Jeff Masters Hurricane Blog

Cat 4 Lidia is Mexico’s 3rd-strongest landfalling Pacific hurricane on record » Yale Climate Connections

After a phenomenal burst of rapid intensification on Tuesday, Hurricane Lidia made landfall at 7:50 p.m. EDT Tuesday, October 10, as a dangerous Category 4 storm with top sustained winds of 140 mph and a central pressure of 942 mb. This makes Lidia tied as the third-strongest landfalling Pacific hurricane on record for Mexico (see the Wikipedia table below, which includes both Mexico and Hawaii landfalls).

table showing the most intense landfalling Pacific hurricanes, topped by 2015's Patricia, which had a wind speed of 150 mph

Lidia hit the coast about 35 miles south-southwest of Puerto Vallarta. This location is about 60 miles northwest of the landfall location of Mexico’s strongest Pacific hurricane on record, Hurricane Patricia of 2015, which had 150 mph winds and a central pressure of 932 mb at landfall. Hurricane Madeline of 1976, with winds of 145 mph, was the second-strongest hurricane to strike Mexico.

Puerto Vallarta was on the weaker left-hand side of Lidia’s circulation so did not receive the full brunt of the storm. The more powerful right side of the hurricane affected less populated areas. Nevertheless, Lidia may end up being a very impactful storm for Mexico, judging by the consequences of Hurricane Patricia of 2015, which killed 14 people and did about $1 billion in damage. So far, Lidia is being blamed for one death and scattered damage, though the hardest-hit areas have yet to be fully heard from.

Hurricane Lidia rapidly intensified by 65 mph in the 24 hours up to landfall and by 70 mph in the 24 hours ending at 5 p.m. EDT Tuesday. These are very rare rates of rapid intensification, occurring less than 1% of the time in eastern Pacific hurricanes (Figure 1).

Read: Climate change is causing more rapid intensification of Atlantic hurricanes

a graph of the frequency distribution of 24-hour intensity change in the East Pacific over water for tropical/subtropical cyclones between 1970 and 2022
Figure 1. Hurricane Lidia’s rapid intensification of 65 mph in the 24 hours up to landfall was at the upper end of observed historical events. (Image credit: Michael Lowry, via substack)

Lidia’s remnants to feed into heavy Southeast U.S. and Gulf Coast rains

Lidia dissipated over the high terrain of Mexico on Wednesday morning, but the hurricane’s remnants, along with those of Tropical Storm Max (which hit the southwest coast of Mexico on Monday), and the remains of the disturbance called Invest 93L from the southern Gulf of Mexico will feed into a frontal zone over the northern Gulf of Mexico today and Thursday. The moisture from this system will track to the east, bringing heavy rains of two to four inches to the northern Gulf Coast and Southeast U.S. through Friday. Unfortunately, these rains will mostly miss the areas in extreme to exceptional drought that lie along the western Gulf Coast — especially from southeast Texas across southern Louisiana and Mississippi, where drought conditions are the most intense since 2011.

forecast map
Figure 2. Predicted 3-day precipitation amounts ending at 8 a.m. EDT Saturday, October 14, 2023. Tropical disturbance 93L in the Bay of Campeche is expected to pull in moisture from two former eastern Pacific tropical storms and bring heavy rains of two to five inches to portions of the Gulf Coast and Southeast U.S. (Image credit: NOAA)

Typhoon Bolaven becomes the planet’s eighth Cat 5 of 2023, after battering the Northern Mariana Islands

Typhoon Bolaven passed through the channel between Rota and Tinian islands in the U.S. Northern Mariana Islands early Tuesday morning U.S. EDT as a Category 1 storm with 75-85 mph winds. Fortunately, no major damage was reported in the islands from Bolaven.

After clearing the islands, Bolaven put on a very impressive display of rapid intensification, topping out as a 180-mph Cat 5 storm at 8 a.m. EDT Wednesday, October 11. The Japan Meteorological Agency put Bolaven’s central pressure at 900 mb, with sustained 10-minute average winds of 130 mph. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center predicts that Bolaven will gradually weaken as it recurves to the north and northeast this week, and no land areas lie in Bolaven’s path.

chart showing global category 5 tropical cyclones between 1990 and 2023, showing spikes in 1997, 2005, 2014, 2015, 2018, and 2023

Bolaven is Earth’s eighth Cat 5 storm of 2023, using ratings from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center and National Hurricane Center. The 1990-2022 average globally for an entire calendar year is 5.3 Cat 5s, so 2023 is well above average, tied for sixth-highest since 1990. The record is 12 Cat 5s in a year, set in 1997. Bolaven is the planet’s second-strongest storm of 2023; its 180-mph winds are just behind the 185-mph winds of Super Typhoon Mawar at its peak.

The other Cat 5s of 2023 include at least one in every major ocean basin prone to tropical cyclones: the Atlantic (Hurricane Lee), Northeast Pacific (Hurricane Jova), Northwest Pacific (Super Typhoon Mawar), North Indian (Cyclone Mocha), South Indian (Cyclone Freddy and Cyclone Ilsa), and Southwest Pacific (Cyclone Kevin).

Bolaven rapidly intensified by a remarkable 95 mph in the 24 hours ending at 8 a.m. EDT Wednesday. This is not far below the world record for 24-hour intensification of 120 mph, held by Hurricane Patricia of 2015. Both Bolaven and Lidia carried out their parallel rounds of rapid intensification atop unusually warm waters for this time of year, a consequence of widespread record-warm ocean temperatures. All four of the ocean basins that spawn tropical cyclones in the Northern Hemisphere have seen above-average activity for 2023 to date as measured by accumulated cyclone energy, whereas it’s much more common for one or two basins to be active while one or two are less busy than average.

Tropical Storm Sean forms in the eastern Atlantic

Another disturbance from this year’s prolonged Cabo Verde hurricane season has become the latest named storm in the Atlantic. Tropical Depression 19 in the eastern tropical Atlantic was upgraded to Tropical Storm Sean early Wednesday. As of 11 a.m. EDT Wednesday, Sean was located about 780 miles west-southwest of the Cabo Verde islands, heading west-northwest at 13 mph. Sean’s top sustained winds were 40 mph, and the storm’s showers and thunderstorms were not particularly well organized.

Only modest strengthening is expected over the next several days, as Sean fights strong wind shear (15 to 25 knots through Thursday) and moves into a drier environment: midlevel relative humidity is expected to drop from around 70% on Tuesday to around 50% by Friday. The dry air will likely lead to Sean’s demise in the remote central Atlantic by this weekend or early next week. As with so many Atlantic storms this year, the main thing going for Sean is unusually warm sea surface temperatures, close to 29 degrees Celsius (84 degrees Fahrenheit), about 1 degree Celsius (1.8°F) above average for mid-October.

Sean’s formation brings the total 2023 activity in the Atlantic to 19 named storms (including an unnamed subtropical storm in January that was belatedly recognized), as well as 6 hurricanes, 3 major hurricanes, and an accumulated cyclone energy index of 129. The 1991-2020 averages for this date are 12 named storms, 5.8 hurricanes, 2.6 major hurricanes, and an accumulated cyclone energy index of 104. Only nine other seasons since 1851 have had as many as 19 named storms. The only seasons with more named storms were 2020, 2005, 2021, and 1933, which had 30, 28, 21, and 20 named storms, respectively. On average, two named storms form after October 11.

One hint that the record-warm sea surface temperatures were driving action in the Atlantic this year despite less-than-ideal atmospheric conditions: Comparatively few of this year’s named storms have gotten very strong. In contrast to the high number of named storms, there have been six hurricanes and three major hurricanes this year, which are both close to the 1991-2020 averages to date.

Yet another late-season Cabo Verde system may develop by early next week

A tropical wave located several hundred miles south of the Cabo Verde Islands on Wednesday afternoon, designated Invest 94L, was headed west at five to 10 mph toward the central tropical Atlantic. This wave has favorable conditions for development, with light wind shear, warm waters near 29.5 degrees Celsius (85°F), and a moist atmosphere. 94L has considerable support for development from the models by early next week, and in its Tropical Weather Outlook issued at 8 a.m. EDT Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center gave the system two-day and seven-day odds of development of 20% and 30%, respectively. The next name on the Atlantic list is Tammy.

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