Another Bomb Cyclone to Push Impactful Swells to the Caribbean

7 03 2020

Dale C. S. Destin|

Another bomb cyclone is expected to cause another episode of  large and damaging swells across much of the Caribbean Basin. The impactful swells will start to reach the shorelines of the Basin this Sunday. These swells are forecast to reach a few metres and break at higher heights on coastlines.

Visualization of northerly swells forecast to come to the Caribbean from the bomb cyclone

Swells will rise to at least 3 metres (at least 10 feet) across most of the Atlantic waters of the islands. These swells will produce even higher surfs or breaking waves. Surfs could be as much as twice the height of the incoming swells, depending on the bathymetry/topography of the near shore seafloor. The swells and surfs are expected to cause beach closures, as swimming conditions will become quite hazardous. Other impacts include:

  • major beach erosion;
  • flooding of some low-lying coastal roads;
  • disruptions to marine recreation and businesses;
  • disruptions to potable water from desalination;
  • damage to coral reefs and
  • financial losses.

Advisories and warnings will be required for much of the upcoming week. Please be guided by the bulletins coming out of your national weather services.

The event will be cause by an average extratropical cyclone transitioning to a bomb cyclone – a drop of 24 millibars/hectopascals or more in 24 hours or less. This will result in the system developing gale-force or tropical-storm-force winds that will push large waves to the Caribbean.

8 pm local time Friday, 6 March, 2020: Bomb cyclone with centre marked by the X near the red L, just off the coast of New York
Visualization of Bomb Cyclone 6 am UTC Saturday or 2 am local time Saturday, 7 March, 2020: Pressure – shaded areas, isobars – circular fixed lines (1012, 1008, 1004 etc.) and wind direction – lines circling inwards toward the centre of the bomb cyclone
Visualization of Bomb Cyclone 6 am UTC Saturday or 2 am local time Saturday, 7 March, 2020: Wind speed – shaded areas, wind direction – lines circling inwards toward the centre of the bomb cyclone

The cyclone will remain very far away from the area – thousands of miles; however, it will have a significant impact on the region, by way of swells transforming into high surfs on our shores. Associated with these surfs are potentially very powerful and life-threatening rip currents.

The first set of these swells will reach the Bahamas on Sunday; the northeast Caribbean, including Antigua and Barbuda, by Monday and the rest of the Eastern Caribbean by Tuesday. The event will likely last three days from its start time. So, for the northeast Caribbean, its Monday through Thursday.

As usual, the impacts on shorelines will not be the uniformed. The impacts will depend on the depth and the natural shelter of the coastal waters. Northern islands with moderately sloping, shallow, northern and or north-facing shorelines are expected to see the highest swells and surfs, and hence; the greatest impacts.

This event is not expected to be worse than the last notable one which took place in January 2020. Notwithstanding, it will not be your “garden variety” event.

The event will also be felt along the East Coast of the United States. The same powerful cyclone will also cause extreme weather across Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern Europe next week.

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