Storms being held at bay by El Nino

Published 10:12 am Wednesday, September 20, 2006

By Staff
Our View
Last week as we approached the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Ivan slamming into the coast, forecasters with the National Hurricane Center in Miami were announcing the formation of El Nino in the Pacific.
A huge sigh of relief could be felt across the area as the two-year anniversary came and went with no tropical activity for the area, but what about this El Nino report? We wondered if that was a good thing or bad thing.
Could it be that the often confusing weather phenomenon, El Nino, is actually protecting the coast from the dismal hurricane projections given at the beginning of the season?
According to reports from NOAA, it is. El Nino tends to suppress hurricane activity in the Atlantic by disrupting storm formation by allowing wind shear to rip apart thunderstorms in the center of the hurricanes, reducing power and intensity as a result.
Good news for us, certainly. This may just be our year to fully recuperate from two devastating seasons and forget the drought El Nino is also promising wetter than average conditions in the Gulf of Mexico and Florida.
But at the same time, this phenomenon that is the result of an extreme warming of equatorial waters in the Pacific Ocean wreaks havoc with weather conditions all over the world and is expected to be around until 2007.
The last time El Nino occurred was in 1997 – 1998 when it caused searing drought in some countries and a searing drought in others.
El Nino events usually occur every 3 to 7 years, and are characterized by shifts in "normal" weather patterns.
So it looks what might be a break for us, may mean a devastating time for others in the form of drought or extreme flooding.
Despite the sudden occurrence of El Nino, our area still remains at an arm's length from an above average hurricane season that will not end until Nov. 30. Be aware that September is traditionally one of the busiest months of the season. There are still 13 names left on the 2006 list for hurricanes.

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