The birth of Ana?
By Hamish Johnston
The east coast of Asia is being battered by typhoons and tropical storms — and sadly, the death toll is mounting.
But halfway around the world, people are beginning to wonder when the hurricanes are going to come to the North Atlantic. The 2009 season began on 1 June, but there have been no significant storms since then — just “Tropical Depression 1”, which didn’t amount to much.
Predictions for 2009 from the NOAA and other research groups had intitially called for “above average activity”, but this has since been downgraded by most groups to “below average”.
In a recent statement however, the NOAA “Cautions Public Not to Let Down Guard”, pointing out that the large number of early-season storms seen over the past 15 years is not in line with the historical average.
The agency also says that several seasons with severe hurricanes (including Andrew in 1992) began with whimpers.
Researchers had predicted above-average activity for 2009 because conditions off the west coast of Africa seemed ripe for hurricane formation. However, the development of El Niño in the Pacific has boosted westerly winds in that part of the Atlantic, blowing nascent storms apart.
If you’d like to keep abreast of developments off the coast of Africa, check out the Wunderblog by Jeff Masters. Indeed the latest entry has a nice picture of what could develop into the first storm of the year — Ana.
If you are still hopeful that Jim will soon be eating his shorts, the BBC television programme Horizon has a special programme tonight about superluminal neutrinos presented by mathematician Marcus du Sautoy. More details can be found here here.