Posted by: coastlinesproject | August 6, 2012

El Nino affects Hurricane season; fast, not furious.

Hurricane season fast, not furious

Early pace of tropical storms already sets records

Clouds gather from the bands of Tropical Storm Ernesto near Jamaica on Sunday.

Clouds gather from the bands of Tropical Storm Ernesto near Jamaica on Sunday. / AP
Written by
Kevin Lollar

The forecast

Colorado State University updated predictions, released Friday, for the 2012 hurricane season:
(Average in parentheses)

• Named storms: 14 (12)
• Hurricanes: 6 (6.5)
• Major hurricanes: 2 (2)

August storms
Notable August hurricanes, from left, Donna (1960), Andrew (1992) and Charley (2004) left the Florida landscape scarred. Though there was not one storm this July, experts warn anything can still happen.


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Hurricane season 2012 might seem like a snoozer, but statistically speaking, it’s been a record-setter: Tropical Storm Debby, which formed June 23, was the earliest fourth-named storm in history.

Another interesting meteorological tidbit about this season, which runs June 1 through Nov. 30: Two tropical storms (Alberto and Beryl) formed in May, before the season even started.

“The only other time two storms formed before June 1 was 1887 and 1908, so that’s kind of weird,” said National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen. “And Beryl, which came ashore at Jacksonville Beach, was the strongest pre-June cyclone ever to make U.S. landfall.”

With the peak of the season approaching, storm activity may be accelerating.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Tropical Storm Ernesto could possibly become a hurricane by late in the week while heading toward the Mexican mainland.

A tropical storm watch was in effect for the coast of Honduras. Ernesto was centered about 220 miles south-southwest of Kingston, Jamaica, late Sunday afternoon. It had maximum sustained winds near 50 mph and was moving swiftly westward at 20 mph.

Elsewhere, Tropical Storm Florence, which formed far out in the Atlantic, was no longer expected to gain strength, the hurricane center said.

Florence’s top sustained winds had slowed to 50 mph by Sunday afternoon and it was about 845 miles west of the Cape Verde Islands.

Another quiet July

Despite the early activity, not a single named storm formed during July.

“Going back to 1851, we haven’t had a tropical storm in July 88 times — the last time was 2009. That’s more than half the time, so it’s not unusual,” Feltgen said.

The biggest tropical event in Florida so far this season has been Tropical Storm Debby, which gave counties across the state a good soaking and beat up beaches on Florida’s western coast.

Friday, Colorado State University’s tropical storm forecasting team updated its hurricane season forecast, predicting there would be 14 named storms (the average is 12), six hurricanes (the average is 6.5) and three major hurricanes (the average is two).

Traditionally, peak hurricane season starts in September — since 1851, more than 60 percent of all tropical storms, more than 65 percent of all hurricanes and more than 55 percent of U.S. landfalling hurricanes formed after Sept. 1.

El Niño effect

Colorado State’s updated forecast predicted “a slightly-below average remainder of the hurricane season this year” because evidence suggests El Niño is forming.

El Niño is a periodic warming of water in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean that causes wind shear — changes in wind speed and direction with altitude — that can blow developing tropical systems apart.

But, Hurricane Andrew caused $40 billion in damage and killed 61 in 1992, an El Niño year.

“It’s not a matter of if you expect 10 more storms or 50 more or one more,” Feltgen said. “If that one is the one that hits you, it can ruin your year.”


Read more in “Beach Wars.” See Strawberry Hill tab at the top of this page.

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