Hurricane Michael is now a dangerous Category 4 hurricane that’s experiencing rapid, impressive growth as it churns towards the Florida panhandle. What was once a blipCarribeanarribean radar is now a potentially historically bad storm.
The rapid and unexpected growth of Michael has the deadly hallmarks of a nasty situation. It’s unprecedented growth, however, may come down to a concept known as “hot towers.” Scientists have noted the presence of “doom and gloom” hot towers which tend to only be seen in hurricanes that are rapidly growing.
Let’s have a deeper look.
Hurricane Michael’s Hot Towers Fuel Catastrophic Growth
Hurricane Michael’s eyewall has noted hot towers, or hot convection towers, which are contributing to its continued rapid growth.
Yep, at this hour, a Category 4 hurricane that’s about to make landfall is growing.
Could Hurricane Michael become a Category 5? It isn’t out of the realm. It’s winds of 145 mph only need 9 more mph to reach the historic level. Don’t get me wrong, 9 mph added to a storm that’s entering shallow Gulf waters and beginning to interact with land would be no small feat.
However, Michael’s hot towers remain in place, meaning that the storm is, by some way, continuing to thrive and grow.
There has never been a Category 4 hurricane in the Florida panhandle, much less a Category 5.
So what’s going on?
Again, we come back to that term, “hot towers.”
Below is a satellite image that displays a condensed area of intense lightning that surrounds Hurricane Michael’s eyewall. (This photo is from October 8th).
The lightning is being spawned by two hot towers that are serving to rapidly intensify Michael.
Let’s dig a little deeper.
What Are Hot Towers?
The lightning (pictured above) in and of itself indicates a strengthening hurricane. It’s a sign of health.
By definition, a hot tower is a tropical cumulonimbus cloud that blossoms into the stratosphere using intense convection. This typically results in a towering cloud that extends 9 miles high.
The “hot” portion of the “hot tower” refers to the water vapor condensation element whereas warm ocean/gulf waters is condensing into liquid.
Hot towers are strong indicators that a tropical cyclone is growing. In fact, many scientists feel that hot towers are the indication of intense, rapid growth.
They are typically associated with extreme amounts of lightning.
A 2004 paper written by NASA researchers and published in the American Geophysical Union journal Geophysical Research Letters explained that a tropical cyclone with at least one hot tower is twice as likely to experience rapid intensification as opposed to one without a hot tower.
National Research Council Associate postdoctoral scientist Dr. Phillipe Pappin, who tweeted the lightning image you saw above, told Marshall Shepherd of Forbes that by every indication, Hurricane Michael’s hot towers are as healthy as ever.
It seems like these features have been what has been driving a lot of the lightning we’ve seen in the inner core with Michael. The hot towers are associated with strong vertical motion that results in mixed phase hydrometers interacting and creating charge by bumping into each other.
Here’s Dr. Pappin’s most recent Tweet from 9 am. This shows a furious Hurricane Michael approaching land and growing. In other words, the hot towers remain in place and the hurricane is thriving. It’s truly unprecedented.
— Philippe Papin (@pppapin) October 10, 2018
Pappin says that there are numerous rotating meso-vorticies alive and well at Michael’s eyewall. This means that several hot towers are continuing to fuel Michael into one of the biggest beast to ever make landfall.
The implications are dire.
Hurricane Michael Will Lash Deep Inland Sections
Hurricane Michael has the potential of making landfall as an unprecedented Category 4, or even 5. It could potentially reach inland portions of Georgia as a full-fledged Category 1 hurricane.
This would most certainly knock power out for millions in the states of Georgia, Florida, Alabama, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
Anyone who remains on the coasts of northwest Florida or Alabama is currently in a life-threatening situation. The potential for a 9 foot plus storm surge is looking ever more likely as Michael continues to gain strength.
A storm surge of such magnitude will annihilate any structures, or persons, in its path. This will sweep cars and structures away. Additionally, it can potentially funnel toxic waters into the area.
If you’ve been told to evacuate but chose to stay, it’s too late to leave. If you’ve failed to acquire your preppers list items, the clock has run out. Tropical storm conditions are already overtaking the region. And with Hurricane Michael’s hot towers being healthy, there is little end to how robust this storm may turn out to be once it interacts with land.
Please read my hurricane survival guide for more information on hurricanes.
As for now, stay inside and make sure you have something of a safe room ready. You may consider roof access, as well, depending on what area you live in. Rescuers aren’t likely to be able to get to you if the storm surge begins to overtake your home.
Be safe out there.
Author: Jim Satney
PrepForThat’s Editor and lead writer for political, survival, and weather categories.
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