Two hurricanes, one of them a category 4, four tropical storms and at least six tropical waves are currently active in the northern tropics fulfilling our earlier assessment that the ‘tropics are hot’ and things are happening quite fast in the tropics. It would appear the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season has suddenly entered a whole higher level of activity after a slow start. Based on the systems currently active and what already appears in the horizon looking east from the Atlantic over equatorial Africa and the Indian ocean, it appears September is gearing up for a new level of tropical cyclone activity.
A wider view shows additional tropical activity extending into the Indian Ocean as far back as Indonesia and over into the western Pacific where Typhoon KOMPASU is a category 2 tropical cyclone over the southwestern Ryukyu Islands of Japan, and tropical storms LIONROCK and NAMTHEUN are respectively south of the Ryukyu islands near Taiwan and southwest of Taiwan moving for landfall in mainland China. The composite Global Mosaic below shows a good part of such tropical cyclone activity over the Atlantic, Equatorial Africa and the Indian Ocean.
The ‘belt’ of tropical weather circling the Earth just north of the equator appears to be firmly in place and fueled by enough activity to last for several days into September. It is interesting to note that two of the currently active systems, Danielle and Earl have both reached category 4 strength, Hurricane Earl went from category 1 to 4 in the span of one day, and Tropical Storm Fiona went from a tropical wave to tropical storm strength in one continuous spur of activity earlier today 30 August 2010. It is clear that conditions overland in tropical equatorial Africa and in the coupled ocean-atmosphere Atlantic environment continue to be favorable for tropical cyclone development and rapid strengthening of new storms.
Back on 20 August we posted comments about Hurricane Alley Traffic, and in 22 August we posted Beware of the Tropics!. Today on 25 August 2010 we see several of the concerns expressed in those postings becoming real hazards. What was then Tropical Depression #6 is now Hurricane Daniellein the middle of the tropical north Atlantic following a track that may keep it away from land as it recurbs toward the north and eventually the northeast. The large tropical wave we alerted about as it emerged from equatorial Africa, over the warm waters of the eastern Atlantic south of the Cape Verde Islands, is now Tropical Depression #7 riding along ‘hurricane alley’ on what appears, at least for now, a more westerly track than Danielle followed before, which could spell potential trouble ahead for Caribbean nations and even South Florida or the mid-Atlantic mainland USA a few days from today.
As if Danielle and TD #7 were not enough, there is already another quite large tropical wave just now coming over the eastern Atlantic waters south of the Cape Verdes, and a couple more tropical waves following behind it at regularly spaced intervals. What we are seeing is the tropical wave assembly line in equatorial Africa kicking into a higher gear generating tropical waves, fueled by the heat and high moisture content in the atmosphere and trade winds pushing storms westward over Africa from the Indian ocean.
Dramatic as this higher level of activity is it should not be surprising, after all the most active period of the annual Atlantic hurricane season historically has taken place in late August and September, so we still have plenty of tropical activity in front of us. As it is, over the past few weeks planet Earth has had a ‘belt’ of disturbed tropical weather around it just to the north of the equator, as illustrated by the composite satellite view that follows:
While this is in progress we must take a look at the eastern Pacific just south of the equator off the coasts of Peru and Ecuador, where surface waters have temperatures averaging 15 degrees Celsius with even colder surface waters nearer the land. What we are seeing is a typical La Nina event, part of the Pacific ocean ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) phenomenon, which traditionally creates a favorable environment for tropical cyclone generation (cyclogenesis) over the tropical north Atlantic ocean. How much will the current La Nina contribute to hurricane development in the Atlantic depends on several other factors and remains to be seen. However, the mere fact of an unfolding La Nina combining with all the tropical activity already being generated in the Indian ocean, over equatorial Africa and along hurricane alley in the Atlantic, should sound the alert for all of us who reside along the coastal regions of the Western Atlantic, the Caribbean and the Gulf, to pay attention, be prepared, and to always practice MITIGATION. Relative to this it is critical that we all keep in mind that there is no such a thing as just a minor hurricane, every hurricane is capable of causing plenty of damage on building, infrastructure and property, and when it comes to a major hurricane (category 3 or higher on the Safir-Simpson scale) all it takes is one making landfall over a vulnerable community to cause major damage or even a disaster.