Iota Revving Up

November 15, 2020

Washington Post:

Hurricane Iota, a system born Friday in the western Caribbean, has begun a period of rapid intensification as it roils mild waters on its way to landfall late Monday into Tuesday in Central America. The system is forecast to strike Honduras and Nicaragua at major hurricane (Category 3 or greater) intensity, packing “potentially catastrophic” winds, a “dangerous” storm surge and “life-threatening” inland flooding.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami has hoisted hurricane warnings for the northern coast of Nicaragua and eastern Honduras, as well as Providencia Island, where the tempest could deal its most significant blow. A hurricane watch is up for San Andrés Island, while tropical storm warnings stretch along the central coast of Nicaragua and areas farther west in Honduras.

Iota comes barely a week and a half after Hurricane Eta ravaged Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, at Category 4 strength before bringing deadly flooding and mudslides to Central America. If the current forecast holds true, Iota’s eyewall, which is the ring of thunderstorms surrounding the calm eye, could directly hit Puerto Cabezas again with potentially extreme wind and storm-surge damage.

Iota is the 13th hurricane of the 2020 hurricane season, a feat matched only once before, and an indicator of the unrelenting extreme activity; an average season produces only a dozen named storms, including five or six hurricanes.

2020 already broke records when Subtropical Storm Theta formed a week or so into November, becoming the 29th named storm of the season. The previous record, 28, was set in 2005, a year that featured Hurricanes Emily, Katrina, Rita and Wilma, all of which attained Category 5 status.

Inside Climate News:

Hurricanes are not just intensifying faster and dropping more rain. Because of global warming, their destructive power persists longer after reaching land, increasing risks to communities farther inland that may be unprepared for devastating winds and flooding.

That shift was underlined last  week by an analysis of Atlantic hurricanes that made landfall between 1967 and 2018. The study, published Nov. 11 in Nature, showed that, in the second half of the study period, hurricanes weakened almost twice as slowly after hitting land. “As the world continues to warm, the destructive power of hurricanes will extend progressively farther inland,” the researchers wrote in their report.

Scientists have known for some time that, as global temperatures warm, hurricanes are intensifying, and are more likely to stall and produce rain.

But Pinaki Chakraborty, senior author of the study and a climate researcher with the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, said the new analysis found that with warming, hurricanes also take longer to decay after landfall, something researchers had not studied before. “It was thought that a warming world has had no pronounced effect on landfalling hurricanes,” Chakraborty said. “We show, not so, unfortunately.”

Tropical storms and hurricanes are the costliest climate-linked natural disasters. Since 2000, the damage from such extreme storms has added up to $831 billion, about 60 percent of the total caused by climate-related extremes tracked by a federal disaster database.

Penn State climate researcher Michael Mann, who was not involved in the Nature study, said the findings make clear that when hurricanes that already are intensified persist over land, they are likely to do more damage.

“Since flooding is the major cause of death and destruction from landfalling tropical storms, this study suggests the potential for even greater risk than has been established in past studies,” Mann said “It’s a simple idea, but it requires quite a bit of work to establish that this is really happening. And that’s what the authors, in my view, have done here.”

5 Responses to “Iota Revving Up”

  1. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    In my own self-interest I will be house-shopping with these things in mind (ignoring the realtors’ comments about a home never having been flooded, for example). At the same time I feel a version of Survivor Guilt knowing that other people don’t know enough (or have the resources) to be prepared.

    • James Wheaton Says:

      I do not have survivors guilt at all – or better I would not have, as I have so far not taken any life changing moves where climate is a prime factor. MOF – I would like to pad my barely adequate nest egg at the expense of climate deniers in some fashion. After all – one should be able to use one’s knowledge of the future, which many others do not have, to one’s financial benefit. Kind of like a legal form of insider trading. Just haven’t figured out a good way to do it in a timely fashion.

  2. Anthony William O'brien Says:

    I think this caught NOAA a little by surprise, the first bulletin issued Friday was fairly mildly worded. It was expected to form a Hurricane early this week, but not as soon as it did or to get a powerful as is now expected. https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/archive/2020/al31/al312020.public.001.shtml?

    It did not appear as though it was going to be impressive looking Earth nullschool a few days ago. I Didn’t save and don’t know if they archive past forward projections.

    I am so glad I am not a weather forecaster. I have no clue as to how things are going to pan out. I like Earth Nullschool they seem to get it right more often than some other models, not sure what they use.

  3. grindupbaker Says:

    For “persists longer after reaching land” it would if the ocean is warmer. When the eyewall reaches land some portion of the energy-collection area is still over the ocean, depending on coastline geography. Hence the extra issue for stalling with the eyewall just about on land. You could use Earth Nullschool or some such to review the energy-collection area SSTs.


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