Hurricane Season Has Begun
Today is June 1st, the start of Summer, meteorologically speaking, and the time when folks start to think about spending more time outdoors and enjoying the warmer weather. It is also a time when we are still dealing with severe weather across the plain states and that threat begins to move towards the north and southeast. But June 1st is also the start of something else, the time when hurricanes begin to form and strengthen, and potentially impact landmasses, putting hundreds to millions of lives in danger.
The Atlantic Hurricane Season begins June 1st and goes until the end of November. That is based on climotologically when these cyclones form. But tropical cyclones have been know to form in May and even earlier but those cases are very uncommon. Also storms have been found to form in late December. The 2005 Atlantic Season was the most active on record in the basin and had Tropical Storm Zeta (the Greek alphabet had to be used when the normal one ran out of names) formed on December 30th and lasted into 2006. A feat that has only been known to have happen once before. By comparison to the Atlantic Hurricane Season, the Eastern Pacific Hurricane Season starts officially earlier, on May 15th but lasts until the end of November as well. There have already been two storms in the eastern Pacific to be named.
Here are your names for tropical cyclones for this season. It is a list of 24 names with the letters X and Q not used. The list of names used are cycled every 6 years and when this list of names was used back in 2007, 3 named stormed were retired; Dean, Felix and Noel. Names are retired from their list when they cause a substantial amount of damage and devastation and/or lost of life.
As these systems form and move around the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean, they can impact the landmasses in those areas. Take a look at the image above. The top 5 most vulnerable cities to a landfall from a major hurricane (category 3 and higher) are labeled. Florida is especially vulnerable because it is surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean and can be hit from both sides.
In June, the storms form closer to home, so to speak, in the Gulf of Mexico and the western Caribbean Sea. Even an eastern Pacific storm can move across southern Mexico, cross into the Bay of Campeche and move northward towards the US mainland.
As the season progresses, the ocean waters start to heat up and cyclone developmental areas begin so spread out into the eastern Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean along the eastern seaboard, predominately in the southeast.
By the time August comes around, the waters warm up some more and further away from land, into the deeper sections of the western Atlantic. The bright orange shaded area around the eastern Caribbean Sea is where storms are more likely to form. August is when the storm activity really starts to ramp up.
By the time September comes around, we will have entered the peak of the season, which is around September 15th. The waters become really warm, with sea surface temperatures getting into the 80s and 90s, which is just what the hurricanes need to feed off of and grow. That coupled with low amounts of wind sheer aloft and you have the best breeding grounds for tropical development. The spark that starts off the growth of hurricanes is usually a tropical wave which can come from the ITCZ (the Intertropical Convergence Zone, aka doldrums, located near the equator) or from the Africa and the Cape Verde Islands just off the coast of western African.
After September, the hurricane season starts to enter its second half where the waters begin to cool off and the wind sheer aloft begins to increase, which are both not conducive for tropical development. The zone of where hurricanes form starts to shrink back to being close to the land masses in the western edge of the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico. Storms can form closer to home and move quickly towards the US mainland from steering winds aloft.
As the hurricane season comes to a close, the areas of where these storms to forms is typically near the western Caribbean Sea and around the Bahama Islands. But due to the steering winds aloft, the storms that do form usually head right out to sea.
As these storms approach the mainland throughout the season, they don’t have to make a direct impact to cause tons of damage. Even a close pass of a hurricane could push water up ahead of it, the storm surge, into the coastal areas. But as a system does come ashore, it can lead to some major flooding, as we did see with Hurricane Katrina, Irene and Sandy. There can be a loss of life due to tropical flooding, and about 25% of those deaths that occurred in the past 50 years can be blamed on flooding.
So if you are on the coast, or at least within a few miles of the ocean or another body of water such as the gulf or a river, bay or inlet, you should plan ahead to make sure you know your if your home is vulnerable or not to storm surge, flooding and/or wind. If repairs or enforcing of current features needs to be done, that should be done before the season really gets going.
Keeping up to date on the latest forecasts is vital to know if you are in danger of being impacted by a tropical system or not. Knowing way in advance can give you plenty of time to secure essentials from the stores way before the crowds start to clean the shelves of your local markets and home repair stores.
There needs to be a family evacuation plan put in place and matters need to be discussed on how to prep the house for a home, as well as making sure you know how to locate your pets and have a plan for their safety.
A disaster supply kit should be assembled with some of the bare essentials such as plenty of water for you, your family and your pets to survive for at least 3 days, plus food that won’t spoil and can last for a while. Don’t forget to update those prescriptions and fill up on your medications. If a storm hits and power goes out or roads are blocked and you can not get to a pharmacy or there is no one staffed there, you may run into a lot of trouble.
NOAA is forecasting an active to a very active season coming up this year. This is what they said in a statement issued on May 23rd.
“In its 2013 Atlantic hurricane season outlook issued today, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting an active or extremely active season this year.
For the six-month hurricane season, which begins June 1, NOAA’s Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook says there is a 70 percent likelihood of 13 to 20 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 7 to 11 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 3 to 6 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher).
These ranges are well above the seasonal average of 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes.”
Be safe out there, especially when it comes to the weather while you are out and about, enjoying this weekend!
Meteorologist Addison Green (Twitter: @agreenWNTV)