Could Hurricane Irene Have Been A Harbinger Of Things To Come?

Sea Surface Temperatures Off East Coast Of U.S. And Canada Remain Warmer Than Normal

Over a year has past since Hurricane Irene rolled up the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern coastline of the United States. While the storm caused considerable damage, and ended up being the seventh costliest hurricane on record in the U.S., it could have been far worse. Irene had a lot of things going for it at the time. Among them were sea surface temperatures, which usually run in the lower 70s off the Jersey shore, were running into the upper 70s.

Fortunately, dry air became entrenched in the storm, and prevented it from coming into the New York Metropolitan area as a strong Category Two storm or worse. However, Irene could be a sign of things to come for New Jersey. Twelve months after Irene, sea surface temperatures along the Jersey coast are running from the upper 70s to low 80s. Remember, tropical storms and hurricanes are energized by warm water that is 80 degrees fahrenheit, or 27 degrees celsius, or warmer.

The unusually warm water has been great for those journeying to the coastal towns in New Jersey. It has also been a curse for fishermen, and others who live off the sea. According to a recent article by Stephen Stirling of the Star-Ledger, Warmer waters have caused migration of fish into the area that have never been in this region before. Other fish that are more familiar in these parts such as fluke have moved further north. Meanwhile, in places such as Maine and Canada, Lobster harvests have been more than abundant, which has caused a drop in price for the very popular seafood, and that has made it difficult for lobstermen to make a profit.

Here at Hurricaneville though, the concern is about tropical storms and hurricanes. Warmer waters along the Jersey coast means more powerful storms and hurricanes being able to maintain themselves longer, and further north. Last year, the Garden State dodged a bullet with Hurricane Irene, and is still long overdue for a powerful hurricane of Category Two strength or better. Recently, Rick Schwartz of Mid-Atlantic indicated in his monthly column that the entire Mid-Atlantic from Virginia to New Jersey has been long overdue for a powerful land hurricane similar to Hurricane Hazel back in October 1954.

Climatologically, the region is due for a significant storm that can bring hurricane force wind gusts of 75 to 90 miles per hour east of the eye of the storm with some gusts reaching 100 miles per hour and between 50 and 75 miles per hour west of the eye. About every 57 to 58 years, a Category Three or Four storm has done this in the Mid-Atlantic going back to 1667, and that is originate in the Caribbean Sea, make landfall in North Carolina, and then pound the Mid-Atlantic region. So far in 2012, the East Coast of the United States has gone unscathed to date.

The statistical peak of the season, September 10th, has passed, and even though there have been 14 depressions, 14 named storms, 7 hurricanes, and one major hurricane, only several have made some sort of impact on the United States. Beryl, which made landfall near Jacksonville in late May and Isaac, which hammered Louisiana and Mississippi late last month. Recent storms such as Leslie, Michael, and Nadine have had tracks taking them well away from land. All of that could change with one storm. Like anywhere along our coastline from Maine to Texas, one storm is all it takes to change everything forever.