Hurricane season could heat up

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MARCH 1 -- National forecasters are warning that the equally dangerous counterpart of the weather pattern El Niño — called La Niña — is developing and could bring more hurricanes to the Atlantic this year.

Scientists at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center announced this week that surface and subsurface ocean temperatures have decreased rapidly in the Pacific since the brief and mild 2006-‘07 El Niño pattern faded, the weather agency says in a news release. These developments, scientists say, point toward a possible transition to La Niña conditions.

“Although other scientific factors affect the frequency of hurricanes, there tends to be a greater-than-normal number of Atlantic hurricanes and fewer-than-normal number of eastern Pacific hurricanes during La Niña events,” NOAA administrator Conrad C. Lautenbacher says in the release.

Cooler-than-usual ocean surface temperatures in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific affect tropical rainfall patterns and atmospheric winds over the Pacific, the release says. La Niña conditions usually mean more hurricanes in the Atlantic, fewer in the Pacific, a mild spring and summer in the north, and less rain and more heat in the south.

“It certainly won’t be welcome news for those living off the coast right now,” Lautenbacher says.

NOAA will issue the U.S. Spring Outlook report on March 15 and its Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook report in May, according to release. The reports are expected to reflect current La Niña forecasts.

— Jason Fell