Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Mixed Signals

We have been very quiet across the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean so far this season. Last year at this time were already into the "B" name, dealing with Tropical Storm Bonnie. Why so slow?

As you recall, NHC is forecasting an above average year.

  • 12 to 18 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which
  • 6 to 10 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).  The average is 11, 6 , and 3.

It appears this slow start is because Mother Nature is sending mixed signals. Last year we were under the influence of La Niña, which as you know, is an above average cooling of the Equatorial Pacific waters.  This cooling impacts ocean and atmospheric currents across the globe. Typically, it makes conditions a tad more favorable in the upper levels of the atmosphere for hurricanes to grow. It was an awful year for folks in the Caribbean, yet for us, 2010 was very uneventful.

In their forecast, NHC suggested we may see more activity in 2011 because La Niña was moving on. They said we would be entering a neutral phase, neither la Niña, nor her brother El Niño, which is an above average warming of the Pacific Ocean waters.

So where are we now?
NOAA says, the ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation) is in a neutral stage across the equatorial Pacific, with  sea surface temperatures near-average , but they also say that atmospheric circulation still reflects a La Niña year. What gives? It appears the earth is a bit confused.

These are my observations. Until the globe is in sync, we may stay relatively quiet.

  • There is still plenty of African dust blowing off the Saharan desert keeping the Eastern Atlantic dry and storm free. 
  • The Bermuda high appears strong and influencing much of the lower latitudes.  
  • With such little activity thus far, and with so much shear in the mid to upper levels of the atmosphere... it's looking more like we are under El Niño effects. Go figure.

Why Mother Nature is sending these mixed signals is a topic for wiser folks. Despite her confusion, activity will increase in the coming months. The Cape Verde conveyor belt will kick in as we move into the most active part of the season, August, September, and October. What are your thoughts?

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