Atlantic brews up more stormy weather

| 01/09/2008

(CNS): As Gustav, the seventh storm of the Atlantic Season, headed towards the coast of Louisiana as a category 2 hurricane, Tropical Storm Hanna, the eighth, was soaking the Bahamas on Monday as it continued on a path that could take it up Florida’s Atlantic coast.

And as the Caribbean cleaned up in the wake of Gustav, the Atlantic was brewing more potential storms for the region, with satellite imagery from the National Hurricane Centre in Miami showing several other areas of troublesome weather. At 9:00 EDT the centre was monitoring four other weather systems moving westward from the African coast, including one in the mid-Atlantic that it said has a high probability of intensifying into a tropical storm.

At the beginning of August the Climate Prediction Centre had updated the Atlantic hurricane season outlook saying there was an increased likelihood of an above-normal hurricane season. NOAA said there was an 85% probability of an above-normal season – up from 65% in May. The team were forecasting 14 to 18 named storms, of which seven to 10 areexpected to become hurricanes, including three to six major hurricanes of Category 3 strength or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. These ranges encompass the entire season, which ends November 30, and included the five storms that had formed when they made the prediction.

Forecasters attributed the adjustment to atmospheric and oceanic conditions across the Atlantic Basin that favour storm development – combined with the strong early season activity. In May, the outlook called for 12 to 16 named storms, including six to nine hurricanes and two to five major hurricanes. An average Atlantic hurricane season has 11 named storms, including six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

“Leading indicators for an above-normal season during 2008 include the continuing multi-decadal signal – atmospheric and oceanic conditions that have spawned increased hurricane activity since 1995 – and the lingering effects of La Niña,” said Gerry Bell, the lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Centre. “Some of these conditions include reduced wind shear, weaker trade winds, an active West African monsoon system, the winds coming off of Africa and warmer-than-average water in the Atlantic Ocean.”

Another indicator favouring an above-normal hurricane season is a very active July, the third most active since 1886. So far there have been eight named storm. Gustav was the third to reach major hurricane status and there are still three full months of hurricane season remaining.

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