Do Warmer Temperatures Mean More Hurricanes?

For the first time since recording these types of things, both the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific Basins have produced named tropical storms before their seasons officially began. Combine that with how warm the start of 2012 has been, many people are worried that this year's hurricane season will be a very active one. 

In Florida alone, the first four months of this year have been the hottest on record since 1895, and many other states in the southeast have had similar weather records. We all know that warmer ocean temperatures helps to spawn tropical systems, and all those record warm temperatures in the southeast have caused the water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico to warm to unseasonable levels, but do they have as much of an impact on deeper Atlantic Ocean water? Brian LaMarre, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, says it really doesn't. 

“Warm temperatures in the winter really have no correlation with hurricane frequency in the summertime,” LaMarre said. “It doesn't really play a significant role on hurricane forecasting because what we do look at is the overall, large-scale weather pattern.” 

The keyword there is Frequency. Just like with thunderstorms and tornadoes, all it takes it one bad one. Take for example the years 1970, 1983, and 1992. All three of those years had relatively low numbers of named tropical storms or hurricanes, but all had one storm that did a lot of damage. In 1970, there were only 7 named storms, but one of them was Hurricane Celia, which killed 28 people and caused over $930 million (not adjusted for inflation) in damage. In 1983 there were only 4 named storms, one of which was Alicia which killed 21 people, and caused over $2.5 billion in damage, mainly in Texas. In 1992 there were only 5 named storms, but we all remember Hurricane Andrew which was one of the most devastating hurricanes to ever hit southern Florida. That storm alone caused 65 fatalities with over $26 billion in damage. 

So just remember….”Even if we're forecasting a below-normal season, one storm can have a serious impact,” LaMarre emphasized. 

Sources: WFLA, National Hurricane Center, Tampa Bay Online, NOAA

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