Hurricane Lane is barreling west across the Pacific Ocean on a course that will bring it close to Hawaii next week. With winds of 100 mph, Lane is now a Category 2 hurricane on a scale of one to five. It is now expected to reach Category 4, with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph this weekend.
“Lane’s cloud pattern has improved significantly this morning, and the cyclone is currently undergoing rapid intensification,” the National Hurricane Center writes in its latest update.
Rapid intensification is defined as an increase in wind speeds of at least 35 mph over the course of 24 hours. With the increase in wind speed also comes a decrease in central pressure. Rapid intensification has been a frequent occurrence in all tropical cyclone basins of late, and was seen on numerous occasions during the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season.
“Lane appears poised for further rapid strengthening during the next 24 hours,” the Hurricane Center added. “Impressive outflow in all quadrants, warm [sea surface temperatures], and the absence of earlier noted dry air intrusion all point to this scenario.”
During its closest pass to Hawaii, the Hurricane Center now brings the center of Lane within 250 miles of the southern shore of the Big Island. However, within the storm’s cone of uncertainty (below), the storm’s northern edge is only about 65 miles offshore.
The Hurricane Center says there is up to a 10 percent chance hurricane-force winds buffet the south shores of the Big Island.
With Lane still several days away, National Weather Service forecast office in Honolulu concludes, “It is too soon to know if Lane will directly affect the Hawaiian Islands.”
Direct impacts like wind and rain are only one aspect of an extreme storm like Lane. Large waves are increasingly likely to batter parts of Hawaii as it passes. The Big Island is set to face the brunt, with swells approaching or surpassing 15 feet possible on its southern and eastern facing shoreline.
The increased swell aspect is a long-duration event, with high wave heights expected from at least Monday through Thursday.
Lane comes on the heels of Hurricane Hector, which nearly reached Category 5 strength in its run by Hawaii earlier this month. That was part of a 4,200-mile journey across the Pacific. Although Lane is south of where Hector was at this point in its life, Lane may end up taking a similar path.
As Capital Weather Gang’s tropical weather expert Brian McNoldy pointed out, Hector was a rare tropical cyclone to be named in all three basins of the Pacific. It’s not impossible Lane could try to follow those footsteps.
Although both Hector and Lane may be somewhat odd on their own, in many hurricane seasons we see similar weather patterns dominate for much of the summer and fall. The extreme 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was a recent example. While any of the mega hurricanes and their tracks may have been peculiar, the unrelenting pattern conducive to the parade of storms remained in place for weeks.
Hurricane Lane is part of tropical cyclones that have tracked closer to Hawaii than common in the recent past. Increases in the availability of warm water and favorable atmospheric conditions are attributes of climate change which may be facilitating the increased frequency of close passes there.
Although Hawaii has been lucky to escape a direct hit from any of these major hurricanes in recent years, it is already seeing higher tides and increased flooding during these events, and it is something we could see from Lane even if it stays well offshore.