Hurricane Season is the longest sustained period of topical weather and storms experienced globally every year. It begins in late spring when the ocean’s water temperature raises enough to form massive areas of low-pressure with rotating winds and rising bands of thunderstorms. Hurricane season is longer than the familiar four seasons are, in that it spans both summer and fall. Although hurricanes have occasionally spawned in winter, such an event is a rare occurrence.
Officially, Hurricane season begins on June first and ends on November 30th in the Atlantic and May 15th through November 30th in the Eastern Pacific. It is worthwhile noting, however, that hurricanes have formed every month of the year and will have devastating impact on coastal areas around the world regardless of the date.
The most widely accepted definition of a hurricane is that they are tropical cyclones with sustained surface winds higher that 73 mph in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and the North Pacific Ocean east of the International Dateline (Norcross, 2007). This definition can be broken down further to include precise definitions of cyclones, tropical storms, tropical depressions, tropical waves, and tropical disturbances. A Hurricane is born from intensification of tropical low-pressure areas, beginning with a tropical disturbance, when the circulating winds reach the 73 mph benchmark.
The scientific scale for measuring the strength of a Hurricane is the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. This familiar system assigns a rating number based upon the storm’s potential for doing damage and storm surge. The scale ranges from a Category 1 rating to the highest rating of Category 5. Category 1 hurricanes, with winds in the range of 74-95 mph are likely to cause minimal damage. On the other end of the scale are the powerhouse Category 5 Hurricanes. The most recent Category 5 Hurricanes to make landfall were Hurricane Camille (1969) and Hurricane Andrew (1992).
Hurricane Katrina (2005), however, holds the record for the causing the most damage, mostly as a result its devastating storm surge from Louisiana to Florida, levee failures in New Orleans, numerous tornadoes, heavy rainfall and flooding across the interior states. Remarkably, when Hurricane Katrina made landfall, it was only a Category 3 hurricane. Other Hurricanes have since followed in Katrina’s notorious ways, including Hurricane Rita and Hurricane Ike, Category 3 and 2 storms that still caused tremendous losses and damage. Hurricane Rita was exceptional in that it was the third Category 5 Hurricane in a single hurricane season (2005). (Wikipedia.org)
Hurricane season is far more than a six-month period of dangerous weather, however. It is considered by some to be an echo of shifting global environmental conditions, including variable El Nino and La Nina cycles, and global oceanic water temperatures. Global warming is considered by some as another long-cycle factor that contributes to the formation of powerful Hurricanes, such as those experienced over recent decades. However, this area requires significant research before justifying such a conclusion.
Attempts to forecast the likelihood of a Hurricane accurately has resulted in the collection and analysis of scientific data since the early 1800’s. Today, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) uses sophisticated technology, including satellites, weather reconnaissance aircraft, weather buoys, and powerful computers modeling techniques to produce an annual hurricane season forecasts, which are released in mid-May and revised in August every year.
Norcross, Bryan. 2007. Hurricane Almanac, St. Martins Griffin, New York