Atlantic Hurricane Season

NOAA’s “above average” forecast proven true as Beryl strengthens to a record-breaking Cat. 5

Hurricane Beryl_July 2 10am

BATON ROUGE — The second named tropical storm of the season is already one for the record books. After ravaging the Windward Islands, Hurricane Beryl strengthened once again and has set its sights on Jamaica.

Beryl’s escalation to Category 5 status on Monday makes it the strongest July hurricane on record in the Atlantic. It is also only the 25th storm to reach sustained winds of at least 165 mph in the Atlantic at any time of the year. Beryl was also the first Atlantic hurricane to reach Category 4 strength in June.

Beryl is the third earliest Atlantic major hurricane on record, behind Alma (1966) and Audrey (1957), escalating from a tropical depression to a major hurricane in a mere 39 hours.

Beryl’s strengthening, location, and forecast track are more indicative of storms in late August or September — not June, according to the National Hurricane Center. Beryl is only the second named storm in what is forecast to be an exceptionally busy hurricane season this year.

NOAA’s Prediction

Hurricane season officially begins each year on June 1st. This season is predicted to be “above average.” NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, attributes this forecast to warm waters in the Gulf and Atlantic and a weakening El Niño. So far, their prediction is proving true.

NOAA’s hurricane outlook predicts 17-25 named storms, 8-13 hurricanes, and 4-7 major hurricanes.

Why is this happening and how are they making these predictions? According to Dr. Jill Trepanier, Hurricane Climatologist, Professor and Chair of the Geography and Anthropology Department at LSU, hurricanes are like a giant puzzle.

“The storms have to have this environment that allows them to organize. An environment that allows the system to actually get that symmetric precipitation which helps to amplify into a stronger system,” she said.

Two of those puzzle pieces that contribute to a more active hurricane season are warm waters and a diminishing El Niño.

Warm waters

The Atlantic Ocean is currently experiencing warmer-than-average temperatures, which provide favorable conditions for hurricane formation. Hurricanes form over warm ocean waters, and the warmer the water, the more energy the hurricane can have. Atlantic Ocean temperatures have been breaking records for nearly a year, providing unprecedented heat that amplifies hurricanes and exacerbates rainfall and flooding. Climate scientists anticipated ocean warming, but the temperatures observed over the past year have exceeded their predictions.

Diminishing El Niño

El Niño is a climate pattern that can suppress hurricane activity in the Atlantic. However, El Niño is currently weakening, which is likely to contribute to an increase in hurricane activity this season. El Niño typically causes wind shear over the Atlantic Ocean, which can make it difficult for hurricanes to form. However, with a weakening El Niño, there is less wind shear, which makes it easier for hurricanes to form.

“So those two puzzle pieces, I think this season, are very much in that direction, to build numerous events. The actual occurrence of one, which can be forced by many factors, but also the organization of those then intensifying it something fierce,” she added. “That’s where the El Niño or La Niña effect, and the ocean temperatures – those puzzle pieces play a role.”

Although hurricane activity can be predicted well in advance, actual landfall is not as predictable. So knowing if any of this years storms will impact the Gulf Coast is a guessing game.

“I like to think of it like, how often is it that we normally see something in the central Gulf Coast? As recent as Ida feels, at least to me, it’s been a couple of years now since the central Gulf has taken kind of a direct hit. So I think climatologically, I’ve been telling people, just in general, we’re kind of due for one. I think just be mindful of what’s happening,” she said.

Dr. Trepanier said folks in Louisiana are accustomed to hurricanes but most underestimate the storm’s ability for rapid intensification, particularly in the Gulf.

“If the storm forms not far from the coast, say a couple hundred miles or kilometers away from the coast, it’s so hot out there. The conditions will be in the right direction to allow it to amplify before it hits the coast, even if it doesn’t have a lot of time. So I like people to be mindful of that. Typically in 24 hours, it can jump from a Category 1 to a Category 3,” she tells UWK.

Trepanier says preparing for the storm is the best way to protect yourself and your family during hurricane season. One of the most important storm prep items she recommends is a solar storm radio that can be cranked in case of complete power loss.

Preparation

Ensure you and your family are prepared for hurricanes and major storms by planning ahead. Consider the specific needs of your household, such as transportation, prescriptions, language translation, and medical equipment.

  • Key information: Include emergency phone numbers, transportation options and any special needs. Keep this information somewhere safe in case of power outages.
  • Assemble an emergency kit: Gather basic supplies for at least three days, including food, water, and medications (and don’t forget to include the needs of pets!).
  • Know evacuation routes: Locate the nearest shelter and different routes to get there. If shelter locations in your area have not been identified, learn how to find them.
  • Talk to your children: Discuss emergency preparedness and what to do in case you are separated.
  • Pet owners: Identify pet-friendly shelters or accommodations. Local animal shelters may be able to offer advice on what to do with your pets in the event of an evacuation.

For more information on how you can stay prepared for this year’s hurricane season in our area, visit brla.gov Red Stick Ready.

Download the Unfiltered with Kiran app from the Apple App Store and Google Play to stay updated on the latest news across the Capital area.

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