Hurricane Barbara: Pacific Hurricane Season Begins

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Hurricane Barbara has made landfall- how damaging will this year’s hurricane season be? Photos by NASA, Image by Decoded Science

It’s that time of the year again: hurricane season. The Pacific hurricane season usually begins around May 15th, and the season opener for 2013 appears to be named Barbara. While Alvin was the season’s first named storm, Tropical Storm Barbara turned into a hurricane on Wednesday, May 29th, making landfall on the Pacific side of Mexico. The hurricane is being blamed for at least two deaths in the area, and at 14 fishermen are missing. The storm caused flooding and brought strong winds of up to 75 miles/hour to a sparsely-populated area of of the Mexican coast.

2013 Hurricane Season Predictions

NOAA’s predictions for the 2013 hurricane season are now out, and the predictions are looking good for the Pacific area. The Eastern and Central Pacific areas will likely experience a below-normal hurricane season. The Atlantic area is looking less promising, however, with NOAA predicting a higher than normal number of hurricanes.

What goes into NOAA’s predictions? While NOAA can’t predict exactly where and when each hurricane will form, they examine larger climatic factors to help determine what the hurricane season might look like in each area.

Since hurricanes form using the energy from warm, moist ocean water, NOAA also examines the sea surface temperatures in the area to see how warmer or cooler sea surface temperatures could change the likelihood of hurricane development. The researchers look at the recent climate patterns in the area, including the likelihood of El Niño or La Niña occurring in each year.

During El Niño, sea surface temperatures are very warm in the eastern Pacific, while La Niña brings lower than average sea surface temperatures. El Niño and La Niña tend to occur every 3 to 5 years, although the phenomena are not consistent and predictable. The length of time El Niño and La Niña visit is also somewhat unpredictable. Although they usually occur over 9 to 12 months, they have lasted as long as 4 years.

Be Prepared for Whatever the Season Might Bring

NOAA also reminds people that while the hurricane season might be less intense than usual, an individual hurricane that visits an area can still cause a tremendous amount of damage. A less intense hurricane season still produces hurricanes: NOAA is predicting 5 to 8 hurricanes in the Eastern Pacific this year, with 1 to 4 Category 3 to 5 hurricanes that can cause major damage. People in a hurricane area still need to get prepared, even if the hurricane season outlook looks good for the Eastern and Central Pacific.

Resources

CBC News. Two killed as Hurricane Barbara Makes Landfall in Mexico. (2013). Accessed May 29th, 2013.

NOAA.  Climate Prediction Center: ENSO Cycle. Accessed May 29th, 2013.

NOAA. NOAA Predicts Lower Than Normal Eastern Pacific Hurricane Season. Accessed May 29th, 2013.

 

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