Hurricane Debbie (1969)

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Hurricane Debbie
Category 3 major hurricane (SSHWS/NWS)
Hurricane Debbie on August 20, 1969
Formed August 14, 1969
Dissipated August 25, 1969
Highest winds 1-minute sustained:120 mph (195 km/h)
Lowest pressure 951 mbar (hPa); 28.08 inHg
Areas affected Newfoundland, Bermuda
Part of the 1969 Atlantic hurricane season

Hurricane Debbie was an intense and long-lived hurricane that formed during August 1969. The fifth tropical cyclone, fourth named storm, third hurricane and second major hurricane of the 1969 Atlantic hurricane season, Debbie formed on August 14 in the southern Atlantic Ocean and took a general northwesterly path until turning northward into the central Atlantic. The storm was characterized by numerous fluctuations in intensity, and it reached winds corresponding to Category 3 status on the Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale on four separate occasions. The hurricane bypassed the island of Bermuda to the southeast on August 22, before ultimately brushing southeastern Newfoundland with strong winds. It dissipated over the cold waters east of Greenland. Although Debbie had little effect on land, it was extensively researched and was subject to a weather modification experiment by Project Stormfury, in which it was seeded with silver iodide.

Tropical cyclone Is a rotating storm system

A tropical cyclone is a rapidly rotating storm system characterized by a low-pressure center, a closed low-level atmospheric circulation, strong winds, and a spiral arrangement of thunderstorms that produce heavy rain. Depending on its location and strength, a tropical cyclone is referred to by different names, including hurricane, typhoon, tropical storm, cyclonic storm, tropical depression, and simply cyclone. A hurricane is a tropical cyclone that occurs in the Atlantic Ocean and northeastern Pacific Ocean, and a typhoon occurs in the northwestern Pacific Ocean; in the south Pacific or Indian Ocean, comparable storms are referred to simply as "tropical cyclones" or "severe cyclonic storms".

1969 Atlantic hurricane season hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean

The 1969 Atlantic hurricane season was the most active Atlantic hurricane season since 1933 as well as the fourth most active Atlantic hurricane season on record, and was also the final year of the most recent positive Atlantic multidecadal oscillation (AMO) era. The hurricane season officially began on June 1, and lasted until November 30. The season had the highest number of systems reach hurricane status – twelve – in a single season, until that record was surpassed in 2005. Activity began with a series of five tropical depressions, the first of which developed on May 29. The third system in that series, Tropical Depression Seven, caused extensive flooding in Cuba and Jamaica in early June. The final in the series formed on July 25, the same day that Tropical Storm Anna developed. Neither the former nor latter caused significant impact on land. Later in the season, Tropical Depression Twenty-Nine caused severe local flooding in the Florida Panhandle and southwestern Georgia in September. Hurricane Blanche was a small and short-lived tropical cyclone in mid-August that resulted in minimal effects.

Newfoundland (island) Island portion of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

Newfoundland is a large Canadian island off the east coast of the North American mainland, and the most populous part of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. It has 29 percent of the province's land area. The island is separated from the Labrador Peninsula by the Strait of Belle Isle and from Cape Breton Island by the Cabot Strait. It blocks the mouth of the Saint Lawrence River, creating the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, the world's largest estuary. Newfoundland's nearest neighbour is the French overseas community of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon.


Meteorological history

Map plotting the track and intensity of the storm, according to the Saffir-Simpson scale Debbie 1969 track.png
Map plotting the track and intensity of the storm, according to the Saffir–Simpson scale

A disturbance associated with a tropical wave strengthened into a tropical depression on August 14. [1] The system had significantly organized by August 15, [2] and it intensified into a tropical storm at 1200 UTC that day. [1] Upon its designation, Debbie was moving west-northwestward at approximately 15 mph (24 km/h) and it was predicted to gradually gain power. [3] It attained Category 1 hurricane strength on August 16 as it turned toward the northwest. It continued to mature, and at around 1200 UTC the next day, it achieved winds corresponding to Category 2 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. On August 18, Debbie further intensified to Category 3 status, making it a major hurricane. [1]

Tropical wave type of atmospheric trough

Tropical waves, easterly waves, or tropical easterly waves, also known as African easterly waves in the Atlantic region, are a type of atmospheric trough, an elongated area of relatively low air pressure, oriented north to south, which moves from east to west across the tropics, causing areas of cloudiness and thunderstorms. West-moving waves can also form from the tail end of frontal zones in the subtropics and tropics, and may be referred to as easterly waves, but these waves are not properly called tropical waves; they are a form of inverted trough sharing many characteristics with fully tropical waves. All tropical waves form in the easterly flow along the equatorward side of the subtropical ridge or belt of high pressure which lies north and south of the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). Tropical waves are generally carried westward by the prevailing easterly winds along the tropics and subtropics near the equator. They can lead to the formation of tropical cyclones in the north Atlantic and northeastern Pacific basins. A tropical wave study is aided by Hovmöller diagrams, a graph of meteorological data.

However, the storm quickly downgraded, and by August 19 it was once again at minimal hurricane force. At roughly the same time, it turned more to the west, although it maintained a general northwesterly path. [1] [4] The abrupt weakening may have been the result of a seeding experiment carried out on the storm in an attempt to deteriorate it. [5] By later in the day, Debbie had begun to restrengthen. It resumed Category 3 intensity on August 20, despite a minor oscillation in magnitude during the day. At this point, the cyclone acquired peak winds of 120 mph (195 km/h); shortly thereafter, its lowest recorded barometric pressure fell to 951 millibars. [1]

Project Stormfury

Project Stormfury was an attempt to weaken tropical cyclones by flying aircraft into them and seeding with silver iodide. The project was run by the United States Government from 1962 to 1983.

The storm turned northward on August 21, [6] and eventually curved northeastward. Debbie weakened to Category 2 strength but, for the fourth time, restrengthened to major hurricane intensity. [1] The hurricane then passed well to the southeast of Bermuda, [1] although it is believed that if not for the presence of nearby Hurricane Camille which emerged into the Atlantic from the United States on August 20, Debbie would have likely ended up further west, closer to the island. [5] It maintained its severity through August 22 as it continued generally toward the northeast. [1]

Hurricane Camille Category 5 Atlantic hurricane in 1969

Hurricane Camille was the second most intense tropical cyclone on record to strike the United States. The most intense storm of the 1969 Atlantic hurricane season, Camille formed as a tropical depression on August 14 south of Cuba from a long-tracked tropical wave. Located in a favorable environment for strengthening, the storm quickly intensified into a Category 2 hurricane before striking the western part of Cuba on August 15. Emerging into the Gulf of Mexico, Camille underwent another period of rapid intensification and became a Category 5 hurricane the next day as it moved northward towards the Louisiana–Mississippi region. Despite weakening slightly on August 17, the hurricane quickly re-intensified back to a Category 5 hurricane before it made landfall in Pass Christian, Mississippi early on August 18, at peak intensity, with a minimum pressure of 900 mbar (26.58 inHg). This was the second-lowest pressure recorded for a US landfall. Only the 1935 Labor Day hurricane had a lower pressure at landfall. As Camille pushed inland, it quickly weakened and was a tropical depression by the time it was over the Ohio Valley. Once it emerged offshore, Camille was able to restrengthen to a strong tropical storm, before it became extratropical on August 22. Camille was subsequently absorbed by a frontal storm over the North Atlantic on the same day.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

The storm's eye Eye of hurricane debbie (1969).jpg
The storm's eye

On August 23, the storm began a weakening trend and it turned towards the north. [1] The next day, the storm—having weakened to Category 1 status—skirted the southeastern tip of Newfoundland. [7] Debbie began to lose its tropical characteristics as it accelerated towards the northeast, [8] and it weakened into a tropical storm early on August 25. [1] As it moved over increasingly cold waters, it dissipated east of Greenland. [5]

Greenland autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark

Greenland is an autonomous constituent country of the Kingdom of Denmark between the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Though physiographically a part of the continent of North America, Greenland has been politically and culturally associated with Europe for more than a millennium. The majority of its residents are Inuit, whose ancestors began migrating from the Canadian mainland in the 13th century, gradually settling across the island.

Impact and Project Stormfury

This radar image from a Navy reconnaissance aircraft of Hurricane Debbie was taken on August 20, 1969 around 1519 UTC. DebbieAug2019691519zNavyRadar.jpg
This radar image from a Navy reconnaissance aircraft of Hurricane Debbie was taken on August 20, 1969 around 1519 UTC.

Debbie was subject to an experiment called Project Stormfury, which attempted to weaken tropical cyclones by seeding them with silver iodide. [5] The storm provided an excellent opportunity to test the underpinnings of Project Stormfury. In many ways it was the perfect storm for seeding: it did not threaten any land; it passed within range of seeding aircraft; and was intense with a distinct eye. [9] On August 18 and again on August 20, thirteen planes flew out to the storm to monitor and seed it. On the first day, windspeeds fell by 31%. On the second day, windspeeds fell by 18%. [5] [10] Both changes were consistent with Stormfury's working hypothesis. The results were so encouraging that "a greatly expanded research program was planned." [11] Among other conclusions was the need for frequent seeding at close to hourly intervals. [12]

Cloud seeding form of weather modification

Cloud seeding is a type of weather modification that aims to change the amount or type of precipitation that falls from clouds by dispersing substances into the air that serve as cloud condensation or ice nuclei, which alter the microphysical processes within the cloud. The usual intent is to increase precipitation, but hail and fog suppression are also widely practised in airports where harsh weather conditions are experienced.

Silver iodide inorganic compound

Silver iodide is an inorganic compound with the formula AgI. The compound is a bright yellow solid, but samples almost always contain impurities of metallic silver that give a gray coloration. The silver contamination arises because AgI is highly photosensitive. This property is exploited in silver-based photography. Silver iodide is also used as an antiseptic and in cloud seeding.

Debbie remained predominately at sea throughout its 3,000 mi (4,800 km) path, and as a result, it caused little damage. [12] The storm had little or no impact on the island of Bermuda as it passed to the south. [13] Later, winds of 50 to 65 mph (80 to 105 km/h) were recorded over eastern Newfoundland. [8]

See also

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