Hurricane Lee is charting a brand new course in climate and will sign extra monster storms

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By Calvin S. Nelson

This satellite tv for pc picture offered by the Nationwide Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration exhibits Hurricane Lee, proper, within the Atlantic Ocean on Friday, Sept. 8, 2023, at 4:50 p.m. EDT. Lee is rewriting outdated guidelines of meteorology, leaving consultants astonished at how quickly it grew right into a goliath Class 5 hurricane. (NOAA through AP)AP

ATLANTA (AP) — Hurricane Lee is rewriting outdated guidelines of meteorology, leaving consultants astonished at how quickly it grew right into a goliath Class 5 hurricane.

Lee — which simply as rapidly dropped to a still-dangerous Class 3 and held that energy Saturday — may nonetheless be a harbinger as ocean temperatures climb, spawning fast-growing main hurricanes that might threaten communities farther north and inland, consultants say.

“Hurricanes are getting stronger at increased latitudes,” mentioned Marshall Shepherd, director of the College of Georgia’s atmospheric sciences program and a previous president of the American Meteorological Society. “If that pattern continues, that brings into play locations like Washington, D.C., New York and Boston.”


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Because the oceans heat, they act as jet gasoline for hurricanes.

“That additional warmth comes again to present itself sooner or later, and one of many methods it does is thru stronger hurricanes,” Shepherd mentioned.

In the course of the in a single day hours Thursday, Lee shattered the usual for what meteorologists name speedy intensification — when a hurricane’s sustained winds enhance by 35 mph (56 kph) in 24 hours.


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“This one elevated by 80 mph (129 kph),” Shepherd mentioned. “I can’t emphasize this sufficient. We used to have this metric of 35 mph, and right here’s a storm that did twice that quantity, and we’re seeing that occur extra steadily,” mentioned Shepherd, who describes what occurred with Lee as hyperintensification.

With super-warm ocean temperatures and low wind shear, “all the celebrities had been aligned for it to accentuate quickly,” mentioned Kerry Emanuel, professor emeritus of atmospheric science on the Massachusetts Institute of Expertise.


Class 5 standing, when sustained winds are no less than 157 mph (253 kph), is kind of uncommon. Solely about 4.5% of named storms within the Atlantic Ocean have grown to a Class 5 up to now decade, mentioned Brian McNoldy, a scientist and hurricane researcher on the College of Miami.


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Extra intense main hurricanes are also threatening communities farther inland, as a result of the monster storms can develop so highly effective that they continue to be harmful hurricanes for longer distances over land.

“I believe that’s a narrative that’s type of undertold,” Shepherd mentioned. “As these storms are robust coming to landfall, in some instances they’re shifting quick sufficient that they’re nonetheless hurricanes nicely inland.”

Hurricane Idalia was the most recent instance. It got here ashore within the Florida Panhandle final month and remained a hurricane because it entered south Georgia, the place it slammed into town of Valdosta greater than 70 miles (116 kilometers) from the place it made landfall. Not less than 80 houses within the Valdosta space had been destroyed and lots of of others broken.

In 2018, Hurricane Michael carved an analogous path of inland destruction, tearing up cotton crops and pecan bushes and leaving widespread injury throughout south Georgia.


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Though it’s too early to understand how shut Lee would possibly come to the U.S. East Coast, New Englanders are conserving a cautious eye on the storm. Because it creeps nearer, it may deliver excessive seas and rip currents up and down the Jap Seaboard.

“What we’re going to see from Lee — and we’re very assured — is it’s going to be a serious wave producer,” Mike Brennan, director of the Nationwide Hurricane Middle, mentioned in a Friday briefing.

On Saturday, giant swells battered the northeast Caribbean as Lee churned by open waters lots of of miles off the northern Leeward Islands.


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“This morning, the very best important wave peak we had been analyzing in Lee was between 45 and 50 ft, and the very best waves may even be double that,” Brennan mentioned, talking of swells far out at sea. “So we may very well be 80, 90-foot waves related to Lee.”

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