Friday, May 28, 2010

Hurricane Season & Gulf Oil Disaster

It seems like every other news headline over the past few days has been thoughts and predictions about the upcoming hurricane season and the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

I typically try not to make this blog too opinionated....sticking to things like weather facts and forecasts....but today I am just in the mood to talk about this.

First...I just heard a news report saying some fear the Gulf of Mexico will heat up to abnormal levels due to the oil floating on the surface and it being a darker color....which would attract and trap more heat.

And climatologically....most June tropical systems develop in the Gulf of Mexico.

So that naturally brings about the fear of what would happen if a hurricane struck before this disaster is resolved?

Well - I don't think anyone really knows. We can all speculate, but we've never faced anything like this in history that I know of, so there is no baseline to go from.

I can tell you of my fears would be the storm surge taking the oil inland. But something that could be a positive is a hurricane could break up the oil and disperse it over a large area....essentially breaking up the massive glob of muck and danger - and diluting it to the point where the danger might not be as severe as it is now to things like seas life - which could be a good thing.

Hurricanes churn and there is a lot of upwelling and turbidity involved as the storm moves over the ocean. Water from deep within comes up to the surface and there is a tremendous amount of mixing if you will.

We should definitely have some "what if" plans in place because it is just good and smart to plan ahead. But no matter what we do, a hurricane is going to come if Mother Nature cooks one up - we can't stop it.

So in the short term, I think we just need to keep on focusing all efforts on stopping the flow of oil and cleaning up the damage that has been done.

But - it also doesn't hurt to come up with a few scenarios for a hurricane in the oil infested Gulf waters and start some public education on the what ifs so that we are prepared.

With regard to the hurricane season forecast...I think the media hypes this WAY too much. While I appreciate the efforts and science behind hurricane forecasting, the truth is - that is probably one of the most inaccurate branches of forecasting in my humble opinion.

The forecast for 2005 was like 14 to 17 named storms I think - and we had 27 - with multiple major hurricanes striking land.

Many of the same conditions that existed that year are in place now - warm waters and low wind shear. In 2005 there was a slight El Nino developing and this year there is not - so I think given what happened in 2005 - forecasters are playing it safe and going with a "worse case scenario" forecast so the public has adequate warning.

And that isn't a bad thing - we need more public education for sure.

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