Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Hurricanes this year a near slam dunk: Be ready

NOAA’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center is predicting an El Nino this summer, and that means a much higher chance of hurricanes in our part of the Pacific.

And we’re due. More on that later.

(Image: This is a satellite image of the eastern Pacific from today, May 27. The storm system with the red X shows strong signs of developing into a more powerful storm. Credit: NOAA.)

This year, the NOAA numbers make hurricanes a statistical slam dunk. Nearly 20-1 odds that we’ll see big storms before December.

That’s not a guarantee, but the odds are looking spookier for hurricanes than they have in a very long time. 

The part of NOAA’s package of statistics that is most concerning is not so much that we are likely to have a more active hurricane season. They predict that in any El Nino year.

What’s concerning this year is that there’s only a 5 percent chance of a less-than active hurricane season. And a 95 percent chance of a normal to higher season. That’s weighted strongly (70% to 25%) in favor of more than normal.

Although the average year sees 4 to 5 tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes in our part of the ocean, there have been years when there have been virtually none. And we’ve been quiet for what seems like a very long time.

The last time the state took a direct hit was Hurricane Iniki in 1992—23 years ago.

Before satellites, it was hard to identify major storms in the Pacific unless a ship ran into one, or it hit an island. But in terms of storms that have caused damage, there were Nina in 1957, Dot in 1959, Iwa in 1982, Estelle in 1986, Iniki in 1992.

That’s five big storms in 35 years, or one every seven years on average.

And the longest time between them was Dot to Iwa, 23 years. Same as the time from Iniki to 2015.

This may be the year to pay attention. Says NOAA:

“This outlook is based upon the expectation of El Niño continuing and possibly strengthening as the hurricane season progresses. 

“El Niño decreases the vertical wind shear over the  tropical central  Pacific, favoring the development of more and stronger tropical cyclones. 

“El Niño also favors more westward tracking storms from the eastern Pacific into the central Pacific.

“This combination typically leads to an above-normal Central Pacific hurricane season.”

The Central Pacific Hurricane Center  is careful to say it can’t guarantee one or more of those storms will actually hit the Islands, but it does encourage families to sign up for emailed weather alerts, to sit down and talk about what they’ll do in the event of a storm, and to put together a hurricane kit. 

If you have a phone book, there are instructions in the front pages. If not find hurricane preparedness tips online.

You can join NOAA’s central Pacific hurricane page on Facebook 
Oh, and while the hurricane season doesn’t start until June 1, there is already a weather system headed this way. See the image above.

It’s still off Mexico, but has an 80 percent chance of developing into a tropical depression in the next two days, and 90 percent in the next five days.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2015

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