The official hurricane season began Thursday in the Atlantic basin with forecasts indicating that the number of cyclones may be within the average and the unknown of how it will affect the presence of the El Niño weather phenomenon.
After five years of absence, El Niño is going to develop in the Pacific from now on and continue “quite pronounced” for the rest of the year, Anthony Reynes, a meteorologist with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), on which the National Hurricane Center (NHC) depends, told EFE.
In general, that means “atmospheric conditions that become less favorable for cyclones to develop (in the Atlantic), not only for their formation, but for them to maintain a higher intensity during the season,” he adds.
That is a reason for hope for the inhabitants of the Caribbean coastal countries, the Bahamas, Bermuda and the southern and southeastern states of the U.S., which spend six months awaiting weather bulletins and have suffered very active seasons in the last five years.
The 2020 season set an all-time record with 30 named storms, 14 of which became hurricanes, and of these, seven were major hurricanes, i.e., with maximum winds of 111 mph or more, equivalent to 178 km/h (178 km/h).
EL NIÑO ON THE THRESHOLD
The Atlantic hurricane season starts this June 1 and runs until November 30 and NOAA has forecast that this year there will be at least 12 named storms, of which between 5 and 9 will become hurricanes and of these one could be a major hurricane.
There is a 40% chance of a “near-normal” season, a 30% chance of an above-normal season and a 30% chance of a below-normal season, according to NOAA.
Reynes believes that El Niño may contribute to a near-normal or even a below-normal season, but cautions that this view is based on statistics and projections rather than “hard data.”
El Niño tends to produce an increase in Pacific temperatures in the tropical area, near the equator, and “that increase, although in terms of numbers it is not very large, has an important impact on the atmosphere”.
“This changes the wind pattern and, in general, it means that here, in the Atlantic area, we can have winds in the upper levels of the atmosphere that become less favorable for the development of cyclones,” he says.
The meteorologist indicated that, in any case, the important thing for the beginning of the season is that people are prepared for what may come.
DO NOT BE AFRAID ONLY OF THE WIND
In this sense, Reynes called on the population that when a storm or hurricane is announced, they should not only pay attention to the forecasts of the force that its winds will reach, but also to those that refer to rain and storm surge, which can be equally or even more dangerous.
“We have to start changing the mindset of the general public so that they stop being focused on the wind scale,” he stresses to point out that Hurricane Ian, which devastated a large area of Florida in 2022 with its catastrophic storm surge, left an important lesson.
“If you are in an evacuation area, if you are exposed to the danger of a storm surge, leave your home and follow all instructions from the authorities so that you and your family are saved,” Reynes says.
Ian made landfall on September 28 in southwest Florida with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph (250 km/h) and a storm surge of 17 to 20 feet (5.1 to 6 meters).
Of the 156 people who died as a result of the passage of this hurricane, which before the U.S. made landfall in Cuba, 55 drowned due to the rising sea level, which entered the land and swept everything away.