Conditions that Protected U.S. from Hurricanes are Diminishing

That’s the title of a July 16, 2011 news article by Ken Kaye in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

The article could have been titled “Hurricanes More Likely in the U.S.” Instead, the more ominous “Conditions that Protected U.S. from Hurricanes are Diminishing” was chosen.

It’s a title that carries an unspoken message. If America had been “protected,” then something or better yet, someone, was doing the “protecting” but has decided to withdraw the protection….

The news report says that weather experts warn that two atmospheric features that protected the U.S. coastline last year from hurricanes have diminished. The low-pressure system has weakened and the high-pressure ridge is “almost absent,” which means Atlantic storms will be more likely to reach our shores, hurricane specialist Todd Kimberlain, of the National Hurricane Center in Miami-Dade County, said.

Twelve hurricanes emerged last year, yet not one hit the U.S. Seven of them — Danielle, Earl, Igor, Julia, Lisa, Otto and Shary — were guided north into the Atlantic either by a low-pressure system near the East Coast or a high-pressure ridge over the eastern Atlantic. While it’s possible the United States will escape a hurricane hit for a third year in a row, the conditions needed to fuel a busy season are falling into place. The only question is where the hurricane activity will go.

Kimberlain noted several variables determine the paths of storms, not just pressure systems. For instance, where storms form can have a large bearing on their eventual destination. Storms that form near Africa are more likely to curve to the north before reaching land, while those that emerge in the central and western Atlantic have a better chance of threatening the United States.

Jeff Masters, chief meteorologist of Weather Underground, an online weather site, said “If this year’s pattern continues like it has, we can expect to get at least a normal number of hurricanes making landfall in the United States.” On average, 1.7 hurricanes strike the U.S. coast per year.

But forecasters believe an active year is in the offing because of several atmospheric signals:

  • Abnormally warm waters in tropical development regions.
  • Low sea-level pressure and low vertical wind shear.
  • Trade winds that blow from east to west across the Atlantic and Caribbean are weak, “a favorable sign for lots of hurricanes.”
  • The Atlantic basin is entrenched in an era of intensity, where more hurricanes and more powerful hurricanes tend to form each year.
  • La Niña and El Niño conditions are now neutral, and neutral years can spawn a high number of storms, as evidenced by 2005 when a record 28 storms, including 15 hurricanes, developed. La Niña is an atmospheric force that promotes storm formation; El Niño suppresses it.

In May, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted up to 18 named storms this season, including 10 hurricanes. In an average season, 11 named storms, including six hurricanes, develop.

Busy seasons increase the odds the U.S. coast will be hit and Florida is by far the most hurricane-battered state. South Florida on average is struck once every 4 years; Central Florida once every 6 to 7 years.

So far, this season is on a slightly faster pace than normal. Tropical Storm Arlene emerged in the Gulf of Mexico on June 28 and hit Mexico two days later. The first named storm normally arrives on July 9 and the second on Aug. 1.

The real activity — including the most powerful hurricanes — usually occurs from mid-August through October, the heart of the season.

Fasten your seatbelts, friends. We’re heading toward turbulence. “For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain….” (Romans 8:22)


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9 years ago

“Oh no, we need Al Gore and Socialism!” being the implied answer.

9 years ago

steve on the plus side you will have some serious waves so get your board out there and do some surfing…