Bermuda – in the firing line (NASA’s Dr Tim Hall)

Bermuda is a small target, but Atlantic hurricanes like to take shots at it, and Hurricane Gonzalo has good aim.

Hur GonUpdated midday, October 15th 2014

Gonzalo, the sixth hurricane of the 2014 season, is currently a major hurricane (Saffir Simpson category 4) with maximum 1-minute sustained wind speeds of 130mph and central pressure of 949mb. It is the most intense hurricane to date of the 2014 season, surpassing Edouard. NOAA’s National Hurricane Center (8am EDT Oct 15) forecasts Gonzalo to peak in the next 24 hours, and just after peak hit Bermuda (or come close) on Friday with wind speeds of 120mph. Taking into account the NHC’s “cone of uncertainty” there are 50% odds of hurricane-force winds on Bermuda in the next three days.

Major-hurricane force winds (111mph and up) on Bermuda have return periods of roughly 40-50 years (Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility, 2013). The last hurricane of Gonzalo’s magnitude on Bermuda was Fabian in 2003, which blasted the island with 120mph winds, causing four deaths and $300 million in damages. Prior to Fabian we have to go back to the Bermuda-Newfoundland hurricane of 1948 to find comparable wind speeds on Bermuda.

Gonzalo may well have the dubious distinction of surpassing Fabian and the Bermuda-Newfoundland in intensity. We’ll know soon enough.

Dr Hall is a climate scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City. He specialises in hurricanes and their relationship to climate. He develops statistical hurricane and weather hazard models, and has worked as a consultant to RMS and reinsurance companies. Dr. Hall can be reached at www.linkedin.com/pub/timothy-hall/a2/709/b27/.

Posted: Monday, October 20th, 2014