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Active hurricane season ahead, say forecasters

On the eve of the Atlantic hurricane season, NOAA’s ClimatePredictionCenter announced that projected climate conditions point to an above-normal hurricane season in the AtlanticBasin this year.

The forecast calls for considerable activity, with a 65 percent probability of an above-normal season and a 25 percent probability of a near-normal season. The climate patterns expected indicate a 60 to 70 percent chance of 12 to 16 named storms, including six to nine hurricanes and two to five major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale). On average, the June 1 to Nov. 30 hurricane season has 11 named storms, including six hurricanes, two of which reach major status.

The science behind the outlook is rooted in the analysis and prediction of current and future global climate patterns as compared to previous seasons with similar conditions. The main factors influencing this year’s forecast are the continuing combination of oceanic and atmospheric conditions that have spawned increased hurricane activity since 1995, and the anticipated lingering effects of La Niña.

Tropical systems are named once they reach tropical storm strength — sustained winds of at least 39 mph. Tropical storms become hurricanes when winds reach 74 mph and major hurricanes when winds reach 111 mph.

In other news, the entire fleet of aircraft that fly through hurricanes are now equipped with instruments that measure the velocity of surface winds, giving forecasters at the NationalHurricaneCenter a more complete picture of the intensity and size of storm systems.

The stepped-frequency microwave radiometers continuously measure winds at the ocean surface directly below the aircraft and can determine rainfall rates within a storm system. In the past, air crews extrapolated wind speeds from the aircraft’s altitude or from a GPS dropsonde, a weather reconnaissance device released from the aircraft.

Sailboat found after crew ‘mutiny’

When Bill Heritage and crew were airlifted from his 26-foot Compass in heavy weather off western New Zealand, he assumed he had seen the last of the sloop. You know what they say about assumptions. Air Apparent was found by Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand two months after she was left adrift, according to a report in The New Zealand Herald.

On March 25, Heritage’s three crewmembers activated Air Apparent’s EPIRB — against his wishes — when the engine died and conditions worsened (Soundings, June 2008). A rescue helicopter arrived and hoisted all four off the boat, forcing the skipper to leave his boat. Air Apparent was found May 27 in “remarkable condition,” upright and drifting with its mast intact and sail dragging in the water, about 210 nautical miles off North Cape, according to the report.

“It does go to show the yacht wasn’t going to sink under us at the time,” Heritage says in the report.

The insurance company had initially refused to reimburse Heritage for the sloop — valued at about $19,500 (U.S.) — but has since done so. Heritage says he’s unsure if the boat will be salvaged.

— Elizabeth Ellis

Nautical charts in the classroom

NOAA’s National Ocean Service has launched an online multimedia educational program designed around reading nautical charts. Introduced at the annual meeting of the National Science Teachers Association in Boston, the program is designed for students at the third- through fifth-grade level and teaches charting and navigation.

“Nautical Charts: Message in a Bottle” uses animation to teach chart symbols, safe boating, and why nautical charts are important. The interactive program challenges students to solve a mystery as they encounter a message in a bottle that includes a scrap of nautical chart from Cape Hatteras, N.C. The mystery deepens through the message’s reference to a gold ring. Students follow a series of questions and a scavenger hunt to uncover nautical chart basics and find the location of the ring. “Nautical Charts” is available at

Get more out of your navigation software

Jeppesen Marine now offers a free C-MAP PC-Planner Handbook to help users get more out of their software. The handbook guides users through steps and answers questions about voyage planning functions for C-MAP MAX or NT+ charts, like creating and editing waypoints and routes, checking routes for safety, viewing aerial photos, and checking tide and current predictions. It also offers specific tips for owners of selected GPS/chart plotter makes and models.

The digest-size 20-page color handbook is included with all purchases of new PC-Planner software, and current users can request a copy from the company or download it from the C-MAP Web site. For more information, contact Jeppesen Marine at (800) 424-2627 or visit .