2003 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook

Dartmouth, Nova Scotia September 2, 2003 – The Canadian Hurricane Centre in Dartmouth alerts Atlantic Canadians that conditions are ripe for more hurricanes than average this fall.

In fact, Hurricane Fabian, a powerful storm that passed east of the Caribbean on Labour Day is expected to make its way towards Atlantic Canada by this weekend.

For the sixth consecutive year, hurricane experts around the world have predicted an above-normal level of tropical cyclone activity in the Atlantic Ocean. “This is in keeping with what we are seeing now,” says Peter Bowyer, Program Manager of Environment Canada’s Canadian Hurricane Centre. “Usually we would have had four named storms by the end of August, but this year we have had seven of them.”

Although the hurricane season officially started in June, September is typically when activity increases.

“The conditions right now are more ripe for storm creation than they were this time last year,” says Bowyer. “And last September, we ended up with a record of eight named storms forming in that month alone.” One such storm was Hurricane Gustav, which made landfall along the south coast of Cape Breton in the early hours of September 12, 2002. It delivered over 100 mm of rain in parts of Nova Scotia and winds of 100 km/h of more throughout large portions of Atlantic Canada.

There is a lot of ‘quiet activity’ in the form of atmospheric waves developing in the tropical Atlantic--the area that stretches from the Caribbean all the way east to Africa. Atmospheric waves are similar to ocean waves, but they happen in the lower atmosphere, typically below 5,000 feet. These waves are generally the initial stage of hurricane formation.

Warm ocean temperatures also play a role in the frequency of the creation of storms. September is a busy time for tropical storms and hurricanes because the Atlantic Ocean is at its warmest

The last 10 years have been the busiest of any decade on record for Atlantic tropical storms and hurricanes. For the entire Atlantic, the seasonal average over the period 1951 to 2000 is 10 named storms--6 of which became hurricanes. This year, the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted we would have 11 to 15 named storms with six to nine of them becoming hurricanes and two to four of them becoming intense hurricanes. Predictions by other experts fell within the same ranges.

The Canadian Hurricane Centre agrees with these predictions. “Conditions like we’ve had this year indicate that this will be a busy season,” says Bowyer. “And anytime there’s a prediction of increased hurricane activity over all in the Atlantic, it means there’s a greater chance these storms will make their way northwards towards Canada.”

Environment Canada is responsible for declaring and 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.

To read about current storm developments, such as Hurricane Fabian, and about past storms, visit Environment Canada’s hurricane web site at: Canadian Hurricane Centre  This site provides up-to-the minute hurricane advisories, satellite and radar images of systems along the Atlantic Coast, and bulletins from the United States for those concerned about others living and traveling in those affected areas.