More Potential Fuel for Atlantic Hurricanes This Year

(April 11) — The 2009 Atlantic basin hurricane season was relatively quiet, but early projections are for a more active than normal upcoming season. Sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic, the potential fuel for future hurricanes, are higher now than they were at this time last year, an indication that the early predictions may have merit.

The updated Colorado State University forecast predicts 15 named storms (tropical storms and hurricanes), including eight hurricanes and four major hurricanes (Category 3 or stronger). is also forecasting 15 named storms, seven of which are expected to make landfall. Five of these are forecast to be hurricanes, including two or three major hurricanes.

The National Hurricane Center has not yet released its seasonal forecast.

Of course, the intensity of a hurricane season depends upon more factors that just the warmth of the sea surface; however, since sea surface temperatures in excess of 80 degrees Fahrenheit are needed for the formation of tropical storms and hurricanes, it is important to monitor the temperatures as we approach and then move through hurricane season.

The season technically begins on June 1 — even though storms can occur before then — and doesn’t peak until September.

The water in the Gulf of Mexico and northwest Caribbean is actually cooler than it was at this time last year; however, the water in the tropical Atlantic, which was cooler than normal during the 2009 season, is warmer than it was at this time last year. The first image, courtesy of the Remote Sensing Systems, indicates sea surface temperature on April 10, 2010, and the second shows sea surface temperatures from April 10, 2009. The scale on the map is in Celsius, and the yellow and red areas translate to sea surface temperatures of at least 79 degrees F.

Warmer water is one of the reasons highlighted by forecasters as a concern for a more active than normal 2010 Atlantic hurricane season, and there is a bigger area with warm water in the tropical Atlantic in 2010 than in 2009, which is the prime breeding ground for Atlantic basin hurricanes.

The cooler water in the Gulf of Mexico and northwestern Caribbean is largely a reflection of the colder-than-normal winter in the southern part of the United States. This water is currently too chilly to grant for tropical storm or hurricane formation. The green and light blue colors indicate sea surface temperatures of 73 degrees F or lower.

This water will warm in the coming months; however, if it is slow to warm, it could result in a delayed begin to hurricane season since many early-season storms, typically storms in June and July, develop in locations closer to land. Storms with long paths marching across the Atlantic toward the Caribbean and the United States are more likely during the middle and peak parts of the season.

A slow begin to the season — if it does occur — would certainly be welcome, especially during a season with the potential for more storms than normal.

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Submited at Monday, April 12th, 2010 at 5:00 am on Celebrities by jessica
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