(Source: www.forbes.com)

Don’t worry. You are not losing it. Ireland is in the “cone” of uncertainty in that map below. Hurricane Ophelia is the 10th consecutive hurricane to form in the Atlantic basin this year. According to University of Miami hurricane expert Brian McNoldy, the last time ten consecutive storms became a hurricane was 1893. While that is very interesting factoid, the “elephant in the room” is that Ophelia is headed to Ireland. It is rare, but not unprecedented.

NASA

Hurricane Ophelia is a healthy looking storm, and it is still over relatively warm waters (more on that later). The key messages from NOAA’s National Hurricane Center were articulated in the 11 am AST forecast discussion

Ophelia is expected to transition to a hurricane-force post-tropical cyclone by Monday when it moves near Ireland and the United Kingdom.. While post-tropical Ophelia will likely bring some direct impacts from wind and heavy rain to portions of these areas, as well as dangerous marine conditions, given the forecast uncertainty at these time ranges it is too soon to determine the exact, magnitude, timing and location of the impacts. Residents in Ireland and the United Kingdom should monitor the progress of Ophelia for the next several days. For more information on local impacts, residents of Ireland should refer to products issued by Met Eireann and residents in the United Kingdom should refer to products issued by the Met Office.

NOAA NHC

I am still recovering from the fact that I just read a National Hurricane Center advisory providing information for the United Kingdom, but I digress. This message and information issued at the 5 pm update basically says that the storm will transition from a tropical system to something more similar to a typical mid-latitude storm. In other words, it will start deriving its energy for air mass differences rather than evaporated ocean water. Hurricane Sandy did something similar in 2012. This is a great “101” site on hurricanes transitioning to extratropical systems.

On its journey to the United Kingdom, Ophelia is likely to brush the Azores. According to The Weather Channel, this is fairly rare. On their website, they point out

Only 15 hurricanes have passed within 200 nautical miles of the Azores since 1851, according to NOAA’s historical hurricane database. All of those occurred in August or September, except for Hurricane Fran in October 1973 and Hurricane Alex in January 2016, which made landfall shortly after weakening to a tropical storm.

A natural question to ask: How often does the United Kingdom get hit by a hurricane (Disclaimer: Ophelia will likely be post-tropical by the time it arrives but this is meteorological minutia for the moment)? Most Atlantic storms track westward toward the Caribbean Islands or the United States. They ultimately dissipate, make landfall, or curve out to sea becoming “fish storms” as we say in my profession. In 2011, the remnants of Hurricane Katia brought 80 mph winds to the British Isles. I consulted Brett Israel’s discussion at Livescience.com for answers. He writes

From 1851 to 2010, only 10 extratropical storms, typically the tail ends of tropical cyclones, have hit within 200 miles (322 kilometers) of Ireland….Hurricane Debbie was the only tropical hurricane to make landfall in that area, clipping the far northwest of the British Isles in 1961.

That is pretty rare folks.

Naval Research Lab

At one point, Ophelia was targeting the Iberian Peninsula. You know the place where Portugal and Spain are. According to Kevin Loria writing in Business Insider

Only two known storms have hit the Iberian Peninsula — one in 1842, and one in 2005. The most recent was a tropical depression that was previously Hurricane Vince.

A 2013 study published in Geophysical Research Letters suggests that climate warming will bring more hurricanes to Europe. Using a climate model with very high resolution, the researchers found that increasing Atlantic tropical sea surface temperatures would extend eastward. This would provide a “fuel-laden” path for storms moving back toward Europe. Typically such storms die or go through extratropical transition, however, the additional energy from warm waters on “steroids” may provide an extra boost. I have been particularly surprised that Hurricane Ophelia has held together, and waters are warm enough to support its tropical requirements (see below). A team of the world’s best hurricane experts published a study in Nature in 2014 noting that hurricanes were starting to strengthen further poleward (away from the tropics). They hypothesized that this was related to changes in potential intensity and wind shear structure in the atmosphere.

NOAA

I encourage our friends in the United Kingdom to keep an eye on Ophelia. In life, things that are not common can be particularly hazardous.

More Info: www.forbes.com

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