- Ronald Avila-Claudio
- BBC News World
Since last weekend, thousands of citizens in Central America have been devastated by the hurricane, which, according to experts, is “extraordinary” for this time of year.
Typically, the most devastating hurricanes – supercells or extensive thunderstorms – occur in spring or early summer.
However, between Friday night and Saturday morning, a number of these events were recorded, affecting the order of the six states located in the Midwest and South of the country.
Employees of the National Weather Service (SNM) in Louisville say it is too early to know the exact number of storms that have formed in the past few days.
But, at least in the worst-affected state of Kentucky, there is data from a supercell that appeared in Arkansas at 8:30 pm (CT) the same Friday night.
This atmospheric phenomenon traveled about 482 kilometers in about six hours. According to meteorologist Ron Steve of the Meteorological Agency, a hurricane created by the storm traveled 262 kilometers.
SNM states on its website that tornadoes typically travel only “a few kilometers”.
Although it left Arkansas and entered central Kentucky, this supercell passed through Missouri and Tennessee. That’s why some media and scientists call it a “quad-state” hurricane.
“We had so-called supercell thunderstorms. Basically, they have their own rotation and are capable of sustaining themselves for many hours. But these are the longest surviving supercells I have ever seen,” Steve told the BBC Mundo.
Meanwhile, fellow meteorologist and journalist Ben Hen, in a blog post for Yale University, noted that Quad-State was one of the “most violent” hurricanes ever seen.
Jeff Masters, a scientist at the National Office for the Administration of the Sea and the Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), compared the weekend events to a 1925 tri-state tornado, the longest in history. Of the United States.
“Last night was one of the most shocking atmospheric events in my forty-year career as an astronomer – a violent hurricane (in December!),” Masters wrote on his Twitter account.
The tri-state hurricane traveled 280 kilometers between Missouri, Illinois and Indiana, Hen said.
The intensity of the hurricane formed by the supercell was 3 on the Fujita scale, i.e. the wind intensity ranged from 254 kilometers per hour to 331 kilometers.
In Kentucky alone, authorities say at least 64 people have been killed since the weekend.
What happened to create this much natural event this December?
Temperature in the Gulf of Mexico
It will take time to explain why this supercell was created because it will require in-depth data analysis.
But Angel Adams-Coralisa, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Wisconsin, told BBC Mundo that it was one of the keys to how a hurricane forms in Central America.
In the central part of the country, sometimes popularly known as the hurricane alley, the hot and humid winds blowing from the Gulf of Mexico meet the cold winds coming from the north. When there is a strong wind moving in different directions, thunderstorms or supercells form, from which a hurricane develops.
Adames-Corraliza said it was “common” in December. However, it is the temperature rise currently recorded in the Gulf of Mexico that is “unusual” and could affect the formation of a quad-state-like phenomenon.
“We are talking about air coming from the Gulf of Mexico that is hotter and humid than what is seen at this time of year, or at least humid and hot air being carried farther than usual,” he said.
Today the maximum temperature in most parts of the Gulf of Mexico is 26 C. The professor commented, “The weather at this time of year is usually 24 C or lower.”
Will climate change have an impact?
Adames-Corraliza said climate change, although not indicated as responsible for the event, could have an impact due to its role in global warming.
However, NOAA scientist Harold Brooks said there was no consensus among the scientific community on the effects of the hurricane.
“There is no consensus like rising heat waves or heavy rain,” he told the BBC News.
Wind speed and atmospheric energy are the two main drivers of hurricanes, but the evidence for how they can change with warmer climates is not conclusive, he said.
In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change pointed out that some of the atmospheric conditions favorable for hurricane formation, such as instability, may increase due to rising temperatures and humidity.
U.S. President Joe Biden has said he will order the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to investigate the disaster, although there is no consensus.
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