Mild Atlantic hurricane season is a surprise to forecasters

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said May 23 that there was a 70 percent chance that 13 to 20 named storms would form in the Atlantic Ocean this season. It said as many as 11 of them could strengthen into hurricanes, storms with winds of 119 kph or higher.

In April the respected Colorado hurricane forecasters said that the 2013 season will be more active than normal. The forecasting team at Colorado State University predicted 18 named storms, nine of which would be hurricanes. Of the hurricanes they said two would be major ones.

With just a month left in the Atlantic Hurricane season, forecasters are scratching their heads and trying to figure out what happened to the hurricanes. So far there have been 12 named storms and two category 1 hurricanes, the least powerful type.

Ingrid developed in the northern Caribbean east of Honduras and became a hurricane Sept, 14. This was the only hurricane so far this season to make landfall. Ingrid came ashore in northern México and dissipated quickly.

At the very least, predictions point out the dynamic nature of the world’s weather. Meteorologists look at Africa where many of those low pressure tropical waves sweep out into the Atlantic. The waves sometimes but not always spawn major storms.

The meteorologists also are looking at something called the Madden-Julian Oscillation, a circulation pattern over the warm Indian Ocean. Then there is the well-known El Niño system in the western Pacific.

Meteorologists, like Phillip Klotzbach and William Gray at Colorado State University have been studying and predicting hurricanes for years. They usually are very close to what actually happens. But not this year.

Atlantic hurricanes can develop as late as December, but the traditional end of the season is Nov. 30.

At the same time, the Pacific Hurricane season has been much stronger. Scientists point to an inverse relationship between the Atlantic and Pacific storms.  For some reason, heavy activity in one area means less activity in the other.

There have been 19 named storms and eight hurricanes in the Pacific, although most head west after they develop,

Barbara became a Pacific hurricane May 29 within one of those waves that had passed over Central America.  The storm caused heavy rains in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and up the coast into México and left a toll of four killed and four missing. There were two other hurricanes that caused damage even though they did not come ashore.

Klotzbach and Gray are producing short-term predictions now. One is due today. That last one covered Oct. 11 to Oct. 24. The pair called for an above-average end of the season in the Caribbean.  They said the potential is there for the development of storms.

Hurricanes hardly even make landfall in Costa Rica, but the storms can have deadly effect here with heavy rains, flooding and landslides.

President Laura Chinchilla and other Central American presidents have blamed First World industry for producing global warming.

In a declaration two years ago, the presidents said that the intensity of the prolonged rain suffered in Central Americas constituted a concrete manifestation of the adverse affects of climate change and the direct impact of this over the life and existence of the population of the countries and for achieving the Millennium development goals.

To cite the current lack of major hurricanes in the Atlantic as evidence against global warming would be unscientific. But in 2006 the 6th International Workshop on Tropical Cyclones of the World Meteorological Organization met in San José. This group of expertsissued a report that said although there is evidence both for and against the existence of a detectable human influence in the tropical cyclone climate record to date, no firm conclusion can be made on this point. The group also said that no individual tropical cyclone can be directly attributed to climate change.

The recent increase in societal impact from tropical cyclones has largely been caused by rising concentrations of population and infrastructure in coastal regions, the meteorologists said, adding that tropical cyclone wind-speed monitoring has changed dramatically over the last few decades, leading to difficulties in determining accurate trends.

The Hurricane Research Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a chronology online that runs from the first hurricane sighted and recorded by Christopher Columbus in 1494 to the most recent disaster caused by Hurricane Sandy when it ravaged the New Jersey shore and caused $75 million in 2012.

The chronology shows how deadly hurricanes can be and the continued effort to refine prediction methods.

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