Though the preseason forecast of 2012 said that the hurricane season this year, would consist of 10-15 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 3 of them in the ‘major’ or Category 3 variety, one cannot bask in the illusion that things are fine this year. Just ask the residents of Florida and people along the Gulf Coast who are now dealing with Tropical Storm Debby and some of the destruction it has already caused.
Weather experts say that the tropical season was quite active in the years 2010 and 2011; but they may just be near normal this season. The reasons attributed in the cooler, relaxed oceanic temperatures of the North Atlantic Ocean and the development of El Nino which can influence reduction of hurricane activity. But there is still an air of uncertainty about the development of El Nino, which may have a telling effect on other future updates.
The hurricane annual season forecasts are done on the basis of various scientific techniques and available data like oceanic temperature fluctuations in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Though they have been more on the accurate side, one cannot neglect the fact that these forecasts cannot give conclusive evidence and they cannot predict important details like how many landfalls may occur. So nevertheless, people should be adequately prepared each year for seasonal impact of hurricanes.
Preparation nevertheless is the key, before each hurricane season. The season predicted only six named storms and a subtropical storm. But out of these was Hurricane Andrews, which turned out to be quite devastating and was named as Category 5 hurricane, threatening to destroy South Florida. Similarly in 1983, there were four named storms out of which Alicia, turned out to be Category 3 hurricane which affected Houston-Galveston area.
The Atlantic Hurricane Season runs from June 1 to November 30. The difference between tropical storms and hurricanes is in the wind speed. The tropical storms have an average wind speed of 39 miles per hour and can be higher. Once the speed of the wind gains intensity and reaches 74 miles per hour, it becomes a hurricane.
There are two factors that can contain the devastating effects of a hurricane. The first is the wind shear which can pull down the effect of the hurricanes. Wind shear are winds that blow in various directions in various atmospheric layers the second influential factor is the cooler than normal oceanic surface temperature in the eastern part of Atlantic Ocean. Thirdly, if El Nino (the warming of tropical Pacific Ocean) if it develops, it can be successful in reducing the intensity of hurricanes to a great extent. NOAA’s hurricane predictions have been on the accurate side in seven out of twelve occasions.
2012 witnessed the beginning of at tropical storm Alberto, which began much before the hurricane season in the south-east coast in May. Does that mean there is going to be an active hurricane season? A weather expert says, ‘There is no relationship between an early tropical storm occurring well before the season and the kind of activity that may follow in the later part of the year. “