2006 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook
Halifax, June 5, 2006– Environment Canada’s Canadian Hurricane Centre (CHC) is again alerting Canadians that the Atlantic Ocean is set up for another very active year for hurricanes.
“Pre-season indications are that this year will fall right in line with what’s been happening for more than a decade… although we don’t anticipate a repeat of last year,” says Peter Bowyer, Manager of the Canadian Hurricane Centre. Bowyer is referring to the record-smashing 2005 Atlantic hurricane season which produced 28 tropical storms (normal is 10), 15 hurricanes (normal is six), and seven intense hurricanes (normal is two to three).
The official forecast from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts that theAtlantic Ocean will generate 13-16 named storms, 8-10 hurricanes, and four to six intense hurricanes this year. NOAA’s seasonal forecasts have demonstrated skill over the last few years, as have the forecasts from Colorado State University's Tropical Cyclone Lab and the Tropical Storm Risk Initiative in the United Kingdom,both of whom are predicting similar numbers for this year.
“The average over the last 10 years is substantially higher than the 50-year average,” says Bowyer, “and many people are wondering if we are witnessing a new normal.” Terms like ‘normal’ and ‘average’ are useful terms for talking about long-term trends in climatology, but are less useful for use on a daily or yearly basis. “What is important to understand is that we’ve been telling people for a long time that the Atlantic Ocean is going through a period of heightened hurricane activity and that we should expect this to last for at least another ten years.”
Most experts regard tropical sea surface temperatures as one of the primary indicators of the level of activity expected during hurricane season. “Right now it’s running a bit warmer in the tropical oceans than the long-term average,” says Bowyer, “but it’s nowhere as warm as it was this time last year.”
That is good news to hurricane-weary Americans who weathered an onslaught of intense catastrophic hurricanes last year. But Bowyer reminds Canadians that in any given year, it only takes one hurricane to inflict great damage to an area and change our perceptions about our vulnerabilities to hurricanes.
For many Maritime residents, their perceptions changed in 2003 when Category 2 Hurricane Juan struck Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Ocean temperatures played an important role in Juan when the coastal waters south of Nova Scotia were running 3-4°C above normal, keeping Juan from weakening as hurricanes typically do when they hit cold water.
“Although the overall season doesn’t appear as if it will be as busy as last year, it only takes one storm, so we are encouraging people to adopt the mindset now of getting storm-ready for hurricane season and watching for our hurricane bulletins,” says Bowyer. Last year, four storms travelled into Atlantic Canadian waters.
The CHC is watching the water temperatures around eastern Canada as well as the entire Atlantic Oceanfor any tropical cyclones that may form and threaten Canada or its waters. The hurricane season officially runs from June through November when the waters of the Atlantic are warm enough to produce tropical cyclones. Hurricanes typically start to really affect Canadian waters a bit later in the season, however, the Centre maintains a year-round vigil.
Environment Canada is responsible for issuing severe weather watches and warnings in Canada for conditions like torrential rain, strong winds, storm surges and high waves that tropical systems like hurricanes can bring.
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