Chris Crumbles -- NOAA Backpedals Home > Chris Crumbles -- NOAA Backpedals
Our "storm meister" is Cruise Critic senior contributor Steve Faber, who, like many of our members, also happens to live in the "zone." Steve came to the study of meteorology out of necessity, learning the skills out of an aversion to death and dismemberment -- his own! For years he was a private pilot with ratings in single engine, instruments and gliders, and for those endeavors understanding weather is a basic survival skill.... More
Chris, the tropical storm that formed in an eye blink, disappeared as quickly and as suddenly as it had formed. The culprit was not the mountainous northern coast of Cuba, but rather unrelenting wind shear, which tore the storm apart and prevented it from organizing into a stable closed circulation (that typical spinning spiral shape we've all seen in satellite photography). Chris was sandwiched between two low pressure systems, one in front and one behind, which acted like twin eggbeater blades.
On Tuesday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration held a news conference and announced that they were revising their predictions for the 2006 season downward -- slightly. The revised predictions are: 12 - 15 named storms (vs. 13 - 16), 7 - 9 hurricanes (vs. 8 - 10) of which 3 - 4 will be Category 3 or greater (vs. 4 - 6). Was the Tuesday media event a bit of Monday morning quarterbacking? Well, perhaps a bit, but it also gave NOAA meteorologists an opportunity to reiterate that they still predict the upcoming season to be more active than normal, and to explain why this year's storm generation is falling behind last year's pace.
The first factor, according to Dr. Gerry Bell, NOAA's lead seasonal hurricane forecaster, is the dissipation of the La Niña condition in the Eastern Pacific. In a La Niña year the waters in the Eastern Pacific are cooler than normal, and, though the mechanism is complex, the net result is an increase in the number and severity of tropical disturbances in the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. The closer Eastern Pacific temperatures are to the norm, the closer to normal the Atlantic hurricane season will be.
This year, as well, has thus far seen an Atlantic basin less conducive to tropical development due to greater wind shear. This condition is created by the presence of two resident low pressure systems over the Carolinas and Bermuda in lieu of the typical "Bermuda High," which helps tropical development and creates steering currents that nudge tropical storms toward the U. S. mainland.
Lastly, though sea temperatures in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico reached their typical maximum earlier than normal, the Western Atlantic stayed cooler longer this year, and is well shy of the water temperatures in the region during July 2005.
Doing the Numbers
NOAA is quick to point out what I have been cautioning since the first numbers came in this season: we are still above normal in frequency of tropical storm development. During the 52 years ending 1996, our status as of July 31 (three named storms, no hurricanes) isn't reached until August 21. Last year, by July 31, we had seven named storms, of which three were hurricanes, and of course, two were majors. During the period of June 1 - July 31, over the 10 years ending 2005, we have experienced an average of 2.3 named storms, of which 1.2 were hurricanes, and, of those, 0.4 were majors.
We are above average so far in named storms, and below average in hurricanes.