Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Focus of hurricane season may soon shift to Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico

The busy 2010 hurricane so far has been good to Florida.

But for Tampa Bay, the greatest threat is still to come.

Year in and year out, hurricanes that form in October in the Caribbean Sea present the most serious concern for the west Florida shoreline.

As storms originating in the east Atlantic Ocean begin to taper off, the focus shifts west. And one reliable computer model already is pointing to the possibility of storm development in the Caribbean later this month, said Mike Clay, chief meteorologist for Bay News 9.

"In the western Caribbean the water is still very warm and atmospheric pressures are very low, meaning it's easy for a storm to get going there," said Clay. "West Florida has been hit in October more than any other month."

The last major storm to hit Florida's west coast was Hurricane Wilma in October 2005. The last time a hurricane directly hit Tampa Bay was in October 1921, a storm that formed in the Caribbean.

It has already been a busy hurricane season, with 11 named storms, five of them major hurricanes with winds exceeding 111 mph, and 10 weeks still remain in the 2010 season.

Warm ocean temperatures, a busy monsoon season in west Africa and a strengthening La Niña combined to create favorable conditions for development of hurricanes in the eastern Atlantic Ocean.

"It's been pretty much as we predicted in our seasonal outlooks," said Gerry Bell, lead hurricane seasonal forecaster for NOAA's climate prediction center. "Everything has been in place."

The seasonal Bermuda High, a vast area of high pressure in the central Atlantic Ocean, has been a key player, keeping hurricanes away from U.S. landfall.

At this time of the year, hurricanes originating off the west African coast often tend to track around the Bermuda High, a vast clockwise-turning area of high pressure in the central Atlantic Ocean.

Storms forming in the east Atlantic generally tend to move west until they reach the western edge of the Bermuda High, or a weak spot within the high, then take a more northerly track.

Several storms or hurricanes already have taken that route, sparing the U.S. coastline.

But the focus is about to change.

The storms originating in the Cape Verde area of the east Atlantic have been nourished by a busy west African monsoon season, which usually is July, August and September.

"By the first 10 days of October, that begins to trail off significantly," Bell said. "Once you get into October, these storms no longer tend to form in the east Atlantic because conditions are no longer favorable."

Warmer water temperatures and atmospheric conditions, among other factors, make hurricanes more likely to form in the Caribbean or Gulf of Mexico.

Bell, noting the United States has been largely spared this year, said we likely will see several more storms.

"Typically when you have busy seasons like this, you have U.S. strikes," Bell said. "We were fortunate early, but that could change."

Focus of hurricane season may soon shift to Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico 09/19/10 [Last modified: Monday, September 20, 2010 7:20am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Navy parachutist dies during demonstration over Hudson River


    JERSEY CITY, N.J. — In the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, a Navy Seal team member fell to his death Sunday after his parachute failed to open during a Fleet Week demonstration over the Hudson River.

    Officials surround a U.S. Navy Seal's parachute that landed in a parking lot after the parachutist fell into the Hudson River when his parachute failed to open during a Fleet Week demonstration over the river in Jersey City, N.J. The Navy said the parachutist was pronounced dead at Jersey City Medical Center. [Joe Shine | Jersey Journal via AP]
  2. As White House defends Jared Kushner, experts question his alleged back-channel move


    WASHINGTON — The Trump administration argued over the weekend that back-channel communications are acceptable in building dialogue with foreign governments, part of an effort to minimize fallout over White House adviser Jared Kushner's reported discussion about creating a secret conduit to the Kremlin at a Russian …

    President-elect Donald Trump embraces son in law Jared Kushner, as his daughter Ivanka Trump stands nearby, after his acceptance speech at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours of Nov. 9. [Mark Wilson | Getty Images]
  3. Sunstar ambulance unit overturns at Drew Street intersection in Clearwater, prompts road closures


    The intersection of Drew Street and Fort Harrison Avenue in Clearwater is closed following a crash that involved a Sunstar ambulance unit, according to the Clearwater Police Department.

    A Sunstar unit flipped in the intersection of Drew Street and Ford Harrison Avenue in Clearwater Monday morning after a car reportedly ran a red light and struck the ambulance, according to the Clearwater Police Department.
  4. Merkel spokesman: Germany still seeking stronger U.S. ties


    BERLIN — Berlin remains committed to strong trans-Atlantic relations, but Chancellor Angela Merkel's suggestion after meetings with President Donald Trump that Europe can no longer entirely rely on the U.S. "speaks for itself," her spokesman said Monday

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivers a speech during an election campaign of her Christian Democratic Union, CDU, and the Christian Social Union, CSU, in Munich, southern Germany, Sunday. Merkel is urging European Union nations to stick together in the face of new uncertainty over the United States and other challenges. [Matthias Balk/dpa via AP]
  5. Tampa police: 46 arrests, 47 ejections at two-day Sunset Music Festival

    Public Safety

    Times staff

    TAMPA — In a preliminary tally Monday morning, police declared there were "no major incidents" during the two-day Sunset Music Festival at Raymond James Stadium but boosted the number of arrests and rejections they provided in earlier reports during the weekend.

    A Tampa Fire Rescue all-terrain vehicle patrols the parking area north of Raymond James Stadum on Sunday, day two of the Sunset Music Festival. [LUIS SANTANA   |   Times]