Late-season storm swirls far from land
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY— Measuring 300 miles across and generating sustained winds of 145 mph, Hurricane Kenneth this week set a record as the latest major hurricane in the eastern Pacific Ocean. More hurricane records are online here.
Dr. Jeff Masters, of Weather Underground, also commented on the unusual nature of the 2011 eastern Pacific hurricane season in his blog. Normally, La Niña conditions in the Pacific suppress the formation of intense hurricanes.
NOAA classifies those storms that reach category three status or greater on the Saffir-Simpson scale as major hurricanes. Kenneth reached that mark Nov. 22, but steered clear of any land areas. Mid-week, the storm was about 750 miles south-southwest of the tip of Baja.
Wednesday, the eye has become cloud-free on NOAA’s GOES-13 satellite imagery. Infrared satellite imagery showed that the cloud top temperatures of the thunderstorms surrounding the eye were as cold as -94 Fahrenheit indicating very high, powerful thunderstorms.
The storm is more than 300 miles in diameter, as tropical-storm force winds extend 150 miles from the center. Hurricane-force winds cover a smaller area, out 40 miles (65 km) from the center.
Meteorologists say that the contrast between coolish La Niña waters to the north and a belt of warm tropical water to the south may have helped fuel Kenneth. Another reason Kenneth became so powerful is that it’s a very symmetrical, or annular, storm. Less than 5 percent of all Pacific hurricanes develop this way.
The National Hurricane Center expects a lot of changes out of Kenneth in the next couple of days. First, Kenneth started to turn to the west-northwest late Thursday and is expected to run into cooler sea surface temperatures and increasing west to northwesterly wind shear which will weaken the hurricane beginning late Wednesday.