It has been far too long since my last post... the casual blogger's constant lament. In my own defense, a lot has happened in the past few months, not the least of which is that I finished my PhD program and moved to Fort Collins, Colorado as a postdoc. I am now affiliated with both UCLA and CSU via the CMMAP project. Of course, anything I say on this blog has nothing to do with those institutions, and could still be wrong even though I am now officially an "expert."
Now to what I was going to write....
After a rather slow start, the Atlantic hurricane season is really getting going now. Early this morning Hurricane Felix came ashore along the Mosquito Coast in central America as a powerful category 5 hurricane. This is the second category 5 storm to make landfall in the past 3 weeks (following Dean), and apparently is the first time two category 5 storms have made landfall in the same season. It is also worth noting that only about 31 category 5 storms have been recorded in the Atlantic since 1928. Of course, reliable observations were not available until the 1960s; there have been 18 category 5 storms since 1966. Eight of those have occured over the past five years [2003,2007]!
The big storms are not the only story though. There is a lot of tropical activity already, including three tropical storms (Barry, Chantal, and Erin) and numerous disturbances that haven't developed. There is currently an area off the Florida coast that is probably going to develop into a tropical storm over the next few days (although there is significant wind shear). There's also a region out in the central Atlantic that could still develop, basically following the same path as Dean and Felix. These all originate as "easterly waves" coming off the west coast of Africa, and it is starting to look like it's going to be a very active season; don't be surprised to see another category 5 by the end of the month. If that does happen, it will only be the second year with more than two category 5 storms in the Atlantic.
By the way, yes there are tropical cyclones in the Pacific too! Henriette is the third East Pacific hurricane of the year (Cosme, Flossie), and although it is only a category 1 right now (possibly 2 by landfall), it is bringing substantial rain to the west coast of Mexico. In the western Pacific there have already been 7 typhoons this season and 2 tropical storms.