Virgin Islands recently reported a wind gust of 72 mph.

Maria is passing over very warm sea surfaces in the range of 29 to 30 degrees Celsius. These abnormally warm ocean waters appear to be facilitating further intensification just prior to potential landfalls.

Maria is now a somewhat larger storm than it was when it approached Dominica. Hurricane force winds now extend upwards of 35 miles from the storm center and tropical storm force winds up to 140 miles. The storm appears to still be strengthening with the most recent report of 909 mb pressures near the storm center over the past hour 11 mb lower than a reading taken late Tuesday afternoon and 3-4 mb lower than a reading taken just one hour ago. Maximum sustained winds from this more recent pass were recorded at 175 mph. Maria is now stronger than Irma at peak intensity by measure of central pressure. A yet more powerful storm capable of producing more damage along a wider swath than during last night’s encounter with Dominica.

To say this is a dangerous situation is an understatement. Those in the path of this storm should heed any and all statements from emergency officials and do everything possible to seek shelter or flee the path of this terrible storm.

Conditions in Context

Climate change related factors like warming ocean surfaces, more intense Equatorial thunderstorms, and increasing atmospheric water vapor content have contributed to higher storm intensities during the present hurricane season. Natural factors, like La Nina-like conditions in the Equatorial Pacific, have also contributed. But we should be clear that the primary limiters to peak hurricane intensity — ocean surface temperature and atmospheric water vapor content — are now higher than they were in the past. So the storms of today can hit higher bars than before.

(Accumulated Cyclone Energy or ACE for 2017 so far is well above average. There are approximately 8 weeks left in this year’s hurricane season. Image source: Colorado State University.)

Overall, 2017 has been a well above average year for storms. One in which a number of records have already been broken.

One measure of tropical cyclone intensity — accumulated cyclone energy or ACE — has hit considerably higher than normal marks during 2017. So far, 2017 has outpaced all years since 2010 and appears to be on track for one of the highest ACE years on record. The record highest ACE for any given year was 2005 at approximately 250.

RELATED STATEMENTS AND INFORMATION:

(UPDATED– UPDATES TO FOLLOW)

Links:

The National Hurricane Center

Colorado State University

Hat tip to Eleggua

Hat tip to Bostonblorp

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33 Comments

  1. Life feed from St. Croix added.

    Reply
    • PlazaRed

       /  September 20, 2017

      Thanks for the live feed.
      I was watching it a few hours ago after dusk and everything was lit up with street lights, now there are only 2 lights visible but you can still see the waves breaking over the shore wall onto what seemed to be shop fronts at the lower right hand side of the picture.
      Several sailing boats were tied up just off the shoreline.
      Probably serious damage if not total devastation will occur later in the night of this area.

      Reply
  2. wharf rat

     /  September 19, 2017

    This is OT, but Robert’s writing too fast. On the previous Maria thread, he said,

    “The rhetoric coming from Trump is practically indistinguishable from the rhetoric coming out of North Korea.”

    In War of Elton John Lyrics, Kim Jong Un Calls Trump “Honky Cat”

    By Andy Borowitz
    https://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/in-war-of-elton-john-lyrics-kim-jong-un-calls-trump-honky-cat?mbid=nl_Borowitz%2009192017&CNDID=24396426&spMailingID=11957614&spUserID=MTMzMTgyMzU4OTQ2S0&spJobID=1241629658&spReportId=MTI0MTYyOTY1OAS2

    Reply
    • Hah! I have to in order to get even decent coverage of all that’s going on.

      In any case, Maria is now stronger than Irma by pressure at 913 mb. Winds still at 165 mph, which is 20 mph lower than Irma at peak intensity.

      Reply
    • Updated — min pressure at 909 mb in most recent pass. Surface winds now estimated at 175 mph. This has gone from very bad to worse.

      Reply
      • Abel Adamski

         /  September 20, 2017

        On Cat6 the radiosonde just before the 8oclock call read 205.7 and 193mph, guess NHC needs confirmation

        Reply
    • Camera feed above starting to break up. Large waves covering dock. It appears that strong tropical storm force conditions are crossing St Croix now.

      Reply
    • eleggua

       /  September 20, 2017

      It’s funny and satire. Trump’s ‘Rocket Man’ bit, on the other hand, wasn’t funny and he really did say it.

      “He (Andy Borowitz) writes the Borowitz Report, a satirical column on the news, for newyorker”

      “…Kim warned that he had an extensive collection of the singer-songwriter’s albums and was prepared to weaponize every lyric in them.

      The White House immediately struck back, warning Kim that “any further provocation involving an Elton John lyric, especially ‘Tiny Dancer,’ will be seen as an act of war.”

      But any hope that Kim would be silenced was short-lived.

      Responding to the White House, Kim stated, “I see the bitch is back,” before signing off, “Goodbye, Yellow-Wigged Toad.””

      Reply
  3. wharf rat

     /  September 19, 2017

    Has there been any studies on the rate of intensification of hurricanes? Some of these are grew hellafast.

    Reply
  4. Atlantic hurricanes seem to be favored by La Nina conditions. It is my understanding that climate change favors El Nino conditions, which result in worse Pacific Typhoons, and weaker and fewer Atlantic storms. So climate change should result in fewer Atlantic hurricanes through the years, but when conditions are favorable for them (La Nina conditions) they could be dramatically worse than usual a la 2017, because of jet stream irregularities, jet stream slowing, warmer sea surface temps and warmer air holding more water. Would you say that this is a fair assessment of the situation?

    Reply
  5. wpNSAlito

     /  September 20, 2017

    NASA’s Earth Observatory has before&after pictures of what Irma did to Barbuda.

    From https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/NaturalHazards/view.php?id=90975

    Reply
  6. Genomik

     /  September 20, 2017

    OMFG Puerto Rico has 3.67 million inhabitants that are about to get hit in the face by an enormous Cat 5 hurricane. It’s so bad, the wind and rain must be horrendous.

    Reply
  7. Abel Adamski

     /  September 20, 2017

    A point brought up in the comments on Cat6
    The English Translations of Jose (protecting the US at this time from Maria) and Maria are Joseph and Mary. Hmm

    Reply
    • eleggua

       /  September 20, 2017

      Next up, Nate.

      Nate = “God has given”, echoing Nativity = “”to be born” and “birth of Jesus”.

      Reply
  8. cushngtree

     /  September 20, 2017

    Rivers flooding in Puerto Rico with many inches rain yet to come.

    Reply
  9. wharf rat

     /  September 20, 2017

    It takes just 4 years to detect human warming of the oceans
    John Abraham

    Our work shows that scientists need less than 4 years of ocean heat measurements to detect a warming signal. This is much shorter than the nearly three decades of measurements that would be required to detect global warming if we were to use temperatures of air near the Earth’s surface. It is also slightly better than the nearly 5 years of sea level rise data that are needed for detecting a long-term trend. This means that the warming is not natural, but rather stems from the human-induced climate change, primarily from increases in heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere.

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2017/sep/20/it-takes-just-4-years-to-detect-human-warming-of-the-oceans

    Reply
  10. Greg

     /  September 20, 2017

    One of the first reports out of Puerto Rico”

    Reply
    • eleggua

       /  September 20, 2017

      Pretty sure there’s a person hanging onto the back of that white car in the middle of the road.
      Another person in the water further up the road from the car, too; maybe two, hanging onto each other; hard to tell in a blown up screenshot.

      Reply
  11. Greg

     /  September 20, 2017

    And this:

    Reply
  12. cushngtree

     /  September 20, 2017

    According to the Guardian updates page, PR has lost 100% of electricity.

    Reply
    • eleggua

       /  September 20, 2017

      All power out on Puerto Rico.
      “”This is total devastation,” said Carlos Mercader, a spokesman for Puerto Rico’s governor. “Puerto Rico, in terms of the infrastructure, will not be the same. … This is something of historic proportions.” ”

      Thousands in goverment-created shelters across the island.

      “About 600 people took refuge in one of the biggest shelters, the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan, the capital.. Witnesses said the stadium’s roof had come off and the shelter lacked electricity and hot water.”

      Good time to recognize this hero from Puerto Rico.
      Roberto Clemente, baseball Hall of Fame rightfielder, Pittsburgh Pirates. Exactly 3,000 hits, a standard of excellence for a batter, he’d have hit hundreds more if not for a tragic end on his way to help others in great need.

      Nearly 4 dozen players from Puerto Rico currently in MLB. First player from Puerto Rico in the Majors, HIram Bithorn, debuted 5 years before Jackie Robinson. Expect a massive response from Major League Baseball.

      Reply
  13. Kassy

     /  September 20, 2017

    Mathematics predicts a sixth mass extinction

    Daniel Rothman, professor of geophysics in the MIT Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences and co-director of MIT’s Lorenz Center, has analyzed significant changes in the carbon cycle over the last 540 million years, including the five mass extinction events. He has identified “thresholds of catastrophe” in the carbon cycle that, if exceeded, would lead to an unstable environment, and ultimately, mass extinction.

    In a paper published in Science Advances, he proposes that mass extinction occurs if one of two thresholds are crossed: For changes in the carbon cycle that occur over long timescales, extinctions will follow if those changes occur at rates faster than global ecosystems can adapt. For carbon perturbations that take place over shorter timescales, the pace of carbon-cycle changes will not matter; instead, the size or magnitude of the change will determine the likelihood of an extinction event.

    Taking this reasoning forward in time, Rothman predicts that, given the recent rise in carbon dioxide emissions over a relatively short timescale, a sixth extinction will depend on whether a critical amount of carbon is added to the oceans. That amount, he calculates, is about 310 gigatons, which he estimates to be roughly equivalent to the amount of carbon that human activities will have added to the world’s oceans by the year 2100.

    Does this mean that mass extinction will soon follow at the turn of the century? Rothman says it would take some time — about 10,000 years — for such ecological disasters to play out. However, he says that by 2100 the world may have tipped into “unknown territory.”

    “This is not saying that disaster occurs the next day,” Rothman says. “It’s saying that, if left unchecked, the carbon cycle would move into a realm which would be no longer stable, and would behave in a way that would be difficult to predict. In the geologic past, this type of behavior is associated with mass extinction.”

    more on link:
    https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-09/miot-mpa091817.php

    Off course we have also really hurt the world by exploiting so many resources and encouching on the last refuges of nature. Like the article notices some people already see the current extinction event if you just look at animal populations.

    Still this shows how little margin we have left.

    Reply
    • eleggua

       /  September 20, 2017

      We – humans – are going to crunch those numbers. No sixth extinction. Rothman isn’t calcuating the human factor; we created this mess; we’ll co-create the way forward and out of it.

      Reply
  14. eleggua

     /  September 20, 2017

    ‘All-electric bus travels record 1,100 miles on a single charge’
    Sep. 19th 2017

    https://electrek.co/2017/09/19/all-electric-bus-travels-record-1100-miles-on-a-single-charge/

    “…Fresh off an important $140 million investment round to expand production, they did another $55 million financing round led by BMW and Al Gore’s venture firm last June.

    Previously, the company hired Tesla’s former Vice President of Manufacturing to lead a production expansion at their facility in Greenville, South Carolina, and their new factory in Los Angeles County in order to satisfy the increasing demand.

    The production expansion comes amid a significant increase in demand as the economics start to favor electric powertrains in larger vehicles, like buses. The firm claims to have sold 400 electric buses already and orders keep piling up. For example, Seattle recently ordered 120 new all-electric buses.

    Ryan Popple, CEO of Proterra, claims that electric buses are now cheaper than diesel/CNG and could dominate the market within 10 years….”

    (p.s. thanx for the hat tip, Robert; just noted it. thanx.)

    Reply

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