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Tropical Tracker: What lies behind Hurricane Laura?

Focus turns back to Africa after a busy week in the Gulf

Euro model shows two robust tropical waves emerging off of Africa as we approach Labor Day weekend.
Euro model shows two robust tropical waves emerging off of Africa as we approach Labor Day weekend.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Laura was leaps and bounds the strongest hurricane of the 2020 season to date. Unfortunately once a storm enters the Gulf, it has nowhere to go but on land.

The situation was so dire Wednesday the National Hurricane Center called Laura’s storm surge “unsurvivable”.

Storm surge is a storm-generated rise in water from the storm’s winds that force the ocean onto land. Storm surge is the leading cause of hurricane-related fatalities in the United States and the main reason evacuations are ordered by local officials.

Lake Charles, Louisiana recorded a 132 mph wind gust as the eyewall moved inland. Shortly after, the instruments at the Lake Charles Regional Airport failed to report weather data.

Lake Charles observations from Lake Charles Regional Airport from August 26-27, 2020 as Hurricane Laura made landfall along the Louisiana coast.
Lake Charles observations from Lake Charles Regional Airport from August 26-27, 2020 as Hurricane Laura made landfall along the Louisiana coast.

Through August 26, Laura has produced accumulated cyclone energy of 11.6, nearly double that of hurricanes Marco and Hanna combined. ACE will continue to be calculated until Laura returns to tropical depression status. The ACE for the year now stands at 41.3.

The average is 23.8. ACE is calculated by using the intensity and duration of the storm once it reaches tropical storm status and is a better measure of how intense a storm season is than names alone.

The next couple of weeks

The last few Tropical Tracker updates highlighted the potential for Gulf activity as the enhanced phase of the MJO passed from the Eastern Pacific into the Caribbean. Laura and to a lesser degree Marco were helped out by that. That convective pulse is now moving into the phase that favors waves developing off of Africa.

Madden-Julian Oscillation forecast by the Climate Prediction Center.(CPC/NOAA)
https://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/precip/CWlink/MJO/foregfs.shtml
Madden-Julian Oscillation forecast by the Climate Prediction Center.(CPC/NOAA) https://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/precip/CWlink/MJO/foregfs.shtml

The squiggly lines represent forecast models going around the different phases. There are 8 phases of the MJO. Phase 2 and 3 represent the active phase for the Atlantic Ocean, which is where we are headed in the coming days.

The next wave to watch just emerged off of Africa and will make its long journey across the Atlantic. There is currently just a low chance that this wave develops over the next five days.

This is likely just the beginning of the next flurry of storms which looks to happen as we approach Labor Day weekend and the days to follow.

Hurricane development is very quiet through June and July and typically ramps up as August begins. The peak of hurricane season occurs September 10.
Hurricane development is very quiet through June and July and typically ramps up as August begins. The peak of hurricane season occurs September 10.

The sobering reality is that we’re just getting started in terms of peak season. The peak of the hurricane season is September 10.


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