Sep 1, 2019

Hurricane Dorian has smashed all sorts of intensity records in the Atlantic Ocean

The Bahamas
by
Ian Livingston
,
Washington Post

Hurricane Dorian is taking extreme to the next level. With sustained winds of 185 mph Sunday afternoon and evening, the Category 5 storm has risen to the top of the charts among the most powerful tropical systems ever observed in the Atlantic Ocean.

It’s the strongest storm on record to occur east of Florida in the Atlantic and so far north. After striking the northern Bahamas, it matched the 1935 Labor Day hurricane for the strongest winds of any storm making landfall. These are just a few of the incredible feats Dorian has already accomplished, and more may be ahead.

Strongest landfall winds (tie): Hurricane Dorian’s 185 mph (160 knots) sustained wind at landfall on Great Abaco in the northwest Bahamas this afternoon tied for the strongest winds at landfall on record in the Atlantic Ocean. The only other storm with wind speeds that high at landfall is the similarly timed Labor Day hurricane of 1935. Dorian may have produced gusts as high as 220 mph.

Tied for second when it comes to maximum winds in the Atlantic. Dorian’s 185 mph sustained winds are second only to Hurricane Allen (1980) in the record that dates to the 1850s. Allen topped out at 190 mph sustained. Hurricane Dorian’s 185 mph sustained puts the storm in company with Hurricane Wilma (2005), Hurricane Gilbert (1988) and the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935.

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Gaining strength at record speed: Dorian underwent what’s known as rapid intensification between both Friday and Saturday and Saturday and Sunday. Rapid intensification refers to an increase in wind speeds of at least 35 mph in 24 hours. Dorian entered rare air for this metric, too. In a space of just nine hours on Sunday, its peak winds increased from about 150 mph (130 knots) to 185 mph (160 knots) — a rate of intensification never before observed for a storm this strong.

First time with four consecutive years featuring Category 5s in the Atlantic: 2019 became the fourth straight year with a Category 5 in the Atlantic, the longest such streak on record. Dorian became the fifth Category 5 hurricane to form in the past four years in the Atlantic following Matthew (2016), Irma (2017), Maria (2017) and Michael (2018). No matter how you count it, the overall trend in such powerhouse storms is upward.

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The unusual strength of Dorian and the rate at which it developed is consistent with the expectation of more intense hurricanes in a warming world. Some studies have shown increases in hurricane rapid intensification, and modeling studies project an uptick in the frequency of Category 4 and 5 storms.