That would be the 2011 Atlantic Hurricane season! Does Mother Nature know she has to punch a time card on 1 June 2011 and start working on her cyclogenesis?
Nine weeks ago as Earth’s mid-section crossed directly under the Sun during the spring equinox the oceans and atmosphere north of the equator started growing warmer. As the coupled ocean-atmosphere system in the northern hemisphere deals with more heat there has been a gradual increase in the number of so-called weather events, as Nature uses its arsenal of processes in a continuous balancing-between-extremes act, which is often punctuated by extreme events when conditions reach levels of critical instability.
So far in 2011, anecdotally at least, there appears to be a continuous chain of weather events punctuated by extremes especially as winter gave way to spring, and now as we approach summer in the northern hemisphere. The pulses of large storm systems that have spawned East of the Rockies to then proceed eastward creating havoc across the great plains, and the south and the central regions, as well as in the northeast with hurricane force winds, extreme rain, hail, thunderstorms and devastating deadly tornado swarms, in addition to record-breaking spring flooding in the Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Red River and other basins, certainly bear witness to the frequency with which these extreme events are happening.
Confronted with these events and as the media have continued to bombard the national public with reports of death, destruction and damage, and at times all too graphic imagery of despair and human suffering, the inevitable questions of: why is this happening? Is this related to global warming? and others, are on the table to be debated and pondered by everyone.
Not surprisingly, as the debate of these issues heats-up and the scientific community takes positions on both sides of them, there are few or no answers as to what it all mean or what can be done. While technical explanations have been provided as to what has caused given events, by and large we are seeing more of the same with respect to the discussion on global climate change and global warming.
With this as a backdrop here we are just six days from what we call the 2011 Atlantic Hurricane Season seeing plenty of hurricane guidesbeing distributed through various means, special reports in the electronic and printed media, and the conferences and reminders to be prepared, to have a plan, to have a hurricane kit and in general the obvious one: to deal with the fact we live in Florida otherwise known as hurricane country.
Today 26 May 2011 we see plenty of signs that various components of cyclogenesis [the generation of tropical cyclones – hurricanes] are already in place or at work in the northern hemisphere.
Far away in the northern western Pacific category 4 typhoon SONGDA is approaching the Philippines even as it turns toward the north by northwest in the general direction of Taiwan and southern Japan. This is the same region that less than 3 weeks ago was hit by tropical storm AERES, and which saw several tropical cyclones in 2010. The color-enhanced infrared satellite image [courtesy of NASA] below illustrates how typhoon SONGDA is affecting a large region of the western Pacific:
On the opposite side of the Earth, over in the eastern Atlantic we see the tropical wave assembly line busy over equatorial Africa, with several strong tropical waves already forming a train over the southern extreme of hurricane alley and moving toward South America and the Caribbean; this is illustrated by the color-enhanced infrared satellite image of the region taken today 26 May 2011:
Tropical waves similar to those shown of the satellite image above have contributed to heavy rains and flooding over the northern regions of Venezuela and Colombia earlier this year. Also, some of these waves traverse over the isthmus of Panama and emerge over the eastern Pacific to interact with La Nina influenced waters and atmosphere, which has led to a pattern of large rain and thunderstorm cells generated over the area and affecting several countries in Central America similar to what took place in 2010 over the same region. The eastern Pacific 2011 hurricane season officially started on May 15 2011.
Some of the conditions described before are evident of the composite satellite image of Earth’s full disk showing the western hemisphere on 26 May 2011 as we near the ‘official’ start of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season:
Only time will tell how “busy” the 2011 Atlantic Hurricane season will turnout to be or if global warming contributes in any way to exacerbate the impacts of tropical cyclones that do form over the Atlantic in 2011. What is clear is that Mother Nature will continue on its quest for balance between extremes in response to that which is a constant: change!