- Education and Science
Is Hurricane Gaston The Storm Of Our Nightmares?
Sept. 3 Note: OK, so Gaston went poof in the past 24 hours since I wrote this as hurricane forecasting is most art and just a bit of science... but I'll continue to keep an eye on some big waves coming off of Africa and all that hot water in the Atlantic... this is a very wild and woolly hurricane season!
At the time of writing, Hurricane Earl was about to turn the North Carolina Outer Banks into pulp so naturally the attention of the nation was focused on it to the exclusion of everything else. However, there seemed to be indications that a storm was brewing in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean which could make Americans quickly forget the flattened beachfront houses in Ocracoke. Hurricane Gaston is coming, and unlike the burly cartoon character in The Beauty & The Beast, this Gaston promises at least at this very early stage to be all beast.
Why pick out Hurricane Gaston among all the other hurricanes of what promises to be a very busy hurricane season? The National Weather Service's National Hurricane Center Tropical Storm Gaston Forecast Discussion issued a few hours ago had some extremely ominous data which could truly be the worst nightmare of not only the American Gulf Coast and Florida's Atlantic Coast, but also for the rest of the Caribbean.
Gaston had shown that it had not changed much in organization since becoming a Tropical Storm. The area where Gaston found itself was a region of very low wind shear. Wind shear is the force which tends to break up tropical storms and hurricanes, so the lack of the wind shear means that the conditions are favorable for an intensification of the storm. Another critical factor was the extremely high water temperatures which Gaston found itself. High water temperature is the fuel for hurricanes. The warmer the water that the hurricane travels over, the stronger the hurricane will become.
The water temperatures right now along the early forecasted track which Gaston might take (I emphasize might as hurricanes are highly unpredictable phenomena) lead it across some of the hottest waters ever recorded in that part of the world. Taking a beeline heading for the southern Caribbean, with some forecast tracks showing that it might in a very unconventional hurricane fashion actually head a bit south, Gaston showed that it might dwell in those hot waters for a longer than typical time as the forward momentum seemed to be slowing. If that turns out to be the case, Gaston could easily crack the number five rating on the Saffir-Simpson scale. Keep in mind that as Katrina hit it was "just" a level three hurricane.
At the current time, Gaston seemed to be making a beeline for St. Kitts and Nevis. Should it turn a bit south, it could strafe Barbados or St. Lucia with some tracks placing it as far south as between Granada and Tobago. If those tracks turn out to be true, Gaston would be spending even more time over the anomalous warm waters and keep gaining strength until it truly could break all records.
There is a general northward path to the tracks which Hurricanes have taken this year so far, so the likelihood of Gaston actually passing through the Gulf are not as high as a forecast that it could hit the Florida Atlantic coast. If I had to put money on it right now, I'd say somewhere between Fort Lauderdale and Daytona, but Jacksonville residents should certainly keep an eye on this storm. If it actually does cross the Antilles and continues tracking westward, then there is literally nowhere on the US Gulf Coast that is safe.
Watch out for Hurricane Gaston if you live anywhere on the southeastern coast of the USA or in the Caribbean. I pray that it is not, but many of the early forecast elements show that it could dwarf Katrina or even Andrew in sheer destructive power.