Vital Nature: High-strung seas

On May 23 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center forecasted an “active,” or “extremely active” hurricane season this year, which begins June 1. During the upcoming six-month hurricane season, forecasters anticipate a “70 percent likelihood” of 13 to 20 named storms arising, which consist of winds exceeding 39 mph. Of those, 7 to 11 could whirl into hurricanes, consist of winds that travel 74 mph or higher. The announcement also predicted that up to 6 major hurricanes with winds surpassing 111 mph will be included; the previous seasonal average is 3. These ranges are far above normal, and are likely the result of three ruling climate factors.

Hurricane formation. Water temperatures have been warmer than average in the tropical parts of the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, which adds to the risk of whirlpool development. There has also been a strong West African monsoon, which has been responsible for the persistent high Atlantic hurricane activity since 1995. If these current atmospheric climate patterns persist, we can expect them to catalyze drastic hurricanes.

As alarming as the predictions may be, the NOAA stresses that they are merely predictions and they cannot definitely proclaim how many hurricanes will end up hitting US soil. The NOAA urges citizens to become prepared and aware of the circumstances they may face. The seasonal hurricane outlook is not a hurricane landfall forecast because it cannot strategically predict how many storms there will be and where they will likely strike land. Forecasts for individual storms and their impacts will become available throughout the season by NOAA’s National Hurricane Center.

Within the report posted on NOAA’s news site, Kathryn Sullican, NOAA acting administrator, was quoted, “With the devastation of Sandy fresh in our minds, and another active season predicted, everyone at NOAA is committed to providing life-saving forecasts in the face of these storms and ensuring that Americans are prepared and ready ahead of time.” Hurricane Sandy, deemed a tropical storm, caused around $50 billion in damage, and took the lives of more than 100 people. “As we saw first-hand with Sandy, it’s important to remember that tropical storm and hurricane impacts are not limited to the coastline. Strong winds, torrential rain, flooding, and tornadoes often threaten inland areas far from where the storm first makes landfall.”

“The start of hurricane season is a reminder that our families, businesses and communities need to be ready for the next big storm,” Joe Nimmich, FEMA associate administrator for Response and Recovery was quoted on NOAA’s site. “Preparedness today can make a big difference down the line, so update your family emergency plan and make sure your emergency kit is stocked. Learn more about how you can prepare for hurricane season at”