CSU forecasters predict "very active" hurricane season

There seems little doubt that we're in for a stormy summer. Earlier today, Colorado State University forecasters Phil Klotzbach and William Gray released a statement predicting that the 2010 Atlantic Basin hurricane season -- which started yesterday -- will be "very active." The CSU meteorologists think that 18 named tropical storms will form before the end of the season on November 30. They think 10 of those storms will strengthen into hurricanes with winds of at least 74 mph. Five of those hurricanes could develop into major hurricanes with winds exceeding 110 mph.

Last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted that 14 to 23 named storms could form in the Atlantic, with 8 to 14 of those storms becoming hurricanes. NOAA also said that three to seven major hurricanes could form.

The news from the CSU forecasters is even worse for the Caribbean Sea. Klotzbach and Gray think this year could be similar to the awful summers of 2004 and 2005, two of the most active seasons on record. Monster hurricanes such as Ivan, Katrina, Rita and Wilma formed in the Caribbean during those summers, and 2005 became the most active single season on record with 28 named storms.

Several factors are expected to contribute to this year's exceptional hurricane activity.

The El Nino weather phenomenon that kept the lid on last summer's hurricane activity is dissipating. El Nino events occur sporadically and are caused by an unusual warming of waters in the Pacific Ocean off the northwest coast of South America. When an El Nino occurs, it creates strong upper-level winds over the Atlantic, and these winds disrupt hurricane formation.

Largely because of last summer's El Nino, only nine name storms formed in the Atlantic Basin, which includes the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.

Waters in the tropical Atlantic also are unusually warm this year. Hurricanes draw their energy from warm ocean water, so this could provide plenty of fuel for the storms.

Klotzbach said that an active hurricane season could affect efforts to contain and clean up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. "If the storm tracks to the west of the oil, there is the potential that the counter-clockwise circulation of the hurricane could drive some of the oil further towards the U.S. Gulf Coast," he said. "We do not expect that the oil slick will have much of an impact on any tropical storm or hurricane that passes over the area."

NOTE: I shot the photo at the top of this post here in Plymouth during the eye of Hurricane Isabel, which struck North Carolina in September 2003.

No comments: