The Atlantic hurricane season has officially started, and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society has issued its updated seasonal hurricane forecast for the region. The results continue to indicate that an above-normal season is very likely. This could spell trouble for highly vulnerable Caribbean nations such as Haiti, still reeling from the effects of a 7.0 magnitude earthquake on January 12, 2010. On top of this, other forecasts point to increased thunderstorm activity for the region as well.
The IRI’s hurricane forecast probabilities are the strongest the institution has ever issued at this point in the season, eclipsed only by a late-season forecast during record-setting 2005. The latest numbers call for a 50% chance of above-normal activity, 35% chance of near-normal activity and a 15% chance for below-normal activity. Put in simpler terms, this means that the chance of having an above-normal year is more than three times the chance of having a below-normal one.
The hurricane forecast issued last week by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is even stronger, calling for an 85% chance of an above-normal season.
Although the forecast calls for an active season, this doesn’t guarantee that devastation will occur. The seasonal forecasts don’t tell us where, when or if the hurricanes will hit land. They just tell us that we’ll likely see more of them this season, increasing the odds that some inhabited areas will get hit.
Because of the potentially destructive nature of hurricanes and tropical storms, the higher odds are a cause for concern. “Hurricanes can devastate the economies of the Caribbean and Central America,” says Walter Baethgen, who runs IRI’s regional program for Latin America and the Caribbean. “Our hope is that seasonal forecasts and other types of climate information will feed into emergency networks and early-warning systems currently operating in the region.”
To facilitate this, the IRI helped develop a website focused on supplying government staff, relief workers and development agents located in Haiti with the most up-to-date weather and climate forecasts for the country. By making this information available through its ongoing partnerships with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the IRI hopes to alleviate some of these elevated storm risks for Haiti and ultimately help save lives this hurricane season.