The Endless Hurricane Season
by Stephen Leahy
BROOKLIN, Canada - Up to 12 more tropical storms are expected to follow Hurricane Katrina, the most destructive storm to ever strike the United States, and four may be major hurricanes, according to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Katrina, which made landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast Monday, has killed at least 110 people and left a million homeless. Preliminary damage estimates top 25 billion dollars. Refugee camps will be needed to house hundreds of thousands of people for weeks and months -- and perhaps longer, experts say. And it will be another week or two before the full extent of devastation is known.
Shockingly, there may be more storms to come. "This may well be one of the most active Atlantic hurricane seasons on record, and will be the ninth above-normal Atlantic hurricane season in the last 11 years," Brig. Gen. David L. Johnson, director of the NOAA National Weather Service, said in a statement.
NOAA forecasts a whopping 21 tropical storms -- double the norm -- before the end of hurricane season on Nov. 30. That means the U.S., Mexico and Caribbean region could still be pounded by another 10 to 12 storms, including a major hurricane on the scale of Katrina. Fortunately, not all of these will make landfall.
Warm water in the Atlantic Ocean is being blamed for what NOAA calls a "very active" hurricane season. Sea water at 27 degrees C. or higher puts enough moisture in the air to prime hurricane or cyclone formation. Once started, a hurricane needs only warm water and the right wind conditions to build and maintain its strength and intensity.
When Hurricane Katrina first hit southern Florida last week, it was just Category One on the Saffir-Simpson scale, which rates hurricanes from one to five according to wind speeds and destructive potential. Less than 24 hours after it entered the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, it quickly gained strength, becoming a Category Five with winds blowing continuously above 250 kilometres an hour.
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