Mild Hurricane Season 2009 – Breathe a Sigh of Relief (Not!)

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Mild Hurricane Season 2009 – Breathe a Sigh of Relief (Not!)

2009’s hurricane season thus far has been one of the mildest seasons in the past decade. After suffering through the horrors of hurricanes such as Katrina and Ike, the Atlantic Coast was certainly due for a break. While the hurricane season hasn’t produced any monsters this year in our part of the world, the other side of the world was battered this year. For example, while we’ve enjoyed mild weather, in August, Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, Korea, and China were slammed by Typhoon Morakot, one of many typhoons affecting the Pacific and South China Seas. While we have had a mild storm season, hurricanes, cyclones, and typhoons happen somewhere on the globe and they’ll be back with a vengeance before we know it. Don’t become complacent – the hurricanes WILL return!

The world’s weather is affected by a Pacific ocean-atmospheric cycle known as the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Influenced by trade winds, a pattern of rising and falling temperatures repeats itself in cycles lasting from about three to seven years. The extremes of this cycle are called “El Nino” and “La Nina” with El Nino being the warm extreme and La Nina being the cold extreme. Trade winds heavily influence the surface temperatures of the water, making for an ocean-atmospheric cycle that affects not only the Pacific region but the entire globe.

An El Nino event can cause heavy flooding in some areas of the world while causing droughts in others. In the United States, an El Nino event creates warmer winters in the Northeast and Midwest and wetter conditions in the Southwest. In Southeast Asia and Northern Australia, extremely dry conditions are the result with brushfires and poor air quality common side effects. Africa suffers extremes ranging from heavier-than-normal rainfalls in East Africa in the spring and drier-than-normal conditions in South-Central Africa during the winter. When the Pacific Ocean cools, the trade winds strengthen which in turn cause the opposite effects of El Nino and the cycle begins moving toward La Nina conditions.

In addition to affecting global rainfall amounts and temperatures, ENSO has an influence on hurricane activity around the world. During the El Nino phase, the northern Atlantic experiences fewer hurricane activities in general while more hurricanes are generated during the La Nina phase of the cycle.

According to the Jet Propulsion Lab, the Pacific Ocean switched from La Nina to El Nino in May 2009. Because this year’s Atlantic hurricane season occurred during an El Nino event, it was mild. This particular El Nino event is currently weak but expected to strengthen and persist through the 2009-2010 winter” according to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center with “a moderate strength El Nino most likely during the winter.”

Phew! So that means that we can breathe a sigh of relief. With an El Nino, hurricane activity in the Atlantic is mild. Not so fast. 2009 may have been a mild year for hurricanes, and time will tell for 2010’s hurricane season. However, complacency is a recipe for disaster. Hurricanes are powerful beasts that aren’t going to stay in hiding for long.

Stay vigilant, stay prepared, and learn more about securing your home against future threats. With mild weather, now is the perfect time to retrofit your home, strengthen your garage door, invest in storm windows, create an emergency plan, put together a disaster kit, and so forth. It’s better to do it now than wish you had done so when you had the chance.

Mild Hurricane Season 2009 – Breathe a Sigh of Relief (Not!)

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