Tropical depression or storm possible next week
FLORIDA, USA, Friday May 18, 2012 – This year’s hurricane season may get a kick-start, with the possibility of a tropical depression or storm in the western Caribbean sometime next week, according to a forecast Tuesday by United States federal scientists.
The Climate Prediction Centre forecasts moderate chances that a tropical depression or a storm will form in the Caribbean during the last week of May.
Even if no storm develops, the prediction signals that the Atlantic is becoming primed for tropical activity as the June 1 official start of the six-month hurricane season approaches.
"It's something to pay attention to. It might be a little earlier than normal," said Eric Blake, a specialist with the National Hurricane Centre.
The hurricane centre began working with the climate centre on the two-week outlook shortly after the busy 2005 hurricane season.
The two-week outlook mostly relies on thunderstorm activity around the global tropics to predict where chances are increased for a tropical storm or depression to form. Clusters of thunderstorms occasionally move around the globe in a weather pattern called the Madden-Julian Oscillation or MJO. When the thunderstorms are over the Caribbean and Africa, the chances for tropical storms to develop in the Atlantic increase, Blake said.
While the two-week tropical hazard forecasts by the Climate Prediction Centre are not very accurate now, meteorologists there are working with the National Hurricane Centre to improve them. Within a few years, the two agencies plan to start making a joint two-week forecast, with the hurricane centre taking the lead on the first week and the climate centre handling the second, said Blake, who gave a presentation about the project at the Governor's Hurricane Conference on Tuesday.
Because weather is so variable, forecasts that extend beyond a week tend to have a large margin of error. The five-day forecast for tropical activity, however, is getting much better.
Blake said the hurricane centre will experiment this year, in-house, with predicting the formation of tropical storms five days in advance. If the forecasts pan out, weather buffs, fishermen, shipping businesses, emergency planners and those in the oil and gas extraction industries could benefit from those forecasts beginning next year.