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What's so important about all this?
"Undular bores may play a surprising role in severe weather," says Coleman.
"For one thing, we believe undular bores can amplify tornadoes." He cites as an example an F5 tornado that struck the outskirts of Birmingham, Alabama, in April 1998. "At first the tornado was doing relatively little damage. But our research shows that, just before the tornado reached Birmingham, it was hit by an undular bore." The wave spun up the twister, increasing its intensity and size; the tornado went on to wreck more than 1000 homes and business totaling $200 million in damage. Tornado-wave interactions are the subject of Coleman's PhD dissertation, which he is completing now under the direction of University of Alabama-Huntsville professor Kevin Knupp.
"Furthermore," he says, "undular bores may be a source of thunderstorms." That's right, thunderstorms make undular bores and undular bores return the favor. "These waves churn up the atmosphere, causing instabilities that can initiate and sustain severe storms."
Hurricane Felix made landfall in Nicaragua around 7:45 a.m. Eastern Time as a Category 5 storm with top winds at 160 mph (260 km/h), according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.
Coming just two weeks after Hurricane Dean hit Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, Felix is the second Category 5 storm to hit Central America this year. It is the first time on record that two Category 5 storms have made landfall in a single hurricane season, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Hurricane Dean was the third most intense Atlantic hurricane to make landfall.