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Rita,Katrina, and Dennis - 09.23.05

Hurricanes above and below. Upper air masses and ocean temperature plumes steer the great storms into land.

The tracking of hurricanes is closer to being an art than a science. Even with the sophisticated data from whole hosts of instruments the exact tracking of hurricanes is still a bit of a hit or miss activity. There are many reasons for this. A hurricane is a creation of a deep and mysterious interaction between the troughs and ridges in the upper air and the fluctuating currents in the ocean. The ocean provides the heat to drive the forces that make the hurricane either moderate or menacing. The conditions of the upper air provide the steering currents that give the hurricane its landfall parameters.



Since Hurricane Dennis arrived in the Midwest through the Florida panhandle earlier in the season, Doc Weather has written several articles describing the upper air steering forces in relation to the eclipse grid. The essence of these forces is depicted in figure1. This chart is modified from the recent article on the hurricane highway on this site. For Hurricanes Dennis, Katrina and now Rita the upper air steering currents have tended to create a channel from the Gulf of Mexico into the Gulf Coast between Louisiana and Texas. Dennis hit just east of New Orleans(blue), Katrina hit New Orleans (red) and now Rita is hitting just west of New Orleans(green). The steering currents in these storms have been the result of a combination of high-pressure over the southwestern Atlantic, and high-pressure over western Texas. These areas of consistent high-pressure have provided a channel for the remarkable onslaught into the New Orleans area this year. It can be seen from the chart that both of these areas are the sites of jet curves originating in the eclipse points. The eastern points of the eclipse grid have the lunar node between them this season and the node has produced consistent high-pressure values since the end of July on both eclipse points. This has been reflected in the position of the two highs just mentioned.



However, this year the hurricane highway between the two highs has also been the site of an anomaly in the temperature of the sea surface (SST) in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. This anomaly is depicted in figure 2. This figure is an adaptation of the SST chart for the Gulf of Mexico during the intensity phase of Hurricane Rita when the storm went from a category 1 storm rapidly into a category 5 storm. It can be seen that a plume of warm water (yellow) is coming north out of the gap between western Cuba and the eastern shore of the Yucatan Peninsula. The eastern edge of this gap is at approximately 86° W longitude (dark blue line).

At the following link for ASCII data there is an archive section where the ASCII data for the date, position, intensity and pressure of each day of any hurricane can be found. The following sets of data describe the points of radical growth in all of the hurricanes. For hurricane Dennis the first line gives the name, date, time of bulletin, latitude north of the equator, longitude west of Greenwich, wind speed and finally barometric pressure on the surface. It is interesting to note that Hurricane Dennis had a radical intensification as it crossed 86.1° W Longitude.This happened on July 10 as the hurricane was passing the line.
Name------------date-------time----n lat--w lon-spd-press
HURRICANE DENNIS, Jul 9 2005 11:00AM , 24.7, -83.8, 80, 967
HURRICANE DENNIS, Jul 9 2005 5:00PM , 25.7, -84.6, 90, 958
HURRICANE DENNIS, Jul 9 2005 7:00PM , 26.1, -84.9, 100, 947
HURRICANE DENNIS, Jul 9 2005 11:00PM , 26.6, -85.3, 110, 941
HURRICANE DENNIS, Jul 10 2005 5:00AM , 27.8, -86.1, 125, 932
HURRICANE DENNIS, Jul 10 2005 11:00AM , 29.4, -86.7, 120, 930

Hurricane Katrina was a moderate hurricane until it too passed 86.8° W Longitude on August 28th.

HURRICANE KATRINA, Aug 27 2005 5:00AM , 24.4, -84.4, 100, 945
HURRICANE KATRINA, Aug 27 2005 11:00AM , 24.5, -85.0, 100, 940
HURRICANE KATRINA, Aug 27 2005 5:00PM , 24.6, -85.6, 100, 945
HURRICANE KATRINA, Aug 27 2005 11:00PM , 25.0, -86.2, 100, 939
HURRICANE KATRINA, Aug 28 2005 2:00AM , 25.1, -86.8, 125, 935
HURRICANE KATRINA, Aug 28 2005 5:00AM , 25.4, -87.4, 125, 935
HURRICANE KATRINA, Aug 28 2005 8:00AM , 25.7, -87.7, 140, 908
HURRICANE KATRINA, Aug 28 2005 11:00AM , 26.0, -88.1, 150, 907
HURRICANE KATRINA, Aug 28 2005 5:00PM , 26.9, -89.0, 145, 902
HURRICANE KATRINA, Aug 28 2005 11:00PM , 27.6, -89.4, 140, 904
HURRICANE KATRINA, Aug 29 2005 5:00AM , 28.8, -89.6, 130, 915

Likewise Hurricane Rita was a moderate hurricane until it reached 85.9° of W Longitude on September 21st.

HURRICANE RITA, Sep 20 2005 5:00PM , 24.0, -82.2, 85, 973
HURRICANE RITA, Sep 20 2005 11:00PM , 24.1, -83.2, 95, 965
HURRICANE RITA, Sep 21 2005 5:00AM , 24.3, -84.6, 105, 956
HURRICANE RITA, Sep 21 2005 11:00AM , 24.3, -85.9, 120, 944
HURRICANE RITA, Sep 21 2005 5:00PM , 24.4, -86.8, 145, 914
HURRICANE RITA, Sep 21 2005 11:00PM , 24.6, -87.2, 150, 897
HURRICANE RITA, Sep 22 2005 5:00AM , 24.9, -88.0, 150, 897
HURRICANE RITA, Sep 22 2005 11:00AM , 25.4, -88.7, 145, 907
HURRICANE RITA, Sep 22 2005 5:00PM , 25.8, -89.5, 125, 913

The moderate storms are tracking across an obviously highly effective plume of warmth off of the west coast of Florida that has created a remarkable convoy of destruction for the citizens of the Gulf Coast. The question for climatology remains. Is it possible to predict in advance the emergence of such an ocean plume of warmth? If it is,and that information is linked to upper air data as it relates to the eclipse grid, it may be possible to get a better bead on the potentials for long-range hurricane production for the future.