Iota has been upgraded to a hurricane on Saturday and is now explosively intensifying towards a major hurricane strength. It will be the 6th major hurricane of the Atlantic Hurricane season 2020. Model guidance suggests that Iota will likely become a violent Category 4 hurricane and made a catastrophic landfall in Central America on Monday night. Destructive flooding and life-threatening mudslides in Nicaragua and Honduras are expected.

Iota is expected to continue to rapidly intensify into a major hurricane and be an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane when it approaches the coast of Central America on Monday. Just 10 days after a devastating landfall of Hurricane Eta with almost the same storm track.

*HURRICANE WARNING is in effect along portions of northeastern Nicaragua and eastern Honduras where potentially catastrophic winds and a life-threatening storm surge are expected*

According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), Iota has become the 13th hurricane of the already record-breaking Atlantic 2020 hurricane season and has entered a rapid strengthening phase on Sunday, Nov 15th.

Hurricane conditions are expected and storm surge impacts are possible on Providencia through Sunday night and Monday. Tropical storm conditions are expected and hurricane conditions are possible in San Andres.

Central American countries Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala are suffering a significant humanitarian crisis after the destructive impact of a high-end Category 4 hurricane Eta last week. Eta has brought a high death toll due to the remarkable amount of rainfall, lead to deadly flooding and mudslides.

And what appears likely on the model guidance regarding the track of Hurricane Iota, we are likely facing yet another deadly disaster over central America. There is a very high concern of catastrophic flooding and life-threatening event developing into Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala this coming week.

Iota seems to be taking almost the same track and Eta did.

Through Friday morning, heavy rainfall from Iota will likely lead to life-threatening flash flooding and river flooding across portions of Central America. Flooding and mudslides in Honduras and Nicaragua could be exacerbated by Hurricane Eta’s recent effects there, resulting in significant to potentially catastrophic and deadly impacts.

IOTA TO BECOME A RARE MID-NOVEMBER CATEGORY 4 HURRICANE

 

Iota is still forecast to become a major hurricane (Category 3 or greater) on early Monday. When this occurs, it will be 2nd major hurricane to form this November (major Hurricane Eta was the first one).

This will set another remarkable record for the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season – there are no seasons on record that have had two major hurricane formations in the month of November!

When major strength occurs, Iota will also become the 6th major hurricane of the season.

As Iota is forecast to reach Category 4 intensity before landfall, it will be only the 2nd Atlantic hurricane to reach Category 4 intensity this late in the calendar year on record. The other is major hurricane Lenny which reached a Category 4 strength on Nov 17th, 1999 near Puerto Rico.

Now take a look at this chart below; it is showing a comparison of 2020 versus 2005 seasons, compared to the average season percentile. The Atlantic hurricane season 2020 is remarkable! Graphics are provided by Sam Lillo.

IOTA EXPLODES OVER EXTREMELY WARM CARIBBEAN SEA

 

The sea surface temperatures remain very warm in the Western Atlantic, and extremely warm over the Caribbean region with around 30 °C (86 °F) across the western portions of the Caribbean Sea.

This is a very worrying signal as sea waters remain much higher than the long-term average. This means that hurricane Iota will bring a very high amount of moisture with violent thunderstorms towards Central America, leading to destructive flooding.

Graphics below are provided by Windy.com.

The majority of the North Atlantic, tropical Atlantic, and the Caribbean are still well-above average, about 1-2 °C warmer, even more across the Northwest Atlantic.

Waters remain warm, much above the long-term average across the whole Gulf of Mexico, around Florida, the Bahamas, and along the East Coast of the United States.

And to top this, there is still a pronounced MJO wave underway over the tropical Atlantic, ongoing since the end of September.

The Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) is the largest and most dominant source of short-term tropical variability, it is an eastward-moving wave of thunderstorms, clouds, rain, winds, and pressure. It circles the entire planet on the equator in about 30 to 60 days.

As we can see from the graphics below, it is a very obvious feature this week (first chart and marked with a red circle), with blue color over the Atlantic basin. On the week 1 forecast (second chart) the MJO wave will begin weakening but still not completely vanished.

So this means that it will continue lowering the pressure and providing a strong boost to thunderstorm activity in the tropical Atlantic towards through mid to end of November.

The above graphics, provided by Michael J. Ventrice, Ph.D. represent an MJO wave with filtered VP200* anomalies for the current state and for the week 1 forecast.

Cold colors are representative of a more favorable state over the Atlantic for tropical cyclogenesis while warm colors represent a less favorable state for tropical cyclogenesis.

*VP200 – means a Velocity Potential (VP). It is an indicator of the large scale divergent flow, so at upper levels in the tropics. The negative VP anomalies (shaded blue in the diagram) are closely tied to the divergent outflow from enhanced convective regions.

RAPID INTENSIFICATION OF IOTA

 

Iota is a very impressive hurricane in both visible and infrared satellite imagery. The hurricane has a well-defined forming inner eyewall, surrounded with widening and almost symmetric Central Dense Overcast (COD). Cloud tops within the eyewall have a temperature close to -85 degrees Celsius.

The sustained winds have increased from 45 knots to 80 knots over the past 24 hours while Iota continues further rapid intensification.

The satellite image above is provided by Windy.com.

The satellite presentation of hurricane Iota has continued to improve on Sunday afternoon. A ragged eye has become apparent in visible satellite imagery, with excellent banding features surrounding it.

The upper-level outflow ventilation is outstanding. Widely open in all directions, a sign that Iota is serious about rapid strengthening!

The Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft that is scanning Iota has reported a minimum pressure of around 964 mbar, and stronger winds across the northeast and northwest quadrants. Rapid deepening of the pressure is seen as its central pressure has been falling for about 3-5 mbar with each hurricane hunters pass.

But Iota has continued explosively intensifying further on Sunday.

Based on the Advanced Dvorak Technique (ADT) analysis estimation Iota’s tropical-storm-force 50-knot winds are spread across the 50-60 mile radii around the eye. While hurricane Iota also has around 20-25 radii of hurricane-force 64-knot winds. The wind field is also expanding and strengthening.

Hurricane Iota has been steadily intensifying since Saturday afternoon but is now using a higher gear. The rapid intensification is even stronger now as Iota arrived in much more favorable conditions. Extremely warm seas lead to explosive storms that Iota began rapidly deepening its central pressure.

Iota is a Category 2 hurricane with around 85-90 knots of sustained winds and is likely to become a very violent hurricane over the next 24 hours!

IOTA HEADS FOR CATASTROPHIC LANDFALL IN NICARAGUA

 

Very favorable atmospheric and oceanic conditions consisting of low vertical wind shear and warm waters are expected to lead to further rapid strengthening over the next 12 to 36 hours until the center reaches the coast of Central America.

The NHC intensity forecast again calls for Iota to reach major hurricane strength tonight. It is now becoming increasingly likely that Iota could bring a strong Category 4 hurricane landfall somehow in northeast Nicaragua or eastern Honduras on Monday night.

Iota is moving westward to west-northwestward at about 8 knots, its track remains unchanged from before. A strong mid-level ridge that extends across the western Atlantic and Florida will steer Iota westward to west-northwestward through landfall Monday night.

This is a great concern as catastrophic flooding is likely to be expected with storms maintaining for a longer period over the affected areas. As after it makes landfall in Central America, torrential rains and flooding will be a major threat from Iota.

The potential landfall impact will again be near the city of Puerto Cabezas (a city with a population near 60.000) in northeastern Nicaragua, the eye will likely pass to its north. Winds will be violent and could cause additional significant damage that was left after hurricane Eta.

Peak wind gusts swath. Image by Windy.com
 

DESTRUCTIVE FLOODING AND MUDSLIDES EXPECTED

 

In addition to potentially catastrophic winds, Iota is expected to bring a life-threatening storm surge and extreme rainfall impacts to portions of Central America. This comes less than two weeks after another hurricane – a major Hurricane Eta significantly impacted the area.

The amount of rainfall is the greatest concern. The total amount of rainfall forecast over the next 10 days is exceptional and will lead to catastrophic flash floods and mudslides.

And this will significantly worsen the ongoing flooding disaster in the Central American region.

Hurricane preparedness should be underway in Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala now as a major disaster is likely to occur. The European model, ECMWF, is simulating an extremely concerning amount of rainfall over the next 10 days.

There is a high potential for another 400-700 mm (15-25 inches) of rain possible in many areas. While the land is already completely soaked after hurricane Eta’s destructive and deadly impact last week.

Again there is a HIGH RISK for life-threatening, deadly flooding, and mudslides. Just a week after the *same* region was impacted by deadly flooding and mudslides.

Rainfall accumulation. Image by Windy.com

Extreme amounts of rain are expected near the Iota’s landfall point in northeast Nicaragua. There also further west across northwestern Honduras, and central Guatemala. All these areas could see 400+ mm until the next weekend.

 

Life-threatening flooding, river flooding, and mudslides are expected. The impact will be significant and could be deadly!

After landfall, rapid weakening should occur as Iota moves over the mountainous terrain of Central America.

Iota will push the remarkable 2020 Atlantic hurricane season very high. As the Greek alphabet named storms (Alpha thru Iota) has now generated 69 ACE. This is enough Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) to meet the NOAA average Atlantic hurricane season definition as of Nov 15th.

Remember that the average hurricane season generates ACE between 66 and 111! Remarkable!

What is the Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE index)?

 

The Accumulated Cyclone Energy is the energy output of a hurricane season, calculated as an index (ACE index). It is a metric used to express the energy used by a tropical cyclone during its lifetime. The index calculation takes the cyclone’s maximum sustained winds every six hours and multiplies it by itself to generate the values. The total sum of these values is calculated to get the total for a storm.

The current Atlantic basin ACE is, as of November 15th, already at 170. That is an impressive 68 percent higher than during a normal season to this date (101.3).

The highest ACE so far this season was generated by Teddy (27.8), Eta (18.1), Paulette (15.9), Delta (15.7), Epsilon (13.1), and Laura (12.8). The current system – hurricane Iota – added another 2.7 to the ACE index total for the Atlantic 2020 hurricane season so far (as of Nov 15th).

But indeed Iota’s ACE value is not final yet as it will be adding more with its major hurricane strength until the landfall in Central America.

With the Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) index above the ‘extremely active’ threshold of 152.5, this means that the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is now officially an extremely active season.

However, there is still a long run to reach the strongest Atlantic hurricane season like 1933 (ACE of 258.6), 2005 (250.1), or 1893 (231.2).

30+ NAMED STORMS IN 2020, MORE STORMS LIKELY

 

Iota is the 30th named storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. It is also the 9th named storm from the Greek Alphabet list and also the 31st tropical depression forming in 2020 (tied 31 depressions forming in 2005).

Theta, therefore, is the ninth (9th) named storm from the Greek alphabet list. So we are now well above the previous record of 6 named storms from this list, set in 2005.

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season remains on course for an even more exceptionally record-setting year to date, Nov 15th.

There were 30 named storms, which is about 261 % of the long-term average (11.5) for this time period. So far, there were more than double the number of hurricanes (13) and five (5) major hurricanes (Laura, Teddy, Delta, Zeta, and Eta). Iota is soon the 6th major hurricane of the season.

28 storms out of those 30 total, had the earliest formation date on record.

As of Nov 15th, there have been 116 named storm days so far, which is around 206 % of the average number (56.2). As we can see from the statistical graphics above (see the column 2nd from the right), all the forecast parameters are greatly much above average.

Including hurricane days (33), major hurricanes (5), and major hurricane days (7.5). Provided graphics are by dr. Philip Klotzbach.

The hurricane season 2020 is now the most active on record, breaking the previous record hurricane season 2005. The 2005 season had three (3) named storm formations in November, while 2020 is currently also counting three storm formations (Eta formed on Nov 1st, Theta on Nov 8th and Iota formed on Nov 13th).

With a still high potential for a few more tropical depressions or storms forming through November, we might be reaching halfway through the Greek Alphabet names. The potential remains high that additional storms could form in the next two weeks.

KAPPA COULD FORM NEXT WEEK?

 
Global models are definitely trending this way and also the National Hurricane Center (NHC) hints another tropical wave could be another tropical depression or a tropical storm late this week. The next named storm would get a name Kappa.

An area of low pressure could form in a few days over the central or southwestern Caribbean Sea. Development, if any, of this system
should be slow to occur late this week while it moves slowly westward across the southwestern Caribbean Sea.

The NHC is giving this wave an 20 percent (%) chance to become a tropical storm over the next 5 days.

There seems to be a fairly high chance that the well-above-average western Atlantic and Caribbean region sea temperatures would be favorable for tropical storm formation even in December this year. And season might be aiming towards Nu or Xi storm names at the end.

Stay tuned!

 

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