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The year 2005 experienced several strong hurricanes intensifying in the Gulf of Mexico before making landfall that severely damaged the Gulf States, especially Hurricane Katrina. Remarkable similarities between sea surface temperature anomaly (SSTA) and major hurricane (categories 3 and higher) activity over the Gulf are identified. However, the intensification of individual hurricanes may not necessarily be temporally and spatially coincident with the distribution of warm waters or high sea surface temperature (SST). High SST values are found in advance of significant intensification of Hurricane Katrina. We emphasize that high SSTA which occurred at the right time and right place was conducive to the hurricane intensification. In particular, high SSTA in the northeastern quadrant of the storm track induced significant increases in surface latent heat fluxes (LHF) contributing to the rapid intensification of Katrina. We also compared and verified model simulations with buoy observations.


This article was originally published in Geophysical Research Letters, volume 33, in 2006. DOI: 10.1029/2006GL026623

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