Will Hurricanes Hit the Mexican Riviera?

May 28, 2007
Planning a Mexican Riviera cruise this summer? The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has issued an official forecast prediction for the East Pacific hurricane season. The NOAA's 2007 outlook calls for a 70 percent chance of below-normal activity and 12 to 16 tropical storms, of which 6 to 9 are expected to become hurricanes, including 2 to 4 major hurricanes (Category Three strength or higher); an average season nets 15 or 16 tropical storms, with 9 hurricanes.

In the past, the East Pacific hurricane season has garnered 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. As we saw last year, however, a few turn back toward Mexico's Pacific Coast. Remember last year's Category Two John, which barely spared Cabo San Lucas? Cruise ports such as Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas and Puntarenas have suffered more serious storm damage in the past.

The East Pacific hurricane season began on May 15 (two weeks earlier than the Atlantic season that starts on June 1) and runs, like the Atlantic season, through November 30. This is only the third year the NOAA has issued an official forecast prediction for the East Pacific hurricane season; 2005 was the first ever.

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, this year's Atlantic forecast is quite grim, which could have something to do with El Nino, the warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean that occurs every few years. In El Nino years, there tend to be fewer summer hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean. But El Nino is over -- and that could encourage more storms, Bill Proenza, head of the National Hurricane Center, told Reuters.

Editor's Note: What about Hawaii? Hurricane experts expect two to three tropical cyclones to occur within the Central Pacific in 2007. 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.

--by Melissa Baldwin, Senior Editor