Hurricane predictions for this year sound like an echo from the past. The Pacific Hurricane Season begins today, and meteorologists have predicted up to twice the number of named storms forming in the Pacific this year, but as we all know, the Atlantic season doesn’t begin until June 1. Once again, as they have for the past several years, the folks at NOAA are telling us we’re going to have a very active season.
• Twelve to 18 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which:
• Six to 10 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including:
• Three to 6 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher).
Each of these ranges has a 70 percent likelihood, and indicate that activity will exceed the seasonal average of 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.
“The United States was fortunate last year. Winds steered most of the season’s tropical storms and all hurricanes away from our coastlines,” said Jane Lubchenco, under-secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “However we can’t count on luck to get us through this season. We need to be prepared, especially with this above-normal outlook.”
The scientists at NOAA list four factors which will likely contribute to this being an above-average year for tropical storm formation.
1. We’re in a continuing cycle for high activity due to ocean and atmospheric conditions.
2. La Nina is weakening, but not fast enough. This is a tough one to understand, but the La Nina in the Pacific Ocean acts to produce less wind shear in the Atlantic, which allows more tropical storms to form. If there was an El Nino in the Pacific, presumably there would be greater wind shear, ergo, less storm formation. The La Nina is weakening in the Pacific. (I keep hearing that over and over again.) However, it will still be around in June to produce less wind shear, which is a bad thing.
3. Atlantic Ocean waters are warmer than usual, up to four degrees Fahrenheit warmer. More heat = more energy to produce storms. Tropical storms are actually “heat engines.” Did you know that?
4. Last, but not least, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center has produced computer models that point toward an above normal season.
So here we sit, waiting for Arlene to appear, as we know she will be named. See a previous post listing all the hurricane names for this season. We can be almost positive that there actually will be an Arlene, but how many will follow her is tough to predict, as we saw last year. There were a lot of storms, but none managed to hit the United States. Wouldn’t it be great if that happened again this year? Right now, all is quiet. See the map below from NOAA: