Today we put the 2006 hurricane season to bed ... though it was so mild compared to 2005's we have to wonder if Mother Nature slept through the whole thing. After all, at this time last year more storms were still on the way -- the season closer, Zeta, formed on December 30 and hung around until January 6. Meanwhile, the last storm we saw this year in the Atlantic was merely number nine, Hurricane Isaac, which dissipated way back on October 2.
Cruise Critic's news team was alive and kicking, though, launching our first-ever Hurricane Zone: the industry's best source for hurricane season cruise travel, updated throughout the season with to-the-minute itinerary changes, port closures and weather advisories. We also introduced From the Desk of the Storm Meister, a weekly column from Senior Contributor Steve Faber -- sailor, pilot and weather guru.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has attributed 2006's tame activity to the rapid return of El Nino, "a periodic warming of the ocean waters in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific, which influences pressure and wind patterns across the tropical Atlantic." Simply put, El Nino reduces hurricane activity in the Atlantic Basin. The NOAA says El Nino conditions are likely to continue into early 2007, but forecasters aren't sure what impact that will have on next year's hurricane season.
According to the NOAA, 2005 was the busiest year on record with 28 storms (27 named and 1 unnamed), 15 of which reached hurricane status.
Read on for more facts and figures from Cruise Critic's hurricane team:
Fewer Atlantic Storms Than Expected: Nine named storms and five hurricanes formed in the Atlantic this season, and just two of the hurricanes -- Gordon and Helene -- were major (Category Three strength or higher). That is considered a "near normal" season, according to the NOAA; back in May, the NOAA called for a "very active" season of 13 to 16 named storms with 8 to 10 becoming hurricanes and four to six becoming major hurricanes.
No Hurricanes Strike U.S. in 2006: The hurricane season has ended without a single hurricane striking the United States. Only two systems, Tropical Storms Alberto and Ernesto, hit the U.S. mainland in 2006, and neither caused significant damage. In 2005, four hurricanes hit the U.S., including the devastating Hurricane Katrina.
Heightened Activity in the Pacific: The East Pacific season, on the other hand, gave Mexican Riviera cruisers a run for their money. Ten hurricanes formed in total, and Baja and Mexican Riviera ports had several near-misses with John, Lane, Paul and Sergio. Unlike the Atlantic hurricane season, storm formation in this region exceeded initial forecasts: The NOAA predicted a below-average year: 12 to 6 tropical storms, with 6 to 8 hurricanes.
Note: Historically, when the Atlantic experiences above-normal seasonal activity, the Pacific tends to experience below-normal seasonal activity and vice versa.
Impact on Cruising: Even with the Atlantic season paling in comparison to last year's, "better safe than sorry" was the motto for many ports of call and cruise lines, and sailings in the Caribbean as well as the Mexican Riviera were impacted. Royal Caribbean, NCL and Celebrity canceled Bermuda calls immediately after Hurricane Florence, for example; also, Florida homeports shut down as a precaution as Hurricane Ernesto approached. But on the whole cruise lines and cruise ports escaped unscathed.
--by Melissa Baldwin, Senior Editor
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Hurricane Season Officially Ends Today
November 30, 2006