Tuesday, 8 July 2014

For cruising, a low-key start to hurricane season

For cruising, a low-key start to hurricane season

By Tom Stieghorst
*InsightConsider Hurricane Arthur a kind of warm-up exercise for the 2014 hurricane season, which has five months to go.

Cruise lines had to pay serious attention to Arthur, but didn’t have to do much in the end.

Unlike many Atlantic hurricanes, the storm was never a threat to the Caribbean, and Florida barely had time to get worried about it before Arthur departed for points north.

But hurricanes tend to conform to patterns in a given season, pushed by atmospheric and climate conditions. So the cruise ports up and down the East Coast might want to do a little extra planning now in case another Arthur forms.
*TomStieghorst

For what it’s worth, hurricane experts are forecasting a relatively mild season due to cooler than normal tropical Atlantic sea temperatures and the ongoing formation of an El Nino current in the Pacific Ocean.

One atmospheric scientist, Robert Gray of Colorado State University, is calling for 10 named storms, four hurricanes and one major hurricane in the Atlantic this season, which stretches officially until Dec. 1.

Gray rates the probability of a major hurricane (category 3,4 or 5) striking the U.S. East Coast this year at 22% (the average is 31%) and the chance for a Gulf Coast strike at 23% (the average is 30%).

He says the chance of a major hurricane tracking through the Caribbean is 32%, compared with a 42% average for the past century.

Of course, Gray and other forecasters had egg on their faces last year when the stronger-than-expected season they forecasted failed to materialize. Gray predicted before the season that nine hurricanes would form, but only two showed up.

Arthur’s progress up the East Coast prompted some minor itinerary shuffling. The Carnival Splendor called in Bermuda rather than St. John over the weekend. The Norwegian Gem did an overnight in Nassau rather than calling on Great Stirrup Cay, to sail back to New York ahead of the weather.

But it’s worth pointing out that no one had their cruise vacation ruined by Hurricane Arthur, unlike the estimated 250,000 folks who planned to spend their Independence Day weekend in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

The next named storm, according to the World Meteorological Association’s list for 2014, will be Bertha. Let’s hope she’s neither big nor bad.

And should the 2014 be a repeat of 2013, with only 13 named storms, the last one this year will be named Marco. Of course, if we only get to Josephine, Gray’s 2014 forecast will be right on the money.