Monday, August 3, 2009

August hurricane outlook

From Wunder Blog:
The Atlantic remains quiet today, with no threat areas to discuss and no models calling for tropical storm formation over the seven days. Not much has changed in the Atlantic since my mid-July Atlantic hurricane outlook posted two weeks ago. However, we are now at the cusp of when hurricane activity begins a steep rise (Figure 1). Early August is typically when wind shear begins a major decline, sea surface temperatures continue to rise, African dust and dry air outbreaks diminish, and the African Monsoon and Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) become quite active, spawning frequent and powerful tropical waves. These tropical waves serve as the instigators of about 85% of all major hurricanes.

Since the current active hurricane period began in 1995, ten out of fourteen years (71%) have had a named storm form during the first half of August, with an average of 1.4 named storms per year. The last nine years in a row have had a named storm form during the first half of August, but the previous four year stretch (1996 - 1999), did not have any storms form.

Figure 1. The seasonal distribution of Atlantic hurricane activity shows a steep rise at the beginning of August. Image credit: NHC.

Sea Surface Temperatures
Eighty-five percent of all major hurricanes form in the Main Development Region (MDR) of the Atlantic, from the coast of Africa to the coast of Central America, between 10° and 20° latitude. This region also spawns 60% of all weaker hurricanes and tropical storms. Sea Surface Temperature (SST) anomalies in the MDR have slowly but steadily risen during July, and now stand at a respectable 0.5°C (0.9°F) above average (Figure 2). SSTs are well below the record levels observed in 2005 and 2006, when they were up to 2°C above average over large portions of the Main Development Region. Still, there is plenty of heat energy available for strong hurricanes to form this year. The strength of the Azores-Bermuda high has been below average over the past month, driving below average trade winds. Weaker trade winds don't mix up as much cold water from the depths, and cause less evaporative cooling. The latest 2-week run of the GFS model predicts continued slightly below average-strength trade winds through mid-August, so SST anomalies should continue to warm during this period.

Figure 2. Sea Surface Temperature (SST) departure from average for July 30, 2009. SSTs were about 0.5°C (0.9°F) above average over the tropical Atlantic's Main Development region for hurricanes, from Africa to Central America between 10° and 20° North Latitude. Note the large region of above average SSTs along the Equatorial Pacific off the coast of South America, the hallmark of an El Niño episode. Image credit: NOAA/NESDIS

El Niño
El Niño conditions have remained steady over the tropical Eastern Pacific over the past month....MORE