Major hurricane season predicted
- POSTED ON May 08, 2006
Major hurricane season predicted
FREDERICTON -- In what could signal a frightening new fact of life in
the age of global warming, Canadian and U.S. forecasters are warning
that another major hurricane season is brewing in the Atlantic Ocean.
The 2006 hurricane season officially opens on June 1, and already
scientists are telling people living in eastern North America that
numerous storms are predicted, with as many as five major hurricanes
with winds of 180 km/h or more.
"It's kind of comparable to what we were looking at last year at this
time," says Bob Robichaud, a meteorologist with the Canadian
Hurricane Centre in Dartmouth, N.S.
"Last year we were looking at 12 to 15 storms and this year the
forecast is for about 17. No one would go out on a limb and say it is
going to be just as bad as last year, but the indications are there
that it is still going to be another active season, almost twice as
active as normal."
Last year's hurricane season was the most destructive on record.
There were 27 named storms, 15 hurricanes and seven intense
hurricanes during the 2005 season. The worst damage was along the
U.S. Gulf coast.
Scientists with the Colorado State University hurricane forecast team
say the same factors that contributed to last year's violent season
are still in play this year.
"The Atlantic Ocean remains anomalously warm, and tropical Pacific
sea surface temperatures have continued to cool," says Colorado State
University forecaster Phil Klotzbach, explaining two of the key
triggers for hurricanes.
The Eastern seaboard has been locked in an active storm period for
the past decade, and while these seasons are normally cyclical, no
one knows when, or if, the active period will end.
"Is this global warming? From now on will we see only active
hurricane seasons? That's the big question," says Dave Phillips of
While there is no scientific proof that the buildup of greenhouse
gases in the atmosphere is breeding more hurricanes, Mr. Phillips
says global warming could be contributing to the unusual power of the
big storms, like last year's Katrina.
"We are seeing stronger hurricanes -- almost a 100-per-cent increase
in category fours and fives," he said.
"When they do develop, they're a lot bigger, tougher and have more
destructive power. They stay together longer. This is the concern.
They seem to have more power. That could have a connection to global
warming -- the fact the atmosphere has changed and ocean temperatures
Forecasters stress that there is no way to know, at this point, how
many big storms will make landfall or whether any will be able to
pick up enough steam to significantly affect Eastern Canada.
That's what happened in 2003, when hurricane Juan stoked up energy
from unusually warm waters off northeastern North America and blasted
the Maritimes, causing death and destruction in Nova Scotia, Prince
Edward Island and parts of New Brunswick.
Mr. Phillips says that despite this year's grim forecast, a lot can
happen to shut down offshore hurricanes and prevent them from causing
"The temperature of the water has to be right, the winds have to be
just perfect, the timing has to be just so and the depth of the water
has to be just so," Mr. Phillips said.
"It's like baking a souffle. A lot of things have to come together
and if someone slams the door, it won't rise."