August 20, 2010

Hurricane Season Expected To Heat Up

A global pattern helping cool down the tropics has eased -- and storms are almost certainly on the way, experts say.

Hope you enjoyed the calm before the storms. Because hurricane experts say they are almost certainly on the way -- possibly in bunches. The brief reprieve offered by an unexpectedly stable global pattern has expired, right in time for what, starting Friday, has historically been the hottest stretch of hurricane season.

``Aug. 20 is that one day when we say the bell tolls,'' said Todd Kimberlain, a hurricane specialist with the National Hurricane Center. `It's right around the time when we see this huge ramp-up.'' How huge, no one can say for sure. Early in August, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration slightly reduced its seasonal forecast but still stressed that all the atmospheric conditions were there to brew an above-average season: 18 to 20 named storms and 10 to 12 hurricanes, five to six of those Category Three or stronger.

Joe Bastardi, a hurricane expert for, believes 2010 can still live up to its billing, with potential for ``an upcoming frenzy of storms, days with two or three storms on the chart.'' Bastardi, in his preseason forecast, predicted as many as eight storms making U.S. landfall. So far, Hurricane Alex hit Mexico and brushed Texas and Tropical Storm Bonnie blew mildly across South Florida before dissipating in the Gulf of Mexico. Bastardi said the year is shaping up like past ones that ``all of a sudden, whack, right through the roof it goes. The overall pattern is setting up very much like years when the U.S. coastline got hit.''

NOAA doesn't predict where storms will hit, but the agency's forecast noted that in previous above-normal seasons there was a 90 percent change of a hurricane strike along the East Coast and an 80 percent chance of a Gulf Coast landfall. The odds of multiple strikes also go up during active years as do risks for Caribbean countries.

Stanley Goldenberg, a meteorologist in the hurricane research division of NOAA's Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory on Key Biscayne, said it's not unusual for a season to start slow or average, then explode. “People in June and July, they'll come up to me and say, `Oh, it's really been a dead year so far.’ I say, `It's not August yet. Just wait.' '' Goldenberg said conditions remain `ripe'' for tropical waves rolling off the West African coast to blow up into what experts call ``Cape Verde'' hurricanes. Hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, but the first two months typically produce only a few storms.

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