US May Face Big Hurricane Season in 2006 - Earthsat
Author: Matthew Robinson
La Nina, an unusual cooling of the Pacific Ocean surface temperatures, can trigger a wide range of changes in global weather depending on its intensity. Many forecasters already expect an above average hurricane season.
"A weak La Nina, which we are currently in right now, is your best chance for a higher number of tropical systems," Chris Hyde, an EarthSat meteorologist said, adding "The potential for Category 5 hurricanes could very well be evident again next season."
Hurricanes are rated according to the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, with Category 5 storms boasting winds in excess of 155 mph (249 kph) ranked as the most powerful.
But Hyde stressed the forecast did not necessarily guarantee a repeat of the disaster caused by Hurricane Katrina for the US Gulf Coast.
Large hurricanes could hit rural areas or steer clear of the United States entirely during the summer hurricane season.
"Statistically it is not going to be dead on to a high population center. There is more rural coastline versus population center coastline," Hyde said.
Katrina, the costliest natural disaster in US history, killed about 1,300 people and destroyed about 300,000 homes along the Gulf Coast. The storm's winds weakened from Category 5 levels as it hit land, but caused a wave of destruction in New Orleans after protective levees were breached.
Katrina also ripped through a swathe of offshore oil and natural gas facilities and Gulf Coast refineries, damaging plants and pushing up energy prices nationwide.
"It is going to be very hard to equal that scenario this time around," Hyde said.