So far, the 2003 Atlantic Hurricane Season has been off to a fast start. There have been five named storms and two hurricanes as well as three tropical depressions. We had a tropical storm in the month of April, two hurricanes during the month of July, and even a tropical storm in late June/early July.
However, the month of August, 2003 has been somewhat of a quiet one in the Atlantic Basin. Nearly the entire first two weeks of the month went by before we had a named storm. That named storm, Erika, wound up forming on August 14th and made landfall some 48 hours later over Southern Texas.
Nevertheless, this is still the Cape Verde Season, and we've only made it through 25 percent of the Atlantic Hurricane Season so far. There is still a lot more to go, and signs of a tropical storm and hurricane onslaught may be already happening.
Early in the week, Steve Lyons of The Weather Channel noted six disturbances moving westward across the central portion of the African continent. Of these disturbances, only one has showed promise so far, but the rest have lots of time to get going. Could the African tropical pipeline be heating up? Sure looks that way.
The Atlantic Hurricane Season runs from June 1st to November 30th each year on average. But, the bulk of activity during each season normally occurs from early August to early October when the Cape Verde Season is prominent. The Cape Verde Season gets its name from a region in the Eastern Atlantic where powerful hurricanes are born.
Cape Verde is actually a group of islands just off the West African coast, where many tropical storms and hurricanes get their start. During the early portion of the Atlantic Hurricane Season, conditions are usually unfavorable for development near these islands because the sea surface temperatures aren't warm enough, and the upper level conditions are usually hostile toward development.
As the hurricane season progresses, and we get deeper into the summer months, the ocean temperatures get warmer, especially in the Central and Eastern Atlantic. In addition, the subtropical ridge of high pressure becomes the dominant mechanism in the Atlantic, and with that comes lighter winds. Consequently, activity picks up near the tiny islands off Africa in the way of strong tropical storms and hurricanes.
The statistical high point of the Atlantic Hurricane Season is September 10th, which is about the midpoint of the Cape Verde Season. Many of a particular season's powerful storms occur in this region, and during this time period. So, with the recent developments along the ITCZ across Central Africa, there is reason for concern.
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As of the time of this report, August 21st, 2003, there are several disturbances in the Atlantic that have emerged off the coast of Africa, but none of them show signs of developing any time soon. The most prominent feature, according to The Weather Channel's Tropical Update, is a tropical wave moving westward into the Central Caribbean. Usually, conditions in that region are usually unfavorable for development.
There are a couple more areas of disturbed weather in the eastern and central Atlantic, but they do not show any signs of development at this time. Hurricane Hunters are expected to investigate the tropical wave in the Central Caribbean during the day on Friday. On top of these disturbances, there are several more yet to enter the Atlantic.
Regardless of the fact that nothing of significance has formed, the increase in activity in this region of the world is an indication that we still have a long way to go before Atlantic Hurricane Season ends in November. Approximately, three-fourths of all tropical storms and hurricanes occur during the months of August to October each year. So, if we haven't done so already, we should be making the necessary preparations in the event something does form.
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Summarizing the 2003 Atlantic Hurricane Season as of the time of this report, we have had already five named storms, and two hurricanes including Hurricane Claudette, which was nearly a Category Two Hurricane prior to landfall. In addition, there have been also three tropical depressions: Tropical Depression Two, Tropical Depression Six, and Tropical Depression Seven.
According to the Monthly Summary for July 2003 by NOAA, an average year would have seen only 1.6 named storms, and 0.6 hurricanes by the end of July. Meanwhile, forecasters at NOAA have indicated that the 2003 season will be above average with between 12 to 15 named storms, 7 to 9 named storms, and 3 to 4 hurricanes, which is slightly higher than what they forecasted in May, 2003. Slightly in contrast, Dr. William Gray and his team of forecasters were not as optimistic.
Although their numbers for named storms (14), hurricanes (8), and major hurricanes (3), were the same as earlier in the year, Gray's forecast lowered its net tropical activity rating from to 120 from 145. Finally, NEMAS, which issued its first ever seasonal hurricane forecast, projected 15 named storms, 10 hurricanes, and 5 hurricanes in an above average year.
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