With the Atlantic hurricane season rapidly approaching (June 1 through November 30), experts are weighing in on the number and intensity of storms that will form in the Atlantic Ocean. While the numbers differ slightly from The Weather Channel to Accuweather to The Tropical Meteorology Project, a consensus has formed: it’s going to be another “above average” season.
Accuweather predicted the number of landfalls at three, tropical storms at 16, and hurricanes at eight. Of those eight hurricanes, four were predicted to be major (category 3-5). The Tropical Meteorology Project predicted a 72% likelihood that a major hurricane would make landfall somewhere in the US, 18 named storms, and nine hurricanes, four of which would be major.
The Weather Channel expressed a difference of opinion on predicting landfall probability. According to Senior Meteorologist Stu Ostro "… these forecasts absolutely cannot accurately predict critical details such as where or how many landfalls will occur and people in hurricane-prone areas should be equally prepared every year regardless of seasonal outlooks."
Yet, the other predictions made by The Weather Channel: 16 named storms, nine hurricanes, and that five of those hurricanes will be major, were very similar to the predictions of Accuweather and The Tropical Meteorology Project. All three groups also agree that one of the factors leading to intensifying hurricane activity is warmer water in the Atlantic.
Rising sea levels are also widely agreed to be a factor that will intensify the damage caused by hurricanes. According the the Union of Concerned Scientists, the east coast of the U.S. and the Gulf of Mexico are experiencing sea level rise at a faster rate than most areas in the world.
The global average sea level rise was approximately 8 inches from 1880-2009. During the same period Miami, Boston, New York, and Charleston saw local sea level rise 12-16 inches. The sea level at Virginia Beach rose 30 inches and in Galveston, Texas the rise was almost three feet!
Adaptation to storms in an era of higher sea levels does not have one, simple solution but rather must involve a variety of personal actions and policy decisions. Natural resources, such as wetlands and oyster beds, could be great instruments for protecting coastal areas. However, a significant amount of capital must be expended to restore since they have sustained so much damage from pollution, overfishing, and other causes.
New standards and technologies for homes within the expanded flood plain will have to be adopted. Areas that were once deemed safe to build on may no longer be. As Andrew Cuomo, the governor of NY said post-Sandy, “There are some parcels that Mother Nature owns. She may only visit once every few years, but she owns the parcel and when she comes to visit, she visits.”