What’s the weather like cruising the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico during May?

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Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea

The weather cruising the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico during May is excellent with light to moderate winds and low risk for gales.

Wind

East to Northeast trade winds of Beaufort forces 3-4 (7-16 knots) prevail across the Caribbean during May with somewhat higher winds of Beaufort forces 4-5 (11-21 knots) prevailing off the coast of Columbia. Over the Gulf of Mexico, east to southeast winds of Beaufort forces 3-4 (7-16 knots) prevail, except east to northeast winds in the Bay of Campeche.  The risk for gale force winds is very low for both the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico this month. 

Pilot Chart of the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea for May

Waves

The risk for rough seas of 8 feet (2.4 meters) or higher is less than 10% across the Gulf of Mexico, the northwestern Caribbean and the easternmost portion of the Caribbean. This risk increases to 10-20 % over the central Caribbean Sea with a somewhat greater than 20% risk concentrated off the coast of Columbia. 

Temperature 

Over the Gulf of Mexico air temperatures average near 77 F (25 C) over the northwestern Gulf, warming to around 80-81 F ( 27 C) in the Bay of Campeche and near the Yucatan Channel.  In the Caribbean, air temperature averages around 80-81 F (27 C) throughout. Most destinations in the Caribbean will experience daily morning low temperatures ranging from 74-80 F (23-27 C)  with afternoon high temperatures 80-92 F (30-33C).

Sea Surface Temperature 

Sea surface temperatures average around 77 F (25C) over the northwestern Gulf, increasing to 81-82 F (27-28C) over the Bay of Campeche and near the Yucatan Channel.  In the Caribbean, sea temperatures are mostly 81-82 F (27-28 C) with the warmest waters over the westernmost Caribbean. 

Rainfall

May begins the rainy season in the western Caribbean, including Cancun, Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Jamaica as well as parts of the Bahamas. Drier conditions remain in most of the eastern and southern Caribbean locations, although rainfall amounts start to increase in the Windward Islands.

Tropical Cyclones

The risk for tropical cyclones

Frequency of Tropical Cyclones in 5-Degree Squares during May

begins to increase this month with a 1-3 % risk for encountering a tropical cyclone over the Gulf of Mexico and western Caribbean Sea. The risk remains 1% or less over the eastern Caribbean. 

 

 

 

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Tropical Cyclone Halima now a Cat 4 Storm

tc Halima

Tropical Cyclone Halima over the South Indian Ocean

Tropical Cyclone Halima over the South Indian Ocean has intensified into a Category 4 hurricane with max winds of 120 knots and significant wave heights to 35 feet (10.7 meters).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Halima is moving south-southwest at 5 knots and is forecast to track southward over the next 36 hours with additional intensification to near 130 knots over the next 12 hours.

Thereafter, Halima should turn more towards the southeast then east with gradual weakening.

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North Atlantic Maritime Weather Outlook

500 mb

NOAA OPC 72 hour 500 mb Forecast

An upper-level ridge will build near and over Ireland during the next few days resulting in a strengthening surface high pressure area which will block North Atlantic storms from Northern Europe.

 

 

 

At the same time, a cut-off upper low near Morocco, will enhance surface low pressure over northwestern Africa causing strong to gale force winds and rough seas over the western Mediterranean Sea.    

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NOAA OPC 72 hour Surface Forecast

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What can we expect for the 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season?

Hurricane Dorian

Visible satellite image Hurricane Dorian Sept. 1, 2019 making landfall on Elbow Cay in The Bahamas. Image credit: NOAA/RAMMB

Will 2022 bring yet another very active hurricane season or will it be more in-line with the long-term average of 12-13 named storms, 6-7 hurricanes and 2-3 major hurricanes? 

The Sea Surface Temperatures (SST) over the Atlantic Main Development Region (MDR)  have been cooling since mid February,  especially in the eastern half of the region.  More than half of all hurricanes and nearly 80% of major hurricanes develop in the MDR, so if this cooling trend continues, fewer major hurricanes will develop this season. Development of tropical cyclones requires heat energy from the ocean surface and generally requires SSTs of at least 26.5 C (80 F).

MDR

North Atlantic Main Development Region

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In recent years we have seen a cool pattern of SST anomalies develop during the winter months over the MDR. particularly over the eastern half, only to have temperatures return to warmer than normal during the late summer and autumn months. The question is will this pattern repeat itself this year or not?  

 

 

 

 

 

 

An important factor driving an active versus inactive Atlantic hurricane seasons is the strength of the Atlantic multi-decadal oscillation (AMO).  

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Atlantic multi-decadal oscillation (AMO)

The AMO is a series of long-duration changes in the sea surface temperature of the North Atlantic Ocean, with cool and warm phases that may last for 20-40 years at a time. These changes are natural and have been occurring for at least the last 1,000 years. A positive (warm) phase of the AMO can result in a season that has 3-5 times more major hurricane activity than does a negative (cool)  phase. The phase of the AMO also has a strong correlation with the number of hurricane landfalls striking Florida, the U.S. east coast and the Caribbean.

During the last cool phase of the AMO (about 1970-1995) tropical cyclone activity was suppressed compared to the current and previous warm phases.  Since the mid 1990s the warm phase of the AMO has prevailed, characterized by some record setting hurricane seasons including many notable landfalls.  Given that the last AMO phase shift (Cool to Warm) occurred over 25 years ago, the shift back to the cool (from the current warm phase) is likely within the next 5-7 years and when this occurs, we will experience a reduction in Atlantic tropical cyclone activity. 

North Atlantic Major Hurricanes 1920-2017 Source: Judith Curry 2019

 

 

Another factor affecting the Atlantic hurricane season is the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle. During the cool La Niña phase, westerly winds high in the atmosphere weaken which tend to favor tropical cyclone activity over the North Atlantic.  During the warm El Niño phase, winds increase which suppress Atlantic hurricane activity. 

Currently we are in the cool La Niña phase which should tend to enhance  Atlantic hurricane activity.  If the current trend towards cooler SSTs continues in the Atlantic MDR continues into the peak of the hurricane season, then there will be a dampening effect which could tend to reduce overall Atlantic activity, although with an active  La Niña present, the season could still be above the long-term average.  If, however, the MDR SSTs warm again as they have in recent years then this season could be just as active as the last one.  

Sources:

NOAA National Hurricane Center 

Special Report: Hurricanes and Climate Change, Judith Curry  

Alabama Weather Blog 

Tropical Tidbits  

National Center for Atmospheric Research: Climate Data Guide 

QUALITATIVE DISCUSSION OF ATLANTIC BASIN SEASONAL HURRICANE ACTIVITY FOR 2022,Colorado State University

THE INTERANNUAL VARIABILITY OF HURRICANE ACTIVITY IN THE ATLANTIC AND EAST PACIFIC REGIONS

El Niño & La Niña (El Niño-Southern Oscillation)

 

 

 

 

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North Pacific Marine Weather Outlook

500 mb chart

NOAA OPC 500 mb Forecast Chart

The prevailing upper-level jet will be oriented mostly west to east across the North Pacific south of 45 N latitude. 

 

 

 

 

The prevailing low tracks for the next several days across the North Pacific will be from Japan near 40N latitude east-northeastward to near 45N/155W then northeastward.

Sfc forecast

NOAA OPC Surface Forecast Chart

Expecting frequent gale to storm force winds and seas near and south of lows.

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Hurricane-Force Storm to Develop over Northwest North Atlantic

NOAA OPC Surface Forecast 12  March 1200 UTC

A rapidly deepening low over the eastern US Saturday will move northeast across the Gulf of St, Lawrence to just north of Newfoundland by Sunday morning reaching near the southeast coast of Greenland by early Monday as an intense 930 mb hurricane-force storm with max winds to 80 knots and significant wave heights to 14 meters (46 feet) south of the center.

72 hr forecast

NOAA OPC Surface Forecast 24 March 1200 UTC

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Tropical Cyclone Gombe to intensify over Mozambique Channel

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Satellite Image Tropical Cyclone Gombe via JTWC

Tropical Cyclone Gombe, currently located over the northern portion of Madagascar has been moving westward at about 10 knots with max winds of  around 30 knots.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gombe will move out over the Mozambique Channel during the next 12-18 hours, then favorable conditions will allow for the system to  strengthen fairly rapidly to hurricane force winds prior to landfall over Mozambique south of Nacala about 1800 UTC on the 11th.

storm track

Tropical Cyclone Gombe Forecast Track via JTWC

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North Pacific Marine Weather Outlook

NOAA OPC 500 mb Forecast Chart

A blocking ridge has re-established itself over the eastern North Pacific, effectively shunting storm tracks from the western North Pacific northward towards the eastern Bering Sea. At the same time, a large semi stationary upper-level and surface level low prevail over the northwestern North Pacific which continues to depress the prevailing jet and storm tracks south of 40 N over the western North Pacific. 

NOAA OPC 48 hour Surface Forecast

 

The eastern ridge is expected to gradually weaken and drift southeastward later this week.

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New NOAA Sea Level Rise Estimate for St Petersburg, Florida 

New NOAA Sea Level Projection for St. Petersburg, Florida

A new Sea Level Rise report from NOAA has been issued to project sea level rise and coastal flood hazards for the United States out to 2150 for 5 sea level scenarios: low, intermediate-low, intermediate, intermediate-high and high.  The various scenarios are based on output directly from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report where global temperature projections are made based on various greenhouse gas emissions estimates.

There are 5 different Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSP) for CO2 emission scenarios (ie. SSP1-1.9, SSP1-2.6, SSP2-4.5, SSP3-7.0 and SSP5-8.5). Many, if not most, of the high sea level projections reported by the media have been based on the SSP 8.5 scenario which has been described as the “business as usual” scenario. This scenario, far from being the “business as usual” scenario, can more accurately be labeled as the “extreme scenario” and not very likely, in my opinion.

What is Projected for Tampa Bay?

For Tampa Bay, the tide gauge with the longest record is located at St. Petersburg, Florida.  The new NOAA report projects sea level rise by 2050 of between 0.28 meters (0.9 feet) for the low estimate, 0.36 meters (1.2 feet)  intermediate estimate, and up to 0.49 meters (1.6 feet) for the high estimate relative to a baseline of year 2000.  Extending the projection out to 2100, the report projects a sea level rise at St. Petersburg from a low estimate of 0.48 meters (1.6 feet) to a high estimate of 2.15 meters (about 7 feet).  

If these projections are accurate, then there will be significant increases in the frequency of flooding events by mid-century and possibly catastrophic flooding by the end of this century in the Tampa Bay Region.

Just how much credibility should we place in these projections? 

For the Tampa Bay area, the actual tide gauge data at St. Petersburg shows an increase in sea level of about 150-170 mm over the past 50 years which equates to an average rate of 3 to 3.4 mm/year.  This rate is about the same as the satellite-based global sea level rise estimate between 1993 to 2020 of 3.4 mm/yr.

Actual Tide Gauge Data from St. Petersburg, Florida

In order to reach the report’s intermediate estimate for St Petersburg of 0.36 meters (1.2 feet) by 2050, a sea level rate increase from the present 3-3.4 mm/yr to an average rate of 12 mm/yr for the next 30 years is required.  Given the current rate of 3.4 mm/yr the rate would have to increase to something near 20 mm/yr by 2050 in order to achieve an average rate of 12 mm/yr for the 30 year period in question.  Even worse, in order to reach the high estimate of 0.49 meters (1.6 feet) by 2050, the sea level rise rate must average over 16 mm/yr over the next 30 years, requiring the rate to soar to over 25 mm/yr to get to the 16 mm/yr average!

Historically, global sea level rose by a total of about 120 meters over a period of about 8,000-9,000 years as the vast ice sheets of the last glaciation melted away. This equates to an average rate of sea-level rise during this period of roughly 1 meter (3.3 feet) per century or about 10 mm per year (some studies suggest the average rate was up to 13 mm per year). In order to achieve the NOAA projected intermediate to high sea level rises, rates must increase well beyond those experienced during most of the post glaciation period.

Post Glacial Sea Level Rise

 

Is Sea Level Rise Accelerating?

Various studies of the satellite altimeter data have shown that GMSL rise is accelerating somewhere between 0.015 mm/yr and about 0.10 mm/yr so there is still a considerable amount of uncertainty as to the actual rate.  Taking the high end projection of 0.1 mm/yr we should see the sea level rise rate increase from 3.4 to 6.4 mm/yr by 2050 which should result in a total rise of about 150 mm or 0.5 feet by 2050 (less than half of the NOAA intermediate estimate of  0.36 meters (1.2 feet).

How likely is this?

If you look at the sea level from actual tide gauge data vs. the projected sea levels made by the NOAA report,  you will see that the trend since 1996 indicates that the actual sea level at St Petersburg has been rising at rate equal to or below the  “Intermediate” projection and often even below the “low” projection (see below). 

NOAA Tide Gauge Data vs projections

 

In order to achieve these high sea level rise rates presented in the NOAA report, it would require rapid melting of portions of the Antarctic ice sheet.  Modeling suggests that a significant sea level rise is possible from Antarctica ice melt, however, the key assumption is that greenhouse gas emissions will boost the planet’s temperature by about 4 degrees C (7 degrees F).  This type of rapid collapse is highly uncertain as to timing and dependent on higher warming rates than currently projected for the end of this century.  

Conclusion

Sea level is rising and the evidence suggests that the rate of rise has increased.  There remains, however, a significant amount of uncertainty regarding predicting future warming rates and thus sea level estimates for the next 30-80 years are problematic. Based on observed sea level trends since 1996, the best estimate for sea level rise in Tampa Bay by 2050 is more likely to be near 150 mm (about 6 inches) and by 2100 roughly 1.5 to 2 feet.

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Tropical Cyclone Vernon Forms over South Indian Ocean

Satellite Image TC Vernon via JTWC

Tropical Cyclone Vernon has formed over the South Indian Ocean southwest of Cocos Islands and was moving west-southwest at 8 knots with max winds of 45 knots.  Vernon is expected to reach hurricane strength later today.

There is also another disturbance about 300 nm to the northwest and the two systems may interact and may begin a Fuiwara loop around each other over the next couple of days.

 

Eventually, Vernon should turn southward.

Tropical Cyclone Vernon Forecast Track via JTWC

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