Wednesday, September 8, 2004

High storm cycle is here to stay: "Charley, Frances and Ivan. Three major hurricanes. Two assaults on Florida already and possibly a third by next week. Get used to it. This is the new normal.

"Scientists say we are in a period of enhanced hurricane activity that could last for decades, ending a 24-year period of below-average activity. They also say the law of averages has caught up with Florida, with a change in atmospheric steering currents turning the state into a hurricane magnet.

"'People are suddenly alert, suddenly paying attention,' said Stanley Goldenberg, a meteorologist with the NOAA's hurricane research division on Virginia Key. 'They can see now that we are in an active era. … People should realize that it is very unlikely that Frances is the last storm the U.S. will see this year.'"

"Between 1941 and 1950, seven major hurricanes—with winds higher than 110 mph—attacked Florida. 'And that doesn't include the other [less powerful] hurricanes,' Goldenberg said. That 10-year period fell in the middle of a cycle of heightened activity that began in 1926 and persisted until 1970."

Research he conducted "with NOAA scientist Chris Landsea, private expert William Gray and others found distinct patterns of low-activity hurricane periods and high-activity periods, each of which endured for decades. Atlantic SST AnomalyThese patterns, unrelated to the current concern over global warming, are caused by regular cycles of oceanic and atmospheric phenomena, such as unusually warm water in hurricane breeding grounds.

"One period of 'hyperactivity' ended in 1970 and was followed by a 24-year lull. The new period of heightened activity began in 1995 and could last for another 10 to 30 years, according to their report, which was reviewed by peers and published in 2001 in the journal Science."

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