Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy
Category 3 major hurricane (SSHWS/NWS)
Sandy Oct 25 2012 0320Z.png
Hurricane Sandy at peak intensity just before landfall in Cuba on October 25
FormedOctober 22, 2012
DissipatedNovember 2, 2012
(Extratropical after October 29)
Highest winds1-minute sustained: 115 mph (185 km/h)
Lowest pressure940 mbar (hPa); 27.76 inHg
Fatalities233 total
Damage$68.7 billion (2012 USD)
(Fourth-costliest hurricane in U.S. history)
Areas affectedGreater Antilles, Bahamas, most of the eastern United States (especially the coastal Mid-Atlantic States), Bermuda, eastern Canada
Part of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season

Hurricane Sandy (unofficially referred to as Superstorm Sandy)[1][2] was the deadliest and most destructive hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season. Inflicting nearly $70 billion (2012 USD) in damage, it was the second-costliest hurricane on record in the United States until surpassed by Hurricanes Harvey and Maria in 2017. The eighteenth named storm, tenth hurricane, and second major hurricane of the year, Sandy was a Category 3 storm at its peak intensity when it made landfall in Cuba.[3] While it was a Category 2 hurricane off the coast of the Northeastern United States, the storm became the largest Atlantic hurricane on record (as measured by diameter, with tropical-storm-force winds spanning 900 miles (1,400 km)).[4][5][6] At least 233 people were killed along the path of the storm in eight countries.[7][8]

Sandy developed from a tropical wave in the western Caribbean Sea on October 22, quickly strengthened, and was upgraded to Tropical Storm Sandy six hours later. Sandy moved slowly northward toward the Greater Antilles and gradually intensified. On October 24, Sandy became a hurricane, made landfall near Kingston, Jamaica, re-emerged a few hours later into the Caribbean Sea and strengthened into a Category 2 hurricane. On October 25, Sandy hit Cuba as a Category 3 hurricane, then weakened to a Category 1 hurricane. Early on October 26, Sandy moved through the Bahamas.[9] On October 27, Sandy briefly weakened to a tropical storm and then restrengthened to a Category 1 hurricane. Early on October 29, Sandy curved west-northwest (the "left turn" or "left hook") and then[10] moved ashore near Brigantine, New Jersey, just to the northeast of Atlantic City, as a post-tropical cyclone with hurricane-force winds.[3][11]

In Jamaica, winds left 70% of residents without electricity, blew roofs off buildings, killed one person, and caused about $100 million (2012 USD) in damage. Sandy's outer bands brought flooding to Haiti, killing at least 54, causing food shortages, and leaving about 200,000 homeless; the hurricane also caused two deaths in the Dominican Republic. In Puerto Rico, one man was swept away by a swollen river. In Cuba, there was extensive coastal flooding and wind damage inland, destroying some 15,000 homes, killing 11, and causing $2 billion (2012 USD) in damage. Sandy caused two deaths and an estimated $700 million (2012 USD) in damage in The Bahamas.

In the United States, Hurricane Sandy affected 24 states, including the entire eastern seaboard from Florida to Maine and west across the Appalachian Mountains to Michigan and Wisconsin, with particularly severe damage in New Jersey and New York. Its storm surge hit New York City on October 29, flooding streets, tunnels and subway lines and cutting power in and around the city.[12][13] Damage in the United States amounted to $65 billion (2012 USD).[14] In Canada, two were killed in Ontario, and the storm caused an estimated $100 million (2012 CAD) in damage throughout Ontario and Quebec.[15]

Meteorological history

Map plotting the track and the intensity of the storm, according to the Saffir–Simpson scale

Hurricane Sandy began as a low pressure system which developed sufficient organized convection to be classified as Tropical Depression Eighteen on October 22 south of Kingston, Jamaica.[16] It moved slowly at first due to a ridge to the north. Low wind shear and warm waters allowed for strengthening,[16] and the system was named Tropical Storm Sandy late on October 22.[17] Early on October 24, an eye began developing, and it was moving steadily northward due to an approaching trough.[18] Later that day, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) upgraded Sandy to hurricane status about 65 mi (105 km) south of Kingston, Jamaica.[19] At about 1900 UTC that day, Sandy made landfall near Kingston with winds of about 85 mph (140 km/h).[20] Just offshore Cuba, Sandy rapidly intensified to winds of 115 mph (185 km/h),[3] and at that intensity it made landfall just west of Santiago de Cuba at 0525 UTC on October 25.[21] Operationally, Sandy was assessed to have peaked as a high-end Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph (175 km/h).[3]

A time-lapse video made from NASA satellite images of Hurricane Sandy

After Sandy exited Cuba, the structure became disorganized,[22] and it turned to the north-northwest over the Bahamas.[23] By October 27, Sandy was no longer fully tropical, as evidenced by the development of frontal structures in the outer circulation.[3] Despite strong shear, Sandy maintained convection due to influence from an approaching trough; the same that turned the hurricane to the northeast.[24] After briefly weakening to a tropical storm,[25] Sandy re-intensified into a hurricane,[26] and on October 28 an eye began redeveloping.[27] The storm moved around an upper-level low over the eastern United States and also to the southwest of a ridge over Atlantic Canada, turning it to the northwest.[28] Sandy briefly re-intensified to Category 2 intensity on the morning of October 29, around which time it had become an extremely large hurricane with a wind diameter of over 1,000 miles (1,609 km), and an unusually low central barometric pressure of 940 mbar, possibly due to the very large size of the system.[3] This pressure set records for many cities across the Northeastern United States for the lowest pressures ever observed.[29] The convection diminished while the hurricane accelerated toward the New Jersey coast,[30] and the cyclone was no longer tropical by 2100 UTC on October 29.[31] About 2½ hours later, Sandy made landfall near Brigantine, New Jersey,[32] with winds of 80 mph (130 km/h).[3] During the next four days, Sandy's remnants drifted northward and then northeastward over Ontario, before merging with another low pressure area over Eastern Canada on November 2.[3][33]


On October 23, 2012, the path of Hurricane Sandy was correctly predicted by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) headquartered in Reading, England nearly eight days in advance of its striking the American East Coast. The computer model noted that the storm would turn west towards land and strike the New York/New Jersey region on October 29, rather than turn east and head out to the open Atlantic as most hurricanes in this position do. By October 27, four days after the ECMWF made its prediction, the National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center confirmed the path of the hurricane predicted by the European model. The National Weather Service was criticized for not employing its higher-resolution forecast models the way that its European counterpart did. A hardware and software upgrade completed at the end of 2013 enabled the weather service to make more accurate predictions, and do so far more in advance than the technology in 2012 had allowed.[34]

Relation to global warming

According to NCAR senior climatologist Kevin E. Trenberth, "The answer to the oft-asked question of whether an event is caused by climate change is that it is the wrong question. All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be."[35] Although NOAA meteorologist Martin Hoerling attributes Sandy to "little more than the coincidental alignment of a tropical storm with an extratropical storm",[36] Trenberth does agree that the storm was caused by "natural variability" but adds that it was "enhanced by global warming".[37] One factor contributing to the storm's strength was abnormally warm sea surface temperatures offshore the East Coast of the United States—more than 3 °C (5 °F) above normal, to which global warming had contributed 0.6 °C (1 °F).[37] As the temperature of the atmosphere increases, the capacity to hold water increases, leading to stronger storms and higher rainfall amounts.[37]

As they move north, Atlantic hurricanes typically are forced east and out to sea by the Prevailing Westerlies.[38] In Sandy's case, this typical pattern was blocked by a ridge of high pressure over Greenland resulting in a negative North Atlantic Oscillation, forming a kink in the jet stream, causing it to double back on itself off the East Coast. Sandy was caught up in this northwesterly flow.[38] The blocking pattern over Greenland also stalled an Arctic front which combined with the cyclone.[38] Mark Fischetti of Scientific American said that the jet stream's unusual shape was caused by the melting of Arctic ice.[39] Trenberth said that while a negative North Atlantic Oscillation and a blocking anticyclone were in place, the null hypothesis remained that this was just the natural variability of weather.[36] Sea level at New York and along the New Jersey coast has increased by nearly a foot (300 mm) over the last hundred years,[40] which contributed to the storm surge.[41] Harvard geologist Daniel P. Schrag calls Hurricane Sandy's 13-foot (4 m) storm surge an example of what will, by mid-century, be the "new norm on the Eastern seaboard".[42]

Other Languages
العربية: إعصار ساندي
azərbaycanca: Sendi qasırğası
беларуская: Сэндзі (ураган)
bosanski: Uragan Sandy
català: Huracà Sandy
čeština: Hurikán Sandy
Cymraeg: Corwynt Sandy
Ελληνικά: Τυφώνας Σάντι
español: Huracán Sandy
Esperanto: Uragano Sandy
euskara: Sandy urakana
français: Ouragan Sandy
Bahasa Indonesia: Badai Sandy
italiano: Uragano Sandy
Bahasa Melayu: Taufan Sandy
Nederlands: Sandy (orkaan)
română: Uraganul Sandy
Simple English: Hurricane Sandy (2012)
slovenčina: Hurikán Sandy
српски / srpski: Ураган Сенди
svenska: Orkanen Sandy
Tagalog: Bagyong Sandy
українська: Ураган Сенді
Tiếng Việt: Bão Sandy
吴语: 飓风桑迪
粵語: 颶風珊迪
中文: 颶風桑迪