This year’s hurricane season has already ended, but it will remain on record as one of the most active in history in terms of meteorological phenomena.
Since the beginning of the hurricane season, which officially begins on June 1 and ends on November 30, various experts were making forecasts and predictions.
Meteorologists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) warned at the beginning of June that the Atlantic Ocean could see a more active than usual hurricane season this year.
In fact, NOAA specialists predicted a 45% chance that the season would be more active than usual, a 35% chance of an almost normal season, and just a 20% chance of a less active than usual season.
In terms of the phenomena that could take place, a 70% chance was given for between 11 and 17 named storms (with winds of 62 kilometres per hour or higher), of which five to nine could become hurricanes (winds of 119km/h or higher). It was also forecast that between two and four hurricanes would form (category three, four or five, with winds of 178km/h or higher).
A typical hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean produces 12 named storms, of which six become hurricanes, including three significant hurricanes.
This year turned out to be the fifth most active hurricane season since meteorological records began.
Miriam Teresita Llanes, a specialist from the Forecast Centre at the Cuban Institute of Meteorology, spoke to Prensa Latina on the subject, outlining that a total of 19 tropical depressions formed this year. One of these was the unusual case of Arlene, a subtropical storm that developed between April 19 and 21, much earlier than the start of the official season.
According to Llanes, Doctor of Meteorological Sciences, 17 of these 18 natural phenomena were given names (with the exception of depression number four), and of those, six reached the category of tropical storm and 10 became hurricanes.
Against all predictions, six of those hurricanes developed into major events; Lee and Ophelia (category 3), Harvey and José (category 4), and of course, Irma and María (category 5).
In September, the powerful Hurricane Irma, which reached the highest category on the Saffir-Simpson scale, moved across the Caribbean with sustained winds of up to 297 kilometres per hour.
The strongest tropical cyclone seen in the Atlantic since 2005, it destroyed more than 158,000 residences in Cuba alone, where 10 people lost their lives and another 11,600 were affected. This picture was replicated across the Caribbean.
Irma set the world record for highest number of hours with maximum sustained winds of 295km/h, knocking 2013’s Haiyan/Yolanda off the top spot. Astonishingly, it generated more accumulated cyclone energy than eighteen full hurricane seasons put together.
María also struck in September, destroying the Windward Islands and the Puerto Rico archipelago. Millions of people were left without electricity in this area after 95% of the power grid was destroyed. The hurricane caused at least 90 billion dollars in damage, including damage to hydraulic and transport infrastructure.
As a result, the 2017 hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean is officially on record as the fifth most active in terms of accumulated cyclone energy.
A contributing factor to the appearance of various hurricanes in the summer and autumn months was the absence of climactic phenomenon El Niño in the Pacific Ocean. In fact, neutral conditions prevailed from June to September.
As a consequence, western winds in the Atlantic Basin were weakened to an altitude of 12 kilometres, meaning that waves and atmospheric disturbances had a higher possibility of tropical development.
This year was surpassed by the conditions seen in 1893, 1926, 1933 and 2005. For now, we have yet to see what 2018 has in store for us, but hopefully the forecast will be less alarming. (PL)
(Translated by Lucy Daghorn) – Photos: Pixabay