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2002 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook

HALIFAX – June 3, 2002 – Hurricane experts expect tropical cyclone activity in the North Atlantic to be near average for the 2002 season. The seasonal average taken over the period from 1950 to 2000 is 9.6 named storms and 5.9 hurricanes (2.3 intense). In 2001, tropical cyclones occurred in the North Atlantic between June 5 and December 4, making this the longest season in over 20 years. The 2001 season saw 15 named storms and 9 hurricanes (4 of which were considered intense).

Saturday, June 1st marked the official beginning of the hurricane season in the North Atlantic Basin as declared by the National Hurricane Centre in Miami, Florida. The first tropical storm or hurricane does not usually form until early July and hurricanes do not generally become a major problem for Canada until August or September. However, Canadian hurricane experts are poised in advance to track any potential storms that could threaten Canadian lands or waters.

"Although the 2002 hurricane forecast is predicted to be near normal, the scientific community remains in agreement that the recent trend of heightened hurricane activity in the North Atlantic will continue," says John Parker, A/Program Manager of Environment Canada’s Canadian Hurricane Centre in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. "The 2001 season was the fourth consecutive season of above-normal activity in the north Atlantic Basin, with the last seven years being the most active seven-year period on record."

On average, three to four tropical storms or hurricanes pose a threat to Canada or its territorial waters each year. However, 2001 was the third straight year that six tropical cyclones entered the Canadian Hurricane Centre Response Zone. One of the contributing factors has been an above-normal run of sea surface temperatures in portions of the Atlantic Basin. However, a weak El Nino forecast for later this year may counteract this trend in 2002.

Remarkably, during a particularly busy 30-day period in 2001, four tropical systems passed through the Southwestern Grand Banks marine area offshore of Newfoundland. Each of the four events delivered rainfalls in excess of 100 mm to Canada’s easternmost province. The worst of the storms, Post-Tropical Storm Gabrielle, hammered the Avalon Peninsula with intense rainfalls, setting an all-time 6-hour rainfall record in St. John’s at 90 mm, and dumping 161 mm on Cape Race in about 10 hours. The Mayor of St. John’s declared Gabrielle "the worst storm in 100 years."

In order to better understand the nature of hurricanes scientists conduct data-gathering flights into and around tropical cyclones. Environment Canada began participating in this activity for the first time in 2000, with a research flight into Hurricane Michael, before it made landfall on the south coast of Newfoundland. During the 2001 season, scientists were able to fly into another tropical system. On the morning of October 15th, 2001, an Environment Canada and National Research Council crew composed of pilots, aviation communications experts, meteorological researchers, and an operational meteorologist took off shortly before tropical storm "Karen" was within a couple hours of landfall near Liverpool, Nova Scotia. Months of meticulous planning culminated in a successful data-gathering expedition.

Environment Canada is responsible for declaring and issuing severe weather watches and warnings, which include torrential rain, strong wind and storm surges and other impacts that tropical systems can bring. Meteorologists at the Canadian Hurricane Centre have unique training and experience forecasting the changes that inevitably accompany tropical storms and hurricanes making the transition into middle and high latitudes. The National Hurricane Centre in Miami and the Canadian Hurricane Centre in Dartmouth routinely consult with each other to coordinate the tracks and positions of all storms that pose a threat to Canada.

"By working with Canadian and International agencies and researchers, including the National Hurricane Centre in Miami, the meteorologists at the Canadian Hurricane Centre are constantly striving to improve our precision in tracking and forecasting these potentially dangerous storm systems," says Parker. "Being able to give the best lead time and most accurate information is essential in helping to ensure the safety of those who work and live in the path of oncoming hurricanes."

To stay on top of storm developments, and to get detailed information about how hurricanes affect Atlantic Canada, 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 the affected areas.

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