Active Hurricane Season Risk Grows - Meteorologists
Author: Erwin Seba
Even worse for oil and natural gas interests along the U.S. Gulf Coast is the possible formation of a La Nina system in the Pacific. More than normal Atlantic hurricanes are usually seen during La Nina events, meteorologists said.
"During a La Nina, wind shear tends to lessen," said Thomas Downs, meteorologist for Weather 2000. "An El Nino tends to chop the tops off of tropical storms."
Due to the El Nino, the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season never came close to matching the record-breaking 2005 season, which spawned 28 hurricanes including Katrina and Rita and claimed the lives of hundreds in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.
At one point after Katrina and Rita hit, 25 percent of U.S. refining capacity and a quarter of U.S. oil production was shut leading to spikes in motor fuel prices.
The severity of the hurricane season beginning June 1 will not solely be determined by the absence of an El Nino or the presence of a La Nina.
"How severe a season is depends are where the hurricanes go and their intensity," said Jill Hasling, president of the Weather Research Center. "If we get another storm into New Orleans, it's going to be considered a significant year."
Weather Research Center is predicting an average hurricane season in 2007 with seven named storms, she said.
Colorado State University's Philip Klotzbach and William Gray said in December they expect the 2007 season to spawn 14 named storms with seven hurricanes.
The next focus of meteorologists will be observing
water temperatures in the western Caribbean, which if they run above average, could indicate more tropical storms early in the hurricane season, Downs said.
An average hurricane season has about six hurricanes with 10 named tropical storms.
An El Nino is said to exist when surface sea temperatures in the equatorial eastern Pacific run unusually warm. A La Nina occurs when sea surface temperatures in the same area of the Pacific run unusually cool.