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Menopausal Mother Nature

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Tropical Storm Nicole strengthening, heading toward Florida

Nicole: Map of eastern US showing color gradient over eastern seaboard.
Much of the East Coast of the United States could feel tropical-storm-force winds as Nicole comes ashore this week. Image via National Hurricane Center.

Nicole and Artemis

NASA’s Artemis mission can’t catch a break. The mission – a first step in our human return to the moon – was taken off the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in September, to shelter as Hurricane Ian menaced Florida. It just returned to the launch pad last week, for a scheduled November 14, 2022, launch. But now Tropical Storm Nicole – forecast to become a category 1 hurricane sometime Wednesday, November 9, is headed toward the eastern coast of Florida. The storm should come ashore Wednesday evening or Thursday morning.

It’s already too late to return Artemis to shelter in the Vehicular Assembly Building (VAB). So the mighty Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and its attached Orion moon capsule will be riding this storm out on the pad.

The odds are increasing that Artemis will see hurricane-force winds in its location at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Hurricane-force winds are considered above the moonship’s “threshold.” NASA posted in its blog, saying:

NASA is working with U.S. Space Force and the National Hurricane Center to monitor Subtropical [now Tropical] Storm Nicole. NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is currently in a HURCON (Hurricane Condition) IV status, which includes implementing checklists and preparations for the storm as the agency continues to prioritize its employees in the Kennedy area.

Based on current forecast data, managers have determined the Space Launch System rocket and Orion will remain at Launch Pad 39B. Teams at Kennedy will continue to monitor the weather, make sure all personnel are safe, and will evaluate the status of the Monday, November 14, launch attempt for the Artemis I mission as we proceed and receive updated predictions about the weather.

Unusual year for Atlantic storms

As NASA now knows well, it’s been an odd year for Atlantic hurricanes. The normal hurricane season in the Atlantic runs from June 1 through November 30. After a lull in August, the hurricane season came roaring back. The Atlantic basin has had three named tropical systems just since Halloween: Lisa, Martin and now Nicole. Nicole is forecast to become a category 1 hurricane. So it won’t be as strong as Ian. But it’s a huge system, so its impact will be felt across a large portion of Florida. The system is forecast to meander across Florida before hooking back to sweep up the eastern coast of the U.S. The National Hurricane Center warned:

Nicole is forecast to be a large storm, and regardless of its exact path, widespread impacts from a prolonged period of coastal flooding, tropical-storm-force winds, heavy rainfall, rough surf and rip tides, and beach erosion are likely along much of the southeastern United States coast, the Florida east coast, and portions of the northwestern and central Bahamas during much of the upcoming week.

If Nicole is a hurricane when it makes landfall, it will set a record as the hurricane latest in the year to make landfall. The current record holder is from November 4, 1935. This hurricane had the nickname of the Yankee hurricane because it curved down from the north to hit Florida.

See a satellite loop view of Nicole off the coast here.

Nicole updates from Twitter

From subtropical to tropical storm

Nicole began not as a tropical system but a subtropical system. Subtropical storms start with colder air at their core. The winds rise above 39 miles per hour, but the wind field is generally not symmetrical. Nicole organized into a tropical storm on the morning of November 8. Forecasters predict Nicole will intensify into a category 1 hurricane by landfall somewhere around St. Lucie County in Florida late Wednesday.

As always, the exact location of landfall will probably still shift as Nicole wobbles toward the coast.

Bottom line: Tropical Storm Nicole is strengthening toward hurricane status. Forecasters expect it to come ashore on Florida’s east coast late Wednesday or early Thursday. Artemis 1 is on the launch pad and will have to ride out the storm, including possible hurricane-force winds.

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