Drunk in Caribbean broth and braised by a passive atmosphere, Category 5 Hurricane Iota had nothing to stop it except the earth as it challenged climatology to its late-season brutality.
The strongest storm recorded to form this deep in the fall, Iota was catapulted into the hurricane scale gaining 100 mph in 36 hours and joining a growing list of Cat 5 horrors showing the hallmarks of climate change.
Iota, which landed late Monday as a Cat 4 hurricane slightly weaker at 155 mph in nearly the same area of northeastern Nicaragua as Cat 4 Eta did two weeks ago, is the 10th cyclone this year to intensify rapidly .
It’s the only Cat 5 to form this season, but marks seventh in the previous five years starting with Matthew in 2016.
Climate scientists are reluctant to link every single storm to climate change, but said the strongest hurricanes in the season books may be more common as the oceans and atmosphere warm.
Four major hurricanes of category 3 or higher were formed in October and November by Delta, Epsilon, Eta and Iota. No other Atlantic hurricane season recorded had more than two major hurricanes after Oct. 1, according to Colorado State University hurricane expert Phil Klotzbach.
It is not uncommon for November to have activity. It is unusually unusual to have a Category 5 in November, said Jim Kossin, a climate scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Unusual it is unusual to have such an explosive intensification in November.
Rapid intensification is considered a rapid gain at wind speeds of 35 mph in 24 hours.
This season, some storms saw winds rise by 50 mph or more in 24 hours. Forecast intensification, especially rapid intensification, is still a challenge and a nightmare for meteorologists who are trying to advise emergency managers on evacuation decisions.
On August 27, Hurricane Laura landed in the early hours of dawn near Lake Charles, La., As a Category 4 hurricane at 150 mph. In his last 24 hours before reaching the coast, he gained a 45 mph aperture, taking it from a Category 2 storm to 105 mph close to Category 5 power. Cat 5s start at 157 miles / hour .
Part of this season’s sudden rainfall was where the warmest sea surface temperatures were close to land. At the same time, temperatures in the main development region between Africa and the Caribbean where long Cabo Verde style storms were rising were almost normal. That runway, an area where monsters such as Irma and Maria formed also had higher wind shear this season hindering strengthening.
“We have not had long storms,” Klotzbach said. “All these things that were coming out of Africa were just being cut in bad places.”
Most of the fast intensifiers this season are the ones that interest Klotzbachs.
He said it was less bullish in the past to predict there were storms that intensified faster, but the overall environment has become increasingly favorable with hot water going deeper providing more fuel.
I do not like that this is normal language because all after 2005 he was saying it too, but I think over time we will see faster episodes of intensification and storms of higher levels, Klotzbach said.
Prior to 2016, the Atlantic basin went eight years without Cat 5s. The king of all low pressure systems can be so casual, impulsive and fiery during a momentary calm in power windows that it is rarely predicted by the NHC.
After Matthew in 2016, were Irma and Maria, 2017 Irma and Maria, Michael and Lorenzo in 2018, Dorian in 2019 and Iota, who was awarded Cat 5 status on Monday at 11am by the National Hurricane Center.
That beat the previous record holder for the last Cat 5 hurricane, which was a 1932 hurricane that lived from October 30 to November 14.
Normally November is when hurricane season is disappearing, and here we are in the middle of November with a Category 5, said Josh Alland, an atmospheric scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. But if hurricanes were to form this time of year, it would be in the Caribbean because the waters are still so warm.
In addition to stronger storms, climate change may mean more rainfall because warm air holds more water vapor.
We know without a doubt that hurricanes are extremely good at converting water vapor into rain, said Kossin, whose study found that there is about a 7 percent increase in rain for a 1.8 degree rise in temperature. But the dominant factor with rainfall is the stagnation of the storm, or the slower movement.
Looking at 120 years of data, Kossin said there has been about a 17 percent reduction in a storm speed ahead.
Hurricane Sally was moving at just 3 mph when it landed near Gulf Shores, Ala. as a Category 2 storm with 105 mph on September 16th. Immersed between high pressure in the east and a current in its west, Sally tried to find a quick moment.
The result was a 29.9-inch rain flood in Orange Beach, Ala., With Pensacola areas taking between 15 and 16.75 inches.
Sally basically stopped while doing the landing, Kossin said.
There will still be years of active and inactive storms, based on other climate factors, e.g. El Nio and La Nia. La Nia, which appeared this fall, is more hurricane-friendly because it reduces wind shear in the Atlantic, which works to suppress thriving tropical cyclones.
As of Thursday, the 2020 season reached 30 named storms, including 13 hurricanes, of which six were major hurricanes. An average season has 12 named storms, including six hurricanes, with three being major hurricanes.
A buzz of unrest between Bermuda and the Bahamas had a 20 percent chance of developing over the first five days of the Five. The other name on the long list of 2020 storms is Kappa. It would be the battle the first time the name Kappa was used, similar to this year’s prime ministers of Eta, Theta and Iota.
I do not want people to think we will see 30 storms every year, Klotzbach said. We will still have years up and down. We would not deal with an Iota every year.
November 5 main hurricanes from wind speed
1932 Cuba, 175 mph
Iota (2020), 160 mph
Lenny (1999), 155 mph
Eta (2020) 150 mph
Paloma (2008) 145 mph
Source: National Hurricane Center
Tropical Cyclones 2020
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