Editor’s Note: West Hawaii Today will run additional hurricane preparedness information, including necessities for a home survival kit and locations of evacuation sites, on June 1 in conjunction with the start of the Central Pacific hurricane season.
Hawaii’s hurricane forecasters are calling for a relatively quiet tropical cyclone season for the Central Pacific Ocean Basin.
Projected climate conditions point to a below-normal hurricane season for the basin, an area located north of the equator spanning from 140 degrees west longitude to the International Date Line. Forecasters are calling for one to three tropical cyclones this year, said Mike Cantin, a warning coordination meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center.
“We’re looking for a below-normal season, but it could be just one storm that forms in the right place and stays strong and whacks us,” he said. “And, all islands stand the same chance.”
Last year, two to four tropical cyclones — a category that includes tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes — were forecast to pass through the Central Pacific. Just one, Tropical Storm Daniel, passed south of the islands during July.
On average, the Central Pacific annually sees four to five tropical cyclones in its waters, Cantin said. The Central Pacific hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30. The number of storms has ranged from zero, most recently as 1979, to as many as 11 in 1992 and 1994.
The center also forecast a 70 percent change of a below-normal season, a 25 percent chance of a near normal season and a 5 percent chance of an above-normal season, according to the center.
Named Central Pacific tropical cyclones for 2013 will begin with Pewa, which means the tail of a fish, shrimp or lobster, according to the center. Hawaiian names are assigned only to storms that form in the Central Pacific area.
No storms have formed in the Central Pacific since December 2010 with Omeka, which fizzled out after becoming a tropical storm. In 2009, there were six named storms in the Central Pacific.
The outlook is a general guide to overall seasonal hurricane activity and does not predict whether, where, when or how many systems will affect Hawaii, according to the center. It is based on continuing low cyclone activity in the Eastern Pacific Basin and currently neutral El Nino and La Nina conditions.
Based on more than 42 years of data, the most active time for tropical cyclones falls between July and October. That data also shows that no tropical cyclones formed during the months of February and May.
Many factors affect the level of tropical cyclone activity from year to year. Among them are El Nino, which correlates with warmer ocean temperature that cause increased storm activity and late season storms, and La Nina, which features cooler waters and historically has produced below normal activity seasons. Warmer waters fuel convection and storms.
Currently, the Central Pacific Ocean Basin is seeing neutral El Nino/La Nina conditions that will likely remain neutral through the season. If it does change, the move will be toward La Nina, Cantin said.
The basin also remains on the low activity side of a multidecadal cycle, Cantin said. He explained that while there is no direct correlation between the cycle and cause of storms, there tends to be low activity periods that last for 10 to 20 years. High activity decades were marked in the late 1970s to 1980s and again in the mid-1990s, correlating with Hurricane Iwa in 1982 and Hurricane Iniki in 1992.
For more information on the 2013 hurricane season, visit the Central Pacific Hurricane Center’s website at prh.noaa.gov/cphc.