Scientists warn another intense Gulf hurricane likely

Are we likely to see another strong hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico this month? Meteorologists say there’s a pronounced possibility that an intense hurricane will happen this month.

While most late-season storms generally move east toward Florida or miss landfall entirely, experts don’t rule out another major storm striking the ravaged Gulf Coast, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times.

Worse than that, storm researchers say we should expect 10 to 40 more years of powerful storms because of a natural ocean cycle that is happening in the midst of the most active hurricane season on record.

“This has been the seventh hyperactive year since 1995,” Stan Goldenberg, with the Hurricane Research Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told the Times. “Not every year is going to be like this one, but there’s going to be plenty of active years to come.”

Hurricane season does not end until Nov. 30, and one forecast group believes this month will bring two hurricanes with one of them reaching a category 3, 4, or 5. Philip Klotzbach, a member of the tropical storm forecasting team at Colorado State University, said the likelihood of that storm making landfall in the U.S. is 21 percent.

Klotzbach’s forecast says nothing about where the hurricanes will reach land or if the Gulf Coast could be struck again. “It’s a tricky business tracking where these storms are going to go,” Klotzbach said. “That’s governed a lot more by day-to-day weather.”

Goldenberg said he wouldn’t be surprised if the Gulf Coast were hit again because the same conditions that headed Katrina and Rita toward that region are still in place. Goldenberg said he expects one to three more storms in the Gulf, including a major hurricane.

“This season is not over,” Goldenberg said. “If I was in the Gulf Coast right now, I’d prepare. Even a tropical storm could do a lot of damage.

Historic patterns show, according to the Times article, that it would be unusual but not impossible for a major October storm to strike the Gulf Coast. Christopher Landsea, a hurricane researcher with the National Hurricane Center in Miami, told the Los Angeles Times most tropical storms forming near the Bahamas in the fall, like Rita and Katrina, are generally steered north, sending them out to sea or toward the Bahamas or the coasts of Florida.

“Texas and Louisiana are at much less risk later in the season,” Landsea said in the article.

Peak hurricane activity usually is over by Oct. 10, according to the National Hurricane Center, but big storms can happen later. Hurricane Mitch, for example, was a category 5 storm that struck Central America late in October 1998, killing an estimated 9,000 people and leaving an equal number missing. The storm hit southern Florida on Nov. 5 that year, doing an estimated $40 million in damage.

Forecasters say the worst storms are those they dub “Cape Verde hurricanes” because they form near Cape Verde and often become mammoth as they cross the Atlantic. These storms usually become a season’s most intense storms. Some 85 percent of big Atlantic hurricanes have been of this type.

Speaking of the outlook for violent weather in the Gulf region, Gerry Bell, lead scientist for NOAA’s hurricane forecast program, said: “This is a long-term, active hurricane era.”

The active period corresponds to a global rise in sea temperatures of about one degree—a change most scientists believe is due to global warming caused by the production of greenhouse gases.

From the Oct. 12-18, 2005, issue

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