How Hurricane Ida has stunned meteorologists
As Hurricane Ida closed the Louisiana coast on Sunday morning, meteorologists were stunned to see the storm strengthen so quickly.
When Dale, the head of Americas forecast operations at IBM, went to bed one Saturday night, he said, Ida’s winds were gusts of 105 mph, which is a Category 2-level wind speed. The next morning, he noticed that the winds had risen to 150 mph, strong enough for a Category 4 classification.
“I felt a sinking in my stomach,” he said. “It was one of the worst-case scenarios.”
The storm had rapidly evolved from a worrying disturbance in the Atlantic Ocean, possibly to strike Louisiana, since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Before Ida became a designated hurricane on Thursday, forecasters found what they thought was just another group of thunderstorms, or a disturbance, moving west over the Atlantic, according to WCMH-TV’s weather in Columbus, Ohio. Scientist Ben Gelber said.
It quickly became clear that this disturbance was unique, as it was hovering over an area where the wind was not strong enough to carry ocean heat away from the system, Mr Ek said. This allowed heat to remain inside the system, creating the perfect humid environment for the disturbance to intensify into a tropical storm.
“It would have been difficult to forge a more favorable path for this rapid strengthening than in Ida,” said independent meteorologist and Yale Climate Connections journalist Robert Henson.
Ida reached Cuba on Friday as a Category 1 hurricane, the lowest of five hurricane classifications. From there, forecasters knew the storm would intensify, and the only question was how bad it would get.
From Saturday through Sunday, a rough weather made Ida a devastating Category 4 hurricane: its winds rapidly intensified to 150 mph; A ridge of high-pressure air from the southeastern United States grazed the storm toward Louisiana; And the water in the Gulf of Mexico was unusually warm and very deep, meaning there was a lot of water that Ida could churn out to sustain itself.
The fact that the water was still warm was cause for concern that the storm could strengthen to a low Category 5, said Benjamin Schott, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in New Orleans.
On Twitter, meteorologists across the country expressed concern about how quickly Ida turned into a major threat.
“I desperately wish the forecast didn’t become a reality,” said rick nabo, a hurricane expert for the Weather Channel, adding that sheer intensity ahead of landfall is “the storm scenario we’ve always been afraid of.”
Eric Blake, a senior hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center, said: “I feel sick to my stomach watching this storm. It’s a very touching morning.”
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