The National Hurricane Center issued its latest forecast for both the Atlantic and Pacific hurricane seasons on May 22. The forecast for the Pacific is for above normal activity.
As if waiting for its cue, Hurricane Amanda formed on May 24 and quickly intensified into the most powerful storm ever recorded this early in the season (top winds 155 miles per hour).
Hurricane Amanda is currently located well off the coast of Mexico. Hurricanes that form in this location can threaten the Mexican coast, but rarely reach Asia or even get as far as Hawaii.
Atlantic hurricanes, on the other hand, often originate near the coast of Africa, cross the ocean, and affect North or Central America.
Hurricane Amanda’s Future
The pool of warm water that lies off the southwest coast of Mexico is a fine incubator for tropical systems, but is confined locally, and the only possibility for Amanda to have a future is to stay there. She is, in fact, meandering slowly northwestward, as if she knows her fate.
Hurricanes in Amanda’s position strike Mexico about three times per summer, but most of them continue northwest over colder water where they dissipate. Sometimes a hurricane is picked up by a trough in the jet stream and turns northeast into Mexico; when this happens, the vertical wind shear associated with the jet stream weakens the storm, and the main danger is from flooding and mudslides.
An approaching trough is dipping south and will begin to steer Amanda to the north and then northeast. By the time she reaches the coast, Amanda will be just a remnant low pressure system with winds under 35 miles per hour. Moisture from the system will likely cause local flooding in Mexico next week, and beneficial rains in Texas and the southeast US by next weekend.
The Difference Between Atlantic And Pacific Hurricanes
The warm water breeding ground for hurricanes off the Mexican coast normally exists from May until November. In the Atlantic Ocean, the water in the analogous area, near the Cape Verde islands, is too cold for hurricane formation until August. Then the Cape Verde season begins.
The Atlantic’s most powerful hurricanes are normally born near the Cape Verdes and travel across the ocean, steered by high pressure to the north, ending up in the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Atlantic coast of the US.
The eastern Pacific does not normally have a high pressure system to steer hurricanes to the west. The weak pressure pattern allows storms to meander west, then northwest, at which point they encounter colder water and dissipate.
The National Hurricane Center’s New Forecasts For The Atlantic And Pacific
The NHC has issued its revised forecast: above normal hurricane activity in the eastern Pacific and below normal in the Atlantic.
This forecast is based primarily on the premise that an El Niño will develop. The forecast is couched in greater-than-usual meteorological gobbledegook, with large ranges and lots of percentages.
Decoded Science not only considers such a forecast to be of little value, we think it is actually harmful; its mind-numbing statistics and the implication that activity might be low this year invites a cavalier attitude and lack of preparation.
The fact is that even in the most hurricane-prone places, the probability of being hit THIS year is very low. By spreading the statistical forecast over such a wide area and in such vague terms, the NHC ignores the important statistic: Hurricanes are rare in any given location, but when a hurricane strikes, those who are prepared for it survive.
Decoded Science’s 2014 Hurricane Forecast
El Niño notwithstanding, Decoded Science stands by its previous forecast of above-normal hurricane activity in the Atlantic. To that we add a similar forecast for the eastern Pacific.
The reason is simple: Water temperatures are above normal globally, and warm water trumps El Niño.
There may be periods when vertical wind shear, possibly linked to El Niño, prevents any tropical cyclone formation. However, when atmospheric conditions are conducive to tropical development, the warm water will allow that development to take place rapidly, as happened with Amanda.
Anyone who lives in a hurricane-prone location should have plans for protecting life and property, including:
- Materials and tools: These are handy for quickly boarding up windows.
- Protected spots in which to store cars and boats: You’ll also need a plan to get them there.
- Know the escape route if evacuation orders are issued.
- Know what to do with your pets.
- Know how to deal with the possible loss of electricity for an extended period.
- Understand the possibility that many staple items such as food and gasoline cannot be purchased during emergencies.
Be Prepared For a Strong Hurricane Season
Being prepared for a hurricane this year is a win-win proposition: If a hurricane strikes, you will be in the best possible position to survive it; if no hurricane strikes ….. you’ll be prepared for next year.