Battling Gulf storms: What could happen if they get close together?

Weather phenomenon known as the Fujiwhara effect

POSSIBLE FUJIWHARA EFFECT
POSSIBLE FUJIWHARA EFFECT

ORLANDO, Fla. – During this record-setting hurricane season, the National Hurricane Center is closely watching the progress of two systems in the tropics: Tropical Storm Laura and Tropical Depression 14.

Looking down the road to next week, the forecast calls for both to possibly make landfall simultaneously along the Gulf Coast.

The last time this has happened was on Sept. 5, 1933 when Hurricane Cuba-Brownsville, a Category 3, moved onshore in Texas while Tropical Storm Treasure Coast made landfall near Ceder Key.

Although this occurrence is unusual, Laura and TD 14’s proximity could make it even more rare by causing the Fujiwhara effect.

The Fujiwhara effect. (TropicalTidbits.com)

What is the Fujiwhara effect?

It is an unusual weather phenomenon that occurs when two systems are spinning in the same direction pass close enough to each other (about 900 miles). When this happens, they begin an intense dance around their common center.

What happens to the storms?

  • Two storms that are relatively equal in their strength, can gravitate closer. Once this happens, they could “dance” around each other for a bit.
EXAMPLE ONE
  • If one hurricane is a lot stronger than the other, the smaller one will orbit and eventually get absorbed. This could cause two smaller storms to evolve into one larger storm.
OPTION TWO
  • The third possibility would be pivoting away from each other, shooting them out in two different directions.
OPTION THREE

What is an example of Fujiwhara effect in the Atlantic?

The most recent occurrence of the Fujiwhara effect was in 2005 when Wilma, a powerful and large hurricane, absorbed a smaller and weaker tropical storm named Alpha off the east coast.

As we well know, hurricane forecasts can change with each update. It will be just a matter of time to see if these two storms will “dance” in the Gulf by next week.

Click here to see the latest track and information on Tropical Storm Laura and Tropical Depression Fourteen.


About the Author:

Candace joined the News 6 team as the weekend morning meteorologist and reporter. She comes to Central Florida from Miami.