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Nov 28, 2008

Met Service: more active hurricane seasons to come

Story PictureThe hurricane season of 2008 closes on Sunday November thirtieth and what a season it has been for Belize. It affected the lives of thousands in the Jewel. The season lived up to the predictions of heightened activity. 2008 is considered one of the top ten hurricane seasons and opened with a bang on the first day. Ramon Frutos, Chief Meteorologist, looks back the hurricane activity this year.

Ramon Frutos, Acting Chief Meteorologist
“As we review the hurricane season for 2008, we must say it was an unprecedented hurricane season. A lot of records were broken, not only that but we had an above average year with sixteen named storms forming. Out of those sixteen named storms, we have eight of them reaching category three strength or stronger and out of those eight hurricanes, we had approximately three of them becoming category four, which was unprecedented. We also noted that normally, the accumulated cyclone energy index runs from ninety-five to about a hundred, that’s an index review for hurricane activity in the Atlantic basin and other basins around the world. This year the ACE documented cyclone energy was up to a hundred and forty-one, that’s the index and that puts the season at an above average of about forty-five percent above average. So it was indeed an active year. We must say that apart from the sixteen named storms that formed, we cannot leave out tropical depression number sixteen that caused so much havoc in the form of torrential rainfall and unprecedented flooding across Honduras, Guatemala, Belize and southern Mexico.”

“It was saying here that the 2008 Atlantic basin hurricane season officially opens on the first of June on Sunday. It is forecasted to be another active season with accumulated cyclone energy in the order of a hundred and fifty points compared to a normal year where it is around ninety-six. As I mentioned, a normal year is between ninety-five and a hundred. The projection was calling for fifteen named storms, eight hurricanes and four intense hurricanes before the season began. As we know, the season began with a bang with Alma forming off the coast of Central America then becoming a remnant across northern Central America, Guatemala, and offshore Belize and the Gulf of Honduras and then the remnant activity of Alma eventually evolved into Tropical Storm Arthur. Again, that was an unprecedented event for Belize because it caused some very devastating flash floods in the center part of our country. As you can recall, the Kendal Bridge was washed away and we had, unfortunately, five people losing their lives because of the flash flood that occurred.”

“Now what we notice also is that beginning with Arthur, the records are indicating that we had five consecutive months with five consecutive hurricanes forming or tropical storms with winds of a hundred and fifteen miles per hour, which is a record from the historical information that we have. It was a record because normally you don’t get five hurricanes consecutively within five consecutive months within the hurricane season and that occurred this year. So I would say that that is sending us a signal that something is happening globally, something is happening in that respect. Indeed it could be sending us a signal that the atmosphere is warming up and the hydrological cycle is becoming a bit more intense.”

Jose Sanchez
“So Global warming, climatic changes around the world?”

Ramon Frutos
“Right, I would say climatic changes because of a warming climate or global warming indeed.”

How does 2008 season stack up statistically against other seasons gone by since 1851 in the Atlantic? Here is a run down. It has the sixth most named storms, the ninth most major hurricanes which is five and the record is eight in 1950. And it has the thirteenth highest named storm days, eighty-four point seven-five; the record is a hundred and thirty-six in 1933… Frutos says the active season is part of a cycle which began in 1995 and the bad news is that that cycle will continue for another five to eight years. So while we won’t necessarily have more storms next year, the intensity of the ones to come will persist in their strength.

Ramon Frutos
“We should see an increase in intense tropical cyclone activity—maybe not an increase in the frequency of these systems but an increase in their strength of these systems. For example, during this year we had approximately three category four hurricanes and two category three hurricanes and the other three that formed were normal, weaker hurricanes; category one or two. What I would say also is that because of the warming trend, we could see more storms becoming stronger, but not necessarily an increase in the activity overall. It will be more stronger storms we’ll be seeing. They will be coming and forming right in the Western Caribbean, in the Gulf of Mexico and growing stronger.”

Jose Sanchez
“How long is the cycle?”

Ramon Frutos
“Yes, and as I was mentioning, it is most likely that we will continue under this active cycle of hurricane activity in the Atlantic basin, which began back in the year 1995 and its now running for thirteen years now because from 1995 to 2005, that’s ten years and we are in 2008, that’s three years more. We still have another five to eight years to go in this cycle. So it’s very likely that this trend or this type of activity during the hurricane season will continue in the near future.”

“If we have a warm event like an El Nino when the Pacific warms up, then we have stronger wind share activity settle itself across the Caribbean and the Atlantic and that tends to suppress hurricane activity. However, if the neutral conditions should persist or the cold event becomes more frequent in the Pacific, then we should see more storms forming in the Atlantic basin as we go probably next year and the year after and into the near future. It’s not a very good picture but more or less that’s what we are looking at.”

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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