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Hurricane Matthew on October 3, 2016. Image credit: NOAA/NASA
Hurricane Matthew on October 3, 2016. Image credit: NOAA/NASA

Hurricane Matthew Hits Haiti, May Head North

Hurricane Matthew on October 3, 2016. Image credit: NOAA/NASA
Hurricane Matthew on October 3, 2016. Image credit: NOAA/NASA

Hurricane Matthew is a monstrous storm unlike anything we’ve seen in the Atlantic Ocean in a long time. This morning, October 4, the Category 4 hurricane made landfall in Haiti, unleashing the brunt of its fury on the island nation—and it may soon do the same to Jamaica, Cuba, and the Bahamas. After that, the hurricane could either head out to sea or hit the U.S. East Coast head on. The hurricane is moving into a complicated weather pattern that the models are having a hard time figuring out, so we won’t know for a few more days what—if any—impacts Hurricane Matthew will have on the United States.

Data from the National Hurricane Center indicate that the storm currently has maximum sustained winds of 145 mph, ranking it as a Category 4 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. The storm briefly reached Category 5 intensity this past weekend, making it the strongest storm we’ve seen in the Atlantic Ocean since Hurricane Felix in 2007 and one of a handful of storms in this part of the world to ever reach the top of the wind scale. It's also the first Category 4 hurricane to make landfall in Haiti in 52 years.

The National Hurricane Center’s forecast for Hurricane Matthew at 11:00 AM Eastern on October 3, 2016. Image credit: Dennis Mersereau

MODELING ITS POTENTIAL PATH

Hurricane Matthew’s worst winds are focused in a small part of the eyewall, but it still has a large shield of strong winds and extremely heavy rain that measures several hundred miles across. Forecasters expect deadly flash flooding and mudslides across Hispaniola, Jamaica, Cuba, and the Bahamas as Matthew passes through the area. Some parts of Haiti could see more than 2 feet of rain, leading to potentially devastating consequences. Already there are reports of deaths. The storm surge, or the flood of seawater pushed inland by the strong winds, could reach or exceed the height of a one-story house on the southern coasts of Haiti, Cuba, and some islands in the Bahamas.

The storm’s future is still an open question once it leaves the Caribbean. Some models steer the hurricane out to sea, while others bring it into the East Coast of the United States. The models are having a tough time determining how Matthew will interact with a ridge of high pressure over the Atlantic, which acts like a guard rail that keeps the storm from turning harmlessly out to sea. There’s also a trough of low pressure approaching the East Coast from the west that could catch the hurricane and drag it north, but the models disagree about that as well. The intricate play between Matthew and its environment will determine how much of a headache the storm will cause the United States in the next seven days. Data from extra weather balloon launches and persistent Hurricane Hunter missions into the storm will hopefully give weather models some extra information to work with so they can get a better handle on what will happen this week.

Everyone along the U.S. coast from Florida to Maine should keep an eye on the National Hurricane Center’s forecasts as Matthew draws closer to land. Any potential impacts to the U.S. will occur later this week or this weekend, so there are still a few days to make sure you’re prepared for a storm and its lasting effects in the event that it heads toward the coast. Either way, Matthew will generate powerful waves and rip currents at beaches up and down the eastern seaboard. Use extreme caution if you’re visiting the beach over the next week, and stay out of the water if conditions are too rough.

An infrared satellite view of Hurricane Matthew at peak strength on September 30, 2016. Image credit: NOAA/NASA

HOW IT GREW INTO A SCALE-TOPPING HURRICANE WITH ALARMING SPEED

Impacts aside, this hurricane is fascinating from a scientific perspective. Matthew grew from a small tropical storm into a powerful, scale-topping Category 5 hurricane with alarming speed. It took just 36 hours—between 11:00 a.m. EDT on September 29 to 11:00 p.m. EDT on September 30—for the storm’s winds to jump from 70 mph to 160 mph.

What’s even worse is that no human forecast or weather model expected Hurricane Matthew to turn into the monster it became. This hurricane is a prime example of how meteorology is still an inexact science. Matthew blew up over extremely warm waters, but it faced moderate wind shear that was expected to disrupt thunderstorms around the eye and keep it from strengthening as fast as it did.

Meteorologists have made great strides in improving hurricane track forecasts over the past couple of decades. They’re able to predict the location of most storms to within about 250 miles five days in advance—still a big margin of error, but much better than it was just a few years ago. While their track forecasts have improved, meteorologists still struggle with intensity forecasts, especially when rapid intensification occurs like we saw this weekend. There’s still a lot we don’t know about how hurricanes strengthen, and Matthew is proof of that struggle.

Hurricane Matthew is also odd because it didn’t look like a traditional Category 5 hurricane at its peak strength. The storm had an intense inner core with a weird, larger “blob” of convection to its east. The odd appendage was caused by easterly trade winds converging with Matthew’s winds circulating from the southwest. We normally don’t see that in the Caribbean because storms—especially strong ones—tend to keep moving west or northwest instead of stalling out and meandering for a few days.

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Live Smarter
Interactive Chart Tells You How Long It Takes to Get Frostbite
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iStock

For many people, winter means dry skin and high heating bills. But if you find yourself outdoors in the right conditions, it can also mean frostbite. Frostbite occurs when the skin and the tissue beneath it freezes, causing pain, loss of sensation, or worse. It's easier to contract than you may think, even if you don't live in the Siberian tundra. To see if frostbite poses a threat where you live, check out this chart spotted by Digg.

The chart, developed by Pooja Gandhi and Adam Crahen using National Weather Service data, looks at three factors: wind speed, air temperature, and time spent outdoors. You can hover your cursor over data-points on the table to see how long you'd need to be exposed to certain wind chills for your skin tissue to freeze. If the wind chill is -22°F, for example (10°F air temperature with 5 mph winds), it would take 31 minutes of being outside before frostbite sets in. You can also look at the time scale above the chart to calculate it a different way. If you bring your cursor to the 40-minute mark, a window will tell that frostbite becomes a risk after exposure to -17°F wind chill for that amount of time. You can play with the interactive table at Tableau Public.

Chart of cold weather conditions.
Adam Crahen, Pooja Gandhi

If you can't avoid being outside in extreme wind and cold, there are a few steps you can take to keep your skin protected. Wear lots of layers, including multiple socks, and wrap your face with a scarf or face mask before venturing into the cold. Also, remember to stay hydrated. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, drinking at least one glass of water before going outside decreases your risk of contracting frostbite.

[h/t Digg]

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Photo composite, Mental Floss. Car, ticket, Simon Laprise. Background, iStock.
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Design
This Snow Sculpture of a Car Was So Convincing Cops Tried to Write It a Ticket
Photo composite, Mental Floss. Car, ticket, Simon Laprise. Background, iStock.
Photo composite, Mental Floss. Car, ticket, Simon Laprise. Background, iStock.

Winter is a frustrating time to be on the road, but one artist in Montreal has found a way to make the best of it. As CBS affiliate WGCL-TV reports, his snow sculpture of a DeLorean DMC-12 was so convincing that even the police were fooled.

Simon Laprise of L.S.D Laprise Simon Designs assembled the prank car using snow outside his home in Montreal. He positioned it so it appeared to be parked along the side of the road, and with the weather Montreal has been having lately, a car buried under snow wasn’t an unusual sight.

A police officer spotted the car and was prepared to write it a ticket before noticing it wasn’t what it seemed. He called in backup to confirm that the car wasn’t a car at all.

Instead of getting mad, the officers shared a good laugh over it. “You made our night hahahahaha :)" they wrote on a fake ticket left on the snow sculpture.

The masterpiece was plowed over the next morning, but you can appreciate Laprise’s handiwork in the photos below.

Snow sculpture.

Snow sculpture of car.

Snow sculpture of car.

Note written in French.

[h/t WGCL-TV]

All images courtesy of Simon Laprise.

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