Hurricane Nicole passed very close to Bermuda midday on Thursday 13 October as a strong category three hurricane. Preliminary center fixes indicate that Nicole passed about 9 nm (10 mi) east of Bermuda at noon on Thursday with maximum sustained winds near 105 kts (120 mph). At this time, Nicole’s eye was about 30 nm (35 mi) wide, and so Bermuda briefly entered the calm of the eye, but not before enduring hours of violent winds and torrential rain that led to isolated structural damage, significant utilities disruptions, and widespread flooding in coastal areas, low-lying areas, and poor-drainage areas.
After peaking as an extremely dangerous category four hurricane the night before impacts on Bermuda were felt, Nicole began to weaken on its final approach on the island. Vertical wind shear had markedly increased during this time, disrupting the circulation and degrading the convective organization. The solid ring of deep convection around the eye, aka the eyewall, opened up into a semi-circle that became more poorly defined as the hurricane approached.
[See these changes on long radar loops of Nicole’s approach Here]
Traditional hurricane structure and observations from ongoing Hurricane Hunter missions suggest that the strongest winds of Hurricane Nicole missed Bermuda to the east as the island saw effects from the northern and then western parts of the eyewall, not the eastern eyewall where, in this case, the strongest winds would have been found. However, damaging hurricane force winds were observed for several hours, mainly as the northern eye wall of the hurricane crossed the island.
Peak gusts in this part of the hurricane were measured up to 118 kts (136 mph) at an unofficial station at Commissioner’s Point, while the official peak winds measured at the airport reached gusts of 91 kts (105 mph). The peak official 10-minute sustained winds reached 68 kts (78 mph) at the airport. Areas exposed to easterly winds, particularly near hill tops, likely saw the highest winds in Nicole.
Additionally, the Bermuda Weather Service was able to get an estimate of rainfall total at their office. During the hurricane, 6.77″ of rain was caught. This makes 13 October 2016, the wettest October day on record, beating the previous record of 5.24″ set on 29 October 1967. This rain comes on the heels of a very wet week prior to the hurricane and a record wet September as 11.80″ of rain was observed for the month, beating the previous record of 11.15″ in September 1983.
An official and comprehensive post-storm summary will be released by the National Hurricane Center in the coming months.
The core of now category two Hurricane Nicole is expected to pass near or over Bermuda early on Thursday. As of the 3pm advisory from the NHC, this could mean dangerous coastal flooding from a 6-8 foot storm surge, flooding away from the coast due to heavy rain of 4-8″, and isolated damage from possible tornadoes. Tropical storm conditions are expected to begin after midnight tonight and last through much of Thursday with a period of hurricane force winds beginning Thursday morning lasting through mid-afternoon. Sustained winds are expected to peak near 90 kts (105 mph), and will be higher in elevated and exposed locations (possibly near category three strength) with higher gusts.
Last night, Nicole quickly strengthened from a tropical storm to a category two hurricane, increasing winds by 30 kts and decreasing pressure by 21 mb in the 24 hours between 12pm yesterday and today. Nicole had stalled or drifted slowly to the west during this time as it interacted with the front left behind as the extratropical remnants of Matthew exited the Canadian Maritimes and left Nicole in a weak steering environment.
Nicole is poised for some additional modest strengthening as the hurricane sits in a region of warm sea surface temperatures (~28 °C), low vertical wind shear, and generally high moisture content. However, some drier and more stable air to the west, might be intermittently wrapping into the circulation and slowing the pace of intensification. Nicole is expected to be a strong hurricane and it is still possible for Nicole to become a major hurricane before reaching the island.
The track forecast philosophy has proved true for the last five days and hasn’t changed; Nicole has made the turn to the north and is still expected to pass close to or over Bermuda Thursday morning as it turns more northeastward. Wobbles either side of the track could make a huge difference in terms of conditions felt. These wobbles are due to inner-core dynamics are hard to predict with skill.
Track more to the left: easterly winds veer to the south, increasing to hurricane force as Nicole passes (east eyewall)
Track more to the right: easterly winds increase to hurricane force as Nicole approaches, suddenly become light and shift to the west, suddenly increase to hurricane force as Nicole passes (eye)
Track even more to the right: easterly winds increase to hurricane force and back to the north as Nicole passes (west eyewall)
Wind direction strongly controls who/where sees the most significant coastal flooding due to storm surge. For instance, should winds reach their peak out of the south, then south shore would take the brunt of any storm surge. Similarly, this changes wind exposure as windward hilltops see dramatically higher winds than the sheltered lee-side valleys. It is therefore imperative to both know your exposure and prepare for the scenario that exploits your exposure.
Expect scattered to widespread tree damage and power outages, isolated structural damage (mainly to roofing on elevated and exposed locations or along the track of any tornadoes, and along the coast if an inundating storm surge develops), and isolated flooding from rainfall in low-lying and poor drainage areas. Significant coastal erosion will likely begin to take shape tonight as seas inside the reef become rough, and isolated power outages are likely before dawn tomorrow as winds begin to reach 50 kts in exposed locations.
Yesterday afternoon and overnight, Nicole put on a somewhat unexpected burst of organization and intensification peaking as a category two hurricane with maximum sustained winds estimated near 90 kts (105 mph). This morning however, Nicole has begun to take on the expected erratic track and has weakened due to stronger vertical wind shear. Nicole, however, remains a ‘Potential Threat’ to Bermuda. After drifting to the south and weakening over the next two to three days, Nicole is expected to accelerate northwards toward Bermuda, possibly re-intensifying and has a chance to become a ‘Threat’ to the island by early next week.
[Threat: When effects from any tropical cyclone are possible in Bermuda within 72 hours. – BWS Glossary]
Nicole, after becoming stationary overnight and this morning, is expected to begin a slow drift to the south. In the short term, Nicole has therefore passed its closest point of approach to Bermuda which was about 285 nm south of the island at 6pm yesterday. However, Nicole is still a potential threat to Bermuda at about 290 nm to the south as of today’s midday advisory.
Nicole’s southward drift is expected to pick up pace today and gradually turn back to the west on Sunday as deep layered ridging builds to the north of the storm. Early next week, however, that ridging begins to move east of Nicole as another deep layered shortwave trough approaches the region from the west. This in combination with interaction from Matthew exiting the US east coast is expected to turn Nicole back toward the north. Nicole again approaches Bermuda early next week, possibly becoming a threat to the island by mid-week. The track forecast early next week is still more uncertain than average and it is not clear how Nicole will interact with both the shortwave trough and Matthew in the coming days.
In terms of intensity, very strong vertical wind shear is currently weakening Nicole. These strong upper level winds have stripped the organized convection away from the low-level center of Nicole this morning. This has weakened Nicole dramatically from a category two with maximum sustained winds near 85 kts (100 mph) to a tropical storm with winds near 60 kts (70 mph) in six hours.
This strong vertical wind shear is expected to continue to weaken Nicole today to a minimal tropical storm by Saturday. These unfavorable upper winds are expected to persist at least through Monday, limiting Nicole’s intensity. Nicole could degenerate into a remnant low in this time, or could prove again resilient to large scale shear and maintain moderate tropical storm intensity. However, the environment is expected to gradually become more conducive for development as Nicole approaches Bermuda early next week.
The overall atmospheric set up next week is again very uncertain and therefore it is important to continue to monitor the progression of Nicole over the next five days and prepare accordingly should Nicole become a threat to Bermuda.
No adverse weather is currently expected from Nicole in the next five days. However, Nicole is forecast to take on an erratic track starting Friday, keeping the storm within the ‘potential threat’ radius (400 nm) for at least the next five days while maintaining moderate tropical storm strength.
[Potential Threat: When the center of a tropical cyclone is expected to pass within 400 nm of Bermuda within 72 hours. – BWS Glossary]
Further, the steering patterns that are responsible for Nicole’s erratic forecast track between Friday through Sunday are unstable. That means small changes in the steering pattern will result in large changes in the eventual track of Nicole. Adverse weather related to Nicole will therefore remain a possibility early Saturday, through and beyond Sunday.
Nicole originated from a tropical wave embedded in the inter-tropical convergence zone in the Central Atlantic. The wave tracked northwestward, staying northeast of the Caribbean. It experienced significant vertical wind shear from an upper level low nearby that slowed organization of the cyclone. Yesterday morning, the low became stacked with the axis of the weakening upper level low where vertical wind shear is locally lower, and convection was able to organize allowing a tropical cyclone to form.
On the 12pm forecast from NHC, Nicole will be over sufficiently warm waters and in a regime of gradually increasing wind shear. However, how (un)favorable the upper level winds are depends on the eventual evolution of the steering pattern, which is currently being forecast with lower than normal confidence and therefore, Nicole’s intensity forecast is lower confidence than normal. NHC is forecasting near steady intensity over the next three days, then a slight weakening.
Hurricane Matthew is currently exiting Haiti and Cuba where locally extreme damage was likely done. Matthew is about to begin a 36 hour track through the Bahamas impacting many of these islands with violent winds, life-threatening storm surge and heavy rain related flooding. Florida is then at threat from Matthew as the hurricane exits the Bahamas. Matthew too has an uncertain long-range track, with a small but non-zero chance for impacts in Bermuda.
Over the weekend, Hurricane Matthew rapidly intensified into the Atlantic Basin’s first category five hurricane since Hurricane Felix (2007) as it meandered in the eastern and central Caribbean Sea. Matthew then weakened due to a combination of inner core dynamics and some intermittent dry air entrainment, but remained an extremely dangerous category four hurricane.
At category four strength, Matthew made landfall in southwestern Haiti near Les Anglais on Tuesday morning, crossed the Gulf of Gonaives, and made a second landfall in eastern Cuba near Baracoa. Near the landfall locations, a combination of violent category four strength winds and significant storm surge likely caused locally extreme damage. Heavy rains, spreading far from the center of Matthew, are responsible for flooding across the Caribbean, particularly in Haiti, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic.
Interaction with land over Haiti and Cuba has weakened Matthew only slightly to a category 3 hurricane. Matthew is currently in the south-central Bahamas. Violent winds and storm surge will make conditions extremely dangerous and locally life-threatening on many of the Bahamas islands as Matthew tracks through the island chain.
Further, Matthew is in a moist environment with low vertical wind shear and is over some of the warmest water in the Atlantic, as a result, Matthew is expected to at least maintain its category three intensity, if not re-strengthen as it moves through the Bahamas over the next day or so.
By late on Thursday, Matthew is expected to be approaching the east coast of Florida as a major hurricane. Between day two and three Matthew is expected to parallel the east coast of Florida before turning sharply to the east on Saturday. However, small changes in the track of this hurricane could bring violent winds onshore, or keep them far off shore leading to an unusually wide range of possible impact scenarios despite a forecast with near average confidence through this timeframe.
After the eastward turn on Saturday, as with Nicole, the forecast becomes much less confident. Right now the most supported scenario appears to have Matthew beginning to turn to the south then west and threaten the Bahamas and Florida once again in the 5-10day range. However, Matthew could also continue eastward and become a ‘potential threat’ to Bermuda. At this time, no adverse weather is expected from Matthew in Bermuda.
Tropical Storm Karl failed to strengthen into a Hurricane as it passed Bermuda. Karl’s structure dramatically changed and deep convection waned in the final hours of approach. This was evidenced in aircraft reconnaissance missions that were ongoing into the storm into the early hours of Saturday. The region of peak winds shifted from the northwest quadrant to the southeast quadrant, and the center of the storm was surrounded by a gaping region of moderate winds.
Karl passed about 45 nm southeast of the island just before 6am on Saturday with maximum sustained winds near 65mph. Winds around Bermuda peaked later in the morning as Karl moved away and winds backed to the north. Observations show sustained winds generally peaked in the 20-40 kts range with gusts up to 50 kts, particularly in elevated and exposed areas. Further, only these exposed locations saw sustained tropical storm force winds and even then, only in/around gusty showers.
Storm total rains from Karl officially reached 4.71″ at the airport. Automated personal weather stations around the island saw notably lower storm totals and this might be an artifact of measuring methods. Measuring rainfall accurately in tropical cyclones is notoriously difficult because of the accompanying high winds and I would suspect that the official total is likely closer to what actually fell.
Aside from a few delayed business openings, some transportation disruption, and isolated power outages, Bermuda fared well through Karl.
See a preliminary and unofficial list of observations around Bermuda from Wundground and BWS:
While Karl struggled with strong vertical wind shear for a little longer than expected, and weakened into a tropical depression, Karl has since moved into a region with lower vertical wind shear. The upper level low that had been trailing Karl and keeping strong, shearing upper-level winds over the storm has continued moving off to the west while Karl has begun to turn to the northwest.
This diminishing vertical wind shear across Karl is allowing the deep convection to organize near the center of the cyclone. Further, sufficient sea surface temperatures of ~29°C/84°F and a more moist environment are helping Karl sustain this deep convection. These factors support Karl strengthening steadily on its approach to Bermuda. Aircraft observation have indicated that Karl has continued to strengthen overnight with the minimum central pressures falling at a rate of 9 mb between 9pm last night and 9am this morning, a sign that Karl has begun this strengthening, and could strengthen more quickly today as its environment continues to improve. Karl could strengthen into a hurricane before passing Bermuda and additional warnings might be necessary later today.
Karl is expected to continue tracking to the northwest this morning, turning more to the north this afternoon, and north-northeast this evening/overnight. The 9am forecast track from the National Hurricane Center takes Karl about 50 nm to the southeast of Bermuda.
On this forecast track, Bermuda can expect strengthening easterly winds today, winds then back to the northeast and north this evening and overnight and peak as Karl passes to the southeast. Tomorrow morning, winds continue backing to the north and northwest and begin to subside. Northwesterly winds continue to diminish through the day on Saturday.
Steady, at times heavy, rain is expected to begin this afternoon, with isolated to scattered showers possible late this morning. Embedded squally showers are possible as early as this evening through overnight with a small but non-negligible chance for tornadoes.
Peak winds on island are expected to be strong tropical storm strength with gusts to hurricane strength, particularly in areas exposed to northwesterly, clockwise through to easterly winds. Small deviations in Karl’s heading (ie. wobbles) and therefore track could result in very different conditions felt on Bermuda. For instance it is possible that Karl track directly overhead of Bermuda or to the west of Bermuda, in these scenarios, wind directions would be different or even opposite, exposing a different set of hillsides to the strongest winds and gusts.
Tropical Storm Karl is now expected to pass within 400 nm of Bermuda within the next 72 hours as of the 12pm advisory. This latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center takes the center of Karl about 260 nm to the south of Bermuda in the next 72 hours. Karl is forecast to pass closer to Bermuda between 72 and 120 hours from this advisory and adverse weather is possible from Karl.
At this time, Bermuda can expect dangerous surf and sea conditions over the weekend. Further, strong to possibly tropical storm force winds are to be expected beginning late on Friday through Saturday. The final track of Karl will determine the strength and direction of winds and whether or not any significant rains will fall.
Karl has been steered to the west in the flow south of the Bermuda-Azores ridge of high pressure over the last few days. This steering is expected to continue for the next day or so. Karl then turns more to the northwest as the storm approaches a weakness in the ridge that is moving in from the west of Bermuda. By Friday, Karl begins to turn northwards, moving into this weakness in the ridge. Karl then becomes entrained in deep-layered southwesterly flow that accelerates the storm to the northeast.
Dry air surrounding the cyclone and persistent strong vertical wind shear have kept Karl weak and disorganized thus far. However, Karl is entering a more moist environment with higher sea surface temperatures. These factors should support more vigorous convection around the storm. Further, vertical wind shear is expected to weaken at the same time. This should allow deep convection to organize. Both of these factors support a strengthening storm in the coming days and Karl could be at or nearing Hurricane strength as it passes Bermuda.
Hurricane reconnaissance aircraft (ie. hurricane hunters) are scheduled to begin regular investigations into Karl this afternoon and this will give us a better idea of Karl’s current strength and structure, and how favorable the environment is.
As always, follow the official weather sources for the latest information.