Predictions call for a quiet hurricane season in Atlantic Canada, but the manager of the Canadian Hurricane Centre says people should still be prepared.
“We have what looks to be is a quieter than normal season being predicted primarily because of El Nino conditions,” said Chris Fogarty. “That tends to be a correlation that we see for the hurricane activity.”
When it takes effect, the El Nino, a band of warm ocean water temperatures that periodically develops off the Pacific coast of South America, phenomenon can divert jet streams, change precipitation patterns, and alter wind flow. El Ninos are also believed to suppress hurricanes.
“But, you only need one storm for it to be a problematic year,” Fogarty said. “In 2003, Hurricane Juan hit during a year that was considered near below normal overall. We’re not telling people to take it easy or anything like that. The same level of alertness, the same awareness is required.”
Fogarty said the hurricane season usually runs from June through November.
“I’d say 80 per cent of them are really coming in August and September,” he said.
Atlantic Canada doesn’t experience hurricanes the same way other parts of North America do, Atlantic Canada can be strongly affected by these storms, Fogarty said.
“We don’t get them in their full fury,” he said. “They’re normally transformed to fairly strong low pressure systems causing heavy rain and wind, maybe not as damaging as Juan. That’s certainly a 50-year type thing when we had that storm. But they often transform into nor’easter-type storms which can still cause quite a bit of headache.”
Fogarty said it’s difficult to say at this stage if any hurricanes will hit the Atlantic region this hurricane season.
“You can’t predict the direction or location of them at this stage,” he said. “This forecast is for the Atlantic Ocean ocean-wide. Early in the season you’re likely to get them forming in the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea and once you get into August and September they’ll often form off the coast of Africa and execute a large C-shaped track up toward the eastern seaboard.”
Fogarty said El Nino will have a say in the hurricane outcome for this region.
“When we have El Nino conditions you tend to have the jet stream further south over Ontario and through the Maritimes,” he said. “That makes our weather not as nice and summery as we would like but it keeps the storms away.”
Fogarty said the weather Atlantic Canada is experiencing now is from the effects of El Nino.
“El Nino, essentially, it’s a big area of warm water over in the Pacific Ocean which creates a lot of cloud and strong winds off California and western Canada,” he said. “The jet stream gets pushed up north. In the western part of Canada they get warm weather there and there’s a corresponding dip in jet stream over eastern Canada. That’s where you’re seeing the cooler forecast for summer temperatures and a little more chance for rain.”
Fogarty said environment Canada talks about the upcoming weather season to make people aware and to be prepared for stormy weather and weather of high impact.
“You really need to plan or mitigate impacts,” he said. “Things like simply property management could minimize impacts. If you have a leaky roof, in a big wind and rain storm that’s going to be a lot bigger mess if you hadn’t planned for it.”
“It’s not waiting for the storm to be on the map and say ‘Oh, what do we do?” he said.