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Tropical Cyclone Report

Hurricane Marty

18 - 24 September 2003

James L. Franklin
National Hurricane Center
25 November 2003
Revised: 22 January 2004

Marty was a category 2 hurricane (on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale) when it made landfall on the southern Baja California peninsula. Marty then spread strong winds and heavy rains up the entire Gulf of California before dissipating. Marty was responsible for 12 deaths.

a. Synoptic History

Marty developed from a tropical wave that moved into the eastern North Pacific basin from Central America on 10 September. Convection associated with the wave became more persistent on 16 September south of Manzanillo, Mexico, and on 18 September the convection began to become organized. The system received its initial Dvorak classification at 1200 UTC that day, and it is estimated that a tropical depression had formed by 1800 UTC, about 450 miles south-southeast of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

The "best track" chart of the tropical cyclone's path is given in Figure 1, with the wind and pressure histories shown in Figure 2 and Figure 3, respectively. The best track positions and intensities are listed in Table 1. South of a weak mid-level ridge and in a light shear environment, the depression moved to the west-northwest at about 5 kt and strengthened, becoming a tropical storm at 0600 UTC 19 September about 400 n mi south-southeast of Cabo San Lucas. Relatively little development occurred over the next day or so, perhaps due to some relatively dry air entering the system from the east. Around 1200 UTC 20 September, Marty's very intense but previously shapeless convection began to develop into bands and the pace of development increased as the system moved slowly northwestward. Marty became a hurricane at 0000 UTC 21 September about 265 miles south-southeast of Cabo San Lucas. Late on 21 September, Marty turned to the north-northwest around the periphery of the mid-level ridge and began to accelerate and strengthen in a region of enhanced upper-level divergence. By 0600 UTC 22 September, when Marty was 165 miles south-southeast of Cabo San Lucas, the hurricane's maximum winds had reached their peak intensity of 85 kt. Marty was moving northward at about 17 kt when it made landfall at 0930 UTC 22 September near San Jose del Cabo, just east of Cabo San Lucas, with estimated maximum winds of 85 kt.

Shortly after 1200 UTC, Marty turned to the north-northwest and the center entered the Gulf of California near La Paz. Marty then moved along the eastern coast of southern Baja California, possibly making numerous landfalls on the islands and/or the coastline south of Santa Rosalia during the afternoon and evening of 22 September. Marty weakened to a tropical storm by 0000 UTC 23 September near Santa Rosalia, and then headed into the northern Gulf of California where it was stalled by a mid-level high over Nevada. Although the cyclone's winds were decreasing, Marty continued to produce heavy rains that primarily affected mainland Mexico and then spread into Arizona, New Mexico, and western Texas. Deep convection with the cyclone began to diminish and Marty weakened to a tropical depression late on 23 September. Over the next two days Marty meandered in and around the northern Gulf of California, degenerating to a non-convective remnant low by 0000 UTC 25 September. The remnant circulation drifted south-southwestward and dissipated over the northern Baja California peninsula early on 26 September.

b. Meteorological Statistics

Observations in Marty (Figure 2 and Figure 3) primarily consisted of satellite-based Dvorak technique intensity estimates from the Tropical Analysis and Forecast Branch (TAFB), the Satellite Analysis Branch (SAB) and the U. S. Air Force Weather Agency (AFWA).

Ship reports of winds of tropical storm force associated with Marty are given in Table 2. The ship observation at 0600 UTC 19 September contributed to the decision to upgrade Marty to a tropical storm. Selected surface observations from land stations are given in Table 3. Sustained winds (10-min average) of 76 kt, with a gust to 102 kt, were recorded at Cabo San Lucas. Cabo San Lucas also reported 8 in of rain. There was an unofficial report from the marine vessel S. V. Sea Witch, anchored in La Paz harbor, of a minimum pressure of 971.9 mb during the passage of the center over La Paz. As Marty moved up the Gulf of California, tropical storm conditions were reported in a number of locations, including Santa Rosalia on the Baja peninsula and Los Mochis on the Mexican mainland (Table 3).

c. Casualty and Damage Statistics

The Mexican government reports 12 deaths associated with Marty in three states: 5 in Southern Baja California, 5 in Sonora, and 2 in Sinaloa. These totals include two individuals officially listed as missing but who are presumed dead. Media reports indicate that the deaths in Southern Baja California were associated with vehicles being swept away by rising river waters, with some or all of the deaths in Sonora associated with the sinking of a fishing boat near Guayamas. No monetary damage estimates have been provided, although media reports indicate that roughly 4000 homes were damaged in Southern Baja California. There was extensive damage to marine interests in the La Paz area, in Puerto Escondido, and from other locations along the Baja peninsula. Some beach erosion was reported at San Felipe in the northern Gulf of California.

d. Forecast and Warning Critique

Average official track errors for Marty (Table 4) were 42, 84, 120, 156, 248, 399, and 670 n mi for the 12, 24, 36, 48, 72, 96, and 120 h forecasts, respectively1. These errors are larger than the average official track errors for the 10-yr period 1993-20022 - considerably so for the longer forecast periods. Official track forecasts for Marty had a significant westward bias (Figure 4) that persisted until less than 24 h prior to landfall. Early model guidance, especially the GFS (and the models dependent on the GFS), did not sufficiently weaken the mid-level ridge north of the cyclone and as a result also had a westward bias. The GFDL was the first model to predict a more northward track, but perhaps because this model has often had a northward bias in the eastern Pacific, the official forecasts were adjusted northward only slowly. Although the official forecasts were incrementally shifted to the right with each forecast cycle, they remained consistently to the west of the GUNS and GUNA consensus models, which outperformed the official forecasts by a substantial margin (Table 4). The hurricane's acceleration just prior to landfall was also under-forecast.

Average official intensity errors were 7, 9, 11, 11, 13, 24, and 39 kt for the 12, 24, 36, 48, 72, 96, and 120 h forecasts, respectively. For comparison, the average official intensity errors over the 10-yr period 1993-20022 are 6, 11, 15, 17, 20, 18, and 19 kt, respectively. The official forecast errors were smaller than the long-term average through 72 h; beyond that, the forecast intensities were too high because the track forecasts did not anticipate Marty's landfall (and associated weakening).

Table 5 lists the watches and warnings associated with Marty. A hurricane warning was issued at 1500 UTC 21 September, about 18.5 h prior to the arrival of the center; this is less warning than is typically provided or considered desirable. The slow and westward biases in the official forecasts contributed to the relatively short lead time of the hurricane warning. Despite official forecasts that anticipated a landfall on the western side of southern Baja California, both sides of the peninsula were correctly included in the hurricane warning area.

Acknowledgments

The Weather Service of Mexico and the U. S. National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office in Tucson, AZ contributed data for this report.

1 All forecast verifications in this report include the depression stage of the cyclone. National Hurricane Center verifications presented in these reports prior to 2003 did not include the depression stage.2 Errors given for the 96 and 120 h periods are averages over the two-year period 2001-2002.

Table 1: Best track for Hurricane Marty, 18-24 September 2003.
Date/Time
(UTC)
PositionPressure
(mb)
Wind Speed
(kt)
Stage
Lat.
(°N)
Lon.
(°W)
 18 / 1800 16.5 105.7 1004 25 tropical depression
 19 / 0000 16.8 106.3 1002 30 "
 19 / 0600 16.9 106.8 1000 35 tropical storm
 19 / 1200 17.1 107.1 999 35 "
 19 / 1800 17.3 107.2 998 40 "
 20 / 0000 17.5 107.3 998 40 "
 20 / 0600 17.7 107.5 997 45 "
 20 / 1200 18.0 107.9 997 45 "
 20 / 1800 18.3 108.3 994 55 "
 21 / 0000 18.6 108.6 987 65 hurricane
 21 / 0600 18.9 108.8 987 65 "
 21 / 1200 19.3 109.1 987 65 "
 21 / 1800 20.1 109.4 987 65 "
 22 / 0000 21.0 109.5 980 75 "
 22 / 0600 22.0 109.6 970 85 "
 22 / 1200 23.7 109.9 971 80 "
 22 / 1800 25.4 110.8 980 70 "
 23 / 0000 27.0 111.8 985 60 tropical storm
 23 / 0600 28.3 112.5 993 50 "
 23 / 1200 29.4 113.2 999 35 "
 23 / 1800 29.9 113.5 1002 30 tropical depression
 24 / 0000 30.5 113.7 1003 30 "
 24 / 0600 30.8 113.5 1004 30 "
 24 / 1200 31.1 113.3 1007 25 "
 24 / 1800 31.5 113.6 1007 20 "
 25 / 0000 31.5 114.1 1007 20 remnant low
 25 / 0600 31.1 114.2 1008 20 "
 25 / 1200 30.7 114.3 1010 20 "
 25 / 1800 30.2 114.5 1012 20 "
 26 / 0000 29.9 114.7 1012 20 "
 26 / 0600     dissipated
 22 / 0930 23.0 109.7 970 85 landfall near San Jose del Cabo
 22 / 0600 22.0 109.6 970 85 minimum pressure


Table 2: Selected ship reports with winds of at least 34 kt for Hurricane Marty, 18-24 September 2003.
Ship Name or Call SignDate/Time (UTC)Lat.
(°N)
Lon.
(°W)
Wind dir/speed (deg/kt)Pressure (mb)
4XFP19 / 060018.2104.1130 / 35 1006.0 
DEHY19 / 210018.4104.0130 / 35 1003.9 


Table 3: Selected surface observations for Hurricane Marty, 18-24 September 2003.
Minimum
Sea-level
Pressure
Maximum Surface Wind Speed
(kt)
LocationDate/
Time
(UTC)
Press.
(mb)
Date/
Timea
(UTC)
Sust.
Windc
(kts)
Peak
Gust (kts)
Storm
Surge
(ft)
Storm
Tide
(ft)
Rain
(storm total)
(in)
Mexico
Cabo San Lucas  22/0900 76 102   8.00 
Loreto22/2100 983.8b      5.93 
Santa Rosalia22/2300 1003.1b 23/0000 33 53   7.76 
La Paz       4.70 
La Paz Harbor
S.V. Sea Witch
 971.9       
Todos Santos       7.78 
Los Mochis22/1600 1002.0b 22/1600 40b     
Arizona
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument       2.25 
Tanque Verde       1.82 
Red Mountain       1.73 
Tucson Intl. Airport       1.70 
Three Points       1.66 
Corona de Tucson       1.61 
aDate/time is for sustained wind when both sustained and gust are listed.
bRecord incomplete. More extreme values may have occurred.
c10-minute average.


Table 5: Watch and warning summary for Hurricane Marty, 18-24 September 2003.
Date/TimeActionLocation
20 / 2100Hurricane Watch issuedBahia Magdalena to San Evaristo 
21 / 1500Hurricane Watch changed to Hurricane WarningBahia Magdalena to San Evaristo 
21 / 1500Hurricane Watch issuedPunta Abreojos to Bahia Magdalena 
21 / 1500Hurricane Watch issuedMulege to San Evaristo 
22 / 0000Hurricane Watch issuedAltata to Guaymas 
22 / 0300Hurricane Watch discontinuedMulege to San Evaristo 
22 / 0300Hurricane Watch modifiedAltata to Bahia Kino 
22 / 0300Hurricane Watch issuedBahia San Juan Bautista to Loreto 
22 / 0300Hurricane Warning modifiedBahia Magdalena to Loreto 
22 / 0900Hurricane Watch modifiedMulege to Bahia San Juan Bautista 
22 / 0900Hurricane Watch modifiedTopolobampo to Altata 
22 / 0900Hurricane Warning modifiedBahia Magdalena to Mulege 
22 / 0900Hurricane Warning issuedTopolobampo to Guaymas 
22 / 1500Hurricane Watch discontinuedMulege to Bahia San Juan Bautista 
22 / 1500Hurricane Watch discontinuedGuaymas to Bahia Kino 
22 / 1500Hurricane Warning modifiedBahia Magdalena to Bahia San Juan Bautista 
22 / 1500Hurricane Warning modifiedBahia Kino to Topolobampo 
22 / 2100Hurricane Watch discontinuedAll 
22 / 2100Hurricane Warning modifiedLoreto to Bahia San Juan Bautista 
23 / 0300Tropical Storm Warning issuedBahia San Juan Bautista to Colorado River 
23 / 0300Tropical Storm Warning issuedBahia Kino to Colorado River 
23 / 0300Hurricane Warning discontinuedAll 
23 / 2100Tropical Storm Warning discontinuedAll 

Figure 1: Best track positions for Hurricane Marty, 18-24 September 2003.

Figure 2: Selected wind observations and best track maximum sustained surface wind speed curve for Hurricane Marty, 18-24 September 2003. Solid vertical line indicates Marty's landfall in southern Baja California. A scatterometer wind estimate is indicated by the "x".

Figure 3: Selected pressure observations and best track minimum central pressure curve for Hurricane Marty, 18-24 September 2003. Solid vertical line indicates Marty's landfall in southern Baja California.

Figure 4: Selected official track forecasts (at 12 h intervals) for Hurricane Marty, 18-24 September 2003 (dashed lines, with 0, 12, 24, 36 ,48, and 72 h positions indicated) . The best track is given by the thick solid line with positions given at 6 h intervals.


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