Well, this certainly isn’t the fall of 2005! By this time last year we were up to the 13th named storm: Ophelia, and still in shock over the devastation Katrina left behind. Today, we’re monitoring our sixth named storm of the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season: Florence.
Up until now, this hurricane season has been relatively calm. The hurricane forecasters are even downgrading their predictions for this year, despite the fact that we are into a very busy tropical cycle (tropical activity goes in cycles over periods of 20-30 years). One of the main reasons for the decreased number of storms is the amount of wind shear that’s been whipping around in the Atlantic. Wind shear is the change in wind speed or direction from the upper levels of the atmosphere that can tear up tropical storms as they are trying to get their “act together.”
There are also other reasons. The sea surface temps in the Atlantic are a degree or two cooler than last year (but still warmer than average). Warm water is what fuels these storms, and it has to be the right temperature for the tropics to fire up. Throw some cooler water in the path of these things, and that can seriously take the wind out of their sails! There has also been a lot of sand blowing off the African Sahara, which, in turn, has also hindered our tropical head count.
September and October is the peak of hurricane season. It’s been pretty quiet up until now, but not unheard of to see rapid storm development in the next four to eight weeks. And remember: the official season isn't over until the end of November!
I hope this country never sees another hurricane like Katrina. Unfortunately, that’s probably not the case. We can, however, learn from events like Katrina. It’s so important if you live anywhere in the path of a hurricane-prone region (anywhere along the east coast, or Gulf of Mexico) to have a plan in place before the hurricane season even starts. Preparation is the key to saving lives. Here is a link to NOAA’s excellent Hurricane Preparedness package that everyone should have handy:
Let’s hope that this season continues to remain quiet, but also, as we remember Katrina, let's not become complacent. As Dr. Max Mayfield (director of the National Hurricane Center) says:
"It takes just one hurricane over your house to make for a bad year."
My thoughts and prayers continue to be with those who have lost their homes and loved ones by these powerful forces of nature.
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Janice Dean is senior meteorologist for Fox News Channel. She is author of two children's books about weather. Her latest is "Freddy the Frogcaster and the Terrible Tornado" (Regnery 2016). Click here for more information on Janice Dean.