Remember Hurricane Kenneth, the 11th named storm of the 2011 eastern Pacific hurricane season? EarthSky weather blogger Matt Daniel blogged about this unusual storm earlier this week, which formed on November 19, 2011 and went on to become the strongest known hurricane to form this late in the season in the eastern Pacific. In an email to me, Matt called it a “beautiful storm.” And so it was, especially since – in the midst of the Pacific Ocean – Kenneth wasn’t putting anyone in harm’s way.
Kenneth was a major hurricane earlier this week, as the image above shows. Now Hurricane Kenneth is no more, with satellite images showing that wind sheer has pushed it apart.
Today wind shear and cooler waters have weakened the storm to a remnant low pressure areas. NOAA’s GOES-11 satellite captured multiple images of Kenneth over the week showing the disappearance of his eye and the breakdown of the storm’s circulation. Like a stack of tires that can’t rotate all together, different levels of Kenneth’s circulation were pushed out, weakening the entire storm. Here’s a more recent image of Kenneth.
At 4 a.m. EST on Friday, Nov. 25, 2011, Kenneth had weakened to a tropical depression with maximum sustained winds near 35 mph (55 kmh). It was being battered by strong wind shear which was pushing the thunderstorms away from the center of its circulation. A tropical cyclone can only maintain strength or get stronger is when the different levels of it (in the atmosphere) stack up like a bunch of tires. If someone pushes a tire out of the middle (similar to what wind shear does to a tropical cyclone by pushing out the middle or upper levels of thunderstorms) the storm can’t rotate and hold together. Satellite imagery showed that the showers associated with the remnants were all southeast of the center, meaning that the wind shear was coming from the northwest.
Kenneth had almost perfect conditions such as low wind shear, favorable atmosphere in front of it, and sea surface temperatures warm enough to support a tropical system to become a major hurricane. A major hurricane is classified as a storm with a Category 3 or higher rating with winds over 111 miles per hour.
Kenneth became a strong Category 4 storm with 145 mph winds, making Kenneth the latest major hurricane ever to form in the eastern Pacific Ocean.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.