Eastern Pacific Quite Busy As Well So Far In 2008

While some believe that the Atlantic has gotten off to a fast start with 8 named storms, 3 hurricanes, and a major hurricane so far in 2008, the Eastern Pacific has had its share of activity too. Now, it is true that the EPAC season has a bit of a jump on the Atlantic every year since the season in the Eastern Pacific basin starts two weeks earlier on May 15th while the Atlantic’s starts on June 1st to coincide with the beginning of meteorological summer. However, like the Atlantic, the East PAC is still on target for having an active year as well.

Coming into today, August 29th, there have been a total of 11 tropical depressions, 10 named storms, 5 hurricanes, and one major hurricane of Category Three Strength or better on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. Of the four other hurricanes, two of them, Elida and Fausto became Category Two storms with winds of 100 miles per hour, or greater. The first named storm of the season, Alma, did not come until almost two weeks after the season started, and actually several days before Arthur emerged in the Atlantic to begin the season there.

The most recent storm, Julio was a tropical storm with winds of 50 mile per hour winds as it threatened the Baja Peninsula region of Western Mexico over the past week. The strongest storm of the season in the Eastern Pacific Basin has been, Hurricane Hernan, the only major storm of the year with maximum sustained winds at one point reaching 120 miles per hour on the afternoon of August 9th. Usually when there is a busy season in the Eastern Pacific, there is not a lot of activity in the Atlantic. Recent hurricane seasons of 1997 and 2006 are examples of this. Both of these seasons coincided with El Nino conditions, which bring warmer than normal sea surface temperatures to the EPAC, and hostile upper level conditions in the Atlantic.

On the other hand, when conditions in the Atlantic are active like they’ve been for the majority of the past 14 seasons (1995-2008), things are usually quiet or below average in the Eastern Pacific. Usually, when there is a lot of activity in one region, there is not a lot in the other. The reason why things are so quiet in the Atlantic when they are so busy in the Eastern Pacific is because the storms that form in the Eastern Pacific usually come ashore, and head eastward into the Atlantic basin, which creates shearing winds and unfavorable upper level dynamics in the region that prevents tropical storms and hurricanes from developing. On the other hand, the Atlantic usually becomes very active and the Eastern Pacific is quiet when there is a La Nina.

During La Nina, sea surface temperatures in the Eastern Pacific become cooler than normal, which hinders the development of tropical systems there, and helps storms and hurricanes flourish in the Atlantic since there are no storms coming across Mexico into the basin with hostile upper level winds to shear fledgling tropical storms apart. Both the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific seasons end on November 30th so we still have several months to see whether or not, the EPAC will finish above average.