Pacific Hurricane Season 2005: NOAA's Official Prediction

May 26, 2005

For the first time ever, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has issued an official forecast prediction for the East Pacific hurricane season. The NOAA's 2005 outlook calls for "a high likelihood of below-normal activity" and 11 to 15 tropical storms, of which six to eight are expected to become hurricanes (a normal season would call for 15 or 16 tropical storms, with nine hurricanes). The East Pacific hurricane season began on May 15 (two weeks earlier than the Atlantic season, which begins June 1) and runs, like the Atlantic season, through November 30.

The East Pacific hurricane season generally garners less attention than the Atlantic season because most hurricanes in this region head away from the Mexican and Central American coasts and fizzle out over the Pacific, thus bearing little to no impact on cruise itineraries. A few, however, turn back toward Mexico's Pacific Coast, and popular resort cities along the Central American coastline; cruise ports such as Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas and Puntarenas have suffered storm damage in the past.

What is interesting to note is that historically, when the Atlantic experiences above-normal seasonal activity, the Pacific tends to experience below-normal seasonal activity and vice versa. Indeed, the Atlantic forecast this year is quite grim.

Still, even though below-normal activity is expected, the season kicked off with a surprise first storm on May 19 -- less than a week after its official start; Hurricane Adrian struck west of El Salvador's capital with maximum winds of almost 75 miles per hour. Adrian is the first hurricane on record to directly hit El Salvador. Nearby Honduras, whose Roatan (bordering the Caribbean Sea) is a port of call on several cruise lines' Caribbean itineraries, experienced some flooding but no major damage.

Whether this storm is a warning of a worse season than initially predicted remains to be seen.

Editor's Note: What about Hawaii? Hurricane experts expect two to three tropical cyclones to occur within the Central Pacific in 2005. Typically, four to five tropical cyclones (one hurricane, two tropical storms and one or two tropical depressions) occur yearly. Although it is rare for a hurricane to hit Hawaii, it has happened.