95th Anniversary of Tarpon Springs hurricane

Ship stranded by storm surge of 1921 hurricane (Florida State Archives)

Ship stranded by storm surge of 1921 hurricane
(Florida State Archives)

On October 25th, a severe hurricane struck the Tampa area bringing a surge of 10 to 12 feet (3 to 3.5 m) in Tampa Bay.

The storm originated somewhere in the southwestern Caribbean Sea, but was not detected until Oct. 20th, by which time it was already at tropical storm strength.  Like many late October storms the system moved northward from its breeding ground and brushed Nicaragua and Honduras with winds and waves.  Three days after first being observed, it moved through the Yucatan Channel as a major hurricane.  Although it dumped heavy rains on the western tip of Cuba, no major damage was caused.

Once in the Gulf of Mexico, the hurricane turned northeastward, and picked up forward speed.  By the evening of the 25th, the storm center made landfall at Tarpon Springs with maximum sustained winds estimated at 115 mph (185 km/hr).  But the majority of the damage was caused by the storm surge on Florida’s west coast from Punta Gorda to Tampa.  The storm weakened passing over Florida exiting north of Cape Canaveral.  It moved eastward out to sea and was tracked for four days before it became extratropical east of Bermuda.

During its crossing of Florida the hurricane was responsible for eight deaths and US$10 million in damages.

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HRD Seminar – Dr. Andy Hazelton, Princeton University and NOAA/GFDL – 25 October 2016

Dr. Hazelton presented a seminar on “Evaluation of Tropical Cyclone Structure in High-Resolution FV3 Simulations”.


The FV3 dynamical core with GFS physics has shown skill both in global forecasting and the ability to simulate high-impact weather events.   Here, a regionally stretched and nested version of the model, centered over the Atlantic Basin with a grid spacing of approximately 3 km, is used to evaluate tropical cyclone (TC) forecasts of track, intensity, and structure. Two different configurations are tested: one in which the convective parameterization is turned on on the 3- km nest, and one in which the convective parameterization is turned off.  In addition, a new modified version of the Lin Microphysics (called GFDL Microphysics) is tested against the two simulations using the original Zhao and Carr (1997) microphysics. Simulations are performed on 3 TCs: Earl 2010, Edouard 2014, and Gonzalo 2014

In addition to verification of track and intensity, the model is evaluated by comparison of the model data with high-resolution airborne Doppler radar composite from the NOAA-P3 aircraft.   Structural metrics analyzed include the radius of maximum wind (RMW), the slope of the RMW, and the depth of the vortex. Preliminary results indicate that keeping the convective parameterization turned on results in the best forecast of structure (particularly more realistic RMW and vortex depth) as well as a better forecast of intensity and rapid intensification.  In addition,  the  new  microphysics  scheme  appears  to  produce  more  realistic  TC  structure. Simulations of more TCs are planned in order to generalize the results and investigate further ways to improve FV3 TC forecasts.

A recording of the presentation is available on the anonymous ftp site:



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HRD Debrief for missions into Hurricane Matthew – 20 October 2016

HRD researchers discussed the results from the 9 P-3, 9 G-IV, and 3 Global Hawk missions into Hurricane Matthew (30 September to 8 October 2016). The agenda for the discussion was:


Slides from the debrief are available at:



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Frank Marks talks to the History News Network about Hurricane Matthew

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You can read the article at http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/164176.

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Paper on the formation of the secondary eyewall of Hurricane Edouard published in Monthly Weather Review

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You can read the article at http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/full/10.1175/MWR-D-15-0421.1.

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20th Anniversary of Hurricane Lili

Hurricane Lili at Catagory 3 status east of the Bahamas, Oct. 19, 1996 (NOAA)

Hurricane Lili at Catagory 3 status east of the Bahamas, Oct. 19, 1996

On October 18, 1996, Hurricane Lili slammed into Cuba with over 100 mph (160 km/hr) winds and heavy rains.  The storm, during its life cycle, would leave destruction from Central America to the British Isles.

Lili formed from a tropical depression which developed on Oct. 15th in the typical breeding grounds for mid-October, the western Caribbean Sea.  It crawled slowly northward over the next couple of days, becoming more organized.  By the 17th, it reached hurricane strength and turned to the northeast picking up forward speed.

That afternoon, NOAA42 was dispatched by NHC to perform a reconnaissance mission as the storm approached the Isle of Youth.  During the flight, the storm strength remained even and its forward progress stalled.  But afterward, it resumed its northeastly track and, that night, crossed the Isle of Youth and Cuba, gaining strength as it did so.  The following day, the storm re-emerged from Cuba’s north shore.

NOAA 42 lower fuselage radar depiction of Hurricane Lili at 01:30 UTC Oct. 19, 1996 (NOAA/AOML/HRD)

NOAA 42 lower fuselage radar depiction of Hurricane Lili at 01:30 UTC Oct. 19, 1996

As it did so, NOAA42 flew another reconnaissance mission into the hurricane. Lili’s central pressure dropped during this flight and its rain bands were becoming more organized.  The storm pounded the Bahamas and south Florida with heavy rains, up to 12″ in isolated areas.  The hurricane intensified to Category-3 status in the following 24 hour period, with its winds peaking at 115 mph (185 km/hr) as it departed from the Bahamas.

It continued to move toward the northeast maintaining hurricane strength.  It even slowed at mid-ocean where it ramped back up to Category-2 status. But from there it began to weaken and became extratropical.  The system was tracked over the British Isles where it was considered to be the strongest storm to affect the islands since 1961.  It produced wind gusts up to 92mph (148 km/hr) in Wales.  Waves of 40 ft (12 m) dislodged an oil platform in the North Sea, and a 4-ft (1.2-m) storm surge moved up the Thames River.  It moved into the North Sea and was absorbed into a frontal zone.  During its life, Lili was responsible for 22 deaths and US$660 million in damages; almost half of the total damage was in the United Kingdom.

Paper written by HRD scientists using data from Hurricane Lili

Dunion, J. P., S. H. Houston, C. S. Velden, and M. D. Powell, 2002: Application of surface-adjusted GOES low-level cloud0drift winds in the environment of Atlantic tropical cyclones.  Part II:  Integration into surface wind analyses.  Mon. Wea. Rev., 130, 1347-1355.

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Frank Marks talks to the Cosumnes River College Connection about Hurricane Matthew

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Read the article at http://crcconnection.com/2016/10/18/hurricane-matthew-leaves-nearly-1-2-mln-in-u-s-southeast.html.

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110th Anniversary of the Florida Keys hurricane


Henry M. Flagler (Flagler Museum)

Henry M. Flagler
(Flagler Museum)

On the morning of October 18, 1906, a severe hurricane swept through the Florida Keys and across south Florida, destroying homes, killing scores of people, and nearly killing a railroad.

The storm’s tortuous path began as a disturbance moving along the southern reaches of the Caribbean Sea in early October.  It wasn’t until it cleared the coast of Venezuela that a circulation became established.  Moving westward, it quickly strengthened into a hurricane before coming ashore in Nicaragua on Oct. 10th.  It weakened as it moved northwestward over Central America, but caused much flooding and many landslides.  It ruined banana and rubber plantations and collapsed many buildings resulting in millions of dollars in damage.

The storm began to regain strength as it briefly moved over the Gulf of Honduras and struck British Honduras on Oct. 14th.  It reemerged over the Caribbean and rapidly intensified before making landfall on the Isle of Pines on Oct. 17th.  It passed over the island of Cuba that evening causing dozens of deaths and ruining the banana and tobacco crops.

Cuba did little to diminish the winds.  By the time it moved over the Keys, the winds were estimated at 120 mph (195 km/hr) and the central pressure measured at 953 mb (28.14 in-Hg).  At this time, Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast (FEC) Railway was constructing a spur from Miami to Key West.  Many of the workers, when warnings for the hurricane were issued, were evacuated from tent camps to barges and houseboats for protection.  But the storm surge swept over the boats, dragging men into the sea.  Over 40 were rescued by a steamer in the area, but 135 perished.

Track of 1906 Florida Keys hurricane (Unisys)

Track of 1906 Florida Keys hurricane

The hurricane moved northeastward along the Keys, and sank several steamers off Elliott Key.  As it passed near Miami, the surge flooded the town and collapsed homes and churches.  It cut all telegraph communications south of Jupiter as it moved out to sea.  But the storm wasn’t done with Florida, yet.  On Oct. 20th, its forward progress slowed and the hurricane looped westward toward South Carolina and Georgia.  On Oct. 21st, the tropical storm moving southwestward hit Jacksonville and crossed the state.  The system was tracked as a tropical depression as it made its way as far as the Yucatan Peninsula where it dissipated.  During this long, hairpin course, the storm was responsible for over 240 deaths and US$4 million in damage.

It took nearly a year for the FEC to recover from the hurricane.  Eventually, equipment was repaired or replaced and new workers hired and the spur completed to Key West in 1912.  The railway was battered but survived several more storms, including a notable one in 1919.  However, the infamous Labor Day storm of 1935 repeated the tragedy of workers (this time on the Overseas Highway) being caught and killed by a hurricane.  And that tempest finally ruined Flagler’s railway enough that it was never repaired.

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HRD Seminar – Dr. Chris Hennon and Will Clark, University of North Carolina at Asheville – 11 October 2016

Dr. Hennon presented a seminar on “Toward a Global Homogeneous Tropical Cyclone Data Record”.


Any analysis of global tropical cyclone (TC) activity must account for the myriad of interagency differences in determining maximum wind speed.  Although the use of the Dvorak technique is the dominating factor in the vast majority of all agency estimates, recent work has shown that significant differences at the base “Data-T” and “Current Intensity” levels exist, rendering attempts to homogenize interagency intensities unsatisfactory.  In this presentation, I will discuss the development of a global TC data record derived from homogenous infrared satellite imagery.  By applying a consistent, Dvorak-like algorithm to crowd sourced classifications, I will show that in most cases a reasonable measure of TC intensity can be obtained.  Further refinements will lead to a 32-year homogeneous record of global TC intensity that may be useful for reanalysis or climate studies.

Mr. Clark presented a seminar on “Real Time Analysis of Economic Loss Due To Hurricane Surface Winds and Storm Surge”.


A real-time potential economic loss model from tropical cyclones will be presented.  By integrating geographic information systems (GIS), Python, and Structured Query Language (SQL) tools with National Hurricane Center (NHC) track, wind and storm surge forecast products, a wind and storm surge hazard assessment of potential economic loss at the county and even parcel level can be generated and updated as new information arrives.  A 2-dimensional surface wind representation of a tropical cyclone at each forecast time is created using parametric wind profiles.  For storm surge assessment, data are obtained from the P-SURGE product at NHC.  The intersection of these physical parameters with summary statistics of property level data produces a real time impact assessment.  This type of information can be used by insurance companies as well as resilience planning efforts at the local, state, and federal levels.

A recording of both presentations is available on the anonymous ftp site:


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Joe Cione and Frank Marks talk to Scientific American about flying through hurricanes and the data they collect

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Read about it at https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/hurricane-matthew-monitors-fly-into-the-belly-of-the-beast/.

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