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Countdown to Storm 2011
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Posted by:May 31st 2011, 05:17:51 pm
Fig Tree News TeamHurricane season starting with high US, Caribbean risk

June 1, 2011 - 4:34AM

The Atlantic hurricane season kicks off Wednesday with elevated threats to the United States and nations around the Caribbean, the latest forecasts show.

The season officially begins June 1 and runs to November 30, and will feature atmospheric conditions which experts predict will lead to formation of 12 to 18 named tropical storms, of which six to 10 could become hurricanes, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

NOAA predicts between three and six major hurricanes of Category 3 intensity or higher on the five-level Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale.

Skies were generally calm across the Atlantic on Tuesday, and NOAA and other meteorological websites predicted no drama in the opening days of the season. The peak Atlantic storm period is August to early October.

This season is predicted to surpass the historical average of 11 tropical storms -- which have winds between 39 and 73 miles (63 to 117 kilometers) per hour -- and six hurricanes, including two major Category 3 hurricanes with sustained winds of 111 miles (178 km) per hour or greater, according to NOAA.

Along the southeastern United States, which counted itself lucky in 2010 with no major hurricanes making landfall, some 37 million people -- living in coastal areas between the Gulf state of Texas and North Carolina, halfway up the US East Coast -- are at risk from powerful hurricanes.

According to an April study by experts at Colorado State University, chances of a major hurricane pounding US shores this year stand at 72 percent, well above the average of 52 percent.

There is also a 61-percent chance that a major hurricane makes landfall in the Caribbean, according to the experts.

With a total of 12 hurricanes, the 2010 season left hundreds dead in floods and mudslides in Central America and the Caribbean, where they destroyed homes and infrastructure and devastated crops.

Among the worst of the year was Hurricane Tomas, a late-season cyclone that churned over the eastern Caribbean island of St. Lucia before battering Haiti and drenching Costa Rica. At least 57 people were killed.

The season was particularly ruthless in Central America, which experienced its worst rainy season in half a century, with floods and mudslides that killed over 300 people, mainly in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

The first tropical storm of the 2011 season will be named Arlene, according to US authorities, who use an A-to-Z system for naming storms.

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Posted by:May 31st 2011, 04:52:12 pm
Fig Tree News TeamAn early start to hurricane season?

By Dr. Jeff Masters
Published: May 31, 2011

The Atlantic hurricane season officially begins on Wednesday, June 1, but the Caribbean is already showing signs of the change of seasons. Moisture and heavy thunderstorm activity have increased in the region between Central America and Jamaica in recent days, and rainfall amounts of 1 - 2 inches have been common over the past three days over Cuba, Hispaniola, and much of Central America. The subtropical jet stream has been bringing high wind shear of 30 - 50 knots over the Caribbean the past week, but this shear has fallen to 20 - 40 knots this morning, and is predicted to fall below 20 knots by Thursday. All of the computer models predict that an area of low pressure will form in the region between Jamaica and Honduras by Thursday. This low will have the potential to develop into a tropical depression late this week. There is some dry air over the Western Caribbean near Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula that may retard the process, but a surge of moisture accompanying a tropical wave currently passing through the Lesser Antilles may counteract this, when the wave arrives in the Western Caribbean on Thursday. Water temperatures in the Central Caribbean are about 1C above average, 29C, which is plenty warm enough to support development of a tropical storm. Some recent runs of the NOGPAS model have predicted development of a tropical depression by late this week, potentially affecting Jamaica and Eastern Cuba. The other models have not been as gung-ho, but have been showing the potential for a strong tropical disturbance with very heavy rains forming late this week. In any case, residents of Jamaica, Cuba, the Cayman Islands, Haiti, Honduras, and Nicaragua should anticipate the possibility that heavy rains of 2 - 4 inches may affect them Thursday through Saturday this week.
Posted by:May 25th 2011, 01:54:55 am
Fig Tree News Team
Bad news for Caribbean cruisers? Feds expect lots of hurricanes

By Gene Sloan, USA TODAY

Thinking about booking a Caribbean cruise for the upcoming summer or fall? Here's something to consider: Federal forecasters are predicting another "above normal" hurricane season in the region.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's just-released annual forecast for the Atlantic, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico is calling for 12 to 18 named storms, with six to 10 becoming hurricanes.

The agency predicts three to six of the storms will turn into "major" hurricanes, with wind speeds above 111 mph.

Tropical storms are given a name when sustained winds reach 39 mph and upgraded to hurricane status when winds reach 74 mph. An average Atlantic hurricane season sees 11 named storms, including six hurricanes; two become major hurricanes.

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NOAA forecasters cite unusually warm Atlantic Ocean water this year as a factor behind the forecast, as well as the impacts of a La Nina climate pattern. The Atlantic has been in an era of increased hurricane activity since 1995, they add.

NOAA's forecast is similar to an earlier prediction by hurricane researchers at Colorado State University that calls for 16 named storms in the Atlantic basin.

The hurricane season officially begins on June 1 and runs through Nov. 30.

NOAA forecasts for named tropical storms and hurricanes have been accurate in six out of the past 11 years, according to a USA TODAY analysis. NOAA's prediction was too low in four years and too high in just one year: 2006.

Last year was one of the most active hurricane seasons on record, with 19 named storms in the Atlantic basin, including 12 hurricanes. In several cases, cruise ships had to be diverted to avoid the storms. Still, industry watchers say cruisers shouldn't worry too much about stormy weather when making bookings for summer and fall.

"Hurricanes, unlike tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, fires and volcanic eruptions, aren't surprises," notes Stewart Chiron of "The storm's growth and trajectory can be tracked, and cruise ships can alter their courses to avoid these violent storms."

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