Could The Fourth Time Be The Charm?

Well, if you are a person living along the coastline of the United States from Maine to Texas, you certainly hope not. So, far this Atlantic Hurricane Season, things have been quite tranquil even by normal standards. Early on, it seemed that things were on par for a above normal season. By the second week of August, there had been at least a named storm in each month of the 2006 Season (June, July, and August). However, with the tranquility of the past couple weeks, and most importantly, no hurricanes, things are pointing toward not only a much less hectic season, but perhaps, an average or below average year.

However, on this late Monday afternoon, there may be a sign that the notorious Cape Verde Season may be finally kicking into gear. As you know, we are entering the peak season for Atlantic Hurricanes. The actual statistical peak is around the date of September 10th. This is the case because of the lag between land temperatures and sea surface temperatures. Even though the sun angle in the Northern Hemisphere sky is changing, and the amount of daylight is decreasing, the ocean has the ability to retain more heat so the Atlantic, which has been baking under the warmth of the tropical sun, is now reaching is peak temperature while land peak temperatures occur earlier on in the summer solstice. Bottom line, we now have to look at tropical disturbances much farther east.

And despite being a bit behind schedule, we now have a very vigorous tropical wave moving off the African coast, and moving westward toward the Cape Verde Islands. Last week, there was a similar wave in the Eastern Atlantic, but it fizzled out quickly after hitting the cooler waters there. This impressive wave, which had been more impressive than the one last week (and that was the best wave of the season to that point!) has now become a tropical depression, only the fourth of the 2006 season. Winds are presently sustained at 35 mph while pressure has dropped to 1007 mb as the tropical system heads to the West-Northwest at 12 mph, or about 250 miles Southeast of the Southernmost island in the remote island chain.

The significance of this depression developing near the Cape Verde Islands is very important because many of the tropical systems that emerge in this part of the world usually become the devastating killer storms such as Andrew, Gilbert, Hugo, Gloria, the Long Island Express, the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, and so many more. This season has been somewhat dormant by recent standards. The past twelve seasons of activity have been in a realm without equal, and that puts even more emphasis on the dormancy that has occurred thus far.

Since the very end of the 1994 season, when there were two named storms that particular month, the only season, which was below average was the 1997 season, where there were only eight named storms, three hurricanes, and one major hurricane. The 1997 season occurred in the midst of the strongest El Nino to date. With the recent dearth in activity throughout the Atlantic Basin, it has raised the question of whether or not, we have entered an El Nino phase. While the Atlantic has been tranquil, the Eastern and Western Pacific has seen a great deal of storms. Recently, China saw its worst typhoon in 50 years while seven others have also hit the Communist mainland. Over in the Eastern Pacific, Tropical Storm Hector was once a hurricane, and another disturbance has become the ninth named storm of 2006 in Ileana.

Usually when there is a lot of activity in the Eastern Pacific, there is little activity in the Atlantic, and vice versa. Last season, there were a good deal of storms in the Eastern Pacific, but it was still below average by that basin’s standards. Meanwhile, the Atlantic had its record breaking season in 2005 with 27 named storms, 15 hurricanes, 7 major hurricanes, and 4 Category Five Hurricanes according to the Saffir-Simpson Scale. On the other hand, in 1997 while the Atlantic was relatively dormant by recent standards, the Eastern Pacific had a very busy season with a number of powerful storms including Enrique, Felicia, Guillermo, Linda, Nora, Pauline, and Rick. Hurricanes Linda and Nora threatened the West Coast of the United States at one point that year. The last time that happened was in 1939 when a tropical cyclone hit Southern California.

This relationship in activity between the Eastern Pacific and the Atlantic is not coincidental. The reason for that is kind of similar to the idea of of troughs and ridges across the continental United States. Usually, when you have a ridge in the Western portion of the U.S., there is usually a trough in the East while a ridge in the Eastern U.S. usually means a ridge in the West. With hurricanes, you have outflow, where energy generated by these ocean monsters are exhausted out of the top of the system. The exhausts from say an Eastern Pacific hurricane head eastward across Mexico into the Atlantic side, and create hostile upper level conditions in the Atlantic. Consquently, storms, especially in formative stages struggle to mature into hurricanes.

There is a very long way to go for this current depression in the Atlantic. Well out in the Far-Eastern Atlantic, the depression is at least a week or so away from threatening the United States, and while it is out over open water, upper level conditions, and pressures, which have hampered development thus far in ’06, will play a pivotal role ni what kind of lifetime this tropical cyclone will have.


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One response to “Could The Fourth Time Be The Charm?”

  1. […] Well, as usual I’ve been away with other things over the past week. The lull in the Atlantic has a lot to do with it. However, I usually try to at least post some articles by this time. Thank goodness for the blog. Hopefully, this latest tropical depression that formed near the Cape Verde Islands late Monday afternoon will finally get the hurricane blood flowing through my veins again. Speaking of the Cape Verde Islands, when was the last time there has been a Tropical Storm Warning issued for the Cape Verdes? I know that many of the powerful and classic hurricanes form in that part of the world, but they usually don’t issue any warnings for those areas. […]