- Hurricane Jova rated a Category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson scale on Monday afternoon, and could become a Category 4 before the day ends. Tropical Storm Irwin is seen to the left of Jova, while another potential tropical storm twirls at bottom right. (NOAA/GOES)
This year, North Americans have been bookended by two overachieving oceans pumping out giant storm after giant storm. The Atlantic is already above average for storm activity with 16 tropical storms and three major hurricanes (11 and two are average), and there's still about seven weeks left before the 2011 hurricane season ends. The Pacific season, which begins a little earlier on May 15 but ends at the same time on Nov. 30, is also high with five major hurricanes (the norm is four), at about average with nine hurricanes, and under par with 10 named storms (15 to 16 is the historical average).
But while the Atlantic seems to be catching its breath, supporting only a bit of low pressure over Florida, the Pacific is playing catch-up with three noteworthy storms.
The first is a small but fierce roarer called Hurricane Jova, a Category 3 storm that's prompted hurricane warnings from Baha's Punta San Telmo to Cabo Corrientes. Jova is sporting an unblinking eye 20 miles wide and has shrouded itself with screaming winds rushing as fast as 110 knots, a tick below Category 4 power. Littler hurricanes can change intensities on a dime, and the National Hurricane Center has thrown out the option of Jova lurching into Category 4 gear sometime today. Whatever happens, it's expected to be a major hurricane when it hits land, with the attendant risks of torrential rain and coastal flooding.
Different weather models are suggesting alternate paths for the hurricane, one that takes it north off the coastline and another that brings it over the heads of Mexicans inland. So the NHC has basically squished the extreme alternatives together and come up with this Jova track forecast:
But wait, that's not all! NOAA satellites scanning the skies for infrared storm activity have picked up other tempests in the area. Look to the left of Jova (with the pinprick eye) in this image from today:
That is Tropical Storm Irwin, formerly Hurricane Irwin, making its way slowly eastward. The structure of this storm is decaying somewhat, but it could still drag itself to the Mexican coastline if the weather allows. Says the NHC: "By about 96 hours... Irwin... perhaps as a shallow cyclone... is likely to be pulled back toward the east and even southeast into a broad low-to-mid-level cyclonic gyre over Mexico." (Elipses from the NHC... for some... reason.)
Make a counterclockwise swoop of about five hours from Irwin and you get "Area 1," a zone of showers and thunderstorms that has a 50 percent chance of developing into a tropical storm in the next two days. The NHC is advising several countries to keep an eye on this shifty storm, including Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
Here's a broad view from NOAA showing the ring of storm activity circling from western Mexico down to the top of South America and back up to Georgia: