The 2001 Atlantic Hurricane Season ended with quite a flurry of activity with seven named storms, and five hurricanes over the last two months of the season. Dr. William Gray indicated in December, 2001 that there would be another active season in 2002 with 13 named storms, 8 hurricanes, and 4 major hurricanes.
However, in recent months the sea surface temperatures in the Eastern and Central Pacific have been warming up feeding fears that another El Nino is upon us. While this particular episode of the El Nino doesn't seem to be as strong as the one in 1997 and 1998, but it has forced Dr. Gray to revise his numbers slightly.
The El Nino is starting to act up again in the Pacific this year. A weather phenomenon that affects various elements of global weather patterns including hurricane activity in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific, seems to be developing again. Recent reports have indicated that the sea surface temperatures in the Eastern and Central Pacific have risen, and a moderate episode is back on the way.
This episode isn't expected to be as powerful as the one that ended in early 1998, but that didn't stop Dr. Gray from changing his numbers slightly. In December, 2001, Gray predicted that there would be 13 storms, 8 hurricanes, and 4 major hurricanes. Now, he has lowered them to 12 named storms, 7 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes. The El Nino episode now appears to be much stronger than earlier anticipated, but it is not expected to hinder the development of hurricanes.
What the El Nino phenomenon does is create hostile upper level winds in the atmosphere that blow across from the Pacific into the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Basin. These upper level winds will tear the "vertically stacked" clouds of a hurricane apart, and that prevents a hurricane from developing.
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Back in December, 2001, Gray indicated that this year's forecast was going to be another active season. The reason for the optimistic forecast was due to the fact that the El Nino didn't appear to be as strong as it is now. However, over the past few months, conditions have become much more favorable for a stronger than originally thought El Nino.
As a result, Dr. William Gray of Colorado State has slightly lowered his expectations for the 2002 Atlantic Hurricane Season. However, Dr. Gray's numbers are still much higher than the average numbers of 9.3 named storms, 5.8 hurricanes, and 2.2 major hurricanes that have accumulated over the past 42 years. Forecasters strongly urge those living in hurricane prone areas not to just pay attention to the numbers.
They give that admonishment because in relatively inactive hurricane seasons such as 1900, 1935, and 1992, we've seen powerful, catastrophic, and deadly hurricanes form such as the Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900, the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, and Hurricane Andrew. More importantly, researchers stress that the last seven years have been a beginning of a cycle of increased activity for the next several decades. The period of 1995 to 2001 has already been the most active on record.
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The Atlantic Hurricane Season begins on June 1st every year, and lasts until November 30th. The Atlantic Basin consists of the North Atlantic from the West Coast of Africa to the East Coast of the United States, the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. The number of named storms, hurricanes, and major hurricanes have been up over the past six years as there have been an average of 13 named storms, 8 hurricanes, and 4 major hurricanes.
This has come about due to the La Nina, which is a phenomena that develops when sea surface temperatures in the Eastern and Central Pacific are cooler than normal. This anomaly changes the global weather patterns including making the upper level wind patterns more favorable toward tropical storm and hurricane development in the Atlantic Basin.
A moderate El Nino this year has tempered the expected numbers for the upcoming season, but it will still be very active. Despite the increased numbers in the last seven years, only three of the 27 major hurricanes that have formed since 1995 have made landfall (Opal, Georges, and Floyd) so the United States has been fortunate. However, experts including Dr. Gray believe that our luck cannot last for long.
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