Spontaneous Hurricane Intensification and Formation


Original Version for Printing

Written August 13, 2004

Update Sept. 7, 2004 

   During the hurricane season of 2004 in the Atlantic Basin there were hints that all is not normal. The recent increase in the Sunís intensity has raised ocean temperatures, which fuels storm formation when condition are right. What is different this time is the random formation of storms in unusual areas. Hurricane Alex was just an area of concern off the South Carolina coast, but in a couple of days organized into a hurricane. Few storms develop so close the eastern seaboard so early in the year into a hurricane with winds pushing 120 mph. Next Hurricane Charley went from 105-110 mph in the morning to over 145 mph with the next reading. With outstanding wind damage reports this may be the worst storm in the gulf in 40 years. Hurricane Ivan moved from a tropical storm to a Category 3 in just six hours. What has changed that was common to all these storms?

   The difference now is that storms are forming fast, intensifying quickly and catch local populations by surprise. The cause, a deeper warm layer of the ocean surface due to a greater transfer of heat absorption from solar radiation, coupled with heat emanating from the Earth's core. This created a deep water cool layer as opposed to a what was a normal cold within a few short years. So as a hurricane moved slowly over deep water, instead of a cold water influx being pulled to the surface by low pressure slowing development, there was cool water mixing with the warm surface waters instead, now a source for intensification.

   This is supposed to be an active season with 15-17 storms, 8 making hurricane strength and three intense storms cat 3 and above. Now technically Alex hit 120 mph. (cat 3 is above 111 mph) for a short period of time and Hurricane Charley may have been a cat 5 when it hit landfall, we will never know. Now the prediction of an active season is by no accident, knowing the Sunís intensity has increased significantly and the introduction of a new heat source in this system, this prediction was safe, but explaining why was not needed as the numbers fall within a variance that creates an element of doubt.

   What you have to be prepared for is the surprise storms, hurricanes assaulting the coasts within days of storm formation. The normal trend is for the storm to form off the African west coast and drift slowly westward while intensifying slowly. It is time to get ready for the unexpected super storms during the upcoming years as the Earth undergoes changes. 

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