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Canadian Hurricane Centre predicting active season for Atlantic Canada

The storm drainage system in Grand Falls-Windsor, N.L. struggled to keep up with the run off from the heavy rain during a Thanksgiving Day storm, the aftermath of hurricane Matthew that swept the region in 2016.
The storm drainage system in Grand Falls-Windsor, N.L. struggled to keep up with the run off from the heavy rain during a Thanksgiving Day storm, the aftermath of hurricane Matthew that swept the region in 2016.

HALIFAX, N.S. – The severity of the Atlantic hurricane season may come down to one thing – timing – and maybe a little luck.

Hurricane Matthew, shown at its strongest south of the Dominican Republic, October 2016.

The Canadian Hurricane Centre in Halifax is forecasting a more active storm season this year, mainly because the El Niño weather pattern may be a little later in getting established in the Pacific Ocean off South America.

Hurricane seasons tend to be quieter in El Niño years and more active in La Niña years – such as 2016.

“Right now we’re not dealing with an El Niño or La Niña. It’s a neutral situation. We’re going to an El Niño but there’s a lot of uncertainty as to whether we will actually be in an El Niño by the time we reach the peak hurricane season,” meteorologist Bob Robichaud of Environment Canada said. “That’s why we’re expecting an above average season. If we’re in an El Niño by then we would expect a fairly weak season.”

At first, forecasters were predicting a quieter season with a more active El Niño, but they are less confident in the timing – suggesting the peak of hurricane season could be passed by the time El Niño is in place.

“The key here is the uncertainty with the status of El Niño at the peak of hurricane season,” Robichaud said.

Robichaud said the 2016 season was quiet for Atlantic Canada in that there weren’t a lot of named storms that impacted land. However, a low pressure system from the remnants of hurricane Matthew caused extensive flooding in Newfoundland and eastern Nova Scotia – especially in the Sydney area.

“What we were dealing with was a separate independent low that developed just south of Nova Scotia and pulled up some of the moisture from Matthews and resulted in significant heavy rainfall in Newfoundland and eastern Nova Scotia, resulting in significant flooding in those areas,” Robichaud said.

Robichaud said 10 to 16 named storms were expected last year with four to eight hurricanes and one to four major hurricanes.

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Centre in the United States also issued its hurricane forecast Thursday. It’s predicting another above average season with 11 to 17 named storms, of which five to nine could reach hurricane status. It’s possible two to four of them will be major storms of Category3, 4 or 5.

A typical year is 12 storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

“The prediction is for an active hurricane season,” Robichaud said. “We have done an analysis to determine how many of these storms make it into our response zone and we have found that 35 to 40 per cent of the storms that form in the Atlantic actually make it into our area. That would mean four to six storms entering our response zone for this year.”

Water temperatures in the Atlantic are warming up “fairly rapidly” and forecasters are also monitoring water temperatures in the Pacific that determine whether there is an El Niño or La Niña situation.

Robichaud said forecasters want to reinforce the message for people to be prepared no matter where they live because heavy rain, high winds and power outages can cause a lot of disruption and damage.

“The key message is be prepared because it only takes one storm to make it a bad year, regardless of the number of storms,” Robichaud said. “Just like we ask people to be prepared year round for bad weather, we want people to be prepared during hurricane season.”

The hurricane season begins June 1 and continues until Nov. 30 with the most active months being August, September and October.

darrell.cole@tc.tc

Twitter: @ADNdarrell

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