Hurricane Sandy (2012): Growth Through Multiple Trough Interactions

Presentation Type: 
Lance Bosart (University at Albany/SUNY)
Alicia M. Bentley (University at Albany/SUNY/DAES)
Philippe Papin (University at Albany: State University of New York)
Charles N. Helms (University at Albany/SUNY/DAES)

Hurricane Sandy (2012): Growth Through Multiple Trough Interactions


Lance F. Bosart, Alicia M. Bentley, Philippe Papin, and Charles N. Helms

Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences

The University at Albany/SUNY

1400 Washington Avenue

Albany, NY 12222

Hurricane Sandy, a very high-impact storm that devastated neighborhoods, businesses, and infrastructure (especially in the New York city metro area), made landfall in New Jersey at approximately 0000 UTC 30 October 2012. The storm surge induced by Sandy, exceeding 4.0 m in some areas (e.g., New York harbor), caused most of the devastation and killed the majority of the more than 100 people who perished in the storm. Others died when wind gusts that exceeded hurricane force toppled trees onto homes and cars in several areas (e.g., Long Island and New Jersey). Motivated by the widespread devastation and loss of life produced by Hurricane Sandy, as well as the scientific opportunities provided by the storm, the author decided to offer a graduate level research class during the spring 2013 semester devoted to a multiscale soup-to-nuts analysis of the storm. Eleven UAlbany graduate students, several UAlbany faculty members, and one McGill University faculty participated in the class. Sparked by this class, collaborative research on Sandy is ongoing.

This presentation will focus on three trough interactions that determined Sandy's structure, evolution, track and eventual landfall in New Jersey. The first trough interaction, largely indirect, occurred on 23-24 October when Sandy was a strengthening storm located to the south of Cuba. Progressive disturbances embedded in the subtropical jet (STJ) to the north of Sandy enabled the storm's cloud shield to expand poleward in response to midlevel warm-air advection along an antecedent west-east oriented baroclinic zone situated from northern Mexico to the western Atlantic. Sandy's second (direct) trough interaction with a stronger disturbance embedded in the STJ occurred on 25-26 October while the storm was located north of Cuba and resulted in an increase in storm size and a northwestward turn toward the Southeast coast. Sandy's third (direct) trough interaction with a strong baroclinic disturbance embedded in the polar front jet occurred on 29-30 October and culminated in the storm's abrupt westward turn toward the coast and subsequent landfall on 0000 UTC 30 October. The cumulative impacts of these three trough interactions, the first indirect and the second and third direct, on Sandy's structure, evolution, track and landfall will be discussed. Finally, we will compare the tracks of Sandy, Hazel (1954), and the 1938 New England hurricane, and the large-scale forcing that determined these tracks, for perspective purposes.