All week the discussion around the track of hurricane Joaquin has been about the uncertainty. Today the end game for Joaquin is much more certain as Joaquin has now started its northward movement away from the Bahamas where Joaquin grew to an impressive category 4 hurricane. Joaquin is the first category 4 hurricane to hit the Bahamas in October in 149 years (1866) and should easily cause billions in economic loss for the country.
The latest NHC advisory shows Joaquin gaining a bit of latitude, and most forecast model guidance now show that Joaquin will track northeastward away from the U.S. East Coast. There is only a small probability Joaquin will make U.S. landfall, and the NHC cone of uncertainty no longer touches the U.S. coastline. Nantucket, MA, has the highest probability of impact at 14%, with other northeast cities at a lower percentage. Overall, by Monday, Oct 8, Joaquin should be tracking between the U.S. northeast coastline and Bermuda as a weakening hurricane. It should be noted, however, that there is still a possibility that Joaquin could be captured by the coastal nor’easter moving up the coastline this weekend, which could pull Joaquin into New England. But again, the probability of that scenario is low.
There still remains a high flood threat along the East coast as Joaquin funnels tropical moisture northward. Rainfall totals will continue to increase across much of the East Coast with the potential that some locations could experience more than five inches of rain by the end of the weekend with a large part of South Carolina forecasted to experience 10+ inches of rain.
Minor coastal flooding is already occurring along the East Coast due to strong onshore winds being sandwiched between Joaquin to the south and strong Canadian high pressure to the north. That flooding will likely worsen over the next few days, regardless of the track of Joaquin.
Joaquin has generated more Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE ) in 3 days than all other Atlantic storms during the month of September. Joaquin might have been a bit of a surprise given all the talk that this season is an El Niño year and overall activity should be lower than normal. However, Joaquin did not originate in the deep tropics off the coast of Africa where El Niño has its greatest influence. Instead, El Niño had very little influence on Joaquin because of the location of its origin. Joaquin formed at 27.5 degree north latitude and moved southwestward toward the Bahamas where it was able to feed off the very warm waters of the Bahamas.
With 59 days left in the Atlantic hurricane season, we need to watch for more storms like Joaquin that form without El Niño’s calming influence. There is very warm water off the East Coast which will continue to cause headaches for the insurance industry right through the winter. These warm waters can strengthen tropical systems like Joaquin and/or stronger nor’easters like we are seeing this weekend. Historical climatology data suggests typical October tropical cyclone development should occur in the western Caribbean, but given the hostile conditions in the deep tropics due to high wind shear from El Niño, the development will likely be closer to the U.S. Coastline and into the Gulf of Mexico.