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Nov 30, 2016

What Caused Above-Average 2016 Hurricane Season?

It’s the thirtieth of November and it is a day when a lot of people let out a sigh of relief- particularly those who live in low lying areas and along the coast. It is the end of the 2016 Atlantic Hurricane Season- one that has been above normal and went as predicted.  Belize didn’t experience a lot of storms, but we did get the category one Hurricane back in August. While Earl was only a category one the damage and destruction was in the millions for Belize. Today, we spoke with the newly installed acting Chief Met officer Catherine Cumberbatch. She told us what contributed to the above normal season and why you should always be prepared despite that it is the end of the Hurricane season.

 

Catherine Cumberbatch

Catherine Cumberbatch, Acting Chief Meteorologist

“We usually, a forecast is issued, and what the Hurricane Season would likely be. And that forecast was for above normal. I must say, Andrea, the 2016 Atlantic Basin Hurricane Season did turn out to be above normal. We had fifteen named storms and of the fifteen named storms, seven of them became hurricanes and three of them were major hurricanes; meaning they were three or category three and greater on the Saffir- Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. The strongest system for the season, or the biggest system for the season was Hurricane Matthew and that winds of 165 miles which was a category five and had maximum central pressure that was nine hundred and thirty-four millibars. So, that is how the season looked. It was above normal as was forecasted. As you look back on our country Belize, of the fifteen named storms that formed during the season, Belize was unfortunate to be affected by one of those storms. Everyone could recall Hurricane Earl that impacted and crossed the country on August third. It was only a category one, but Earl left a trail of destruction to the agriculture and tourism industry.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Is there anything that we can attribute to that “above normal” season.  I believe in the previous Hurricane Season when we spoke with Chief Met Gonguez- then- he had said that El Nino was a major contributor to that?”

 

Catherine Cumberbatch

“Ok. Yes, Andrea. There were three basic main factors that contributed to the above normal 2016 Hurricane Season. One was the above warmer than normal sea surface temperature. Two was (ACE)- the Accumulated Cyclone Energy which was way above normal and third factor was the same transition from the El Nino to neutral La Nina condition. Those were the three major influence on the 2016 Hurricane Season. As we all know, in the transition phase from the El Nino to neutral La Nino condition, what it does for us in this season here in the Caribbean, it caused the wind share to be much weaker and a weaker wind share in our region usually gives way to more organized condition in the region and this would usually lead to a more higher cyclone activity.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“The season is over- people might say I don’t have to worry again until June first – but I know normally you’d still advise to have your plans in place; so what advice would you give to the public?”

 

Catherine Cumberbatch

“Although, Andrea, the season is over, history teaches us that these systems can form outside of the season. A typical example of that was in January of 2016 when we had Tropical Storm Alex that formed in the North Eastern Atlantic. So, what my advice to all Belizeans is to go over your Hurricane plan and see what are your shortfalls and weaknesses, so that if the situation arises in 2017 you will be even better prepared. That is my request to all Belizeans.”

 

Cumberbatch said that the Met Service remains committed to providing updated weather information in a timely manner, despite not being in the Hurricane Season. In the case of any weather related emergency event, the people of Belize will be informed.

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