Here's how Ida quickly strengthened herself to become a monster

Hurricane Ida, which hit the Louisiana coast with winds of 150 miles per hour on Sunday, gained strength faster than most storms. Due t...


Hurricane Ida, which hit the Louisiana coast with winds of 150 miles per hour on Sunday, gained strength faster than most storms. Due to climate change, such rapid strengthening occurs more often, as hurricanes absorb more energy from ocean water which is warmer than before.

But in a summer of extreme weather conditions, Ida’s intensification was extreme.

According to the National Hurricane Center forecast reports, the storm’s maximum sustained winds on Saturday morning were around 85 mph, making it a Category 1 hurricane. Less than 24 hours later, they were 65 mph stronger. , bringing Ida close to a category 5.

The storm intensified more than forecast from the hurricane center, which predicted maximum winds to reach 140 mph. The definition of rapidly intensifying hurricane center is an increase of at least 35 mph in wind speed in 24 hours. Ida reinforced this in just six hours overnight.

Climate change is one of them. Researchers have found that the frequency of rapidly escalating Atlantic hurricanes has increased over the past four decades as ocean temperatures have risen, largely because warmer water provides more heat. energy that powers these storms. In the 1980s, there was about a 1% chance that a hurricane would intensify rapidly. Now there is a 5% chance.

But experts studying the behavior of hurricanes said other factors played a role with Ida, including the seasonal warming of the Gulf of Mexico, the amount of humidity in the atmosphere and the presence or absence of winds. that can affect the structure of a storm.

Right now, the Gulf is extremely hot as it has accumulated heat throughout the summer. It is this seasonal warming, which also occurs in the Atlantic Ocean, that makes mid-August to October the most active part of the hurricane season each year.

But it’s not just the Gulf’s surface temperature that’s important, said Joshua Wadler, a researcher at the University of Miami and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Hurricanes actually cool the ocean as they pass through it, as they lift water up to about 150 feet, mixing with cooler water from below.

In this case, Ida passed through much warmer water to this depth. Probes sent into the water by hurricane-chaser planes on Saturday revealed that the temperature, after being mixed by Ida, was around 30 degrees Celsius, or 86 degrees Fahrenheit, Dr Wadler said.

“This is on the very high end of sea surface temperatures that hurricanes never experience,” he said.

The storm’s track unfolded over this warm water, what scientists call a whirlpool, said Chris Slocum, a NOAA researcher.

“Ida found the perfect path across the gulf where the hottest water is,” he said, and that provided a lot of energy for the storm to extract. “You could say it’s the worst-case scenario. “

Dr Slocum compared the situation to that of Katrina in 2005, which passed through a cooler water column as it approached Louisiana, going from a Category 5 to a Category 3. Ida did not encounter any colder water.

“This continues the upward trend,” he said. “The only thing that is going to stop the escalation process is the landing,” he said.

Eddies occur every year in the Gulf, formed when part of a looping current breaks, Dr Wadler said. And while it’s extremely difficult to tie a specific issue to climate change, it “runs as deep as we’ve seen it for a very long time,” he said.

Although ocean temperatures are the most important, two other factors affect the magnitude and speed with which a storm strengthens, Dr Slocum said.

Atmospheric humidity affects the thunderstorms that make up a tropical cyclone. The more humid the air, the more these storms will survive and persist. And how these thunderstorms interact with each other, especially to the thunderstorm eye, can affect whether it gets stronger or weaker.

Wind shear – the changes in wind speed and direction with height in the atmosphere – can also affect the structure of a hurricane. If the wind shear is too strong, “you can tear through a storm,” Dr Slocum said.

Forecasters in the center of the hurricanes were closely monitoring the wind shear. This had been a factor when the storm entered the Gulf on Friday, giving Ida an asymmetrical structure. But the shear dissipated on Saturday, allowing the storm to take on a more even spiral shape.

The effect on wind speed can be compared to what happens with figure skaters during a spin. Skaters who keep their arms in a tight and precise position will turn faster. But if one of their arms is extended, they will turn much slower.

It can be difficult to predict whether a hurricane will intensify quickly, Dr Slocum said.

“It’s kind of a Goldilocks problem,” he said. “If any of these ingredients are a bit off, we won’t see it.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Here's how Ida quickly strengthened herself to become a monster
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