DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.
DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

Hurricane Karl

Charlene Gardner

Medgar Evers College

Introduction to Geography GEOG101-001

Doctor Uzozie


As a Geographer there are some key questions you must ask such as Who, What, Why, and How?  So let us ask ourselves these questions: What is a hurricane, why does it happen, how do they get their names and who names them? There are different organizations in charge of all of these things. I must say it could not be an easy job but it needs to be done. How do they do this job let us take a look at what they do together?

Before I could explain Hurricane Karl, I must first explain what a hurricane is. According to the National Hurricane Center a Hurricane is defined as “a tropical wind that can travel at least 70 miles per hour.”  The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale is utilized to determine the relative strengths of hurricanes that may impact the United States coast. Since the 1990s, only wind speed has been used to categorize hurricanes. There are five categories of hurricanes: Category One Hurricane some of its characteristics are maximum sustained wind speed: 74-95 miles per hour and minimal damage. Category Two Hurricane some of its characteristics maximum sustained wind speed: 96-110 miles per hour and moderate damage. Category Three Hurricane some of its characteristics maximum sustained wind speed: 111-130 miles per hour and extensive damage. Category Four Hurricane maximum sustained wind speed: 131-155 miles per hour and extreme damage. Category Five Hurricane maximum sustained wind speed: more than 155 miles per hour and catastrophic damage.

     The World Meteorological Organization is in charge of assigning names to tropical storms that originate in the Atlantic Ocean and reach a sustained wind speed of 39 miles per hour. Any storm that reaches a sustained wind speed of 74 miles per hour is called a "hurricane". When a storm becomes a hurricane it retains the name that it was given as a tropical storm. The World Meteorological Organization has six lists of storm names which are recycled every six years. In the early days of meteorology in the United States storms were named with a latitude / longitude designation representing the location where the storm originated. These names were difficult to remember, difficult to communicate and subject to errors. During the Second World War military meteorologists working in the Pacific began to use women's names for storms. That naming method made communication so easy that in 1953 it was adopted by the National Hurricane Center for use on storms originating in the Atlantic Ocean. Once this practice started, hurricane names quickly became part of common language and public awareness of hurricanes increased dramatically.

In 1978, meteorologists watching storms in the Eastern North Pacific began using men's names for half of the storms. Meteorologists for the Atlantic Ocean began using men's names in 1979. For each year, a list of 21 names, each starting with a different letter of the alphabet was developed and arranged in alphabetical order; however, names beginning with the letters Q, U, X, Y and Z were not used. The first tropical storm of the year was given the name beginning with the letter "A", the second with the letter "B" and so on through the alphabet. During even-numbered years, men's names were given to the odd-numbered storms and during odd-numbered years, women's names were given to even-numbered storms. Today, the World Meteorological Organization maintains the lists of Atlantic hurricane names. They have six lists which are reused every six years. Indeed, if a hurricane causes major destruction and numerous people lose their lives the name of the hurricane could go into retirement because reuse of the name could cause great pain and it would be insensitive to survivors’ feelings. When that happens the World Meteorological Organization replaces the name.

  Hurricanes originated over the northern Atlantic Ocean and the northern Pacific Ocean.  A hurricane is a strong wind that spins in a counter clockwise direction.  Hurricanes move very quickly but they lose their intensity as soon as they hit land. Yes hurricanes do have an eye but it's not the type you and I have. In a hurricane the eye is basically the calm point out of the hurricane. The eye's winds are the calmest winds out of the hurricane. The average hurricane eye is from 20 - 40 miles wide. A hurricane can sustain an eye for about seven days or longer. When the hurricanes eye passes over the hurricane will be over soon. When the eye is passing over a certain spot it will be calm for a few minutes. The most violent part of the hurricane is the eye wall, which surrounds the eye.  The eye wall is the strongest part of the hurricane and is almost a complete circle of thunder storms.  Because the hurricane is spinning so fast, there is an outward force which prevents winds from entering the eye.   These winds blow as close to the eye as possible. The usual speed of an eye wall is made up of maximum wind speeds. The hurricanes eye wall is a tight circle of exceedingly high winds. Surprisingly the eye wall is just outside of the eye which as I have mentioned is actually the calmest part of the hurricane! Hurricanes occur when low - pressure areas form over warm ocean water, usually in mid- summer and fall. The hurricanes power source is water vapor that gets evaporated from the ocean. This is the fuel because it gives latent heat from condensation when it condenses to form clouds and rain that warms the surrounding air. Usually the heat is released by a wind shear, which usually blows the top off the storm. But if this wind shear is too small this heat will build up and cause a hurricane. Usually the other side of the hurricane is a bit worse than the first side and can hit any time. The eye is in the center of the hurricane and is almost a complete circle.

 Most hurricanes originate within the doldrums, a narrow sort of belt which has intermittent calm winds and light variable winds. It lies in between the northeast and southeast trade winds. The pacific doldrums extend north and south of the equator; so hurricanes occur in the south and north pacific oceans. They only reach the north Atlantic because the doldrums don't extend far enough south in that area of the world.

Hurricane Karl was the eleventh tropical storm, sixth hurricane, fifth major hurricane, and costliest storm of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season. As I said before a hurricane starts off as a tropical storm and if maintains its speed it maintains its name. Hurricane Karl made landfall on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico as a strong tropical storm, and proceeded to make landfall near Veracruz, on the central Mexican Gulf coast, as a major hurricane. Hurricane Karl started off as a low pressure stalled around the Northern Venezuela coast on September 11. It moved northward and then westward, bringing squally weather to Hispaniola and Jamaica. Convection fluctuated, however, the circulation became very well defined on September 14 and the National Hurricane Center declared the disturbance Tropical Storm Karl. Officials skipped the tropical depression status as tropical storm-force winds were immediately found. Karl about 315 miles (505 km) east of the Yucatan Peninsula strengthened slowly as it moved over very warm waters in a low-shear environment, and made landfall as a strong tropical storm on the morning of September 15 with 65 mph (100 km/h) winds. Indeed as it moved inland, radar imagery from Belize depicted a developing eye; however, this feature may not have been associated with further strengthening and it is unclear if the system was stronger or approached hurricane intensity as it moved inland, a hypothesis which was not supported by surface observations.

Karl gradually weakened as it moved inland across the Yucatan. However, it maintained a well-organized structure as it crossed the Yucatan, remaining a tropical storm as it crossed. In fact, an eye feature redeveloped on the evening of September 15 before it even emerged over the Bay of Campeche. Karl emerged over water once again early on September 16, and promptly intensified. That morning, Karl strengthened into a hurricane, the sixth of the season and the third to exist at that moment. He was accompanied by hurricanes Igor and Julia. After slowly deepening that afternoon, a quick burst of intensification began late in the afternoon. It became a Category 2 hurricane early on September 17 as the eye clearly became visible on satellite imagery. During the morning of September 17, the storm attained its peak strength with winds of 120 mph (195 km/h) and a pressure of 956 mbar. Upon reaching this intensity, Karl became the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Bay of Campeche, surpassing Hurricane Item in 1950 which attained winds of 110 mph (175 km/h). It slightly weakened after peaking, making landfall just north of the city of Veracruz at midday as a Category 3 hurricane with 115 mph (185 km/h) winds, and a central barometric pressure of 976 mbar.

As a result of hurricane Karl, Mexico City officials put crews on alert and began preparing for Karl, which they said could still have the strength of a tropical storm for its forecast arrival at the capital Saturday. State-owned Petroleos Mexicanos closed 14 production wells in the northern part of Veracruz State and evacuated workers from some oil platforms in the Gulf, the company late September 16. Workers were also evacuated from the shuttered Laguna Verde nuclear power plant, Mexico's largest electricity producer, along with residents in the nearby town of Farallon and in the coastal towns of Cardel and Palma Sola. The latter was reportedly hardest hit so far by flooding, with a resident saying that at least 20 families were trapped. About 80,000 people have had their homes damaged and nine people have been killed in flooding from heavy rains in southern Veracruz since Aug. 19. Officials expressed concern Karl could raise river levels again, just as some residents were thinking of returning to their homes.

Hurricane Karl did its damage to eight states after making landfall in Mexico’s Gulf coast as a category three hurricane, causing heavy rains and mudslides.  He affected Veracruz, Tabasco, Chiapas, Oaxaca, Puebla, Tlaxcala, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas. In Veracruz, 12 people were reported dead and around 40,000 displaced by the flooding of rivers and ditches. Several people have been reported missing, and the lack of security has spawned looting and social chaos as well. Tabasco’s agriculture was devastated by the severe weather, which damaged 385,508 hectares (952,611 acres) of land, affecting almost 150,000 people across the state and killed at least one person. In the southern state of Oaxaca, one person has been reported dead, another as missing, and 2,000 homes have been waterlogged. Two people in the state of Puebla died and two injured as 19 highways were damaged along with 131 homes. In Nuevo Leon, in the northern region of Mexico, two people were reported dead after 48 hours of constant rain that caused flooding, mudslides, and several vehicle accidents.

Hurricanes have been known to cause major havoc and they would continue to do so but at least we could prepare for them now. Over the past years we can only estimate how many people have lost their lives due to hurricanes because it is very hard to account for people especially if they live in a remote area and there are other factors we must take into consideration. Now that we have looked at the characteristics of the different categories of hurricanes, how they get their names, who names them, why it happens and what is a hurricane and some other key points I believe you should have a better understanding of hurricanes.










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Bergman, E.F., & Renwick, W.H. (2005). Introduction to geography people, places, and environment 3rd ed. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall.

DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.