Hurricane Maria Weakens As It Moves Over Jose’s Cold Wake

Hurricane Maria weakened on Sunday as it moved over an area of cooler water mixed to the surface by Hurricane Jose last week.  At 11:00 p.m. EDT on Sunday the center of Hurricane Maria was located at latitude 30.0°N and longitude 73.0°W which put it about 385 miles (625 km) south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.  Maria was moving toward the north at 8 m.p.h. (13 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 90 m.p.h. (150 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 105 m.p.h. (165 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 950 mb.

A Tropical Storm Watch was in effect for the portion of the coast from Surf City, North Carolina to the North Carolina/Virginia border including Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds.

Hurricane Maria is moving over an area traversed by Hurricane Jose a week ago.  The winds of Jose mixed cooler water to the surface.  The region of cooler water is sometimes called the cold wake because it is left behind after a hurricane passes over a section of the ocean.  Observations from a NOAA research aircraft indicate that the Sea Surface Temperatures beneath Hurricane Maria are 24°C to 25°C.  There is not enough energy in the upper ocean to support a major hurricane and the circulation of Hurricane Maria has weakened during the past 24 hours.  The clouds around the eye and in the rainbands are not as tall.

Even though the upper level winds are not too strong and there is not much vertical wind shear, Hurricane Maria is unlikely to intensify.  Maria will continue to move over cooler water mixed to the surface by Jose.  Maria is likely to continue to weaken slowly during the next day or two.  Maria is a large hurricane and winds to tropical storm force extend out about 230 miles (370 km) from the center.

Maria is moving around the western end of subtropical high over the Atlantic Ocean.  The high is steering Maria toward the north and that general motion is expected to continue for several more days.  On its anticipated track Hurricane Maria would be southeast of Cape Hatteras on Tuesday night.  When Maria gets closer to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, the hurricane will reach the westerly flow in middle latitudes.  Those westerly winds are forecast to steer Hurricane Maria toward the east later this week.

Because of the large size of Hurricane Maria’s circulation, winds to tropical storm force could be near the Outer Banks even if the center of Maria remains offshore.  Maria will also generate large waves and significant beach erosion could occur.