Beryl set to strengthen on approach to Texas


With its unprecedented tear through the ultrawarm waters of the southeast Caribbean, Beryl turned meteorologists’ worst fears of a souped-up hurricane season into grim reality. Now it’s Texas turn.

Beryl hit Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula as a Category 2 hurricane on Friday, then weakened to a tropical storm. It’s expected to reach southern Texas by Sunday night or Monday morning, regaining hurricane status as it crosses over the toasty Gulf of Mexico.

National Hurricane Center senior specialist Jack Beven said Beryl is likely to make landfall somewhere between Brownsville and a bit north of Corpus Christi Monday. The hurricane center forecasts it will hit as a strong Category 1 storm, but wrote “this could be conservative if Beryl stays over water longer” than expected.

The waters in the Gulf of Mexico are warm enough for the early-season storm to rapidly intensify, as it has several times before.

“We should not be surprised if this is rapidly intensifying before landfall and it could become a major hurricane,” said Weather Underground co-founder Jeff Masters, a former government hurricane meteorologist who flew into storms. “Category 2 may be more likely but we should not dismiss a Category 3 possibility.”

Beven said the official forecast has Beryl gaining 17 to 23 mph in wind speed in 24 hours, but noted the storm intensified more rapidly than forecasters expected earlier in the Caribbean.

“People in southern Texas now need to really keep an eye on the progress of Beryl,” Beven said.

Masters and University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy said hurricane center forecasters have been very accurate in predicting Beryl’s track so far.

Already three times in its one-week life, Beryl has gained 35 mph in wind speed in 24 hours or less, the official weather service definition of rapid intensification.

The storm zipped from 35 mph to 75 mph on June 28. It went went from 80 mph to 115 mph in the overnight hours of June 29 into June 30 and on July 1 it went from 120 mph to 155 mph in just 15 hours, according to hurricane center records.

Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach, using a different tracking system, said he counted eight different periods when Beryl rapidly intensified — something that has only happened in the Atlantic in July two other times.

MIT meteorology professor Kerry Emanuel doesn’t give Beryl “much of a chance″ for another 35 mph wind speed jump in the Gulf of Mexico, but said it’s a tricky thing to forecast.

Beryl’s explosive growth into an unprecedented early whopper of a storm shows the literal hot water the Atlantic and Caribbean are in right now and the figurative hot water the Atlantic hurricane belt can expect for the rest of the storm season, experts said.

The storm smashed various records even before its major hurricane-level winds approached the island of Carriacou in Grenada on Monday.

Beryl set the record for the earliest Category 4 with winds of at least 130 mph (209 kilometers per hour) — the first-ever category 4 in June. It also was the earliest storm to rapidly intensify with wind speeds jumping 63 mph (102 kph) in 24 hours, going from an unnamed depression to a Category 4 in 48 hours.

Colorado State University’s Klotzbach called Beryl a harbinger.

Forecasters predicted months ago it was going to be a nasty year and now they are comparing it to record busy 1933 and deadly 2005 — the year of Katrina, Rita, Wilma and Dennis.

“This is the type of storm that we expect this year, these outlier things that happen when and where they shouldn’t,” University of Miami’s McNoldy said. “Not only for things to form and intensify and reach higher intensities, but increase the likelihood of rapid intensification.”

Warm water acts as fuel for the thunderstorms and clouds that form hurricanes. The warmer the water and thus the air at the bottom of the storm, the better the chance it will rise higher in the atmosphere and create deeper thunderstorms, said the University at Albany’s Kristen Corbosiero.

“So when you get all that heat energy you can expect some fireworks,” Masters said.

Atlantic waters have been record warm since April 2023. Klotzbach said a high pressure system that normally sets up cooling trade winds collapsed then and hasn’t returned.

Corbosiero said scientists are debating what exactly climate change does to hurricanes, but have come to an agreement that it makes them more prone to rapidly intensifying, as Beryl did, and increase the strongest storms, like Beryl.

Emanuel said the slowdown of Atlantic ocean currents, likely caused by climate change, may also be a factor in the warm water.

brewing La Nina, which is a slight cooling of the Pacific that changes weather worldwide, also may be a factor. Experts say La Nina tends to depress high altitude crosswinds that decapitate hurricanes.

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