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
Last week we compared this Atlantic season through August with the norm, last year's and the 10-year average, concluding that we are earlier than the norm for the number of named storms, but late on both number of hurricanes and number of major hurricanes.
It's a different story in the Eastern Pacific Basin. At the end of August, there were 11 named storms; seven ultimately became hurricanes, of which four were Category 3 or greater. This is a particularly active season on the West Coast. Averaged over the 30 years from 1966 - 1996, we normally expect to reach 11 named storms by September 5, seven hurricanes by September 17, and four majors by October 29. By the end of August last year, the numbers were nine named storms, three hurricanes and zero majors.
Hmmmm. Last year: severe Atlantic season; mild Pacific season. This year (so far): mild Atlantic season; severe Pacific season. So, could there be a connection?
Perhaps. In another meteorological mid-course correction, NOAA meteorologist, Vernon Kousky, says that this year there has been a late-blooming El Nino condition in the Pacific. As I have pointed out before, an El Nino year is one in which there are warmer than normal water temperatures in the tropical Pacific, resulting in warmer, stormier winters in North America, but also in a milder Atlantic Hurricane season. Kousky claims that scientists were caught by surprise as this year's El Nino didn't begin until late August or early September, rather than in the spring.
To his credit, he didn't say that the dog ate his weather maps.
So, is there a direct connection? Possibly. There appears to be a loose correlation, but I'll have to do more analysis and update my findings for a later column. But, take a look at this chart of season totals for major hurricanes:
Based on these data, over the last 10 years the trends in the Atlantic and Pacific numbers of major hurricanes have moved in different directions seven times versus three times they've moved in concert. That is to say, on seasons in the Atlantic that have seen increases in number over the prior year, the number in the Pacific has moved either down or stayed flat. That adds up to a 70 percent correlation.