Hurricane Season 2017

By Kathy Panko, Environmental Issues

Hurricane Season 2017The 2017 hurricane season is upon us.  It began on June 1 and ends on November 30.  The heart of the hurricane season runs from mid-August through October, and the peak is on Sept. 10.  You can prepare now by downloading a hurricane guide, such as:  Florida Health in Palm Beach County, “Disaster Preparedness Guideor both WPTV and WPBF offer a Hurricane Survival Guide.”  Publix also offers a publication, “Are you ready to weather a storm?

In September 2004, Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne ravaged Palm Beach and Martin Counties leaving billions in damage.  The two hurricanes were less than a month apart.  In October 2005, Hurricane Wilma clobbered South Florida with surprising strength, leaving the area startled by the ferocity of a storm that many hadn’t taken seriously.  In October 2016, Hurricane Matthew hit the Caribbean and Southeastern United States causing $15 billion in property damage and killing more than 550 people.

Based on computer models and historical records, many climatologists think that warming oceans might make storms like Matthew more common.  Research suggests that a hotter planet might create the perfect weather conditions for exceptionally strong, tropical cyclones.  Here’s why:

  1. Pressure Cooker:  A hurricane starts as a low-pressure area.  It sucks in the adjacent air and gathers moisture from the balmy seawater below. In 100 years, warmer ocean surfaces will evaporate more easily, adding more hurricane fuel to the system.
  2. Making It Rain:  Water vapor in the low-pressure area condenses into clouds and rain. Some climate scientists predict a 20% increase in hurricane-related precipitation this century, which could make hurricanes even more destructive.
  3. Wind Tunnel:  Condensation heats the air and lowers the pressure even further. The area sucks in air harder and faster, until winds reach hurricane status at 74 mph or more.  By 2100, hurricane wind speeds might increase by 2 to 11 percent.
  4. Surging Forward:  Strong winds sweep up a swell of water in front of a hurricane. When it hits land, this storm surge (combined with climate change-boosted sea levels) could shove floodwaters farther inland, especially at high tide.
  5. Coastal Creep:  Large landmasses and cooler waters currently help buffer North Atlantic coasts from most intense hurricanes. But as sea and air temperatures rise, hurricane paths might become even less predictable and could shift northward.

Forecasters are now better armed at making more accurate predictions thanks to the launch of a powerful new satellite, GOES 16, the most advanced weather satellite NOAA has developed. It will dramatically improve the quality of pictures taken from space and the speed at which they’re delivered.  The National Hurricane Center is also replacing an old forecast model with a new model that improves predicting a storm’s intensity by 5 to 10%.  Preparation is the key to survival.

Miami Herald                      May 25, 2017

PBC History                         Online

Popular Science                  July/August 2017