Saturday, September 25, 2010

Record heat is spawning stronger hurricanes

hurricanes-atlantic-wide-view.jpgThe four major Atlantic hurricanes that spun toward the Caribbean in the past month were fueled by record warm seas and formed in an unprecedented 20 days. With 10 weeks left in the hurricane season, more may be coming.

The storms that were born off west Africa gathered strength by absorbing the ocean's heat and swelled into Category 4-level hurricanes on the 5-step Saffir-Simpson scale. While none hit land at full speed, each packed winds of at least 131 miles an hour, stronger than Hurricane Katrina's Category 3 winds when it devastated New Orleans at the end of August in 2005.

After Igor churned past Bermuda on Monday and cut power to two-thirds of the colony's residents, Tropical Storm Lisa formed Tuesday in the east Atlantic. While the six-month season is past its statistical peak, forecasters and insurers said warmer seas can lengthen the danger period to property, from beach homes in Florida and the Hamptons to rigs and refineries owned by Royal Dutch Shell and ConocoPhillips in the oil-rich Gulf.

"The hotter the water, the higher the octane level, and there is going to be far more Category 4 and 5 hurricanes," said Jim Rouiller, an Air Force meteorologist for 20 years who works for Planalytics Inc. in Berwyn, Pa.

The season may be busy for another month, said Simon Young, chief executive officer of the insurer Caribbean Risk Managers. "All the ingredients" were in place for major hurricanes to form this year, he said.

"The nightmare scenario for industry losses is a Miami hit, closely followed by a New York hurricane," Young said. "Gulf oil is a huge issue for the insurance industry. There's a feeling that if something big happens, there's going to be some hard times."The National Hurricane Center predicts 2010 will have as many as 20 storms of at least 39 mile-an-hour winds, meaning they'll be named, compared with 11 in a typical year. Lisa's formation Tuesday brought this year's tally to 12. The Miami center has identified five major hurricanes in 2010 compared with two in an average season when waters are cooler. ...

via Record heat is spawning stronger hurricanes |

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