Jeff Masters Weather Blog

Category 4 Beryl rips through the Windward Islands » Yale Climate Connections

Hurricane Beryl roared through the Windward Islands on Monday morning, making history as the strongest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded so early in the year and the most powerful on record to affect the Grenadine Islands. The eye of Beryl made landfall at 11:10 a.m. EDT Monday on the island of Carriacou. Beryl was continuing to move just north of due west at 20 mph. Central pressure was 956 mb and top sustained winds were 150 mph, putting Beryl at the high end of the Category 4 range.

Beryl is the second strongest hurricane ever to make a landfall in the Windward Islands: only Hurricane Maria’s September 19, 2017, landfall on Dominica as a category 5 storm with 165 mph winds was stronger.

Satellite image of Hurricane Beryl at 11:10 a.m. EDT Monday, July 1, 2024, as it was making landfall on the island of Carriacou in the nation of Grenada. (Image credit: RAMMB/CIRA/CSU)

After briefly weakening overnight to a category 3 storm because of an eyewall replacement cycle, with two concentric eyewalls confirmed by hurricane-hunter flights, Beryl reintensified into a category 4 storm. Unfortunately, as is typical, the eyewall replacement cycle also led to an expansion of the hurricane’s wind field. As of 11 a.m. EDT Monday, hurricane-force winds extended out 40 miles from Beryl’s center (up from 30 miles on Sunday night).

Hurricane hunter flights showed Beryl continuing to strengthen, with extreme turbulence and lightning reported, and it is not out of the question Beryl will hit Category 5 strength at some point on Monday. The earliest Category 5 storm in Atlantic history was Emily (July 16, 2005).

In the midst of the Windwards are the Grenadines, a chain of 32 islands, nine of them inhabited. The northern 2/3 of the island chain belongs to the nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, while the southern 1/3 of the chain belongs to the nation of Grenada. Carriacou (population 8,000), the largest of the Grenadine Islands, renowned for its coral reefs. Storm chaser Jonathon Petramala is tweeting from the island.

Beryl’s center passed about 90 miles to the south of Barbados on Monday morning, and the island’s Grantley International Airport recorded peak winds of 52 mph, gusting to 69 mph, at 9:14 a.m. AST (equivalent to EDT). At Maurice Bishop International Airport on the southwest end of Grenada, winds as of noon AST were sustained at 92 mph, gusting to 101 mph. Even higher winds likely occurred on the north side of Grenada, just beyond the southern eyewall of Beryl. In St. Lucia, well north of Beryl’s core, a weather station reported sustained tropical-storm-force winds of 52 mph, gusting to 63 mph. A personal weather station on Carriacau recorded 0.54 inches of rain Monday before it stopped reporting at 6:07 a.m. AST.

Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, Belize, and Mexico need to monitor Beryl

Beryl is predicted to continue tracking west to west-northwest into the central Caribbean, passing very close to Jamaica on Wednesday and the Cayman Islands on Thursday. Beryl appears most likely to track just south of Jamaica, which could put the island in the dangerous north-hand side of the inner circulation.

Beryl will continue to pass over near-record warm water for this time of year (around 29 degrees Celsius or 84 degrees Fahrenheit) and will remain embedded in a moist environment (mid-level relative humidity of 65 to 70 percent). Beryl will also be passing over some of the deepest oceanic heat content in the entire Atlantic basin, which will provide more than ample fuel. However, strong westerly upper-level winds are present across the northern Caribbean, and wind shear – which often prevails in the Caribbean this time of year – is predicted to increase to 10-20 knots by Wednesday. The wind shear may keep Beryl from leveraging the otherwise near-ideal conditions and perhaps lead to a gradual decrease in strength. One or more eyewall replacement cycles could also affect Beryl between now and Wednesday, adding further uncertainty.

NOAA’s four high-resolution intensity models all bring Beryl just south of Jamaica with an wide range of intensities at midday Wednesday, ranging from Category 1 to Category 4 strength. The official NHC forecast has Beryl as a weakening but still dangerous Cat 2 hurricane at this point.

The GFS and European ensemble models from early Monday (6Z) generally agree on Beryl continuing west-northwest through the northwest Caribbean, making landfall in either Belize or the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico on Thursday night or Friday as reflected in the National Hurricane Center’s forecast cone. Assuming the gradual weakening trend reflected in most guidance does occur, Beryl would be expected to arrive as a Category 1 hurricane, but it is too soon for precise landfall and intensity forecasts. The upper ridge steering Beryl could weaken enough by the weekend to allow Beryl to curve northwest into the western Gulf, but this would most likely be after passage over the Yucatan, so there is huge uncertainty over what shape Beryl would be in by that point, and continued westerly wind shear might prohibit any resurgence in strength.

Grenada hurricane history

The worst hurricane in the history of Grenada was Hurricane Ivan on September 7, 2004. According to the NHC storm report on Ivan, the eye of the hurricane passed about seven miles to the south of the main island, which was raked by the powerful right-front quadrant winds. At the time, Ivan was a strengthening Category 3 storm with 120 – 125 mph winds.

YouTube videoYouTube video

At least 80 percent of Grenada’s 102,000 residents lost power; more than 14,000 homes were damaged or destroyed; 80 percent of the nutmeg trees were destroyed; and a seventeenth-century prison was damaged, allowing many of the inmates to briefly escape during the height of the storm. Ivan killed 39 and inflicted catastrophic damage on Grenada: $1.7 billion (2024 dollars), amounting to about 195% of their $880 million GDP. According to The Economist, tourism fell to 10% of its pre-storm level in the island’s first high season (the winter of 2004 – 2005). Annual GDP dropped by 24% the next year, though recovered after that.

Next up for the Lesser Antilles: 96L

Right on the heels of Beryl, another tropical system – albeit much weaker – could affect region by midweek. Now designated Invest 96L, this wave has been speeding westward at 15-20 mph across the tropical Atlantic, and was located midway between the coast of Africa and the Lesser Antilles Islands on Monday morning. Satellite images showed 96L had a modest area of heavy thunderstorms and some low-level spin.

Conditions were favorable on Monday for development. Sea surface temperatures were near record warm for the start of July, about 28 degrees Celsius (82°F); wind shear was a moderate 10-20 knots; and the atmosphere was moist, with a midlevel relative humidity of 70%. The system was embedded in the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) and was relatively close to the equator (8°N), and these factors will slow development.

Despite these similarities to the environment that spawned Beryl, two other factors may play out differently with 96L. One is a large area of dry air associated with the Saharan Air Layer (SAL) to its north. With wind shear predicted to rise to the high range, 20-30 knots, by Wednesday, this dry air should be a more significant hindrance to development than was the case for Beryl. Moreover, at some point, 96L is likely to cross over the cold water wake left behind by Beryl, and this may also slow development.

96L had weaker model support for development early Monday than was the case on Sunday. Only a few members of the GFS and European model ensembles now develop 96L, and intensity guidance (whose value is limited at this early stage) suggesting only a tropical depression or weak tropical storm at most. In their 8 a.m. EDT Monday Tropical Weather Outlook, the National Hurricane Center reduced their 2-day and 7-day odds of development to 30% and 60%, respectively. These percentages are 10% lower than those in the previous outlook. The general model consensus is for 96L to pass through the Lesser Antilles Islands on Wednesday, perhaps bringing squalls and showers to areas affected by Beryl, then continue into the central Caribbean. The next name on the Atlantic list of storms is Debby.

Another short-lived tropical storm hits northeastern Mexico: Chris

Tropical Storm Chris formed in the southern Gulf of Mexico’s Bay of Campeche at 11 p.m. EDT Sunday, then moved ashore over northeastern Mexico less than two hours later. At landfall, Chris was a minimal tropical storm with 40 mph winds. The main impact of the storm will be heavy rains of 8-12 inches that will fall in areas still wet from the June 19 landfall of Tropical storm Alberto. Chris is expected to dissipate over the high mountains of Mexico by Monday night.

Chris’ formation date of July 1 comes well before the typical (1991-2020) formation date of the season’s third named storm: Aug. 3. The record-earliest formation date of the season’s third named storm came on June 2, 2020, when Tropical Storm Cristobal formed. That season set the record for most named storms in a season, with 30.

Source link