WEEKLY OCEAN NEWS
11-15 September 2017
For Your Information
- A memorable portrait of three powerful Atlantic hurricanes from space -- A composite "day-night" band image obtained from data collected last Friday (8 September) by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) mounted on the NOAA/NASA Suomi NPP (National Polar-orbiting Partnership) satellite shows three hurricanes spread across the tropical North Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. This image is somewhat rare in the simultaneous and relatively close geographical occurrence of three hurricanes in the Atlantic basin (that includes the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea). Furthermore, two of the hurricanes, Irma and Jose, were identified to be major (category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Scale).
A 36-second animation video made from a sequence of images obtained from the NOAA GOES-East satellite also shows the three hurricanes over a three-day span.
In addition, a natural-color image made last Friday of Hurricane Irma from data obtained by the MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) instrument onboard NASA's Terra satellite shows a nearly textbook illustration of a major hurricane, as Irma, the most powerful Atlantic hurricane on record, was heading toward the southern coast of Florida; at the time of the image, Irma was a category 4 hurricane after reaching category 5 status. [NASA Earth Observatory]
- September is National Preparedness Month -- The month of September has been declared National Preparedness Month (NPM), which aims to educate and empower Americans to prepare for and respond to all types of emergencies, including natural disasters. NPM is managed and sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Administration's (FEMA) Ready Campaign in conjunction with the Ad Council, A toolkit of marketing materials is provided to help promote the month and represents the lead on this campaign that was originally launched in 2004. The overarching theme for 2017 NPM is "Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead. You Can.," with an emphasis on preparedness for youth, older adults, and people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs.
Week 2 of the 2017 NPM (10-16 September) has the theme "Plan to Help Your Neighbor and Community." [FEMA's Ready.gov]
- Worldwide GLOBE at Night 2017 Campaign commences -- The ninth in a series of GLOBE at Night citizen-science campaigns for 2017 will commence this Tuesday (12 September) and continue through Thursday, 21 September. GLOBE at Night is a worldwide, hands-on science and education program designed to encourage citizen-scientists worldwide to record the brightness of their night sky by matching the appearance of a constellation (Cygnus in the Northern Hemisphere and Sagittarius in the Southern Hemisphere) with the seven magnitude/star charts of progressively fainter stars. Activity guides are also available. The GLOBE at night program is intended to raise public awareness of the impact of light pollution. The next series in the 2017 campaign is scheduled for 11-20 October 2017. [GLOBE at Night]
- Observing International Coastal Cleanup -- This coming Saturday, 16 September 2017, has been designated as International Coastal Cleanup, which represents the largest global volunteer effort to clean up local shorelines, coastal areas, parks and neighborhoods. The NOAA Marine Debris Program and Ocean Conservancy are partners in the International Coastal Cleanup. International Coastal Cleanup Day is celebrated annually on the third Saturday in September. [Ocean Conservancy]
- National Estuaries Week commences this weekend --This Saturday, 16 September, marks the start of National Estuaries Week that will run through the following week and end on the 23rd. National Estuaries Week, which was first organized in 1988, is designed to celebrate promote the importance of estuaries and how the public benefits from healthy, thriving the coastal ecosystems. During this week, organizations from around the nation including the non-profit Restore America’s Estuaries member groups, NOAA's National Estuarine Research Reserves and EPA's National Estuary Programs will be organizing special events, such as workshops, beach clean-ups, hikes and trips involving canoes and kayaks.
- Celebrating preservation of Earth's ozone layer -- This Saturday, 16 September, has been designated by the United Nations as World Ozone Day, the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer. This day is celebrated to mark the day back in 1987 when the Montreal Protocol was signed. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Montreal Protocol. [United Nations]
- Aspects of ocean water chemistry and marine life
considered -- If you would like more background information
concerning how marine organisms evolved in the ocean with a relatively
narrow range of chemical and physical characteristics, please read this
week's Supplemental Information...In
Ocean in the News
- Eye on the tropics --- Several named tropical cyclones (low pressure systems that form over tropical ocean waters, with near surface maximum sustained winds that intensify to tropical storm or hurricane force status) traveled across the waters of the North Atlantic and western North Pacific last week:
- In the North Atlantic Basin (that also includes the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico), Hurricane Irma was traveling toward the west-northwest approximately 700 miles to the east of the Leeward Islands at the start of last week.
On Monday morning, data collected by hurricane hunter aircraft indicated that maximum sustained surface winds surrounding Irma were 175 mph, making this major hurricane a category 5 hurricane. In addition, the minimum central pressure was 929 millibars (or 27.44 inches of mercury). At this time, the center of Hurricane Irma was located
270 miles to the east of Antigua. Over the next two days Irma took a track toward the west and then to the west-northwest, passing across some of the Leeward Islands. By early Wednesday, maximum sustained winds had reached 185 mph, making Irma the strongest hurricane in history over the Atlantic Ocean (excluding the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico). Irma caused major damage to some of the islands, including the US Virgin Islands, while passing just to the north of Puerto Rico and Hispaniola, before briefly making a brief landfall along the northeastern coast of Cuba.
Early Sunday morning, Irma made an initial landfall in Florida as its eye passed across the Florida Keys approximately 20 miles to the east of Key West, FL. At the time, maximum sustained surface winds were 130 mph, making Irma a category 4 hurricane. As Hurricane Irma approached the coast of southwest Florida, a storm surge of 10 to 15 feet came onshore. Traveling toward the north, Irma made another landfall during the midafternoon of Sunday, as it passed across Marcos Island and the Naples metropolitan area. A 130-mph wind gust was reported on the island. By Sunday evening, Hurricane Irma was approximately 35 miles east of Ft. Myers, FL. Maximum sustained winds had dropped to 105 mph. The projected path of Irma was to the north, running near the west coast of the Florida Peninsula on Monday, reaching southwestern Georgia by late afternoon.
Irma was expected to remain a hurricane through at least Monday morning. More information and satellite imagery on Hurricane Irma is available on the NASA Hurricane Page.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) assembled a listing of the numerous records that were set by Hurricane Irma as it left a trail of destruction across the low-lying Caribbean islands, Cuba and ultimately, Florida. [WMO News]
Tropical Storm Jose, the Atlantic's tenth named tropical cyclone of 2017, formed during the midday hours of last Tuesday, approximately 1500 miles to the east of the Lesser Antilles. Over the next two days, Jose traveled toward the west-northwest, intensifying to become a hurricane on Wednesday as it was located approximately 1040 miles to the east of the Lesser Antilles. As of Friday morning, Jose began curving to the northwest as it strengthened to become a major category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained surface winds that eventually reached 155 mph as the eye of Jose passed to the north of the northern Leeward Islands. Over this past weekend, a weakening Hurricane Jose continued its track toward the northwest. As of late Sunday afternoon, Hurricane Jose had weakened to a category 3 hurricane as it was moving to the northwest, approximately 285 miles to the east-northeast of Grand Turk Island. Current forecasts indicate Hurricane Jose should begin curving toward the north and then northeast during the first couple of days of this week, with some slow weakening. The projected track would take Jose well to the east of the Bahamas.
Additional information and satellite images for Hurricane Jose are available on the NASA Hurricane Page.
A tropical depression formed over the southwestern Gulf of Mexico last Tuesday afternoon and then strengthened to become Tropical Storm Katia during the predawn hours of Wednesday. At that time, the center of this tropical storm was located approximately 100 miles to the east of Tampico, Mexico. Over the next 12 hours, Tropical Storm Katia strengthened to become the sixth hurricane of 2017 for the entire Atlantic basin as it traveled toward the east-southeast. Reversing direction, Hurricane Katia headed west over the next day, finally making landfall late Friday evening along the coast of Mexico near the community of Tecolutla, or approximately halfway between Tampico and Veracruz, Mexico. Within a few hours of making landfall, Katia weakened to a tropical storm and then dissipated late Saturday morning over the higher terrain of eastern Mexico approximately 125 miles west-northwest of Veracruz.
The NASA Hurricane Page has satellite images and additional information on Hurricane Katia.
- In the western North Pacific basin (to the west of the International Dateline), the 19th tropical depression of 2017 in that basin formed at the beginning of last week over the waters of the Philippine Sea northeast of the main Philippine island of Luzon. This system, variously identified as Tropical Depression Guchol or Tropical Depression 19W (TD-19W), traveled to the northwest and passed through the Luzon Strait between Luzon and Taiwan. By midweek, Guchol dissipated as it approached the coast of the southwest coast of Taiwan, approximately 240 miles to the southwest of the capital city of Taipei. The NASA Hurricane Page has satellite imagery and additional information for Tropical Depression Guchol or TD-19W.
Another tropical depression formed over the waters of the western North Pacific to the east of Guam late Friday. By Saturday, this system had intensified to become Tropical Storm Talmin. Over the weekend, Tropical Storm Talmin traveled toward the west-northwest. As of late Sunday, Talmin was located approximately 550 miles to the north of Yap. Talmin was expected to strengthen to become a category 1 typhoon on the Saffir-Simpson Scale during this week as it would continue to travel toward the west-northwest, making landfall on Taiwan by Thursday.
- Statement made on possible linkages between Hurricane Harvey and anthropogenic climate change --The World Meteorological Organization's (WMO) World Weather Research Programme Expert Team on Climate Impacts on Tropical Cyclones recently issued a statement concerning possible linkages between the category 4 Hurricane Harvey (on the Saffir-Simpson Scale) that generated widespread flooding along the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast nearly two weeks ago and anthropogenic (human-generated) climate change. The report found "no clear evidence that climate change is making the occurrence of slowly moving land-falling hurricanes in the Houston region, such as Hurricane Harvey, more or less likely. However, some aspects or 'ingredients' of the Harvey event may have linkages to climate change." [ WMO News] (Editor's Note: WMO recently stated that some of the messages presented in their discussion of the possible linkages between Hurricane Harvey and anthropogenic climate change would also be pertinent to Hurricane Irma. EJH)
- Top 10 greatest sightings from recent mission to explore the deepwater Pacific -- Last Wednesday (6 September), the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer embarked on the last leg of NOAA's three-year CAPSTONE mission that is intended to explore the deep Pacific Ocean. A montage of the Top 10 sightings from the NOAA's Capstone mission to-date has been posted. However, the public is invited to submit their nominations to this list as the Okeanos Explorer arrives on station at the Musicians Seamounts, an underwater feature to the north of the Hawaiian Islands, and deploys its remotely operated vehicle (ROV) down to the seafloor near these features. This leg of the mission is scheduled to continue thru the last week of September. [NOAA News & Features]
- Students investigate connectivity of ecosystems within a national marine sanctuary -- Four college students from the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at the University of California Santa Barbara recently completed an ecological connectivity assessment as apart of a master's thesis group project. They conducted their assessment within the NOAA Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary, an underwater sanctuary containing live-bottom reefs located near 20 miles offshore of Sapelo Island, Georgia. The students conducted the study "to understand how fish species at the sanctuary are connected regionally and how these connections can inform management decisions." [NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries News]
- Evidence of "sea-level fingerprints" found from satellites -- Researchers from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of California Irvine report finding evidence of sea level rise "fingerprints" that represent detectable patterns of sea-level variability from around the world due to changes in water storage on Earth's continents and in the mass of ice sheets for more than a decade (2003-2014). The researchers based their findings upon analysis of water mass change data from continental glaciers and land water storage data collected by NASA's GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) satellites. Melting of continental glaciers and ice sheets together with changes in water storage on the continents alert Earth's gravity field, which result in non-uniform changes in global sea level. [NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Feature]
- Oceanic thunderstorms made more intense by ship exhaust -- In research conducted at the University of Washington, scientists have found that thunderstorms that develop over the major shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea are significantly more powerful than thunderstorms over areas of the ocean not frequented by ships. These results were based upon the mapping of lightning data obtained from the World Wide Lightning Location Network, which showed that lightning strokes tended to occur nearly twice as often in these heavily traveled shipping lanes. The researchers concluded that aerosol particles emitted in ship exhaust were changing how storm clouds form over the ocean. [University of Washington News]
- Dark colors of Arctic Ocean water are a major cause for polar sea retreat -- Scientists at Japan's Hokkaido University and the National Institute of Polar Research and at the University of Alaska Fairbanks have documented the crucial role that ice-ocean albedo (reflectivity) feedbacks play on the variation and long-term loss of Arctic Sea ice. Dark water surfaces with a lower albedo absorb more heat than white ice surfaces that have high albedo, thus melting ice and making more water surfaces in the Arctic Ocean. This relationship is a significant factor year to year in the ongoing seasonal loss of Arctic ice cover, which appears to be declining rapidly in the summer season.
[Hokkaido University News]
- An All-Hazards Monitor -- This Web portal provides the user information from NOAA's National Weather Service, FAA and FEMA on
current environmental events that may pose as hazards such as tropical
weather, fire weather, marine weather, severe weather, drought and
floods. [NOAA/NWS Daily Briefing]
- Earthweek -- Diary of the Planet [earthweek.com]
Concept of the Week: Sea Water Salinity
and Carbon Dioxide
In view of the contemporary concern regarding global climate
change, scientists are studying the various factors that govern the
ocean's ability to absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide. Concentrations of
atmospheric carbon dioxide are on the rise primarily because of the
burning of fossil fuels (i.e., coal, oil, natural gas). Carbon dioxide
is a greenhouse gas (an atmospheric gas that absorbs and radiates
infrared radiation) so that higher levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide
may be contributing to global warming. The ocean's role in regulating
the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide depends on the
temperature, salinity, and biological components of surface waters.
As noted in Chapter 3 of your textbook, gases are more soluble
in cold seawater than warm seawater. Hence, changes in sea surface
temperature affect the ability of the ocean to absorb carbon dioxide.
As noted in Chapter 1 of your textbook, photosynthetic organisms take
up carbon dioxide and release oxygen. And through cellular respiration,
all organisms release carbon dioxide. What about the effects of changes
in salinity on the ocean's uptake of atmospheric carbon dioxide?
Research from the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii provides some insight on
Since the late 1980s, scientists have been recording ocean
conditions at a site (dubbed ALOHA) about 100 km (62 mi) north of Oahu.
In 2003, David M. Karl, a biogeochemist at the University of Hawaii in
Honolulu, reported a decline in the rate at which surface ocean waters
were absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In fact, in 2001,
the rate of CO2 uptake was only about 15% of
what it was in 1989. Why the change in CO2 uptake? In this region of the Pacific north of Hawaii, sea surface
temperatures showed no significant change during the period of
observation but precipitation decreased and evaporation increased. Less
precipitation coupled with higher rates of evaporation caused the
surface water salinity at ALOHA to increase by about 1%. Increasing
salinity inhibits water's ability to absorb gases including carbon
dioxide. Karl and his colleagues attribute 40% of the decline in the
ocean's CO2 uptake to the saltier waters. The
balance of the decline may be due to changes in biological productivity
or ocean mixing.
- 11 September 1961...Very large and slow-moving Hurricane
Carla made landfall near Port Lavaca, TX. Carla battered the central
Texas coast with wind gusts to 175 mph, and up to 16 inches of rain,
and spawned a vicious tornado (F4 on the Fujita tornado intensity
scale) which swept across Galveston Island killing eight persons and
destroying 200 buildings. A storm surge of up to 18.5 feet inundated
coastal areas and Bay City was deluged with 17.1 inches of rain. The
hurricane claimed 45 lives, and caused $300 million in damage. The
remnants of Carla produced heavy rain in the Lower Missouri Valley and
southern sections of the Upper Great Lakes Region. (David Ludlum)
(Storm Data) (Intellicast)
- 11 September 1992...Hurricane Iniki, the third most
damaging hurricane in US history, hit the Hawaiian Islands of Kauai and
Oahu, with sustained winds of 145 mph and gusts to 175 mph. Six people died as a result of the hurricane; it caused between $2 billion and $3 billion in damage. (National Weather Service files)
- 12 September 1775...The Independence Hurricane caught many fishing boats on the Grand Banks off Newfoundland killing
4000 seamen, most from Britain and Ireland. (The Weather Doctor)
- 12 September 1857...The S.S. Central America sank while in the midst of a hurricane off the North Carolina coast
after beginning to take on water the previous day (11th).
Approximately 400 people onboard were lost, the greatest single loss
from a commercial ship due to a hurricane. (Accord Weather Calendar)
- 12 September 1960...Hurricane Donna made landfall on
central Long Island and then tracked across New England. Wind gusts
reached 140 mph at the Blue Hills Observatory in Milton, MA and 130 mph
at Block Island, RI. MacDowell Dam in New Hampshire recorded 7.25
inches of rain. Although a record tide of 6.1 feet occurred at the
Battery in New York City, elsewhere fortunately the storm did not make
landfall at the high tides so its effects were minimized. This was the
first hurricane to affect every point along the East Coast from Key
West, FL to Caribou, ME. (Intellicast)
- 12 September 1979...Hurricane Frederick, a former Category 4 storm, smashed into the
Mobile Bay area of Alabama packing 132-mph winds. Wind gusts to 145 mph
were reported as the eye of the hurricane moved over Dauphin Island,
AL, just west of Mobile. Frederick produced a fifteen-foot storm surge
near the mouth of Mobile Bay. Winds gusted to hurricane force at
Meridian, MS although the city is 140 miles inland. The hurricane was
responsible for five fatalities and was the costliest in U.S. history
to date causing $2.3 billion in damage. (David Ludlum) (The Weather
- 12 September 1988...The island of Jamaica was given a devastating hit by Hurricane Gilbert. (National Weather Service files)
- 13 September 1928...The hurricane that struck Puerto Rico was called the San Felipe Hurricane because that is the saint's day on which it struck. One thousand people died. (National Weather Service files)
- 13 September 1988...A reconnaissance plane measured Hurricane Gilbert as the strongest Atlantic hurricane (up to that time) at 888 millibars or 26.22 inches of mercury. (National Weather Service files)
- 13-16 September 2004...Hurricane Ivan affected coastal
Alabama and the western Florida Panhandle, with landfall near Gulf
Shores, AL early on the 16th. Before breaking loose of its mooring, a
buoy just south of the Alabama coastal waters reported a peak wave
height of 52 feet on the 15th. (Accord Weather Guide Calendar)
- 14 September 1716...The Boston Light, the first lighthouse
in America, was first lighted just before sunset. This light was
located on Little Brewster Island to mark the entrance to Boston Harbor
and guide ships past treacherous rocks. This original light was blown
up by the British in 1776, rebuilt in 1783, and is currently the last
staffed station in the U.S. (Today in Science History)
- 15 September 1752...A great hurricane produced a tide
(storm surge) along the South Carolina coast that nearly inundated
downtown Charleston. However, just before the surge reached the city, a
shift in the wind caused the water level to drop five feet in ten
minutes. (David Ludlum)
- 16 September 1926...The Great Miami Hurricane struck that city as a Category 4. The eye of the storm crossed directly over downtown Miami and lasted for 35 minutes, prompting people to return to the streets where subsequently many were killed as the second half of the storm roared in. Very little of Miami and Miami Beach were left intact. (National Weather Service files)
- 16 September 1928...Hurricane San Felipe, a monster
hurricane, which left 600 dead in Guadeloupe and 300 dead in Puerto
Rico, struck West Palm Beach, FL causing enormous damage, and then
headed for Lake Okeechobee. Peak winds were near 150 mph. The high
winds produced storm waves that breached the eastern dike on Lake
Okeechobee, inundating flat farmland. When the storm was over, the lake
covered an area the size of the state of Delaware, and beneath its
waters were 1836 victims. The only survivors were those who reached
large hotels for safety, and a group of fifty people who got onto a
raft to take their chances out in the middle of the lake. (David
- 16 September 1988...Hurricane Gilbert made landfall 120
miles south of Brownsville, TX in Mexico during the early evening.
Winds gusted to 61 mph at Brownsville, and reached 82 mph at Padre
Island. Six-foot tides eroded three to four feet of beach along the
Lower Texas Coast, leaving the waterline seventy-five feet farther
inland. Rainfall totals ranged up to 8.71 in. at Lamark, TX. Gilbert
caused $3 million in property damage along the Lower Texas Coast, but
less than a million dollars damage along the Middle Texas Coast. During
its life span, Gilbert established an all-time record for the Western
Hemisphere with a sea-level barometric pressure reading of 26.13 inches
(888 millibars). Winds approached 200 mph, with higher gusts. Gilbert
devastated Jamaica and Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. (The National
Weather Summary) (Storm Data) (The Weather Channel)
- 17 September 1829...The Siebold Typhoon, Japan's most catastrophic typhoon, inflicted widespread damage over much of Japan. On the southern island of Kyushu, the storm surge off the Ariake Sea killed 10,000 people. (National Weather Service files)
- 17-23 September 1989...Hurricane Hugo hit the Virgin
Islands on the 17th, producing wind gusts to 97
mph at Saint Croix. Hurricane Hugo passed directly over the island of
Saint Croix causing complete devastation and essentially cutting off
the island's communications systems. A storm surge of five to seven
feet occurred at Saint Croix. The only rain gauge left operating, at
Caneel Bay, indicated 9.40 in. in 24 hrs. Hurricane Hugo claimed the
lives of three persons at Saint Croix, and caused more than $500
million in damage. A ship, Nightcap, in the harbor of Culebra, measured
wind gusts as high as 170 mph. On the 18th, Hugo
hit Puerto Rico, producing a storm surge of four to six feet, and
northeastern sections of the island were deluged with more than ten
inches of rain. Hugo claimed the lives of a dozen persons in Puerto
Rico, and caused $1 billion in property damage, including $100 million
in crop losses. On the 21st, Hugo slammed into
the South Carolina coast at about 11 PM, making landfall near Sullivans
Island. Hurricane Hugo was directly responsible for thirteen deaths,
and indirectly responsible for twenty-two others. A total of 420
persons were injured in the hurricane, and damage was estimated at $8
billion including $2 billion damage to crops. Sustained winds reached
85 mph at Folly Beach SC, with wind gusts as high was 138 mph. Wind
gusts reached 98 mph at Charleston, and 109 mph at Shaw AFB. The
highest storm surge occurred in the McClellanville and Bulls Bay area
of Charleston County, with a storm surge of 20.2 ft reported at Seewee
Bay. Shrimp boats were found one half-mile inland at McClellanville. On
the 22nd, Hugo quickly lost strength over South
Carolina, but still was a tropical storm as it crossed into North
Carolina, just west of Charlotte, at about 7 AM. Winds around Charlotte
reached 69 mph, with gusts to 99 mph. Eighty percent of the power was
knocked out to Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. Property damage in
North Carolina was $210 million and damage to crops was $97 million.
The greatest storm surge occurred along the southern coast shortly
after midnight, reaching nine feet above sea level at Ocean Isle and
Sunset Beach. Hugo killed one person and injured fifteen others in
North Carolina. (Storm Data) (The National Weather Summary)
- 17 September 1996...Remnants of Hurricane Fausto that had
initially formed over the eastern Pacific and moved northeastward from
Mexico reformed into a powerful coastal storm in Atlantic waters off
the Del-Mar-Va Peninsula, before passing Cape Cod in eastern
Massachusetts. Winds gusted to 50 mph and rainfall was up to four
inches. Minor coastal flooding in the New York City metropolitan area.
(Accord Weather Guide Calendar)
- 17 September 2004...Flooding and mudslides killed more than 3,000 people in Haiti in Hurricane Jeanne. (National Weather Service files)
Return to RealTime Ocean Portal
Prepared by Ocean Studies Central Staff and Edward J. Hopkins,
© Copyright, 2017, The American Meteorological Society.