Hurricane Delta bears striking resemblance to Atlantic's most intense storm
The Hurricane Delta intensified at an incredible rate: more than 85 mph over 24 hours, reaching Category 4 on Tuesday before falling back to Category 2. It was the fastest intensification rate in the Caribbean since Hurricane Wilma in 2005, when that storm erupted from 75 mph to 185 mph in just 24 hours.
Delta’s rapid intensification is no accident. Memorable storms like Hurricane Laura this season and storms last season like Michael and Harvey have done the same. Over the past few decades, the rapid intensification due to the hotter water due to man-made climate change has increased by about 3 to 4 miles per hour per decade. That means that a system in 1980 that could have stepped up 40 mph in 24 hours could now step up 55 mph in 24 hours.
But Delta looks particularly similar to Wilma, the most intense storm in the Atlantic. And it could be disastrous too.
Delta forms in exactly the same place as Wilma over a pool with the hottest water in the northern hemisphere. It also forms at the same time of year, and both storm eyes are tiny "pinhole" eyes.
A reminder that #Wilma was founded in October in the same place and intensified rapidly at record pace. That's not to say #Delta will follow suit, but the water in this area is hot and deep and the shear relaxes under the UL ridge. So no surprises if ... pic.twitter.com/D2aZ4FtlLb
- Jeff Berardelli (@WeatherProf) October 5, 2020
The features add to an amazing intensification rate and the likelihood of catastrophic effects.
Delta showed a telltale sign of rapid intensification - a lightning strike in the middle of a storm.
At the core of #Delta, there is a pretty powerful lightning strike going on. Unfortunately, this will only continue the intensification process as it wraps around the core. pic.twitter.com/2mOmVvJl5Y
- Steve Copertino (@TheSteveCop) October 6, 2020
A lightning bolt indicates a rapid vertical upward movement and an explosive thunderstorm development. It may come as a surprise that lightning bolts aren't very common near the center of a hurricane. So when there are many lightning bolts, red flags are raised.
Typically, the vertical movement is converted to horizontal movement within hours as the thunderstorms wrap around the circular center of the storm and increase the wind speed of the storm. As a result, the air pressure drops and the storm deepens.
This satellite loop makes me shiver. The holey eye becomes visible, and hot towers and lightning continue in the eye wall. Also, check out how the CDO got so much more symmetrical! Recon just found a pressure of ~ 953MB and winds of about 125 km / h, so #Delta has just started. pic.twitter.com/eJIXKmcMhG
- Kal Tellefsen (@KalTellefsenWX) October 6, 2020
Why is this happening now? There are several factors. Most obvious is the location of Delta. The northwestern Caribbean is known to be home to the hottest water in our part of the world.
The key is not that sea surface temperatures are hotter than anywhere else; It is so that the heat penetrates deeper into the water. That means there is an endless amount of high octane fuel to power episodes with incredible intensification, as hotter water means stronger storms.
Here's a look at the ocean's heat content. #Delta will move through the deep red porthole in the northwestern Caribbean today and tomorrow. High octane fuel. pic.twitter.com/OpQvmDX4wr
- Jeff Berardelli (@WeatherProf) October 5, 2020
The fact that Delta forms in October specifically in the Caribbean is another reason for its adrenaline pumping.
Almost every hurricane season in October (when Wilma was founded) opens a specialty in the Caribbean. It's called the Central American Gyre; A gyrus is just a broad twist. On the surface, this top rotates in the same direction as the hurricanes, which runs counterclockwise, and helps tropical systems like Delta in their development.
However, in the upper levels we tend to see the counterclockwise rotation called the high pressure crest. This key component over storms like delta allows rising air to exit at the top of the storm and flow outward away from the center in what is known as the chimney effect. It works like a vacuum and keeps the engine of a storm running.
But perhaps the most amazing resemblance to Wilma is Delta's extremely tiny eye, only 4 miles wide. Wilma had the smallest registered eye in the Atlantic - 2.3 miles in diameter. Meteorologists believe this is a major reason Wilma was able to get so strong and fast.
The science is pretty simple: the smaller the eye, the faster the winds can circulate around the center.
Think back to the vaguely familiar scientific terms of centripetal force and angular momentum. For laypeople it is very similar to an ice skater. The closer an ice skater pulls his arms into his body, the faster the skater can turn.
When it comes to hurricanes, it's an easy way to think about packing energy more densely into a smaller area and therefore allowing the winds to turn faster.
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