Monday, May 20, 2024

As Hurricane Season Gets Takes Its Position as “Next Up”

Here we are on the 20th of May and in Central Florida it's turning into full-on summer, while still a few months from turning into Crematoria. We're in the last couple of days of what may well have been the last cool front of the year, with highs that haven't actually gone over 90, and won't be close to that until the weekend. Hurricane season starts on June 1st. 

What's it going to be like?  

The big things to look at are sea surface temperatures, the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), and the overall weather. I'll take a little look at these and some of the predictions from the pros. Let me point out my standard disclaimer: I reserve the right to be wrong. I try not to be, but while I'm mostly just relaying other people's content, I might make some mistakes. Don't let my look affect your planning if you're in the parts of the US where hurricane preparation is part of your life. 

That said, let me start with sea surface temperatures, which were the big story last year. Back near the end of last July, I passed along a story that I'd read about the monstrous underwater volcano called Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai that erupted in January of '22.  Within a week of the eruption it was being noted as one of the most violent eruptions ever seen, with this startling statement from a group that monitors nuclear explosions. 

Titled “A nuclear-test monitor calls Tonga volcano blast 'biggest thing that we've ever seen',” it reports that an international group that monitors for likely atomic detonations has reported that at every one of their sites around the world - 53 of them - the infrasonic wave from the Tongan volcano is the largest thing they've ever measured, even bigger than the Soviet Union's Tsar Bomba, the biggest nuclear detonation in history. [BOLD added - SiG]

The point of that article was that the volcano (which I've come to call just Hunga-Tonga - which is probably like using the volcano's wrong pronoun) injected three times more water into the upper stratosphere than was originally estimated.  It injected 150-million metric tons or almost 40 Trillion gallons of water vapor into the atmosphere.  The concern expressed then was that water vapor is a potent greenhouse gas and it was going to affect the weather for years.  

Guess what. They were right in that last sentence. Not only were sea temperatures higher last year than any year going back to 1981, they're higher so far this year than last year. 

Something that worked in our favor (not just Florida, but the whole US) was that the ENSO switched to the El Niño phase, which tends to produce large scale winds that keep storms offshore and watching storms last year clearly showed a tendency to curve to the north farther out to sea than in La Niña years. The current ENSO state as shown on Watts Up With That looks like this:

Don't ask me to try to remember where it was most of last season, but I think it was in the yellow region around 1.0 to 1.5. It got higher than that, into the orange "strong" band, but never into the red "extremely strong" range. Right now, the forecast is for a 60% chance it will decline further into the La Niña range by June to August and an 85% chance it will be there for fall and early winter. August through September is the peak of hurricane season.

Both the temperatures and the La Niña state of the ENSO are indicators that we probably have a nasty hurricane season coming up. It's probably pointless to talk about Colorado State University forecasting 23 named storms with five category III or higher while University of Pennsylvania is forecasting 33 named storms. It's unusual to get more than one or two in a year and that's the ones you're going to care about. I tend to regard Weatherbell as worth following; they're an expensive subscription service that puts up a season forecast for free. They're calling for an active season as well and provide this map with the red area denoting the highest risks with "Accumulated Cyclone Energy" at 2 to 3 times the averages for a typical hurricane season. (ACE is basically wind strength times the number of hours at that speed)

They also predict 25-30 named storms, pretty much what CSU and UPenn are saying, of which 13-17 become hurricanes and 5-9 become Category III or higher. 

All of which says it seems like it's a nasty season coming. Since we're still 12 days away from the start of the season, some sort of tropical depression or storm isn't out of the question but the NHC says models don't show anything for the next seven days. We tend to see one form in May, typically in the Gulf of Mexico, every couple of years. If you're anywhere in the reddish area on that map, this is a good time to refresh your preps and check the status of things. "Two is one and one is none" and all that.  


  1. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you, SiG! We're just starting our Nasty Thunderstorm Season here. We had our first Tornado Warning, followed by reports of 3" diameter hail on the Eastern Plains this afternoon.

    1. I'm completely out of touch! I thought your tornado season was earlier in the year.

      I call hurricanes the lazy man's disaster because there's usually a lot of warning. No need to line up in the grocery store to buy supplies or flood Home Depot to buy plywood at the last minute. Get stuff at your leisure. Tornadoes, OTOH, can have practically no warning and are generally much more dangerous.

    2. We usually hear First Thunder around the middle of April, and things pick-up in May. The really nasty stuff is June, July, and August. Living where we do *in* the foothills causes the weather here to be more moderate than further East due to the "downsloping" winds we get. The weather starts getting more violent by the time you're ~10 miles East of here. The 50,000' thunderheads are in full bloom by 30~40 miles out. Amazing to watch a super cell blow up in 20 minutes. Just glad I'm not over there.

  2. I'll wait to believe it, as last year was also supposed to be constant death storms a-coming, and though storms developed, they often went away or attacked Europe.

  3. Pity historical evidence of such large volcano activity isn't interesting to the "Pay us Carbon Taxes and we'll make it gooder crowd". IIRC even Jefferson's writings included the summer that never was and that a volcano was involved.

  4. This has nothing to do with the hurricane season this year but looking at that water temp chart reminded me.
    In the Coast Guard we used to fly water temp patrols off both the coasts with the HU-16, this went on for years. It ended on the west coast in 1979.
    There ought to be a lot of water temperature data somewhere.

  5. SiG, do you have your antenna right and tight, the way you want it??
    Ready to crank it down again?
    Don't forget Solar Forcing, either. Our sun is at peak, and Earth's magnetic field is weakening rapidly - getting ready to flip, y'know. THAT will make a difference!

    1. Yeah, the tower fix seems to have worked out quite nicely. I've only cranked it over one time, back in January when I had to do a fix on the 6 meter antenna, but it went about as smoothly as anything can.

      Since nobody has ever lived through one of these pole flips, we really don't have much evidence of how long they take and what happens. I'd say it'll be cool to be the first people to ever watch one but it might take longer than humans with our puny little lifespans can watch.

    2. In the 1980s I found a chart I haven't found since. None of the geologists or geophysicists I asked had seen the chart.

      The chart showed bands of pole reversals as found in core samples from around the world. Down through the eras and epochs there have been many reversals. The chart showed an irregularity in time between reversals and duration of any particular reversal. Noted was a reversal then in a geologic instant, a reversal again. Other instances showed a very long time between reversals.

      (I'm purposefully vague on time scale because I simply do not recall.)

      The core samples revealed a surprising feature. Some of the pole reversals occured quite suddenly. Like human history sudden.

      FYI: if one should search, the chart showed a series of stripes in black and white. The colors indicated which period was north up, north down respectively. The stripes were arranged in vertical column, top of chart youngest age, bottom oldest.

    3. I've seen something like that; I mean, similar cores and times but I doubt it was the same one you mention.

      I've also listened to guys who study this stuff talk on it and the thing that strikes me is the irregularity of it. I mean, we see the pole move fast like it has in the last (? not sure) 20 or 50 years and assume it will continue. These guys say that the movement will change speeds during any given transition. It could slow or stop moving at any time - or speed up.

      As hardcore empiricist, I really don't think the idea that a pole flip is an "any day now" event can be supported. Yes, we know they flip. Yes, we know "we're overdue" (again, based on what?). Would I take the bet that it's going to flip before the economic collapse, such that I should clean out my savings to somehow prepare? I don't think so.