Talking the Tropics With Mike: Another big hurricane 2020 landfall - Iota headed for Nicaragua/Honduras

Consolation: no other named storms

Talking the Tropics With Mike: Another big hurricane 2020 landfall - Iota headed for Nicaragua/Honduras

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*** There will be no impacts from tropical systems for the U.S. through the upcoming week ***

Big Central American Hit: Tropical wave 98-L - over the Caribbean - was upgraded to tropical depression #31 Fri. morning & to tropical storm “Iota” Fri. afternoon then to a hurricane early Sunday - the 30th named storm of the ’20 Atlantic hurricane season & the 13th hurricane, 2nd to only - wait for it - 2005 which totaled 15 hurricanes. Iota will stay over the Caribbean (vs. turning north) as the tropical cyclone moves toward the west & makes landfall on the middle Central American coast Mon.-Mon. night as a “major” hurricane - Cat. 4 or possible even 5(!) with the eye coming ashore very near the Nicaragua/Honduras border. Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras & possibly Belize are likely to see the most serious impacts - an area still reeling from flooding from Eta some 10 days ago.

Iota has been a classic late season hurricane over a very warm Caribbean: very slow organization of a “glob” of convection that once it got its act together - developed a core & good banding features with strong outflow over the top - rapidly intensified. Iota will be a major late season hit on Central America as the record breaking season marches on.

There will be no impacts from Iota for the U.S. & obviously for Jacksonville/NE Fl./SE Ga. as the U.S. is finally - seemingly - protected by a combination of a ridge of high pressure in a more seasonally south position (near & south of Fl.) with an equally seasonal shift south of the jet stream - at least in general. Such a set-up makes it difficult for a tropical cyclone over the Caribbean to get very far north.

The ridge of high pressure - which has been positioned virtually all hurricane season in such a way so as to “protect” Jacksonville - is stretched out east-west from the Central Atlantic across the Gulf. Such an orientation insures Iota continues west with little chance for a significant move north (not at all similar to Eta, in other words).


Tropical depression #29 was upgraded Sat. afternoon, Oct. 31st & to tropical storm Eta Sat. evening then to a hurricane (12th of the Atlantic season) early Mon., Nov. 2nd - a high end Cat. 4 Mon. afternoon/evening followed by a Cat. 4 landfall on the northeast coast of Nicaragua Tue. afternoon. So Eta becomes the record-tying storm - 28th - for most in a single season. According to Dr. Klotzbach, Eta is also only the 5th Cat. 4 Nov. hurricane in the Atlantic Basin (Cuba Hurricane, 1932; Lenny, 1999; Michelle, 2001; Paloma, 2008). Conditions (shear, water temps., moisture) were all favorable for steady & rapid strengthening interrupted only by an eyewall replacement cycle Mon. night. The combination of the change in structure + proximity to land took Eta a bit off its peak while on a very slow journey inland. Eta re-emerged over the far Western Caribbean Thu. night... moving northeast across the Caribbean with a landfall on Central Cuba early Sunday, Nov. 8 as a strong tropical storm the the upper Fl. Keys Sunday night near 11pm EST. This is a record 12th U.S. landfall this year with at least one U.S. landfalling named storm in every month since May! Eta has been over the Gulf of Mexico since Sunday night moving north/northeast becoming a hurricane again Wed. morning - the latest Gulf hurricane since “Kate” in 1985. Eta weakened back to a tropical storm Wed. afternoon with gradual weakening right up to landfall at Key West about 4am EST. Impacts were minor after the 2nd Eta Fl. landfall & 4th overall (Nicaragua, Cuba, Keys, W. Fl. coast). Eta is the latest landfalling Florida tropical cyclone (depression/storm/hurricane) since “Gordon” in Nov., 1994 & is also the closest *Nov.* tropical system to Jacksonville since Gordon in ’94. The center moved across parts of Duval Co. matching the feat of Julia (Sept., 2016), Beryl (Memorial Day weekend, 2011) & Tammy (Oct., 2005) this century so far. The last NHC advisory was issued early Fri. morning just short of the storm’s 2 week “birthday”.

The ultimate outcome of Eta’s path came down to a high pressure ridge to the east of Fl. & an incoming mid latitude trough over the U.S.


As a whole forecast models have been struggling with “all the low pressure” (there will again be some tropical development soon over the Caribbean) at low latitudes - the tropics & subtropics - not to mention the typical autumn-related fast-to-change meridional flow (troughs of low pressure & ridges of high pressure) over the higher latitudes. So we saw a lot of changes & fluctuations in the forecast models. Special (4 times a day) weather balloon launches across Fl. & much of the Southeast U.S. along with NOAA research aircraft sampling the atmosphere over & near Eta combined to seemingly add some stability to model forecast but not until late Tue./early Wed. Admittedly... Eta was a pain to forecast with many sharp turns & very poor model output though my initial call/thoughts of little damage from the last landfall were accurate.

In the end... the GFS won the “game” in my opinion though I have not yet seen the exact breakdown model by model, day by day.

Eta’s sinusoidal track was tied to the upper level flow which has returned to what we’ve seen most of the hurricane season: a trough over/near the Central U.S. with increased ridging near Fl. & to the east. How this all evolved was critical in steering Eta. As the western portion of the ridge broke down enough & shifted east, Eta moved inland across North Florida & followed the alleyway between the ridge to the east & the trough to the west.

Moderate shear helped to weaken Eta upon approach to land in addition to cooler water temps.:

The steering “players”: After moving steadily west/southwest & even a little south, Eta turned around & is moved north/northeast. . As upper level high pressure to the east “softens” on its western edge while upper level troughing increases over the Central U.S., Eta made a sharper turn northeast. So Eta took the “red arrow” path. Complicated & interesting, maybe a little frustrating - to say the least - to forecast!

Eta technically developed on Oct. 31st but the map below will suffice & shows the Caribbean is a relative “hot bed” for late season/first 10 days of Nov. tropical cyclones:

And Theta formed this week over the East Atlantic - the record 29th storm of the season which beat the record of 28 in the infamous year of 2005. Theta will stay over the Eastern Atlantic & is no threat to the U.S. having become extra-tropical east of the Azores with the last NHC advisory issued early Sunday.

Atlantic Basin wave forecast for 24, 48 & 72 hours respectively:

Saharan dust, dry air:

2020 names..... “Wilfred” was the last name on the Atlantic list (names are picked at random by the World Meteorological Organization... repeat every 6 years... historic storms are retired (Florence & Michael in ’18 & Dorian is certain to be retired from the ’19 list). Interesting side note: the last six of the names on the ’20 list had never been used. So it’s on to the Greek alphabet. "Kappa” is next... the first time the Greek alphabet has been used since 2005 (total of 28 named storms using 6 Greek letter names in ’05 [there was one unnamed storm). Theta broke the record for the most Atlantic storms in a single season on record at 29.

East Atlantic:

Mid & upper level wind shear (enemy of tropical cyclones) analysis (CIMMS). The red lines indicate strong shear:

Water vapor imagery (dark blue indicates dry air):

Deep oceanic heat content:

Sea surface temp. anomalies:

SE U.S. surface map:

Surface analysis centered on the tropical Atlantic:

Surface analysis of the Gulf:


Global tropical activity:

The West Pacific remains active with “Vamco” moving west after hammering the Philippines then plowing through Northern Vietnam - the 7th tropical cyclone for Vietnam over the last couple of months causing yet more flooding: