The most dangerous period of the hurricane season is upon us. What is remarkable is that the seawater has never been this warm before. Therefore scientists have adjusted their expectations: the possibility of more intense storms and hurricanes has increased.
Officially hurricane season is from June 1st to November 30th. In August, September, and October the surface seawater is at its warmest. “During this period we often see the most hurricane activity in the Atlantic Ocean”, says Nadia Bloemendaal of KNMI. “Warm seawater is what feeds a Hurricane. But such warm seawater as there is now has never been seen before in the Caribbean.”
At this moment seawater temperatures are around 28 to 30 degrees Celsius: 1 to 2 degrees above average. “In comparison: a hurricane needs a seawater temperature of around 27 degrees to start and to grow stronger.”
Hurricane season is more active than normal
Scientists of the NOAA (American Meteorological and Oceanographic Services) adjusted the expectations at the beginning of this month: chances of an above-normal hurricane season have increased from 30 percent (in March) to 60 percent. The chance of more intensive activity increases as a consequence of the record temperature of the seawater.
This means that according to expectations there could be 14-21 storms and 6-11 hurricanes. The hurricanes 2 to 5 could develop into strong hurricanes of category 3 or more.
Last week there was much visible activity on the weather chart of the Caribbean and the Atlantic Ocean. “At this moment there has been a total of 8 storms, of which one hurricane, Don”, says Bloemendaal. “There will be more storms and hurricanes developing. That’s why it is important to remain alert.”
Is this a direct effect of climate change on this hurricane season? “It is difficult to say so”, says Bloemendaal. “The presence of El Niño is causing warmer seawater temperatures than is normal. Expectations are that because of climate change we’ll be seeing more of these high temperatures.”
But according to Bloemendaal, more research is necessary. “That hurricanes are becoming stronger because of the warm seawater, that is something we all agree on. But whether they are becoming more in quantity or less, that we do not know exactly.”
More research is also needed on the effects of heavy rainfall during hurricane season. ”For example on the chance of heavy floods and landslides as a consequence of abundant rainfall and climate change.”
Are Caribbean municipalities prepared for hurricanes?
A report of the Inspection of Justice and Safety states that Bonaire, Saba, and Statia, despite improvements in recent years, still are not well prepared for possible disasters and crises.
After three hurricanes in 2017 de Inspection did research on how to deal more efficiently with disasters. Now, five years later, it seems not all of the advice has been applied. There is uncertainty about who exactly is responsible for what, and the islands should cooperate with each other more extensively.