Friday, March 18, 2011

Hooray! La Niña is going away, therefore less hurricanes this Summer... Not so fast!

The 2011 Hurricane Season is quickly approaching, and forecasters are predicting a weakening La Niña turning into a more neutral stage by the Summer. Many people are saying how great this is, and that this basically means a very tame season awaits us in the Atlantic this year. Surely this is great news for the Gulf Coast residents and all of the Southeastern U.S. residents who could be affected by the potential storms this Summer. But I say take it with a grain of salt. This is not the time to start celebrating because La Niña may or may not be weakening by the Summer. This is the time to start preparing for the upcoming Hurricane Season regardless of anyone's early forecast of less activity.

The quote that you will hear a lot as we approach this upcoming season is "La Niña, which causes more hurricanes, will be turning to a more neutral phase for this Summer. This means less hurricanes." I don't agree with people who say this, because it gives the average person a false sense of security for the upcoming season. There are a few things to consider as we approach this June. Firstly, take a look at the image below. It is a chart of storm activity measured from 1995-2005. The bars represent the number of major hurricanes formed during each phase. During a La Niña phase there was an average of about 4 major storms formed during those seasons. Now here comes the shocker, there were actually more storms formed during a Neutral phase (which we are heading into this Summer), then were formed during the dreaded La Niña years. About 4.5 on average. There was a slight drop off for a Weak to Moderate El Niño phase. The biggest and most noticeable drop came during a Strong El Niño phase, which we are certainly not going to experience for this upcoming season.

The second thing we we need to understand is each season has a mind of its own. Each storm has a respective life journey. No one could have predicted the ridiculous activity during the 2005 season, or the incredible luck that the U.S. experienced during last season. There were tropical systems all over the Atlantic in 2010, 21 to be exact. 12 of those were hurricanes, and yet the U.S. was not affected by any of them. So 2010 was predicted to be one of the worst seasons in history. That prediction came true to an extent because of the number of storms, but as far as people affected by the systems it was over hyped. Let's go back to 1992 for a second. There were only 7 storms which formed that year, and only one land falling hurricane. That hurricane was Andrew. So although the numbers were down that year, it was one of the most devastating years in history as far as South Florida is concerned. Now back to 2005 one last time, it was quite a year as far as storms go. 28 storms made their journey across the Atlantic that year, a staggering record that probably won't be touched anytime soon. But 2005 was not a La Niña year.

So although it is fun to read the preseason predictions when it comes to each Hurricane Season. Always remember that it is not an exact science. Every season has a different story. Every storm has a unique lifespan. And these story lines cannot be written before June arrives. We must all just take our seat, and watch how each season plays out.

--- Jesse Vinturella (TheJesFactor)