The winds did what?

By Shannon Dunnigan

Hey there, it’s been a while…

If you did not catch the last few posts where we NERRds have discussed the recent Hurricane Irma, I highly recommend that you check those out! The first was a piece I wrote at the beginning of my investigations into the effects of Irma in the GTM estuary (check out “‘Big’ Irma at the GTM“) and the second was written by our fellow NERRds from our sister Reserve in Apalachicola, Florida about how Irma sucked the water out of Apalachicola Bay (check out “The DRY side of Hurricane Irma“).

Well, I’m back to chat more about storms. Previously, we have mentioned how northeasterly winds push seawater into our estuary. As such, we are able to observe those effects in our salinity (how salty the water is) data of the water. Additionally, we can confirm those patterns with wind speed and direction data collected at our weather station. We have seen this pattern of an increase in salinity with nor’easterly winds from storms before, but as I was putting the data collected during Irma into visual products, an interesting pattern emerged.

Did you know that we had Nor’easter weather conditions before both hurricanes Matthew AND Irma?


I have visualized the wind speeds and direction for each hurricane in the image below. Ignore the timeframes (the storms occurred during different months), but the red circles indicate the period of time when our weather station was recording winds from the northeast direction (the arrows are pointing in the direction the wind was blowing towards).


After I saw this in the data, it made me wonder about whether the winds were related to the storms OR if they were truly from a Nor’easter event. I used the Earth website (which, if you have not had the pleasure of playing around on, I would highly suggest you give it a try) to identify the wind conditions during the period of time before each storm. What do you know? There WERE Nor’easters before each storm!

It is also a bit eery just how similar the storms look to one another (though Irma is clearly the larger storm):


Matthew NEer 10-05-2016
Winds from the Nor’easter in northeast Florida on 10/05/2016 prior to Matthew leaving the Caribbean. Source: Shannon Dunnigan using
Irma NEer 09-08
Winds from the Nor’easter in northeast Florida on 09/08/2017 prior to Irma making landfall in the Florida Keys. Source: Shannon Dunnigan using


In the images above you can see the difference between the winds from the hurricanes and the winds from the Nor’easters.

Absolutely fascinating!

That’s it for now, NERRds, but keep an eye out for more! I feel like there is never an end to what you can view through data.

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