Warm water means late storms may continue

A GOES-East GoeColor satellite image of Tropical Storm Nicole approaching the northwestern Bahamas
on Tuesday. Photo: NOAA via AP

A GOES-East GoeColor satellite image of Tropical Storm Nicole approaching the northwestern Bahamas on Tuesday. Photo: NOAA via AP


Tribune Staff Reporter


A CANADIAN meteorologist said that due to ocean waters getting increasingly warmer, the chances of seeing a storm this late in the season is a trend likely to continue.

He spoke after Hurricane Nicole passed over Abaco — it was a tropical storm at that time — before making its way over Grand Bahama and then to Florida.

Wade Szilagyi, of the Meteorological Service of Canada, said with November being the tail end of the hurricane season, it is unusual to get a storm at this time.

Weather experts have predicted an active and “above average” Atlantic hurricane season, with four major hurricanes expected this year. The season, which started on June 1 and ends November 30, was forecast to have 19 named storms, with as many as nine hurricanes.

However, Mr Szilagy said the storm season was not as busy as predicted.

“I don’t believe it was a busy hurricane season,” he told The Tribune yesterday. “I know what the prediction was for it to be an above normal hurricane season, but it actually started off late. As far as I understand it was a late starting season. You know, we did have two or three, but no it was actually less than was predicted.”

The director of the International Center for Waterspout Research was sent to The Bahamas by the Rotary Club of Nassau in conjunction with Storm Intercept Weather Network — a storm chasing organisation that provides “valuable ground truthing” and weather observations for the Bahamian weather service.

“So they were kind enough to invite me down here to The Bahamas to primarily give a presentation on waterspouts in general and also in The Bahamas, but of course with the hurricane we also went storm chasing, but the very first day. I saw a waterspout just getting off the plane, going to my first beach, and then I saw one the next day,” the meteorologist noted.

Asked what type of trends meteorologists see within this hurricane season in the Atlantic ocean, he mentioned that with increasing sea surface temperatures, hurricanes will tend to be stronger in the future.

“November is at the tail end of the hurricane season and it is unusual to get a hurricane and so this was an unusual event with Hurricane Nicole. But because the waters, the ocean waters, have been above average for this time of the year, the chances of seeing something this late in the season or even another hurricane are higher than the average,” Mr Szilagyi said.

“So you know the question does arise: does climate change have something to do with more hurricanes or anything like that. The jury’s still out, we don’t know but one thing is for sure with increasing sea surface temperatures for sure, hurricanes will tend to be stronger in the future, as well as extend later in the season and we’re already starting to see that.”

Meanwhile, he spoke about the importance of the partnership with SI Weather Network as well as indications The Bahamas is another hotspot for waterspouts.

“So our partnership, just like our partnership with other storm chasing groups around the world, is wherever SI Weather Network members spot a waterspout they let us know - the International Center for Waterspout Research. They send us a report and we have a live world waterspout map project that’s on the go where any waterspout report, (a) waterspout that’s been spotted around the world, we actually plot it on a Google world map. And the purpose of this is to see where waterspout hotspots are occurring around the world. This is something that’s never been done before. This affects things like shipping and airlines and so forth.”

Mr Szilagy continued: “But just also the scientific understanding, like we do know, it’s a known fact that the Florida cays right now have the most waterspouts reported in the world. But because of our partnership with SI Weather Network, we are getting a lot more reports here, especially around New Providence and throughout The Bahamas and it’s starting to indicate that actually The Bahamas is another hotspot for waterspouts as well.

“But everything depends on, you know, the observers that we have. Waterspouts are happening in the middle of the ocean. They’re occurring but no one’s seeing them. So it doesn’t mean that there’s other hotspots but right now, because of our partnership in the last year we’ve been getting a lot of waterspouts reports from The Bahamas and this is really helping fill in the gaps of our knowledge about where waterspouts are occurring around the world.”

As for the condition that makes The Bahamas favourable for waterspouts, he pointed to the warm water.

“You’re fortunate to have year-round warm water and so that’s one of the ingredients for waterspouts. You want relatively warm water and moist conditions which you have here and that causes convection or instability in the atmosphere and lift.

“So that’s one of the ingredients, the other ingredient you need is for the wind speeds not to be too strong and there are several times where that happens. So the combination of the moisture, the instability because of the warm water and air, these are prime conditions for waterspout formation, and through the observations of the SI Weather Network that’s confirming what we’ve always tended to believe.”

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