Why did Hurricane Sandy take such an unusual track into New Jersey? – Weather Underground (by Dr. Jeff Masters)
We’re used to seeing hurricane-battered beaches and flooded cities in Florida, North Carolina, and the Gulf Coast. But to see these images from the Jersey Shore and New York City in the wake of Hurricane Sandy is a shocking experience. New Jersey only rarely gets hit by hurricanes because it lies in a portion of the coast that doesn’t stick out much, and is too far north. How did this happen? How was a hurricane able to move from southeast to northwest at landfall, so far north, and so late in hurricane season? We expect hurricanes to move from east to west in the tropics, where the prevailing trade winds blow that direction. But the prevailing wind direction reverses at mid-latitudes, flowing predominately west-to-east, due to the spin of the Earth. Hurricanes that penetrate to about Florida’s latitude usually get caught up in these westerly winds, and are whisked northeastwards, out to sea.
Low central pressure among Hurricane Sandy’s unusual features – Science News (by Alexandra Witze)
No matter what you call it, Sandy is a record-breaking storm. It has already displayed the lowest central pressure ever recorded north of Cape Hatteras, N.C. As of 11 a.m. Eastern time on Monday, Sandy had a minimum central pressure of 943 millibars, breaking the record of 946 millibars from the 1938 “Long Island Express” hurricane.
Why is Sandy unusual? – CNN (by David Nolan)
There are two elements that make Sandy very unusual, possibly even “super.”
First is its pathway. Rather than racing out to sea like most coastal storms, Sandy has already turned hard to the left and it will make landfall at nearly a right angle to the U.S. coastline. This extremely unusual track (from right to left) means that almost every piece of coastline from New Jersey to Cape Cod will receive onshore winds at some point during the event.
Second, the core of Sandy — the part that will look and feel like a hurricane — has remained intact, even as cooler and drier air from the United States wraps around it. Thus, Sandy has each of the worst features of both kinds of storm: a small core of hurricane-force winds around its center, and a broad expanse of gale-force winds extending hundreds of miles outward that will batter the shorelines for several days.
Experts argue global warming’s impact on Sandy’s unusual path to New Jersey – The New Jersey (by Amy Ellis Nutt and Stephen Stirling)
It wasn’t supposed to happen. That’s what the weather experts kept saying immediately before, during and after Sandy smacked New Jersey in the face. Not this far north, they said, not in autumn, and certainly not this bad.
The hybridization of Sandy – Atmos News (by Bob Henson)
Sandy’s destiny as a hybrid storm was flagged to the public several days before landfall, when the irresistible name “Frankenstorm” – coined by a NOAA meteorologist—went viral.
While there have been hybrid storms before, Superstorm Sandy was a creation distinct in meteorological annals, as it pulled together a variety of familiar ingredients in a unique way. Sandy could be the storm that launches a thousand dissertations – or at least a few – and some of its noteworthy aspects have implications for hurricane warning in general.
While not as much of a speed demon, Sandy did accelerate to a forward motion of nearly 30 mph as it curved west and approached New Jersey.
What’s heartening to researchers is that computer models, by and large, predicted many of Sandy’s most unusual features days ahead of time.
Philip Bedient a hydrologist and Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rice University (Scientific American Blog)
Sandy has got some pretty peculiar characteristics. Scientific American spoke with Philip Bedient, a hydrologist at Rice University to explore a few of Sandy’s many oddities. Sandy is a late bloomer: “What’s unusual is that it’s hitting this late in the season. It’s a real surprise to a lot of folks.” Sandy is speedy: “These things form very quickly, and this thing’s moving about 28 mph. That’s actually very fast for a hurricane.” Sandy is tough: “I think the storm surge gets the people off guard. It’s much higher than I’ve ever seen. This may be the worst flooding from a hurricane for a long, long time.”
Climate change, or crap shoot? Experts weigh Sandy’s causes by Julie Steenhuysen and Alister Doyle, Alertnet/Reuters, Oct 31, 2012
A huge storm barrels down on the United States, wreaking havoc with punishing winds, record flooding, heavy snowfall and massive blackouts. Is the main culprit climate change or a freak set of coincidences?
Some scientists say that the key to Sandy’s impact may be an extremely rare clash of weather systems, rather than the warmer temperatures that scientists have identified in other hurricanes and storms.
Sandy lives up to the hype – Predictions were on track Tia Ghose, LiveScience Staff
Lived up to the hype:
- A week before the storm, European weather models predicted a monster storm that would wreak havoc all along the entire Eastern Seaboard.
- As far back as last Thursday (Oct. 25), the National Weather Service accurately predicted the storm would make landfall in southeastern New Jersey.
- The forecast of maximum wind speeds reaching 70 miles per hour (113 kilometers per hour) matched widespread reports of gusts reaching between 65 and 75 mph (105 and 121 kph).
- The 13-foot (3.9 meters) waves at the Battery Park in lower Manhattan crushed the 1821 record for storm-surge height there. In the days before the storm, the National Weather Service predicted record surges and flooding in the New York and New Jersey region, with peak levels of 11 to 13 feet (3 to 4 m) at the Battery.
- A few days out, the National Weather Service accurately forecast the 2-3 feet (just under a meter) of snow piling up in Appalachia in West Virginia.
Hurricane Sandy named Frankenstorm by NOAA – By Justin Berk
NOAA dubs Hurricane Sandy Frankenstorm.
Hurricane Sandy and the Climate Connection – Skeptical Science
Hurricane Sandy was an unprecedented storm in modern times, arriving late in the hurricane season, making landfall abnormally far to the north on the US east coast, with an exceptionally low pressure, and a record-breaking storm surge. The hurricane also had among the most kinetic energy of all tropical cyclones on record at 222 trillion Joules (the equivalent of 3.5 Little Boy Hiroshima atomic bombs) – more energy than Category 5 hurricanes like Katrina despite Sandy just being Category 1, because Sandy was spread over a much larger area.
Given the unprecedented nature of this event, many people are asking whether it was caused by or its impacts amplified by global warming, and many others are of course trying to deny any hurricane-climate links. There is actually a fairly simple answer to this question: human-caused climate change amplified the hurricane’s impacts.
Hurricane Sandy Was 1-in-700-Year Event
Hurricane Sandy’s devastating storm track is a rare one among hurricanes; a new statistical analysis estimates that the track of the storm — which took an unusual left-hand turn in the Atlantic before slamming into the East Coast — has an average probability of happening only once every 700 years.
“The particular shape of Sandy’s trajectory is very peculiar, and that’s very rare, on the order of once every 700 years,” said Timothy Hall, a senior scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies who co-authored the study. That means that in any particular year, the chance of such a storm track happening is 0.0014 percent.
To study the rarity of Sandy’s track, Hall and his colleague, Columbia University mathematician Adam Sobel, had to use a model to generate synthetic tropical cyclones. The researchers could not rely on previously recorded data, as Sandy’s trajectory and near-direct impact on New Jersey was unprecedented in the historical record.
Risks of Hurricane Sandy-like Surge Events Rising
The impact angle of Hurricane Sandy was its most unusual feature, ensuring the storm surge would case maximum damage, Hall said. The storm’s left-hand turn put the most dangerous right-front quadrant on top of New Jersey and southeastern New York, pummeling these areas with an historic storm surge and record high waves. That, combined with astronomical high tides, led to record storm tide levels.
The researchers used statistical techniques and computer modeling to simulate millions of “synthetic” tropical cyclones in the Atlantic in order to determine the likelihood of another storm making a Sandy-esque dramatic left hook toward the coast, striking the most heavily populated region of the U.S. at a nearly perpendicular angle.
The study found that Sandy’s track stands alone in the historical record dating back to 1851, and that modeling simulations showed such a track is an event that would occur about once every 714 years. However, that does not mean that a storm like Sandy won’t affect New Jersey and New York for another 714 years, but rather that the average annual probability of another Hurricane Sandy occurring is .14 percent.
Scientists: Climate Change May Offer Hurricane Help
The study’s authors noted that Sandy’s track was the most perpendicular to the Atlantic Coast of any storm on record.
On the impact angle of Hurricane Sandy’s New Jersey Landfall
Hall and Sobel report their findings in a paper published last week (29 May 2013) in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union. Their results agree with two other studies that predicted hurricanes would impact Manhattan with Sandy’s 9-foot surge or greater once every 400-800 years. “We had completely different models and were looking at different things, but our results overlapped,” Hall said. “This points to a very unusual storm.” – http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/grl.50395/abstract
Hurricane Sandy Was A ‘Once Every 700 Years’ Occurrence, Study Says
A number of factors combined to make Hurricane Sandy unique, according to Timothy Hall of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, a co-author of the study. Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast at a perpendicular angle, which is unusual. A region of high pressure pushed Hurricane Sandy into land at the perpendicular angle — instead of out to sea — which caused particularly severe flooding. There was also a full moon when Hurricane Sandy struck, raising tides by 20 percent.
“The particular shape of Sandy’s trajectory is very peculiar, and that’s very rare, on the order of once every 700 years,” said Hall.
Put another way, the chance of a Hurricane Sandy type storm happening is just 0.14 percent in any given year.
Hall, along with Columbia University mathematician Adam Sobel, created computer models to test out the likelihood of another Hurricane Sandy. Their statistical model generated millions of computer-model hurricanes, with Hall and Sobel focusing on hurricanes that originated as tropical storms, as Hurricane Sandy was when it originated.
In their computer simulations, Hall and Sobel saw most of their hurricane models touch the coast before hooking out into the ocean. Hurricane Sandy, rather uniquely, hit the East Coast at just 17 degrees from being perfectly perpendicular, which Hall and Sobel found to be an extremely rare occurrence.
Hurricane Sandy: Why Another “100-year” Storm?
“Normally, when hurricanes approach the East Coast from Sandy’s angle, they are pulled safely out to sea by a semi-permanent low-pressure center near Iceland,” MarketWatch reported ahead of the storm. “This time around, that low pressure isn’t there. In fact, it’s been replaced by a high pressure so intense it only occurs approximately 0.2% of the time on average.
“The coincidence of that strong of a high pressure ‘block’ being in place just when a hurricane is passing by—in and of itself a very rare occurrence—is just mind bogglingly rare. It’s the kind of stuff that’s important enough to rewrite meteorological textbooks. The result: Instead of heading out to sea Sandy’s full force will be turned back against the grain and directed squarely at the East Coast.”
A grave weather report on Fox News before the storm’s landfall used phrases such as “rewriting the coastline,” and “major event that we have not seen in this lifetime,” stressing that Sandy was the biggest storm ever seen in the Atlantic basin, and held the lowest barometric pressure ever recorded so far north.
Post-tropical transition and final landfall – Meteorological history of Hurricane Sandy
The storm revolved around an upper-level low over the eastern United States, and also to the southwest of a ridge over Atlantic Canada that the National Hurricane Center described as “highly anomalous”; this caused Sandy to turn to the north and northwest.
How Sandy was dubbed “Frankenstorm” – CNN
Hurricane Sandy took a highly unusual path but climate change doesn’t get the blame, yet.
Sandy’s remarkable perpendicularity fueled the storm’s fury, Hall notes. “When storms graze the coast, they don’t have as much time to build up large amounts of water,” he said. “But when they hit dead on, they can move a lot of water and increase the height of the storm surge, causing extensive flooding like Sandy did.”
Hurricane Sandy spins up climate discussion.
Hurricane Sandy is potentially unprecedented, officials say, because of the meteorological context within which it has developed. First, before reaching land, it was feeding off unusually warm surface waters in the Atlantic Ocean. Second, whereas such storms tend to skirt the US coast before drifting to the northeast and dissipating at sea, Sandy has been influenced by a high-pressure system off Greenland that has forced it inland. In doing so, the storm has merged with a winter system moving in from the west, putting forecasters in the unusual position of having to issue snow advisories for a tropical-hurricane system. Finally, the effects of the storm may have been enhanced by a full Moon, which generally means higher than average tides.
Why Sandy became a super-storm.
Sandy is a hybrid monster. It combines a powerful hurricane, laden with energy and moisture from the tropical Atlantic, and a winter storm fuelled by the southward plunge of Arctic air.
Although late-season hurricanes sometimes undergo a similar “extra-tropical transition” as they travel up from the tropics, this normally happens safely out to sea over the Atlantic. Sandy’s path is extremely unusual because a static area of high pressure south of Greenland has blocked the jet stream route northeastward across the ocean and instead forced the hurricane into the continental US.
“There is no precedent in hurricane records extending back to 1851 of a storm at this latitude taking this path,” said Mark Saunders, professor of climate prediction at University College London.
Hurricane Sandy: The Frankenstorm
Most East Coast hurricanes are pushed out to sea by the prevailing west-to-east high altitude jet stream. In Sandy’s case, however, an anomalously strong high pressure system situated over Greenland caused the upper level winds to reverse their course and blow from southeast to northwest, directing Sandy into the coast.
In addition, unusually warm sea surface temperatures and interactions between Sandy’s circulation and an existing low pressure system caused the storm to intensify just as it made landfall. Its path through southern New Jersey produced the worst possible setup for New York City, with 80-100 mph southeast winds pushing water into Manhattan.
Global Warming and Hurricane Sandy?
Hurricane Sandy was unusual because it involved the collision of three air masses. First, you had a medium sized hurricane coming in from the Atlantic, feeding off the warm waters of the Gulf. Then you had an unusual jet stream pattern, carrying ice-cold Arctic air from the north polar region down to Florida, colliding with the hurricane. Third, you had a low pressure storm coming in from the west.
By themselves, none of these three could cause much damage. But together, they morphed into a giant super-storm that caught scientists by surprise.
How global warming helped transform Sandy from a hurricane into a Frankenstorm.
Sandy isn’t even a normal hurricane: It’s an especially rare geographical convergence of a cyclone coming from the south and a winter storm sweeping in from the north and west. It’s an event so rare that scientists have little to say about this one occurrence.
Weather Models Get Sandy Right.
Both Sandy’s path and its sources of strength were highly unusual. Hurricanes typically draw their strength from warm tropical waters and are often pushed out to sea when they move north and encounter the prevailing westerly winds of the mid-latitudes. With Sandy initially moving into the Atlantic ahead of a cold front, hundreds of storms worth of precedent would dispose a forecaster to believe that the storm would have rapidly decayed encountered wind shear and moved over the colder waters of the northern Atlantic.
But while cold waters and strong upper-level winds usually combine to weaken tropical cyclones, Sandy actually intensified as it interacted with the same forces that usually destroy hurricane. A deep trough of low pressure and the subtropical jet-stream created enough wind shear to rip apart just about any other hurricane, but wound up creating enough baroclinic energy and upper level divergence to sustain and even intensify the cyclone despite colder waters and a hostile environment. Not only would this process transform Sandy from a typical, tightly wound tropical cyclone into a massive hybrid storm of unprecedented size and strength, but an unusual area of high pressure would prevent Sandy from moving out to sea and actually force Sandy back to the east and over the United States.
Hurricane Sandy Summary.
Throughout the 27th and 28th October 2012, Sandy continued to slowly track to the northeast parallel to the East Coast but well offshore. During these two days, a highly anomalous set-up developed which would later force Sandy to take a very unusual track for a tropical cyclone. Normally, tropical cyclones especially in late October continue to track northeast and well offshore, but Sandy was prevented from doing so; anomalous blocking developed near Greenland, later shifting towards the Davis Strait and Newfoundland, while an upper level low remained stationary south of this block over the northern Atlantic. Ridging was present east of Sandy, which would later connect with the blocking to the north, acting to prevent Sandy from escaping east. A trough dropping into the central and eastern US at the same time ended up capturing Sandy, forcing it to retrograde sharply to the west, aiming directly at the New Jersey coast while intensifying and transitioning into a massive hybrid cyclone of tropical and non-tropical characteristics.
By the afternoon hours on the 29th, as Sandy accelerated towards New Jersey.
Hurricane Sandy Information.
One of the very odd things about Sandy is its path. It is extremely unusual for a hurricane to track back to the west after passing Cape Hatteras, NC. This track was forecast by all the models, and stunned meteorologists. What pushed the hurricane to the west toward New Jersey, and blocked its path across the Atlantic, was an exceptionally high pressure over the North Atlantic, something that has been increasing in frequency and intensity in recent years.
“There’s no one that is not 300 years old that has ever seen anything like this…. This is just unbelievable.” — CNN meteorologist Chad Myers, 30 October 2012
Scientists: Climate Change may offer Hurricane help.
Sandy’s unusual track was caused by a rare interaction between atmospheric winds known as the jet stream and a high-pressure weather system known as a “blocking system” to the north of the hurricane. The interaction steered Sandy on a track that took it almost due west as it made landfall in New Jersey last October 29.
The study’s authors noted that Sandy’s track was the most perpendicular to the Atlantic Coast of any storm on record. But the east-blowing winds that the study’s authors say could result from climate change could push future such storms toward the Atlantic Ocean.
Hours after Super-storm Sandy howled its way through the East Coast, unleashing a fatal trail of destruction, global reactions included outpouring of sympathy and support. In Syria however, pro-government supporters welcomed the super-storm, claiming the natural disaster is the result of high-tech secret engineering. (Source – http://edition.cnn.com/2012/10/31/world/meast/syria-sandy-facebook-claim/ ).
‘Heroic’ Iran, ‘resistive’ Syria behind Sandy, pro-Assad group claims.
Hours after Super-storm Sandy howled its way through the East Coast, unleashing a fatal trail of destruction, global reactions included outpouring of sympathy and support. In Syria however, pro-government supporters welcomed the super-storm, claiming the natural disaster is the result of high-tech secret Iranian engineering. (Source – http://edition.cnn.com/2012/10/31/world/meast/syria-sandy-facebook-claim/ – CNN).
CNN Source – Pro-government group “News Network” of the Syrian Armed Forces stated on a Facebook posting:
“Sources confirmed to us that Hurricane Sandy that is slamming the U.S. was set off by highly advanced technologies developed by the heroic Iranian regime that supports the resistance, with coordination of our resistive Syrian regime,”
“This is the punishment for whoever dares to attack Syria’s (Bashar) al-Assad and threaten peace and stability.”
Comments accompanying the post, which had more than 300 likes, ranged from derision to support.