April 1, 2010 in Washington Voices

More active hurricane season ahead

Randy Mann
 
Tags:weather

An active tropical storm and hurricane season may be just around the meteorological corner, especially when compared to last season. Many forecasters believe this upcoming season, which lasts from June 1 to November 30, has the potential to be very active. I agree with the initial forecasts.

The 2009 Atlantic hurricane season was below average with nine named tropical storms. That was the fewest since the 1997 season, which had only seven named storms. One of the reasons for the low number of tropical storms was the formation of El Niño, the abnormal warming of ocean waters near the west coast of South America. During an El Niño event, upper-level weather patterns change, resulting in the “shearing” of tropical storms and hurricanes.

El Niño was not a factor in the 2008 season, which was termed “very active” with 16 named storms, eight of which became hurricanes. The formation of Tropical Storm Arthur caused the season to start two days earlier, May 30, 2008. The 2008 season was the third most costly on record, behind the 2004 and 2005 seasons, with approximately $41 billion in damage.

In the Atlantic and Caribbean waters, sea-surface temperatures are cooling down. By the beginning of summer in late June, we may be in a “La Nada,” or in-between an El Niño or La Niña. It’s also possible that a new La Niña, the cooler-than-normal sea-surface temperature event, may start to form over the next few months, which would likely increase the number of tropical storm and hurricane formations.

For the 2010 season, I see approximately 15 to 18 named storms, with six to seven of them becoming hurricanes. Four of these potentially deadly storms are expected to become major hurricanes, reaching at least a Category 3 status. The overall average is 11 named storms, with six becoming hurricanes during a season.

As far as our weather is concerned, we finally received some much-needed rainfall as the cooler and wetter spring weather pattern has arrived. As of early this week, the airport had received about 4 inches of moisture since January 1, which is about 0.8 inches below normal. But more precipitation is on the way as the rest of the spring season is expected to be a bit cooler and wetter than normal, with El Niño continuing to weaken. But don’t worry, there will be many days over the next few months that will have warm afternoons with plenty of sunshine.

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