Hurricane Matthew is dominating weather and climate news at the moment. It is a fierce tropical cyclone, or as it's called in the Atlantic, a hurricane. Currently it is again a Category 3 hurricane after it intensified over warm waters after dropping from a Cat 4 to a Cat 3 then back to a Cat 4. You can get the latest advisory information from NOAA's National Hurricane Centre, and view the current radar images at NWS.
There is another cyclone close by, Hurricane Nicole, which is currently a Cat 2 hurricane and is having an impact on Matthew. The wind image from Earth shows their current positions, with Matthew now affecting Florida:
Nicole is circling in the Atlantic and isn't expected to hit the USA directly.
Stay safe. If you want to help people devastated by the storm, weather.com lists some of the organisations providing assistance.
Matthew began as a tropical wave off the coast of Africa and moved west, strengthening into a tropical storm five days later. Two days later, in a matter of hours, it had rapidly intensified into a hurricane. It hit Haiti as a Cat 4 hurricane. Here is a description from NASA's Precipitation Measurement Systems (PMS) Facebook page:
Matthew began as a fairly impressive tropical wave that emerged off of the coast of Africa on the 23rd of September but had to make its way all the way across the Central Atlantic before finally organizing into a tropical storm on the morning of the 28th while passing through the Windward Islands. Matthew then slowly but steadily intensified into a minimal hurricane by the early afternoon of the following day as it continued to track westward through the central eastern Caribbean.
The next day, September 30th, Matthew underwent a period of rapid intensification; its winds increased in intensity from 85 knots (~98 mph) to 140 knots (~161 mph) in the span of just 15 hours, taking the storm from a Category 2 to a Category 5 hurricane. Matthew was only at Category 5 intensity briefly, dipping back down to a still powerful Category 4 storm, which it maintained over the coming the 3 days.
On Sunday, October 2nd, while over the central Caribbean, Matthew made a turn to the north between a weak trough of lower pressure over the Gulf of Mexico and a ridge of higher pressure to its east. This put the storm on a direct course for southwest Haiti, the eastern tip of Cuba and the lower Bahamas. Matthew stuck the southwest coast of Haiti around 7 am EDT as a powerful Category 4 hurricane near Les Anglais on the morning of Tuesday October 4th with maximum sustained winds reported at 145 mph by the National Hurricane Center.
Matthew then continued moving northward before striking the eastern tip of Cuba in the evening later that same day before starting to veer off towards the northwest towards the Central Bahamas as a slightly weaker Category 3 storm.
The damage and destruction
So far, more than
Desperation as #HurricaneMatthew toll hits 339 in Haiti. See more: https://t.co/9WOH0sZ0yP pic.twitter.com/LhStd46QA3— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) October 7, 2016
Destroyed houses in Jeremie #Haiti After #Matthew by @carlosrawlins for @Reuters pic.twitter.com/WaJDuSQ1c4— carel pedre (@carelpedre) October 6, 2016
Small towns along the western part of Haiti suffered extreme damage from heavy winds,rains and on the coastal areas storm surge #Matthew pic.twitter.com/9rhjO9BCc1— MINUSTAH (@MINUSTAH) October 6, 2016
The eye is just off Daytona Beach right now.
Daytona beach on Wednesday vs right now. pic.twitter.com/HYRLF9ZhIJ— Patrick Greenish Jr. (@greenishp) October 7, 2016
Water continuing to rise here in south Daytona Beach area #HurricaneMatthew @reedtimmerTVN @ConnorWX #Florida pic.twitter.com/fVTTOy49MT— Maria Molina Timmer (@ScienceByMaria) October 7, 2016
What is to come
In the USA, where communities are now preparing for its arrival, the warnings are for strong winds, heavy rain and particularly storm surges. The hurricane is expected to move up the east coast from Florida, turning east back over the ocean somewhere around South Carolina. The latest from the NOAA is shown below, where M is for Major Hurricane (not "medium"), H is for Hurricane (not "high"), and S is for "Tropical Storm".:
From the latest (2:00 am EDT, 6:00 am GMT) NOAA advisory:
The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline. There is a danger of life-threatening inundation during the next 36 hours along the Florida east coast, the Georgia coast, and the South Carolina coast from Boca Raton, Florida, to South Santee River, South Carolina.The map below shows the projected storm surge, from the NOAA prototype storm surge warning graphic.
The dark pink is a storm surge warning, and the light pink is a storm surge watch. The map below indicates the possible height of the flooding:
To get an idea of precipitation, below is a crop from an image from NASA while the storm was over the Bahamas. The purple colour indicates the most intense precipitation:
|Cloud top temperatures indicating thunderstorms. NASA’s Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this infrared view of Hurricane Matthew over the Bahamas at 11:27 a.m. PDT (2:27 p.m. EDT) on Oct. 6, 2016. The colors denote cloud top temperatures, with the most intense thunderstorms shown in purple and blue. Source: NASA Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech|
Is Hurricane Matthew "unusual"?
I suppose one could say that every hurricane is unique so in that sense, each one has unusual features. Tropical cyclones are relatively rare. There are usually no more than a few tropical cyclones a year all around the world. In the Atlantic, there aren't normally no more than one or two hurricanes of Cat 4 or higher in any year.
There's an interview with Kerry Emanuel on Hurricane Matthew and hurricanes in general, in which he mentions how damage can be worse these days, because sea levels are higher. He also talks about how there has been a huge increase in coastal development during the recent hurricane "drought". This wasn't a drought in the real sense. Hurricanes have still been happening. It's just that they haven't made landfall in the USA - or not while classified as hurricanes. (Sandy had a huge impact, but had diminished to a tropical storm at the time of landfall.)
Kerry Emanuel stressed that even if the frequency or intensity of hurricanes didn't change, rising seas combined with increased coastal development means that the impact will be worse over time.
Some of the hurricane heroes
We'd know much less about Matthew and other tropical storms if it wasn't for people I regard as hurricane heroes.
#NOAA43 crew about to take off into #Hurricane #Matthew to sample the surrounding environment & help determine when it's going to turn NE pic.twitter.com/6NuUA4qGNS— NOAA AOML (@NOAA_AOML) October 6, 2016
Matthew through the eyes of climate science deniers
Over at WUWT, Anthony Watts started out with a couple of lacklustre articles, then geared up as the threat became more difficult to downplay. He now has posted 14 articles, some of which are just reporting the status, others in which he writes straw man attacks on climate hawks.
In one of his earlier articles, Anthony wrote a "nightmare scenario" headline: "Latest hurricane #Matthew forecast spaghetti plots show increased uncertainty with a nightmare scenario". Down the bottom of that article he wrote:
Meanwhile, despite the increased uncertainty, the usual doomsters are out in force:His "usual doomsters" who are "out in force" was Seth Borenstein. Anthony linked to a tweet from Seth Borenstein, which was a link to a straightforward article providing some questions and answers on Hurricane Matthew. Neither the tweet nor the article were hyperbolic - just some facts. Since then, Anthony Watts has come "out in force" himself. So far he has written the following articles on the subject.
- Latest forecast track shows hurricane #Matthew grazing Florida East Coast - 3 October
- #Matthew takes aim on Florida, likely to end 4000 day major hurricane drought for USA - 4 October
- Latest forecast spaghetti plots for Hurricane #Matthew - 4 October
- Hurricane data from 1851 suggests #Matthew landfall on east coast of Florida is a longshot - 5 October
- Seeing death skulls in hurricane #Matthew - 5 October
- Models suggest hurricane #Matthew could hit Florida twice - 5 October
- Latest hurricane #Matthew forecast spaghetti plots show increased uncertainty with a nightmare scenario - 5 October
- #Matthew may reach CAT5 before it reaches Florida – 4000 day hurricane drought mark reached - 6 October
- #Matthew Forecast: 9 million people may lose power - 6 October
- Worse: Latest #Matthew spaghetti models show landfall near Cape Canaveral, and loopback 4-5+ days, millions affected - 6 October
- NASA’s impressive 3D video animation of #Matthew before it slams Haiti - 6 October
- Double eyewall structure revealed in hurricane #Matthew - 6 October
- Why trying to link hurricane #Matthew to ‘Climate Change’ is just political hype - 6 October
- #Matthew downgraded to Cat3 hurricane as it approaches Florida coast - 7 October
In his latest but one article, Anthony referred to Sandy, which was disastrous, as "much ballyhooed". He clearly doesn't "believe" that rising sea levels will make storm surges that much worse. Nor does he "believe" that having more and more people living on the east coast of the USA poses any special risk. (There is an estimated additional 1.7 million people living in Florida since Hurricane Wilma in 2005.)
Anthony's only references to "political hype" were an article by Joe Romm at Think Progress, and an article by climate disinformer Marc Morano. I'll let you decide which is "hype". He didn't refer to the article by Chris Mooney at Washington Post, which had the title: "Here’s what we can — and can’t — say about climate change and Hurricane Matthew".
Marc Morano didn't cite any climate science. He just put up a chart from the EPA showing all tropical cyclones in the North Atlantic. He didn't distinguish between cyclones of different intensity, except in the context of those making landfall in the USA. It's not straightforward to work out change in hurricanes going back a long way, in part because it's only in recent decades that satellites have shown up hurricanes that might otherwise have not been detected or if they were, their intensity would have been hard to measure. The charts below are from the lists of Cat 4 and Cat 5 hurricanes in Wikipedia. Take it with a pinch of salt. I haven't done the same (yet) for Pacific cyclones.
Because it's likely that the early years in the above chart aren't complete, below is a chart just since the mid-1920s (which may not be complete or accurate either).
I think that the latest year is not complete for Cat 4 hurricanes.
In contrast to Marc Morano and Anthony Watts, Joe Romm quoted hurricane and weather expert, Jeff Masters, and Anthony Watts own preferred expert Philip Klotzbach! (No wonder Anthony refused to link to his article.) Dr Romm also cited a number of scientific papers that suggested that as the oceans warm, the intensity of cyclones increases. He wrote:
While we aren’t seeing more total hurricanes, we are seeing more of the Category 4 or 5 super-hurricanes, the ones that historically have done the most damage and destroyed entire coastal cities. We’re also seeing a sharp rise in the most damaging storm surges, whereby even a Category 1 hurricane (such as Sandy) can cause unprecedented damage.The odd thing is that Anthony Watts copied a tweet from Philip Klobatsch, in which he referred to predictions of stronger cyclones and said that "...we won't verify w/current observations for 20, 30 or maybe 50 years". (That may or may not be so. Some scientists have reported that even the current data is indicating that storms are intensifying.)
Anyway, instead of acknowledging that Philip Klobatsch wasn't rejecting the predictions, Anthony oddly wrote: "Remember that, when the climate doomsters try to convince you that this is all “climate change” driven." What are we meant to remember? Are we meant to remember to check back in 20, 30, or maybe 50 years to see if the predictions were correct?
In any case, "climate doomsters" are not trying to convince you that "this is all "climate change" driven". What they are pointing out is that it is likely that:
- there will be an increase in the frequency of the most intense tropical cyclones, and
- an increase in the intensity of the fiercest cylones, and
- an increase in the damage from all cyclones that are near coastal areas, because of rising sea levels (and increases in population).
For more from the deniosphere, there were some tweets from one of Anthony Watts' favourite conspiracy theorists:
The "deplorables" reference is presumably to Hillary Clinton's comment: ""You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the ‘basket of deplorables,’" she said. "Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it.”The deplorables are starting to wonder if govt has been lying to them about Hurricane Matthew intensity to make exaggerated point on climate— MATT DRUDGE (@DRUDGE) October 6, 2016
That statement from Hillary Clinton, which is probably an underestimate, has been portrayed as a gaffe. The deplorables don't like it when they are called out for what they are. The tweet from Matt Drudge has been roundly criticised for being utterly irresponsible. I wonder how many of the deplorables agree with him?
References and further reading
Matthew (Atlantic Ocean) - updates from NASA
Advisories on Hurricane Matthew - updates from NOAA National Hurricane Centre
Radar images - National Weather Service
Hurricane Matthew: How You Can Help the People of Haiti - By Pam Wright from weather.com
More from the media and blogs
- Hurricane Matthew: Death toll soars in Haiti - from Al Jazeera
- Matthew Toys With Florida Coast; Major Surge Threat Remains - Jeff Masters at Wunderground.com
- Wet, wild and weird: Some answers about Hurricane Matthew - Seth Borenstein at AP
- Hurricane Matthew is a serious threat to Florida. Here's what we know. - Brad Plumer at Vox
- Hurricane Matthew to pound Florida, East Coast as a Category 4 storm - Accuweather (with video)
- The Climate Context of Hurricane Matthew - interview with Kerry Emanuel at WarmRegards.com
- Hurricane Matthew Could Be One Of The Strongest Storms To Hit Florida’s East Coast - Matt Lanza at FiveThirtyEight
- Hurricane Matthew: Florida hit by 'monster' storm after hundreds killed in Haiti – latest - The Guardian
- Hurricane Matthew: Hundreds dead in Haiti storm disaster - BBC
- Hurricane Matthew begins to make landfall in Florida after barrelling through Haiti, Dominican Republic - ABC News
- Hurricane Matthew: East coast of US braces as deadly storm lashes Florida - SMH - with (noisy) video
- Hurricane Matthew: The Scary Clown of Hurricanes! - Greg Laden, with more here and here.
- Here’s what we can — and can’t — say about climate change and Hurricane Matthew - Chris Mooney at Washington Post
- Hurricane Matthew is super strong — because of climate change - Joe Romm at Think Progress
- Conservatives, progressives battle over ‘deplorables,’ leaving quote itself behind - By David Weigel at Washington Post