Hidden Factor In Gulf Of Mexico Has Led To Explosive and Catastrophic Storms
In the Gulf of Mexico is a hidden factor that has been largely missed in the media's hurricane coverage and may be responsible for the devastation of many storms, including Katrina.
The factor is known to researchers like Lynn K. Shay of the University of Miami as "warm core rings." Translation: in the Gulf of Mexico are deep, unseen pockets of unusually warm water that cause an "explosive deepening" of storms. The deeper such unseen layers, the more potential there is for devastation.
In the far past, say other researchers, the Gulf has been witness to storms far greater than have been seen in recent years -- as have other parts of the U.S.
"In the Florida panhandle and Pearl River [in Mississippi] and Alabama, we found that in the time interval from about 3,400 to 1,000 years ago, hurricanes were very active," said another scientist, Dr. Kam-biu Liu of Louisiana State University. "The Gulf Coast and particularly the Florida panhandle got multiple hits by catastrophic hurricanes."
Dr. Liu says that those storms were "much, much stronger" than recent ones like Opal, which was a category-three when it hit the panhandle and which until Katrina was one of the most severe of the century to hit that area, which has suddenly burst into public awareness as the hotspot of storm activity.
The Gulf, of course, is warm enough as it is -- near Louisiana, temperatures at this time of year have been hovering at 88 degrees Fahrenheit, warmer than in the Atlantic and responsible for the especially vicious storms that haunt this region. It takes a temperature of only 82.5 degrees to spawn such a storm.
But there is more to it than that.
The great Galveston storm. Hurricane Camille. Hurricane Ivan. These and dozens of other super-storms have exploded in the Gulf. Even Hurricane Charley was enhanced in those warm waters, making a gradual turn when it approached a mid-latitude trough that dug into the central Gulf of Mexico as the storm steadily intensified and caught experts off-guard.
Hurricane Andrew blew up into category-five intensity not so far from the same waters.
And the reason appears to be the "core rings" that currently are not a part of regular measurement, if weather reports are any indication.
Warm core rings are large eddies that spin off a flow of water known as the "Loop Current," which moves clockwise and northward into the Gulf, joining a current from the Yucatan.
The depth of such warm water -- extremely difficult for experts to monitor -- contributes to unexpected intensification of a hurricane. The deeper the warm water, the less it cools as a storm churns up the ocean, allowing the hurricane to continue gaining power. It is thus the depth of warm water, not just its temperature, that appears to be a secret behind the surprising strength of recent hurricanes.
"Camille's track went right down the middle of [such a current]," Dr. Shay told Spirit Daily. "There can be explosive deepening. The most disastrous storms in the Gulf of Mexico over the past century seem to be in the envelope of where these warm core rings traditionally sit. Hurricane Opal went right over a warm core ring and during that time of encounter went from a category-one to a category-four."
The same happened to Hurricane Andrew: it suddenly re-intensified after sweeping across Florida.
And just weeks ago Katrina did the same after first hitting the Miami area -- taking authorities by surprise.
Such currents and eddies are part of a large-scale climate cycle that Dr. Shay says can increase by a couple of tenths [of a degree] over time, with the significant feature warm water that extends as far down as 3,000 feet and seems to be currently matching intense periods in the past.
Although the huge spikes were back during the Middle Ages, smaller spikes were seen several decades ago.
"We are beginning to enter a new era like the Fifties and Sixties," the scientist told us in 2000, when we first began to research the link between climate gyration and what have been foreseen as more powerful storms, in this era of purification.
Such is a threat not only to Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and the panhandle, but also to cities on Florida's west coast, especially Tampa, which Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center, has named as one of the four most worrisome U.S. locales.
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