Hurricane Linda (1997) - Meteorological History

Meteorological History

The origins of Hurricane Linda are believed to have been in a tropical wave that moved off the coast of Africa on August 24. The wave tracked westward across the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea without development. An area of convection developed to the west of Panama in the Pacific Ocean on September 6, which is believed to have been related to the tropical wave. The system continued westward, and within three days of entering the basin, a poorly defined circulation formed. Banding features began to develop, and at around 1200 UTC on September 9, the system organized into Tropical Depression Fourteen-E. At the time, it was approximately 460 miles (740 km) south of the Mexican city of Manzanillo.

On becoming a tropical cyclone, the depression moved northwestward at 6 and 12 miles per hour (9.7 and 19 km/h), partially under the influence of a mid- to upper-level low near the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula. Deep convection and banding features increased, and the depression intensified into a tropical storm early on September 10. Upon being designated, the cyclone was named Linda by the National Hurricane Center (NHC). As upper-level outflow became well-established, the storm began to strengthen quickly. By September 11, an intermittent eye appeared, by which time the NHC estimated that Linda reached hurricane status. The storm began to rapidly intensify; its small eye became well-defined and surrounded by very cold convection. In a 24 hour period, the minimum pressure dropped 81 millibars (2.4 inHg), or an average drop of 3.38 millibars (0.100 inHg) per hour. Such intensification met the criterion for explosive deepening, an average hourly pressure decrease of at least 2.5 millibars (0.074 inHg). By early September 12, Hurricane Linda reached Category 5 status on the Saffir-Simpson scale, and around 0600 UTC, Linda attained estimated peak winds of 185 mph (295 km/h) about 145 mi (235 km) southeast of Socorro Island. Its maximum sustained winds were estimated from 180 and 195 miles per hour (290 and 314 km/h), based on the Dvorak technique, and gusts were estimated to have reached 218 miles per hour (351 km/h). The hurricane's pressure is estimated at 902 millibars (26.6 inHg), making Linda the most intense Pacific hurricane on record. When the storm was active, its pressure was estimated to have been slightly lower, at 900 millibars (27 inHg).

Shortly after reaching peak intensity, Hurricane Linda passed near Socorro Island as a Category 5 hurricane. Around that time, tropical cyclone forecast models suggested that the hurricane would turn toward southern California due to an approaching upper-level trough. Had Linda struck the state, it would have been much weaker at that time, possibly moving ashore as a tropical storm. Instead, Hurricane Linda turned west-northwestward away from land in response to a building ridge to the north of the hurricane. Despite remaining away from land, moisture from the storm reached southern California to produce rainfall. On September 14, the Hurricane Hunters and airplanes from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration investigated the hurricane to provide better data on the powerful hurricane. Hurricane Linda quickly deteriorated as it tracked toward cooler waters, weakening to tropical storm status on September 15. Two days later, when located about 1,105 miles (1,778 km) west of the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula, it weakened to tropical depression status. Linda no longer met the criteria for a tropical cyclone by September 18, although a circulation persisted for a few days before dissipating.

Forecasters and computer models did not anticipate how quickly Linda would strengthen; in one advisory, the NHC under-forecast how strong the winds would be in 72 hours by 115 miles per hour (185 km/h). The maximum potential intensity for Linda was 880 millibars (26 inHg), 22 millibars (0.65 inHg) lower than its actual intensity. The 1997 season was affected by the El Niño event of 1997–98, which brought warmer than normal water temperatures and contributed to the high intensity of several storms. Hurricane Linda occurred about a month after the similarly powerful Hurricane Guillermo, which also reached Category 5 status. The passage of Linda cooled the waters in the region, causing Hurricane Nora to weaken when it passed through the area on September 21.

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