DISCUSSION: As of earlier in the day on Monday (September 18th, 2017), a strengthening Hurricane Maria was upgraded from a Category 1 hurricane to a Category 5 hurricane within just over a 14-hour time frame. It goes without saying that this was a very unexpected turn of events based on the fact that as of earlier today, Maria was expected to intensify to upwards of a Category 3 hurricane as the day progressed on Monday. However, as Maria remained in an incredibly favorable area for rapid intensification, the storm went on to intensity all the way up to a Category 5 hurricane with maximum sustained wind speeds of 160 MPH before impacting the Caribbean islands of Dominica. Prior the official landfall of Category 5 Hurricane Maria on the island of Dominica, a Hurricane Hunter Reconnaissance Aircraft successfully launched a dropsonde (i.e., a downward-moving sensor which measures wind speed, wind direction, temperature, and dew point) within the eye of Hurricane Maria.
Attached above is the atmospheric sounding which was associated with the aforementioned dropsonde launch. Note how below the 850 mb level the red line (i.e., the temperature profile) and the green line (i.e., the dew point profile), the atmosphere was much closer to being saturated. However, above the 850 mb level, there was a strong intrusion of much drier air as indicated by the greater degree of separation between the temperature and the dew point profile. This greater degree of space between the temperature and dew point profiles was due to the sinking of warm air within the eye of what was a Category 5 Hurricane Maria at the time. Thus, this image illustrates a classic eye sounding within a majestic Category 5 hurricane.
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©2017 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz