Features — 31 May 2013 — by Adele Ramos
Gear up for active hurricane season as dry seasons ends: Chief Meteorologist Gonguez

“All indications are that this year’s hurricane season will be above average.”

14 – 20 named storms predicted

Chief Meteorologist Dennis Gonguez told Amandala today that with light showers scattered across the country today, there are signs that the dry season is coming to an end and that the rainy season—which also coincides with the Atlantic Basin Hurricane Season—is nearing.

In fact, the Atlantic Hurricane Season opens this weekend, Saturday, June 1, and Gonguez said that tropical waves are already coming across the Caribbean, as an influx of moisture has been observed coming into the region.

Normally, an El Niño phenomenon in the Pacific means suppression of cyclone activity in the Atlantic; but this year, said Gonguez, there is no El Niño to inhibit cyclones, and the forecasts indicate an above normal hurricane season for 2013.

The season, which spans June to November, can see anywhere from 14 to 20 named storms, according to varied forecasts, and Gonguez said that these estimates are well above the annual average of 12 named storms.

“All indications are that this year’s hurricane season will be above average,” said Gonguez.

This dry season was also drier than usual, with some parts of Belize experiencing “moderate drought conditions,” he told us. However, the weather was not as harsh as some years, since only a few days with temperatures above 100 degrees were experienced this time around, Gonguez indicated.

The Chief Met Officer said that whereas rains may commence in the south before extending to the rest of the country, last year saw rains commencing over the entire country simultaneously.

“In addition, sea surface temperatures are running 1.5 and 2 degrees above average. Normally, tropical cyclones get their energy from sea surface temperatures,” Gonguez explained, adding that just a couple degrees can make a difference in the frequency and severity of storms.

Belize’s weather could also be compounded by the many instances of forest fires experienced during the dry season.

Gonguez noted that forest fires result in a loss of foliage, and the more intense the rains, the higher the likelihood of runoff, where there is no vegetative cover to block rainfall from directly hitting the ground. This, in turn, increases the likelihood of and severity of floods.

The Chief Met Officer underscored the need for Belizeans to start to shift their focus to the hurricane season.

“Get prepared,” he urged.

Belizean meteorologists can monitor cyclone activity using the in-country Doppler radar, which Gonguez said is now “in perfect shape.”

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