By Ben Kilbey
Tropical storm Emily is on course to disturb the eastern Caribbean with hurricane warnings imposed on Grenada, Tobago, St. Lucia and St. Vincent. Other islands, such as Barbados, are on tropical storm watch. As temperatures rise in the city of London so to do the water temperatures of the Atlantic and it looks as if this could be the prime reason for the increased hurricane/tropical storm activity. Speaking from London’s met office International Forecaster Dave Cox said that in his eight and a half years of forecasting he had, “not seen, or at least I cannot remember seeing, hurricanes with such force so early into the hurricane season.”
Tropical Storm Emily is the fifth strong storm of the Caribbean Hurricane Season and is certainly not to be the last. Why?
The cause is probably related to increased global warming. Global temperature changes are increasing water temperatures and in turn creating more storms. Does this mean then that year-on-year the Caribbean can expect to witness yet more and more discomfort from hurricanes?
“It is impossible for the rate to continue as it is otherwise it could result in a hurricane every day! Just because it is probable that the cause is global warming does not mean there could not be a cold winter next year meaning lower surface water temperatures and less hurricanes,” commented Cox.
The (National) Miami Hurricane Centre (NHC) has predicted that the Caribbean can expect in the region of 70 per cent more hurricane activity this season. Speaking to USA Today the dean of the USA’s Hurricane scientists suggests that we should ‘get used to it.’
Get used to it!
William Gray is the same man who predicted increased activity this year as well as last.
Gray, of the Tropical Meteorology Project at Colorado State University, states that the Atlantic is experiencing a pattern of warmer ocean temperatures that aid storm activity. However, in a further statement William indicates that perhaps this is not all down to global warming as similar patterns were recorded in the ‘30’s and ‘50’s. This year could simply be seeing freak water temperatures?
It is possible that Emily could dump some 6 inches of rain on the Windward Islands the NHC has said. This is bad news for Grenada who was devastated by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. Some 40 islanders lost their lives and 90 per cent of properties were damaged. There is official talk of it taking some 10 years for the island to fully recover.
Emily is likely to become a Hurricane later today or early tomorrow. The tropical storm is moving westwards at about 32km/h (20mph), with sustained winds of 95km/h and higher gusts, the US National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said.
Another problem with hurricanes is the associated flooding that can occur. According to the United Nations Guidelines For Reducing Flood Losses,
“When natural disasters such as flooding occur in developing nations, they can effectively wipe out decades of investments in infrastructure and the personal wealth of many of its people, not to mention the countless loss of lives, physical injuries, sickness and psychological trauma that result from the disasters.”
Is the Caribbean prepared enough for the increasing onslaught of hurricane activity?
“American guidelines suggest that there is to be 70 per cent more activity this season. We are talking about over two thirds more then in an average year. This is quite significant. The reason probably is global warming, that is the latest thought. Global warming means the seas are warmer and have more energy meaning more storms and more hurricanes,” added Cox.
All in the name:
More hurricanes appear to be an inevitability. But where on earth do the names for the hurricanes come from? What system is implemented and why?
In the beginning hurricanes were identified by a very scientific approach of latitude-longitude - meteorologists found this an effective means of keeping an eye on a storm. As public interest grew a new classification system was necessary to explain things in a more simplistic manner.
Now there are six lists of names in use for storms in the Atlantic. These lists work on a rotation of one per year, therefore the list of this years names will not again be utilised until 2011. The names are recycled every time the list is regurgitated with the exception of the storm being so devastating that a name cannot be reused owing to implication involved.
Once a name is omitted then it is replaced with another. Therefore Ivan will probably be scrapped for future reference owing to its intensity and destruction across Grenada.
For further information on hurricane activity in the Caribbean visit: www.nhc.noaa.gov