Yucatán weather

August 5th, 2005

Measuring a Mexican wave

On the eve of Mexican Independence Day last September, the eye of a category 4 storm passed directly over a half-a-dozen scientific ‘wave-tide’ gauges moored to the seabed of the Gulf of Mexico.

The path of Hurricane Ivan through the moorings (blue dots) on 15 September 2004 is indicated by the green dots. Photo courtesy of Naval Research Laboratory

The path of Hurricane Ivan through the moorings (blue dots) on 15 September 2004 is indicated by the green dots. Photo courtesy of Naval Research Laboratory

Scientists at the US Naval Research Lab in Mississippi, who monitor the instruments, say their equipment observed crest-to-trough wave heights of 27.7 meters (91 feet) and probably missed some truly monstrous waves near the ‘eyewall’ of the hurricane, which could have topped 40 metres, or 132 feet.

The BBC report that the giant waves would have dwarfed a 10-storey building and had the power to snap a ship in half – but mercifully the huge waves dissipated before they hit land.

How big was the wave?

Storm swell as depicted in 'A Perfect Storm' based on the probable demise of a sword boat that went down somewhere off the coast of Massachusetts in October 1991.

Storm swell as depicted in ‘A Perfect Storm’ based on the probable demise of a sword boat that went down somewhere off the coast of Massachusetts in October 1991.

Hurricane Ivan had already ripped through the island of Grenada when the seabed readings were taken. It went on to cause death and destruction on Jamaica, the Cayman islands and finally the US, where it petered out.

Although affected by some flooding and high winds, the Yucatán had feared much worse.

The findings appear today in the journal Science

The past 12 months have been the worst on record for hurricanes.

Editor’s note: 2005 severe weather updates

Filed in Yucatán weather

September 13th, 2004

Severe weather affecting Yucatan

Hurricane alert‘Ivan’ has taken on mind boggling proportions.

I’m just awe-struck by the sheer devastating power and natural beauty of this extremely dangerous Category 5 hurricane, which is now 400 miles (640km) across.

It goes without saying that my thoughts are with all those who have suffered as a result of the hurricane… and with those still waiting with trepidation.

Contributors to Wikipedia are doing a good job of summarising the history of the storm thus far.

Another satellite image

Editor’s note: 2005 severe weather updates

Filed in Yucatán weather

September 9th, 2004

‘Ivan’ churns through Caribbean

Hurricane alertIt looks like southeast Mexico will be spared the worst of Hurricane ‘Ivan’. The monster storm was upgraded to a category 5 hurricane – the most dangerous category on a 1 to 5 scale earlier today and is steaming through the Caribbean. Sustained winds are now 160mph (256kph), with gusts nearing 200mph (320kph). Jamaica and Cuba lie in its path. Florida (…again) may be next.

Hurricane Ivan blog.
Some incredible images from the NOAA; like this one. And another one.

Filed in Yucatán weather

September 7th, 2004

Will Ivan be as terrible?

Hurricane alertLike London buses, hurricanes can sometimes come in threes.

No sooner have we assessed the effects of ‘Charley’ and ‘Frances‘, we’re already looking at the next big storm.

Latest satellite images show ‘Ivan’ – now upgraded to a category 4 hurricane – already looming large and cartwheeling in off the Atlantic.

Some computerised forecast models carry Ivan south of Cuba to the north-eastern tip of the Yucatán Peninsula sometime on Sunday.

But nothing is certain – not this early.

Filed in Yucatán weather

August 16th, 2004

Active hurricane season “likely”

Hurricane Kenna, October 2002 © NOAAThe NOAA has reiterated its May 2004 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook by predicting 12 to 15 tropical storms, with 6 to 8 becoming hurricanes. Historically, hurricanes are more likely from mid-August to November, when the ‘season’ ends.

Mexico suffered two especially severe storms in 2002 when “Isidore” devastated the Yucatán in September and “Kenna” tore up Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific coast (pictured) one month later. New roads had to be built to replace those washed away and in Puerto Vallarta the malecon – oceanfront promenade – reconstructed.

Filed in Yucatán weather

August 1st, 2003

Warm temperatures may trigger hurricanes

The Met Office is forecasting warmer than usual temperatures – particularly in southern Mexico – in the next 3 months.

Experts have also predicted a busy Atlantic hurricane season, which can affect Yucatan and the Gulf of Mexico, with perhaps twice as many hurricanes this year as compared to 2002. The season ends in November.

Filed in Yucatán weather

May 14th, 2003

Bush fires rage in Yucatán, Oaxaca…

For more than a fortnight, soaring temperatures and tonnes of tinder-dry branches left behind by Hurricane Isidore last September have contributed to the rapid spread of dozens of wildfires in the Yucatán. The recent fires have scorched an estimated 150,000 hectares (370,500 acres) in different areas of the country, with land-clearing fires started by farmers running rampant in Oaxaca, one of 3 southern states – along with Campeche and Chiapas – declared “disaster zones” by the federal government.

May is normally the hottest month of the year, but the unusually intense heatwave has seen some parts of Mexico wilt with temperatures approaching 50 degrees C (122 degrees F) with advancing fires so far claiming the lives of half a dozen people, including 4 volunteer fire-fighters.

Yucatán has been particularly badly affected, with villages threatened by blazes being evacuated before they are engulfed by fires whipping through the low-scrub forest. As I reported in March, the big southern sky smudged with plumes of yellow-black smoke from slash-and-burn agriculture and stubborn ground fires has become a familiar sight for travellers setting-out from Mérida.

The extremely dry conditions and dusty forest floors have created especially smoky fires, creating a haze that has drifted north and even reached into Texas. We all hope the rains arrive early this year triggering an end to the devastation, although meteorological experts say the extreme weather may be a result of the El Niño phenomenon that could continue until August.

Travel should be largely unaffected although travellers should heed the advice of army fire-fighters if advised of road closures and (as always) drink a lot of liquids.

Filed in Yucatán weather

March 6th, 2003

The Heat is On

We reached the Yucatán on Monday night, just in time to catch the last two days of Mérida’s ‘Carnaval’, which has seemingly coincided with the start of the hot weather.

Carnival is as huge an event here as it is in Veracruz and Mazatlán and is one the oldest on the entire continent.

Times have changed since the capitán general of the Peninsula, Luis de Céspedes y Oviedo, introduced the first modest celebration in 1571. This year 350,000 risked fainting in the heat in order to receive freebies from sponsors such as Pepsi, Burger King & Pizza Hut.

Bush fireThe mercury hit 40°C this afternoon and we got held up on our drive back to Mérida from the coast by a nasty bush fire on the Motul road. Luckily, the Mexican Army was on hand to douse the flames.

Filed in Yucatán & Mayan Mexico, Yucatán weather