A spectacular image of Medicane Ianos from the EU/Copernicus Sentinel-3 satellite near the southwest coast of Greece on Friday, September 18, 2020. (Image credit: EU/Copernicus, via Pierre Markuse)

Three new named storms, Tropical Storm Wilfred in the eastern Atlantic,  Subtropical Storm Alpha near the coast of Portugal, and Tropical Storm Beta in the Gulf of Mexico, joined the burgeoning number of 2020 storms in the Atlantic on September 18. This marks the first time the National Hurricane Center has named three storms in one day, and is just the second time on record the Atlantic has had three named storm form on the same day, along with August 15, 1893. The Atlantic has now recorded an extraordinary 23 named storms for the year. The 10 storms named so far in September are the most on record for any September.

Figure 1. Radar image of Medicane Ianos from 15Z (11 a.m. EDT) Friday, September 18. The storm was centered west of the Gulf of Patras, between the Ionian Islands and the Peloponnese Peninsula. (Image credit: HNMS, Hellenic National Meteorological Service)

And if the National Hurricane Center (NHC) had responsibility for the Mediterranean Sea, a hybrid “medicane” storm named Ianos that hit Greece overnight might well have qualified as an Atlantic named storm.

Medicane Ianos pummels the Ionian Islands of Greece

Winds shrieking at gale force swept across the southern Ionian Islands of western Greece with the landfall early Friday of Ianos, an unusually strong “medicane” (the name for a cyclone with tropical or subtropical characteristics over the Mediterranean Sea).

One or two medicanes typically form each year, generally at tropical depression or tropical storm strength. Medicanes are not tracked or named by NHC, nor formally catalogued by the World Meteorological Organization. Since 2017, the National Observatory of Athens has been naming medicanes that affect Greece, and it dubbed this week’s system Ianos.

Ianos moved across the southernmost Ionian island group – Kefalonia, adjacent Ithaca, and Zakynthos – on Friday morning with a central pressure in the vicinity of 995 mb. Ianos boasted a distinct eye on satellite as it crossed the Ionian Sea, and analysis from Florida State University showed that Ianos had a symmetric warm core typical of a strong tropical storm.

Downed trees and power outages were reported on Kefalonia, and residents were urged to stay indoors, according to Greek Reporter. Wind gusts reached 69 mph on Kefalonia and Zakynthos, according to Etienne Kapikian (Meteo-France). “Clear eye surrounded by intense convection, winds worthy of a strong tropical storm,” Kapikian summarized on Twitter. Meteo.gr on twitter posted some impressive videos and damage images from Ianos.

Torrential rains developed across the higher terrain of western Greece as Ianos pushed strong winds carrying ample moisture upslope. Satellite-based rainfall estimates were as high as 50 mm/hr (2″/hr). As of 1 p.m. EDT Friday, a personal weather station (PWS) in a mountainous region of central Greece, at Fylakti Karditsas, recorded 12.53 inches of rain from Ianos, while a PWS on the island of Lefkada recorded 8.82 inches.

Ianos is predicted to drift southward along or near the southwest coast of Greece on Friday night. Prolonged heavy rains will continue to drench southern Greece, with a risk of additional flooding and mudslides. Over the weekend, Ianos – weakened by its traverse of rugged terrain – may regain some strength en route to a possible landfall on the northeast coast of Libya on Sunday night. Models differ on whether Ianos will move ashore or gradually weaken across the southeast Mediterranean Sea.

As with tropical cyclones across the globe, medicanes may become slightly less frequent in a future warmer climate. However, the most potent ones may become even stronger and longer-lasting, with some potentially developing hurricane-force sustained winds and dangerous heavy rains, according to a 2019 study in Geophysical Research Letters led by Juan J. González‐Alemán, using the high-resolution (25km grid) HiFLOR model, “Potential Increase in Hazard From Mediterranean Hurricane Activity With Global Warming.” These results agree with a 2017 study in Global and Planetary Change led by Raquel Romera that examined a large suite of regional climate model projections, and a 2013 study in JGR-Atmospheres by Romu Romero and MIT’s Kerry Emanuel.

Subtropical Storm Alpha makes landfall in Portugal

Figure 2. Radar image of Subtropical Storm Alpha at 10:40 a.m. EDT Friday, September 18, shortly before it was officially classified at 12:30 p.m. (Image credit: IPMA)

Subtropical Storm Alpha formed at 12:30 p.m. EDT Friday, September 18, near the coast of Portugal. Alpha’s initial location, 75 miles north of Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, was the most easterly ever for the formation of an Atlantic named storm. Alpha made landfall in Portugal at 2:30 p.m. EDT Friday with sustained winds of 50 mph and a central pressure of 996 mb, marking the first time in recorded history that a named storm has hit Portugal. Alpha was moving inland at 17 mph over Portugal Friday evening local time, and is expected to dissipate by Saturday. Alpha is predicted to bring one to two inches of rain, with localized amounts of up to three inches, along its path. Extensive inland damage, storm surge flooding, and two tornadoes have been reported in Portugal from Alpha’s landfall.

Tropical cyclone history of Portugal and Spain

There are no historical records of any tropical or subtropical cyclones ever hitting Portugal. Spain has been hit by two tropical cyclones, most recently on October 11, 2005, when Tropical Depression Vince hit southern Spain. Vince brought heavy rains to both Spain and Portugal, but no significant damage. Vince developed into a hurricane farther east than any other known storm, at 18.9° W.

NHC declared that Vince was the first tropical cyclone on record to have made landfall on the Iberian Peninsula. Historical documents, however, suggest that a possibly stronger tropical cyclone, the 1842 Spain hurricane, struck southern Spain on October 29, 1842.

Figure 3. MODIS visible image of Tropical Storm Wilfred in the eastern Atlantic on Friday morning, September 18. (Image credit: NASA Worldview)

Tropical Storm Wilfred forms in the eastern Atlantic

Tropical wave 98L in the eastern Atlantic developed a closed circulation and enough heavy thunderstorm activity to be upgraded to Tropical Storm Wilfred on Friday morning. Wilfred was the last name on Atlantic’s 2020 list of storms. The hurricane season will now progress through the Greek alphabet, something that has only occurred once, in 2005.

Satellite images on Friday afternoon showed that Wilfred had a modest amount of poorly organized heavy thunderstorm activity. The system had favorable conditions for development through Saturday, with moderate wind shear of 10 – 20 knots predicted, along with warm ocean temperatures of 28 Celsius (82 °F) and a moist atmosphere. Models support modest intensification through Saturday. Beginning on Sunday, Wilfred will encounter high wind shear, which is expected to lead to dissipation of the storm by Tuesday.

The 2020 parade of record-early named storms continues

Wilfred’s arrival on September 18 marks the earliest date that any Atlantic season has produced its twenty-first tropical storm, topping the record held by Vince from October 8, 2005. The arrival of Subtropical Storm Alpha on September 18 marks the earliest date for the Atlantic’s twenty-second named storm, formerly held by Wilma from October 17, 2005. Tropical Storm Beta is the record-earliest twenty-third named storm, beating Alpha from October 22, 2005, by more than a month.

With the Atlantic hurricane season just over a week past the climatological half-way point, we’ve already had 23 named storms, eight hurricanes, two intense hurricanes, and an accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) index of 85 (31% above average for the date). Only one Atlantic hurricane season since 1851 has had more named storms during an entire season – 2005, with 28 named storms. According to Colorado State University hurricane scientist Phil Klotzbach, the averages for this point in the season are eight named storms, four hurricanes, two intense hurricanes, and an ACE index of 65.

Figure 4. GeoColor satellite image of TD 22 over the Gulf of Mexico’s Bay of Campeche as of 1 p.m. EDT Friday, September 18. (Image credit: RAMMB/CIRA/Colorado State University)

Tropical Storm Beta expected to threaten Texas as a hurricane by Monday

Tropical Storm Beta, in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico, was named at 5 p.m. EDT Friday. The storm might have been named on Friday morning had the Air Force hurricane hunter plane flying out to investigate it not been hit by lightning and forced to return to base.

Figure 5. Track forecasts out to 10 days for Tropical Storm Beta from the 6Z Friday, September 18, run of the ensemble forecast of the newest version of the GFS, which is not yet operational. The black line is the mean forecast from the 21 member forecasts. The thin lines (color-coded by pressure) from some of the individual members predicted a potential hurricane. (Image credit: Tropical Tidbits)

Conditions for development are expected to be favorable through the weekend, with light to moderate wind shear of 5 – 15 knots, warm ocean temperatures of 30 – 31.5 Celsius (86 – 87°F), and a moist atmosphere. Beta is predicted to move at speeds of less than 10 mph over the next five days. Beta will initially move north under the steering influence of a trough of low pressure to its north, then turn to the west by Sunday as the trough weakens and a weak ridge of high pressure builds to Beta’s north. By Monday, when Beta is expected to be near hurricane strength off the coast of Texas, it will interact with a cold front moving off the coast, which will inject some dry air into the western Gulf of Mexico, potentially weakening the system.

Figure 6. Predicted five-day rainfall amounts from the 12Z Friday, September 18, run of the GFS model. The model predicted that Beta would dump more than a foot of rain (yellow-orange colors) along the coast of Texas by Wednesday morning. (Image credit: Tropical Tidbits)

Given its very slow motion and the very warm Gulf waters feeding it, Beta is expected to be a prodigious rainmaker, with some model forecasts predicting over a foot of rain along the lower and middle Texas coast. Heavy coastal rains may extend further northeast if Beta holds together and drifts in that direction later next week, as suggested by the 12Z Friday runs of the GFS and European models.

Figure 7. The eye of Hurricane Teddy as seen from a NOAA hurricane hunter aircraft on Friday, September 18. (Image credit: NOAA/AOML)

Category 4 Teddy expected to brush Bermuda, then hit Nova Scotia

Powerful Hurricane Teddy maintained category 4 strength overnight, but weakened slightly to a category 3 hurricane with 125 mph winds by 5 p.m. EDT Friday. Teddy it is expected to brush Bermuda with tropical storm-force winds on Sunday night as the hurricane turns north toward an expected Tuesday landfall in Nova Scotia, Canada.

At 5 p.m. EDT Friday, Teddy had top sustained winds of 125 mph and a central pressure of 951 mb. Teddy was headed northwest directly towards Bermuda at 14 mph.

Teddy is a large hurricane, with tropical storm-force winds extending out up to 230 miles from the center. This large wind field has created waves up to 45 feet high near the center, and Teddy has generated big swells and dangerous surf conditions and riptides along the north coast of South America and the north-facing shores of the Caribbean islands. Swells from Teddy will affect most of the U.S. East Coast this weekend, and the Canadian Maritime Provinces by Monday.

Figure 8. Track forecasts out to 10 days for Teddy from the 0Z Friday, September 18, run of the ensemble forecast of the European model. The black line is the mean forecast from the 51 member forecasts. Most of the thin lines (color-coded by pressure) from the individual members predicted that Teddy would most likely hit Nova Scotia, Canada, with a lesser threat to Newfoundland and Maine. (Image credit: weathermodels.com)

Forecast for Teddy

Teddy has favorable conditions for intensification through Saturday, with moderate wind shear (10-20 knots) and ocean temperatures of 28 – 29 degrees Celsius (82 – 84°F). On Sunday, Teddy will encounter the cool water wake left behind by Hurricane Paulette, which should limit intensification.

A strong ridge is steering Teddy over the central Atlantic. As Teddy approaches the west side of the ridge, a trough of low pressure to the north is expected to turn the hurricane northwards, bringing it to the east of Bermuda Sunday night through Monday morning. Bermuda is no longer in the NHC cone of uncertainty, but the hurricane’s large size gives the island a 60% chance of experiencing tropical storm-force winds, according to the 5 p.m. EDT Friday wind speed probability product from NHC.

Figure 9. Predicted wind speed (colors) and sea level pressure (black lines) from the 6Z Friday, September 18, run of the HWRF model. The model predicted that Teddy would approach landfall near Halifax, Nova Scotia, near 2 p.m. EDT (18Z) Tuesday as a tropical storm with 65 mph winds. (Image credit: Tropical Tidbits)

Beyond Teddy’s encounter with Bermuda, the crucial factor in determining the storm’s track is the evolution of a strong upper low swinging through southeast Canada this weekend. That upper low is expected to leave behind a small remnant “cutoff” low along the U.S. East Coast. That cutoff low is expected to keep Teddy headed to the north, and possibly induce a bend to the north-northwest as the counterclockwise flow around the cutoff low swings Teddy around. This steering pattern makes it likely that Teddy will make landfall in Nova Scotia on Tuesday, a scenario on which the GFS and European models have come into closer agreement since Thursday.

Once Teddy moves north of Bermuda, upper-level winds from the trough of low pressure steering the hurricane will accelerate the storm to a forward speed of 15 – 20 mph, and likely create a high 25 – 45 knots of wind shear. This wind shear is likely to weaken Teddy, as will the cooler waters it will traverse once it moves north of the Gulf Stream, at the latitude of New Jersey.

Also see: A crazy quilt of storms peppers the Atlantic

Landfall in Nova Scotia will likely be as a strong tropical storm or low-end category 1 hurricane, with heavy rain and widespread gale-force winds likely to be the main threat. Teddy will be transitioning to an extratropical storm near the time of landfall, which will spread out its impact over a larger area. The 5 p.m. EDT Friday wind speed probability product from NHC was giving eastern Maine a 20 – 30% chance of experiencing tropical storm-force winds from Teddy.

Figure 10. A boat lies stranded by Hurricane Sally’s storm surge in Orange Beach, Alabama, on September 16, 2020. (Image credit: City of Orange Beach Facebook page)

Still 300,000-plus customers without power after Hurricane Sally

The cleanup in Alabama and Florida continues in the wake of Hurricane Sally, which made landfall near the Alabama/Florida border as a category 2 hurricane with 105 mph winds on Wednesday. Poweroutage.us showed over 300,000 customers in Florida and Alabama remained without power on Friday afternoon compliments of Sally. Over 40,000 customers remain without power in Louisiana as a result of Hurricane Laura’s impacts on August 27.

Editor’s note: This post was updated at 5:30 p.m. EDT Friday to include the upgrade of TD 22 to Beta and the landfall of Subtropical Storm Alpha in Portugal. The next post will not be until Sunday afternoon.

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Posted on September 18, 2020 (4:49pm EDT).

Jeff Masters

Jeff Masters, Ph.D., worked as a hurricane scientist with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. After a near-fatal flight into category 5 Hurricane Hugo, he left the Hurricane Hunters to pursue a...

Bob Henson

Bob Henson is a meteorologist and journalist based in Boulder, Colorado. He has written on weather and climate for the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Weather Underground, and many freelance...

74 replies on “A slew of weather events – including two named storms troubling Europe – pose challenges far and wide”

  1. “Vince developed into a hurricane farther east than any other known storm, at 18.9° W.” – from the article. This record has been broken last year with hurricane Pablo, which became a hurricane at 18.8°W.

  2. Banding coming into Houston shows an intensifying Tropical Storm Beta for now. How fast will the entrainment of dry air happen is the question. Have a good day all who are here for sincere reasons.

  3. Dry air dry air dry air. The message sounds like from the experts to some I assure you. Dry air we’ve heard as much about as the risks coming FROM INLAND FLOODING AND SURGE. Just weird to have that risk and dry air so dominant surrounding a storm. This sure a’int a the Don is dead redo.

  4. T.S Beta was facing the entire Texas coast filled with low level dry air yesterday. Today the dry air has been pushed back 100 miles north and northwest of Beta due to cyclonic push. South and southwest dry air will likely be entrained soon. Beta has a moisture pool behind, windshear lowering based on the push to the west and north of the dry air backwards, conducive SST’s, and a sustained strong windfield for over a day now. Everything going against T.S Beta seemingly yesterday. Looking at the loop now, dry air is being push away not entrained yet. I hope no one is taking this lightly, even if Beta never becomes Hurricane Beta, we could have a rain event that ends up with Beta being retired after causing a massive flooding billion+$ disaster. That would make it 4 retired storms on the season with a long way to go. A storm like this could catch a lot of people napping, overpreparing won’t kill you. In an age where storms are again and again overperforming, it’s the smart thing to do. https://cdn.star.nesdis.noaa.gov/GOES16/ABI/SECTOR/gm/08/1000×1000.jpg

  5. I have followed Dr. Jeff Masters for many years on Weather Underground and felt a little unsettled this summer not having his analysis to go to. So glad I found him again! Your measured, technical analysis always gives me confidence in the “why” of what happens during hurricane season. Thank you from Florida!!

  6. yes…not a good day for boating etc………………..URGENT – WEATHER MESSAGE
    National Weather Service Tampa Bay Ruskin FL
    327 AM EDT Sun Sep 20 2020

    FLZ043-050-052-148-149-151-248-249-251-202300-
    /O.NEW.KTBW.LW.Y.0005.200920T1600Z-200920T2300Z/
    Sumter-Pinellas-Polk-Coastal Hernando-Coastal Pasco-
    Coastal Hillsborough-Inland Hernando-Inland Pasco-
    Inland Hillsborough-
    Including the cities of Wildwood, Lake Panasoffkee, Bushnell,
    The Villages, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Largo, Lakeland,
    Winter Haven, Hernando Beach, Bayport, Port Richey, Hudson,
    Tampa, Apollo Beach, Westchase, Brooksville, Spring Hill,
    Dade City, Zephyrhills, Brandon, Plant City, and Sun City Center
    327 AM EDT Sun Sep 20 2020

    …LAKE WIND ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM NOON TODAY TO 7 PM EDT THIS
    EVENING…

    * WHAT…Northeast winds 20 to 25 mph expected.

    * WHERE…Sumter, Pinellas, Polk, Coastal Hernando, Coastal
    Pasco, Coastal Hillsborough, Inland Hernando, Inland Pasco and
    Inland Hillsborough Counties.

    * WHEN…From noon today to 7 PM EDT this evening.

    * IMPACTS…Strong winds and rough waves on area lakes will
    create hazardous conditions for small craft.

    PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…

    Boaters on area lakes should use extra caution since strong winds
    and rough waves can overturn small craft.

    &&

    $$

    For more information from the National Weather Service visit
    https://weather.gov/tampa

    1. I would add that when it’s obvious mocking of climate change, while people are dying from climate change daily, it’s not okay. Lot of smart people here and the old home. I hope many if not most of you know exactly what I’m talking about. Go back and look. You will see.

  7. I guess with the constant stream of storm propagation, attention has quickly shifted even further away from the aftermath of Hurricane Sally. I may stop re-posting this notice, any who might be helped by it have hopefully already seen it. I’m not big on counting favoritism/likes/upvotes on social media; but, for instance, seeing zero upvotes here on YCC furnishes the only feedback I previously got.

    FEMA Hurricane Sally Info Sheet and Links (v3):
    https://drive.google.com/file/d/1xjZg-eScECx8xtqjvce7BSbE8f6ZJkQI/view?usp=sharing

    I’ve created a brief 3-page document with some specific FEMA info and links. It should be accessible to all, from my Google Drive. I modified and updated a lot of the content on this, what I expect is my final update. The third page is a sample document for a damaged vehicle FEMA claim. So you can see **exactly** what this may look like. Use it as a template if you wish. If anybody has specific questions, please feel free to ask me.

    My very best thoughts with all affected right now. Stay strong. Namaste.

  8. That is one tremendous amount of heat and moisture being pumped out of the gulf streaming northeast to Greenland, Iceland, and beyond. Natures heat pump. Should cool off those bathwater temps a bit.

  9. I hope nobody takes this the wrong way but I’m praying Beta goes straight over to Texas and just goes on ashore. I don’t think my roof will survive another hurricane!

  10. Meanwhile, ex-Paulette is producing more and deeper convection. It’s still sheared off to the north and northeast of the center but convection has been persistent and building over time. The LLC is large and robust, it won’t take much for it to organize back to re-initiate advisories

  11. Teddy, do not make a turn to the North….D.C. could improve with a good doucheing by Mother Nature! And Bermuda and Canada both deserve a break.

    Relax, just a joke.

Comments are closed.