The US could be hit by eight hurricanes before December as experts predict a storm surge following the end of El Niño
- An average six-month hurricane season would produce six hurricanes in total
- Experts warn that above-average activity is more likely than forecast in May
- This year has seen two named storms already including a category 1 hurricane
- The peak of hurricane season typically runs from August to October each year
Up to eight more hurricanes could strike the US this season, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is now warning.
This would represent a greater-than-normal level of activity, with six hurricanes being typical of an average six-month hurricane season.
To date there have been two named storms this season — Subtropical Storm Andrea, which lasted from May 20–21, and Hurricane Barry of July 11–15, which hit Louisiana.
A spike in storms is set to follow the recent end of El Niño, the abnormal weather patterns which typically acts to suppress hurricane activity by increasing wind shear.
The peak of the hurricane season is expected to run from August—October but the six-month hurricane season will end on November 30.
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Up to nine hurricanes could strike the US this season, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is now warning. Pictured, Hurricane Barry as viewed from orbit on July 13, 2019
WHAT IS EL NINO?
El Niño is caused by a shift in the distribution of warm water in the Pacific Ocean around the equator.
Usually the wind blows strongly from east to west, due to the rotation of the Earth, causing water to pile up in the western part of the Pacific.
This pulls up colder water from the deep ocean in the eastern Pacific.
However, in an El Niño, the winds pushing the water get weaker and cause the warmer water to shift back towards the east. This causes the eastern Pacific to get warmer.
But as the ocean temperature is linked to the wind currents, this causes the winds to grow weaker still and so the ocean grows warmer, meaning the El Niño grows.
This change in air and ocean currents around the equator can have a major impact on the weather patterns around the globe by creating pressure anomalies in the atmosphere.
NOAA forecasters now believe the likelihood of above-normal activity in this year’s hurricane season stands at 45 per cent — an increase from the 30 per cent they had predicted back in May.
The predicted chance of near-normal activity this season has been estimated at 35 per cent, while the odds of below-normal activity has fallen to 20 per cent.
Experts anticipate 10–17 named storms with winds over 39 mph across the season. Of these, 5–9 will be hurricanes with winds of 74 mph or higher, with 2–4 reaching major hurricane level and winds of 111 mph or more.
‘El Niño typically suppresses Atlantic hurricane activity but now that it’s gone, we could see a busier season ahead,’ said NOAA Climate Prediction Center hurricane forecaster Gerry Bell.
‘This evolution, combined with the more conducive conditions associated with the ongoing high-activity era for Atlantic hurricanes that began in 1995, increases the likelihood of above-normal activity this year.’
The conditions causing this longer period of heightened activity include the stronger West African monsoon, weaker wind shear across the tropical Atlantic and wind patterns from across the coast of Africa.
In a typical year, the Atlantic hurricane season produces 12 named storms — of these, six will usually become hurricanes, three of which will be major.
The NOAA’s hurricane outlook focuses on overall seasonal activity — and does not consider the likelihood of storms hitting land.
Whether or not a hurricane actually makes landfall is primarily determined by short-term weather patterns — which can only be predicted within around a week of the storm potentially reaching a coastline.
‘NOAA will continue to deliver the information that the public depends on before, during and after any storms throughout the hurricane season,’ said acting NOAA administrator Neil Jacobs.
‘Armed with our next-generation satellites, sophisticated weather models, hurricane hunter aircraft, and the expertise of our forecasters, we are prepared to keep communities informed to help save lives and livelihoods.’
In a typical year, the Atlantic hurricane season produces 12 named storms — of these, six will usually become hurricanes, three of which will be major
To date there have been two named storms this season — Subtropical Storm Andrea, which lasted from May 20–21, and Hurricane Barry of July 11–15
‘Today’s updated outlook is a reminder to be prepared,’ said US Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Pete Gaynor.
‘We urge everyone to learn more about hurricane hazards and prepare now.’
It is important, he added, ‘that if state and local authorities announce evacuations in advance of a storm, you and your family will have planned where to go and what to do to stay safe.’
HOW CAN YOU PREPARE FOR FLOODING?
Flooding can occur anywhere in the United States.
The Department of Homeland Security says it is particularly important to be prepared for flooding if you live in an area that is close to water, including in regions close to a stream, river, culvert or ocean, or if you live downstream from a levee or dam.
Flooding can happen during any season, but coastal US territories are more likely to experience it during hurricane season.
Midwestern territories are more likely to experience flooding during spring and periods of heavy summer rain.
The following are basic tips for surviving flooding:
- Do not walk or drive through flooded areas.
- Do not drive across bridges spanning floodwaters that are fast moving. Floodwaters can destabilize bridges.
- Move to higher ground when a risk of flash flooding is announced.
- During periods of heavy rainfall do not camp or park close to streams, creeks or rivers.