THE 2012 HURRICANE SEASON HAS BEGUNWednesday 27th June 2012
Although it’s already off to a much busier than normal start, the NOAA’s National Hurricane Centre is predicting a near-normal Atlantic hurricane this year. When Tropical Storm Debby formed last week, it was the first time since record-keeping began in 1851 that four named storms had formed before the 1st of July.
However, the NOAA indicates that atmospheric and oceanic conditions favour a near-normal season. The prediction is that during the 2012 hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30, there is a 70% chance that between nine and 15 named storms will develop. It is anticipated that between four and eight of those will become hurricanes with winds topping 74 mph or higher and, of those, between one and three will become major hurricanes with winds of 111 mph or higher. Based on averages over the past 30 years, an average season would have approximately 12 named storms with six of them becoming hurricanes, three of which would be major hurricanes.
Although near-normal, this year’s prediction is for a less active season that we’ve seen in recent years. However, predictions are exactly that – predictions. It is vitally important that all of us living in hurricane-prone areas take the risks presented during the hurricane season very seriously. While that doesn’t mean we have to pack our boats and toys away and hide for six months, it does mean that we should keep a close eye on weather forecasts and have a plan in place for if and when a storm does come our way. Even though there may be only one major hurricane this season, that could be the one that comes in our direction and, if that’s the case, it really won’t make a difference to us whether or not the season is quieter than normal.
While near-average sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean Sea favour storm development, two factors limiting development are strong wind shear, which is hostile to hurricane formation, and cooler sea surface temperatures in the far eastern Atlantic.
Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center said, “Another potentially competing climate factor would be El Niño if it develops by late summer to early fall. In that case, conditions could be less conducive for hurricane formation and intensification during the peak months (August-October) of the season, possibly shifting the activity toward the lower end of the predicted range.”
Unfortunately, experts are not yet able to predict the number of storms that will make landfall. It is therefore very important that everyone be prepared with an emergency plan in place which includes an emergency kit, keeping valuables and important papers in a safe location and getting involved in the community to ensure that everyone is prepared if and when the time comes.
Antigua’s National Office of Disaster Service has recently released an updated version of the Names of the District Disaster Coordinators and the 2012 Hurricane Shelters which you may want to have a look at in advance of a storm so you are prepared if and when the need arises.
Hurricane season is now upon us – don’t be caught unprepared!
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