Topic category: Climate/Climate Change/Weather
Hyping the Hurricane
(Saturday update @ 5:15 pm Aug 27; Sunday updates @ 7:55 am & 5:00 pm Aug 28; Final update @ 3:00 am Aug 29)
In the early morning of Saturday, August 27, 2011, marginal Hurricane Irene made landfall just to the east of Morehead City, NC.
Irene was the storm that had been hyped as certain to be a Category 3 storm (Saffir/Simpson Hurricane Scale) with sustained winds in the range of 111 to 130 mph as it churned up the Atlantic Seaboard and would be at least a Category 1 storm (sustained winds of 74-95 mph) when it slammed into New York State near New York City.
One report for Sussex County in northwestern New Jersey quoted a meteorologist for a well-known weather service as saying, we "are expecting it to become a Category 4 hurricane, but when it gets closer to New Jersey it will most likely weaken to a Category 2 strength" (sustained winds of 96-110 mph) with "winds as high as 60 mph and rainfalls between 4 and 8 inches". Irene never reached "Category 4" strength ("sustained winds 131-155 mph")! As Monday morning began to dawn, rather than the hyped "60 mph" winds, Andover-Aeroflex Airport in southeastern Sussex County recorded maximum sustained winds of just 16 mph (about one-quarter those predicted) with gusts only to 32 mph! In other words, even gusts failed to reach minimal tropical storm level for sustained winds (39 mph).
Here are the peak sustained winds and gusts recorded at key locations near where the storm made landfall in North Carolina:
The full hourly datasets reveal minimal hurricane force winds (74 mph) were observed once at New Bern in a gust while gusts ranging from 75 mph to 87 mph were recorded at Hatteras, NC between 6:51 am and 9:51 am (bear in mind that the motion of the storm, given as 14 mph, enhances storm winds for areas to the east of the center. Hatteras is located to the east of Irene, so that actual storm-generated gusts from the SE would have about a 7 mph component from the storms motion. Correcting for the storms motion, storm intensity wind gusts ranged from 68 mph to 80 mph with only a single gust (at 9:51 am) exceeding the threshold for hurricane winds. It is worth noting that Hatteras, NC, is located at the extreme outer banks of the barrier islands well to the east of North Carolina's mainland. By 10:51 am, the storm was about 50 miles due west of Hatteras where sustained winds had dropped to SE @ 45 mph with gusts to 71 mph (57 mph, subtracting the storm's northward motion)
According to the Saffir/Simpson Scale for establishing a hurricane's category, it is sustained wind that determines if a storm is to be categorized as a "hurricane" and at what strength. Based on ground station observations, Irene was no more than a strong tropical storm when it made landfall in North Carolina.
The movement of the storm inland and to the north was clearly shown by hourly observations at the Beaufort, NC airport where the following sequence was observed for the four hours from 5:56 am to 8:56 am:
With the storm tracking slightly to the west of where it had been anticipated to cross NC, it is likely that greater land involvement will further diminish the prospects for this storm retaining even the feeble strength it has registered at landfall.
At 11:00 am the storm was being reported by the NHC as having sustained winds of 87 mph! Evidently, that wind was found using doppler radar of some other instrumentation as none of the local weather reporting stations revealed anything remotely approaching sustained winds of 87 mph!
Ground in the northeast has been saturated by recent heavy rains and Irene's arrival as a tropical storm/depression will likely bring considerable heavy rain and significant flooding to many areas. Fortunately, the storm is gaining forward speed and is expected to accelerate off to the northeast as the weekend progresses, thus minimizing the time period for heavy rainfall.
But all those warnings about Irene being a Category 3 storm with sustained winds in the range of 111 mph to 130 mph was just so much hype.
Irene is just another example of a storm's hype being far more vigorous than the storm itself!
Well, Irene did pay off handsomely for some -- those weather and news programs with millions of people in the mid-Atlantic and Northeastern US watching hours of hurricane news while the flames of fear of a battering storm were being fanned.
Kinda reminds us of the over-hyped claims of human-caused-global-warming, doesn't it?
Update at 5:15 pm EDT, August 28:
At 5:00 pm EDT, August 27, 2011, the storm location was: 36.2°N 76.0°W
Using Google Earth (which tracks the storm), nearby cities are used to find local reporting stations.
Here are several hourly report from stations close to the current storm location. Also include is the Norfolk, VA station (which is under a "Hurricane Warning" at 5:00 pm):
Sunday, August 28 Updates:
This table shows for each metropolitan area peak sustained wind and peak gust over all the stations associated with that area as well as the number of those stations (peak winds for the table shown in bold):
|Atlantic City, NJ||36||53||14|
|New Haven, CT||39||59||2|
|New York, NY||40||57||5|
These data suggest a question: If they held a hurricane and nobody could find any hurricane force winds, was there really a hurricane?
Furthermore, to be classified a "Tropical Storm" sustained winds of at least 39 mph must be observed. Looking at the table above, Atlantic City, NJ; Hartford, CT; and Philadelphia, PA did not even reach Tropical Storm conditions! Boston's Logan International Airport is the only reporting site that experienced significant tropical storm conditions, but certainly nothing approaching the magnitude of a hurricane! In fact, examination of the NWS station reports shows that sustained winds were not recorded at tropical storm magnitude of any significant period of time (Logan reported only two hourly readings of sustained winds exceeding the tropical storm threshold, 44 mph at 11:54 am and 40 mph at 1:54 pm with the 12:54 pm reading of only 35 mph sustained winds; New York's JFK has only one report of 40 mph sustained winds at 3:51 am).
If anyone can find any ground station observational evidence that supports Irene as even a Category 1 "Hurricane", please provide a link to it. Simply email "editor [at] web commentary.com" with a link to any of the eastern seaboard reporting stations that showed sustained winds of at least 74 mph.
WEBCommentary (Editor, Publisher)
Biography - Bob Webster
Bob Webster, a 12th-generation descendent of both the Darte family (Connecticut, 1630s) and the Webster family (Massachusetts, 1630s) is a descendant of Daniel Webster's father, Revolutionary War patriot Ebenezer Webster, who served with General Washington. Bob has always had a strong interest in early American history, our Constitution, U.S. politics, and law. Politically he is a constitutional republican with objectivist and libertarian roots. He has faith in the ultimate triumph of truth and reason over deception and emotion. He is a strong believer in our Constitution as written and views the abandonment of constitutional restraint by the regressive Progressive movement as a great danger to our Republic. His favorite novel is Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and believes it should be required reading for all high school students so they can appreciate the cost of tolerating the growth of unconstitutional crushingly powerful central government. He strongly believes, as our Constitution enshrines, that the interests of the individual should be held superior to the interests of the state.
A lifelong interest in meteorology and climatology spurred his strong interest in science. Bob earned his degree in Mathematics at Virginia Tech, graduating in 1964.