Do Brazilian summers predict Atlantic hurricane season?

It’s too early to tell whether predictions for an active 2007 Atlantic hurricane season will come to pass, but if the summer in Brazil is any indication, things may be quieter than expected.

What does the summer in Brazil – more specifically, the Brazilian state of Amazonas – have to do with the Atlantic hurricane season? Probably not much. But on the other hand, a friend in the Florida Keys and his friend in Brazil are making some interesting comparisons.

Amazonas is Brazil’s largest state and home to a huge rain forest. Amazonas also gets about 20 percent of the earth’s rainfall, says Jeff Pinkus, a friend of mine in Marathon, Florida.

Since Brazil is in the southern hemisphere, its summers are from late December to late March.

Pinkus, who has visited Brazil a few times, says he and his friend in the town of Novo Airao compared recent summer thunderstorms in Amazonas to the Atlantic hurricane seasons that followed.

The Brazilian summers of 2004 and 2005 were very stormy, and “the ferocity of the summer season in Amazonas was as intense as could be recalled,” Pinkus said in a recent e-mail.

And the hurricane seasons that followed those summers of frequent violent thunderstorms in Amazonas were astonishing. In 2004, 15 named storms formed in the Atlantic Basin. Those storms included Hurricane Charley, a Category 4 storm that struck Florida’s west coast; Hurricane Ivan, a true monster storm that shredded Grand Cayman as a Category 5, lost some strength crossing the Gulf of Mexico, but still pounded Pensacola; and hurricanes Frances and Jeanne, two powerful storms that also struck Florida.

The summer of 2005 was one for the ages, producing a record 27 named storms that included four storms that reached Category 5 status. Luckily, all of these killers lost some strength before making landfall, but one of them was the infamous Hurricane Katrina, which nearly destroyed New Orleans.

In 2006, the summer in Amazonas “was as mild as could be remembered in recent history,” Pinkus says. “Nobody remembers the notable storms of 2006 here in Florida because there were none.”

Forecasters had predicted that as many as 17 named storms and five major hurricanes would form in 2006. But only nine named storms formed, and those storms spawned only two major hurricanes with winds exceeding 111 mph.

Meteorologists said the unexpected formation of a Pacific weather phenomenon known as El Niño kept the lid on the 2006 season. The El Niño has dissipated, however, and the 2007 prediction is for 17 named storms and five major hurricanes.

But the summer that ended a few months ago in Amazonas was another mild one. Does that mean we’ll have a corresponding quiet summer on the Atlantic?

“I do not think that 3 years of comparing summer weather patterns from the Southern to Northern Hemispheres is enough to draw a direct correlation,” Pinkus says, “but it certainly deserves more research.”

Stay tuned.

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