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Saturday, November 03, 2007

Hurricane Noel becomes a Nor'easter

Noel has been a very strange storm in my opinion. As a tropical storm she became the most deadly storm all year with over 100 people killed from flooding and mudslides. The reason that the flood levels were so high was due to the slow speed of the storm as it passed through the Caribbean. Once Noel got into the relatively cooler Atlantic waters, the winds picked up, she became a full fledged hurricane and her forward speed took off. Noel is moving to the northeast at as fast as 25 MPH.

AccuWeather: Noel scrapes New England

Is Noel a hurricane or a Nor'easter? Well the storm still has a strong circulation which in my mind is still a tropical characteristic. But as noted below, as Noel passes by/through New England, the temperatures are going to plummet which is very characteristic of a Nor'easter.

Dr. Joel Sobel of AccuWeather writes:

As you probably know, Noel became a hurricane Thursday night. As of this writing (noonish on Friday), it is racing northeastward a few hundred miles east of the U.S. coastline, and it is still officially a hurricane. However, over the next 12 to 24 hours as it moves over colder water and interacts with a frontal system stalled off the coast, it is going to transition into an extra-tropical storm, the kind that most New Englanders would call a nor'easter. To a meteorologist, the difference is significant... to the public, I'm not so sure. If you experience 80-mph winds, torrential rains, pounding surf, beach erosion and tidal flooding, does it matter to you if the storm that caused it was a nor'easter or a hurricane???? Probably not. However, it is interesting to note that some insurance policies are written that provide for coverage only from "named storms," and in that case the kind of system that caused the damage would be very important, and we could get into all kinds of semantic arguments about what to call each storm.

In any case, this storm is going to bring quite a blow to southeasternmost New England tomorrow, especially Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. On the Cape, there will be a couple of inches of rain and wind gusts of 60 to 70 mph. On the islands, hurricane-force winds (74 mph or higher) are a pretty good bet. The same goes for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, which will feel the full impact of the storm later tomorrow night into Sunday morning. One of the interesting differences between a tropical system (hurricane) and an extra-tropical system (nor'easter) is that in a tropical system the strongest winds are very close to the center. If you are 200 miles away from the center of a Category 1 hurricane, you will probably be experiencing only light winds. However, in a nor'easter, the wind field is much more spread out, and the strongest winds may be found several hundred miles from the center. In addition, in a tropical system, there is very little temperature difference around the storm, but in a nor'easter, it may be much chillier on one side of the storm. That will be the case this weekend, as not only will southeasternmost New England have strong winds and heavy rain, but temperatures will be in the 40s. In other words, Saturday on the Cape is not shaping up as a very nice day!!!!

Hurricane force winds are predicted to last as the storm moves across New England and into Canada. Yesterday's forecast from the National Hurricane Center even showed hurricane force winds as far north as Greenland. Additionally as the graphic above shows, sea swells as high as 20 - 25 feet will be seen all along the northern east coast.

As we can see, Noel is a dangerous storm that just won't quit.

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