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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Fewer tropical storms expected this season

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Science Writer

Weather forecasters expect a calmer-than-normal hurricane season this year, with just two to three tropical storms in the central Pacific, compared with an average of 4.5 storms per season.

Climate conditions have been changing rapidly during the past month or two, with ocean water cooling and wind patterns making it more difficult for tropical cyclones to form and persist, said Jim Weyman, director of the Central Pacific Hurricane Center at the National Weather Service office in Honolulu.

Forecasters warn that even with a calmer season ahead, Hawai'i residents should always be prepared for a major storm.

"Every home should have a survival kit," Weyman said.

Hurricane preparedness information and survival kit contents are listed in the front pages of the telephone book.

Hurricanes are more likely to form when ocean waters between Hawai'i and the Americas are warmer, as they are during El Niño weather patterns. But the past year's El Niño has died out, and cooling waters combined with easterly winds are setting up El Niño's counterpart, La Niña.

"If we're not there, we're very close in my opinion," Weyman said.

Weyman said the science of hurricane prediction is much improved over the past decade. If a tropical weather system does approach the Islands, the weather service will make predictions of its likely course five days in advance.

The outlook is different for the Atlantic hurricane season, with the potential for 11 to 15 tropical storms, with six to nine hurricanes.