Hurricane Ida (2021): Rapid Intensification Followed by Slow Inland Decay

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Hurricane Ida recently became one of the strongest hurricanes to hit Louisiana on record, with an estimated landfalling maximum sustained wind of 130 kt. Although Hurricane Ida made landfall at a similar time of year and landfall location as Hurricane Katrina (2005), Ida’s postlandfall decay rate was much weaker than Hurricane Katrina. This manuscript includes a comparative analysis of pre- and post-landfall synoptic conditions for Hurricane Ida and other historical major landfalling hurricanes (Category 3+ on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale) along the Gulf Coast since 1983, with a particular focus on Hurricane Katrina.

Abundant precipitation in southeastern Louisiana prior to Ida’s landfall increased soil moisture. This increased soil moisture along with extremely weak overland steering flow likely slowed the storm’s weakening rate post-landfall. Offshore environmental factors also played an important role, particularly anomalously high nearshore sea surface temperatures and weak vertical wind shear that fueled the rapid intensification of Ida just before landfall. Strong nearshore vertical wind shear weakened Hurricane Katrina before landfall, and moderate northward steering flow caused Katrina to move inland relatively quickly, aiding in its relatively fast weakening rate following landfall.

The results of this study improve our understanding of critical factors influencing the evolution of the nearshore intensity of major landfalling hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico. This study can help facilitate forecasting and preparation for inland hazards resulting from landfalling hurricanes with nearshore intensification and weak post-landfall decay.

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Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, in press