(AP) – September 2, 2008 -- The tropics seem to be going crazy what with the remnants of Gustav, the new threat from Hanna, a strengthening Ike and newcomer Josephine. Get used to it.
Hurricane experts say all
the weather ingredients, which normally fluctuate, are set on boil for the
formation of storms. And it's going to stay that way for a while, they said.
Four named storms at the
same time is a bit odd, but not unprecedented, meteorologists said. In 1995
five named storms lived simultaneously. And in 1998 there were four hurricanes
at the same. But wait and see what happens next.
"Give us time, this
is only Tuesday," said meteorologist Dennis Feltgren, spokesman for an
all-too-busy hurricane center in Miami.
The peak of hurricane
season isn't until Sept. 10 and this season already has 10 named storms, which
is the long-term average for an entire season.
"Normally in an
active season, there are bunches of hurricanes and lulls. It just doesn't seem
like there's been bunches of lulls. I sure hope we're not talking (hurricanes)
Christmas Eve," said meteorology professor Hugh Willoughby at Florida International
prognosticators - including William Gray, who pioneered the field of storm
season forecasts - predicted Tuesday that this month would be almost twice as
busy as an average September. They forecast five named storms, four of them
hurricanes and two of them major.
These latest predictions
cover only September and are not a revision of the season-long forecast, which
called for a total of nine Atlantic hurricanes through November.
The wind and water
conditions that led to the September update will likely continue for the next
month or so, said Phil Klotzbach of Colorado State University, co-author of the
new report. But if history is any guide, those conditions should change
sometime in October, he said.
Wind shear - wind coming
from a different direction at high altitude - often weakens a hurricane or at
least puts the lid on some developing storms. But at the moment, the only wind
shear in the entire Atlantic hurricane region is around Hanna, Feltgren said.
So a major factor keeping other storms from forming or strengthening is absent,
Waves of clouds and
thunderstorms this time of year head westward from northern Africa every couple
days. Some become tropical storms and hurricanes and others just die down.
Gustav, Hanna, Ike and Josephine all started as those waves. What's different
right now is that all those waves from Africa head right into a brew of air and
water conditions ideal for strengthening, Klotzbach said.
First, in the deep
tropics, certain winds are blowing from the west and in the subtropics they are
coming from the east, creating a propensity for spinning in between - which is
the main hurricane development region - Klotzbach said. The current "spin
factor" is among the top 20 percent in history, he said.
Add to that the fact that
water temperatures are slightly warmer than normal, Klotzbach and Feltgren
said. Warm water serves as fuel for storms.
And finally, Klotzbach
factored into his forecast how the season has already been so far this year:
Extremely busy. That means the atmosphere is unstable, which is good for storm
development. He said the atmospheric pressure in the hurricane formation area
is among the lowest it has ever been and storms are giant low-pressure systems.
So Klotzbach advises to keep watching those waves coming off Africa:
"There may be one today or tomorrow. But certainly today we have enough to
worry about with Hanna, Ike, Josephine and Gustav remnants to keep us all