Friday, March 17, 2006

Things that make you go "Hmm".

Palm Beach Post: Warmer oceans blamed for producing more intense hurricanes.

St Petersburg Times: Get ready to 'hunker down'.


It looks more and more like another nerve-racking hurricane season.

Sea surface temperatures are above average, La Nina has returned and the Atlantic Basin remains in an "up" cycle for storms.

"There is no reason not to expect a real active season," said Hugh Willoughby, a renowned hurricane researcher at Miami's Florida International University.

Longtime hurricane forecaster William Gray predicted an above-average season, with 17 named storms, nine of them hurricanes and five of those Category 3 or higher. He predicted at least one major hurricane would hit the United States.


For the 25 years before 1995, an average of fewer than nine named storms formed in the Atlantic region. The numbers increased by about 40 percent over the next 10 years.

The results were particularly pronounced the last two seasons, when a total of 42 named storms formed in the Atlantic Basin. Eight hurricanes struck Florida in those two years.


Even more bad news: Up cycles tend to last a bit longer than the down cycles, Willoughby said. The current cycle is expected to last another 20 or so years.

"Maybe even 30 years," Willoughby said.


Tropical storms need fuel to thrive. Warm waters provide that fuel.

Last year the waters around many parts of the Atlantic Basin were 4 degrees warmer than normal.

It doesn't sound like much. But combined with warm waters, favorable steering winds and weak shear, it creates an ideal scenario for lots of storms.

Part of the reason for the warmer waters was that the Bermuda High, a system of high pressure, was exceptionally weak in the winter of 2004-2005 and did not provide the usual cooling of Atlantic Basin waters.

Essentially, the waters started off above average and nothing happened to prevent them from getting even warmer.

If there is a silver lining this year, it might be that the Bermuda High has been stronger the past few months. The trade winds have stirred up the Atlantic and cooled the sea surface.

The temperatures remain slightly above normal, but not as high as the previous year, Landsea said.

"That's the good news," he said.