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2010 vs 2009 Atlantic and Pacific Water Temperature

Sea surface water temperature is a contributor, together with several other factors, to hurricane formation (cyclogenesis); because of this satellites use remote-sensing filters to measure surface water temperature over the ocean. Regarding sea surface water temperature it is important to know that in some cases it is not only the water temperature along the path of a tropical wave, but also that of waters thousand of miles away, which  may contribute to or deter the formation of hurricanes.

Sea surface temperature 20 August 2009
Sea surface temperature 12 August 2010

A good example of this is the Atlantic basin where hurricane formation is affected by the temperature of the water in the eastern Pacific ocean off the coast of Peru and Ecuador, and whether there is an El Nino (warmer water) or La Nina (cooler waters) or the waters are ‘normal’ in temperature with respect to historical average. These factors are taken into account by those who issue long-term forecasts prior to the start of hurricane season.

A good example of that long-distance water temperature relationship is illustrated by the two images, one from August 2009 and the other from August 2010, taken about one year apart showing how the surface water temperature in the eastern Pacific and the Atlantic basin have changed over that period.

The picture on the left shows than in August of 2009 the eastern Pacific was quite warm, as indicated by the bright and deep dark brown colors off the coast of Central America, while in the Atlantic about 50% of the Gulf of Mexico had waters above 86 F. By contrast, the picture of the right shows than in August of 2010 the waters in the Atlantic are much warmer, and about 90% of the Gulf waters are above 86 F as well as a good portion of the Caribbean to the south of Cuba; at the same time waters in the eastern Pacific, especially off the coast of Peru and Ecuador are much cooler than in 2009 signaling the onset of a La Nina event. Reflecting these variations in sea surface temperatures on the eastern Pacific and the Atlantic from a year ago, the forecast for the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season is much more active than in 2009.

Tropical Cyclones

The United Nations declared the last decade of the 20th century, 1990-2000, the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR) inviting the nations of the world to work together toward reducing damage caused by the impact of natural hazards.

To commemorate the work of that decade, the IDNDR Secretariat in partnership with publisher Tudor Rose Holdings Ltd., Leicester, England, an over one hundred experts who volunteered their time as authors, the book Natural Disaster Management ( 1999 Tudor Rose Holdings, Limited, Leicester, England: ISBN 0 9536140 0 X, and ISBN 0 9536140 1 8 ) was published.

Natural Disaster Management sought to demonstrate the vast and rich range of risk management efforts being pursued around the world; and that natural disaster management is a composite effort of many people doing daily work, being attentive to hazards and dedicated to their professional roles in reducing risks. The beauty of this book is that it is the product of the work of many individuals who contributed their time and effort for, without exception, no financial gain, to share their experiences and to pass on the lessons they have learned in the pursuit of managing natural disasters.

I had the privilege of being invited by the Editorial Advisory Board to write the chapter on Tropical Cyclone, the only caveat being that I had to do this in non-technical language, but in comprehensive fashion relative to the knowledge to be transmitted, and in no more than three pages: quite an interesting challenge and a wonderful opportunity to share with others for the benefit of many. You can read this chapter by clicking on the following link: UNbook