September 30th marked the two-thirds point of the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season. It was forecast to be a whopper – possibly even making the Top 10 list of most hurricanes in a season. Although we won’t know for sure until it’s over on November 30th, is the season that began on June 1st coming anywhere close to the predictions?
A number of factors contribute to determining how ‘busy’ a given hurricane season will be. Favorable conditions this year include a signal from the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) indicative of La Nina, low vertical wind shear and some of the warmest sea surface temperatures on record. Given these and other conditions, forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted that approximately eight to 14 hurricanes would form in the 2010 season.
So how right were they? Well, in the season so far, seven hurricanes and 14 tropical storms have churned though the Atlantic basin. Indeed at one point, three active hurricanes – Igor (pictured), Julia and Karl – appeared at the same time, marking a very rare event in hurricane climatology.
Although the evidence indicates forecasters were generally accurate in their assessments, some might be surprised to hear that 2010 has been such an active year. The reality is that without any major U.S. landfalls, hurricanes often fail to generate much coverage in the popular media.
In terms of preparedness, this begs the question: are we asking the right question when we examine how busy a particular hurricane season might be? Because at the end of the day, whether three or 30 storms form over Atlantic waters, it only takes one to trigger a disaster.
(Photo courtesy of NOAA.)
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