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A new study explains the mechanism behind Hurricane Harvey's unusual intensification off the Texas coast and how the finding could improve future hurricane forecasting.
Hurricanes are fueled by heat they extract from the upper ocean. But hurricane growth often stalls as the storms approach land, partly because as the ocean gets shallower, there is less water and therefore less heat available to the storm. As a result, most hurricanes weaken or stay the same strength as they get close to making landfall.
Hurricane - Harvey - Category - Storm - Category
But Hurricane Harvey intensified from a Category 3 storm to a Category 4 as it neared the Texas shore in late August 2017, and scientists have been puzzled as to why it was different. In a new study, researchers at Texas A&M University compared ocean temperatures in the Texas Bight, the shallow waters that line the Gulf Coast, before and after Harvey passed through it.
They found the Bight was warm all the way to the seabed before Harvey arrived. Strong hurricane winds mix the ocean waters below the storm, so if there is any cold water below the warm water at the surface, the storm's growth will slow. But there wasn't any cold water for Harvey to churn up...
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