No La Nina, but active storm season expected

Published 11:41 pm Saturday, July 14, 2007

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted that La Nina — a cooling of ocean waters that generally brings a more active Atlantic hurricane season — will be absent for the next two months.

But don’t get rid of those disaster kits just yet.

The absence of La Nina doesn’t necessarily herald a tame summer for tropical storms and hurricanes, said Dennis Feltgen, meteorologist and spokesman for NOAA in Miami.

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“There are so many other ingredients that contribute to the development of tropical cyclones, it’s not just the fact that we don’t have a La Nina that comes into play here,” Feltgen said.

Hurricane season 2005 was a textbook example of this. La Nina wasn’t around, but the season managed to break records, with 28 named storms, including 15 hurricanes, seven of which were major.

La Nina is the counterpart to the better known El Nino, a warming of Pacific waters near the equator that creates a less conducive environment for tropical cyclones in the Atlantic. These duo water conditions are hard to predict long-term and don’t follow regular patterns.

This year, forecasters have predicted an above-average hurricane season, which runs June 1 through November.

They believe there will be 13 to 17 named storms, with seven to 10 of them becoming hurricanes and three to five of those reaching at least Category 3 strength.

Part of the reason behind this, Feltgen said, is that we’re in an active hurricane cycle — a phenomenon of heightened activity that can last for decades. The last one spanned the 1940s through 1960s. The current one started in 1995 and could last for another decade, Feltgen said.

“So all things being equal, we expect an above average number of cyclones,” he added. “Be prepared.”

There have been two named storms in 2007: Subtropical Storm Andrea, which formed in May, and Tropical Storm Barry, which formed June 1, the first day of hurricane season.