THE 2011 ATLANTIC HURRICANE SEASON—WILL OUR LUCK RUN OUT?
In addition to Colorado State University’s (CSU) outlook for the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season, Weather Services International (WSI), a Weather Channel company, recently issued its own forecast.
WSI’s expectation for the rapidly approaching season is virtually the same as CSU’s:
15 named storms (16 for CSU); 8 hurricanes (9 for CSU); and 4 major hurricanes (5 for CSU).
Although both forecasts exceed the long-term average, both are virtually identical to the average since 1995 of 15 named storms, 8 hurricanes, and 4 majors.
So what do the outlooks tell us? Not much, as I argued in a previous blog. The bottom line is that the number of tropical cyclones swirling through the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico this year won’t be substantially different from that of the past decade and a half. What the predictions don’t tell us is what the threat is to any particular location along the coast.
I recently took a look at ocean temperatures in the Atlantic Basin. At first glance, they’re a bit scary. Waters in the Gulf of Mexico and in the Atlantic off-shore of the Southeast are much warmer than normal. (Near-shore waters along the Southeast coast are a bit cooler than average.) The tropical Atlantic is also warmer than usual for this time of year.
Bad news, right? We’ve all heard that warm ocean waters favor hurricane development and strengthening. Well, it’s not that simple. Bathtub-warm water is a necessary ingredient but not a sufficient one. Much more important are the upper-air wind patterns.
All things being equal, the toastier the water the stronger the hurricane. But things are rarely equal, and there have been cases where hurricanes, upon encountering unfavorable winds aloft, have actually lost muscle tone while journeying over hot water, a supposed growth hormone.
Be that as it may, the potential is there for some fire-breathing monsters this season. Whether that potential becomes reality is another matter.
In the meantime, what do you do if you live along the East or Gulf Coast? Prepare for the worst, as I’m sure you always do… or should. Maybe we’ll get lucky, like last year when the Atlantic Basin was swarming with hurricanes, yet not one made an amphibious landing on the U.S.
Or maybe our mojo will take a powder, like it did in 2005 (Katrina and Rita) and 2004 (when 4 hurricanes and a tropical storm blitzed Florida).
What do you think? Will our luck run out in the next several months?
Photo: Hurricane tracks for the 2004 Atlantic hurricane season. Four hurricanes and a tropical storm battered Florida.
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