The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently announced that a very active hurricane season is looming in the Atlantic region and encouraged individuals to make preparations to better protect their lives and livelihoods.
During a news conference at the NOAA National Hurricane Center, Deputy Secretary of Commerce David A. Sampson noted, "The impact from these storms extends well beyond coastal areas, so it is vital that residents in hurricane-prone areas get ready in advance of the hurricane season."
"For the 2006 north Atlantic hurricane season, NOAA is predicting 13-16 named storms, with 8-10 becoming hurricanes, of which 4-6 could become ‘major’ hurricanes of Category 3 strength or higher," added retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator.
On average, the north Atlantic hurricane season produces 11 named storms, with six becoming hurricanes, including two major hurricanes. In 2005, the Atlantic hurricane season contained a record 28 storms, including 15 hurricanes. Seven of these hurricanes were considered "major," of which a record four hit the United States. "Although NOAA is not forecasting a repeat of last year's season, the potential for hurricanes striking the United States is high," added Lautenbacher.
Warmer ocean water combined with lower wind shear, weaker easterly trade winds and a more favorable wind pattern in the mid levels of the atmosphere are the factors that collectively will favor the development of storms in greater numbers and intensity. Warm water is the energy source for storms while favorable wind patterns limit the wind shear that can tear apart a storm's building cloud structure.
This confluence of conditions in the ocean and atmosphere is strongly related to a climate pattern known as the multi-decadal signal, which has been in place since 1995. Since then, nine of the last 11 hurricane seasons have been above normal, with only two below-normal seasons during the El Niño years of 1997 and 2002.
With neutral El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) conditions expected across the equatorial Pacific during the next 3-6 months, the NOAA Climate Prediction Center scientists say that neither El Niño nor La Niña likely will be a factor in this year's hurricane season.
"Whether we face an active hurricane season, like this year, or a below-normal season, the crucial message for every person is the same: prepare, prepare, prepare," said Max Mayfield, director of the NOAA National Hurricane Center. "One hurricane hitting where you live is enough to make it a bad season."
The north Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30. NOAA will issue a mid-season update in early August just prior to the normal August through October peak in activity.