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El Niño Could Save Us This Hurricane Season

Form left – Adrian Malcolm from the Planning Department; Dr. Dr. Holly Hamilton, Director of Meteorology; Infrastructure Minister Hon. Jamell Robinson; Allison Gordon, Director of the DDME; and Garvin Thomas, Director for the PWD.

The weather phenomenon known as El Niño could be the saving grace for the Caribbean during this Atlantic Hurricane season, according to Dr. Holly Hamilton, Director of Meteorology at the Turks and Caicos Island Airports Authority (TCIAA).

During El Niño, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), trade winds weaken. Warm water is pushed back east, toward the west coast of the Americas.

According to NOAA, usually, during an El Niño, the Pacific is home to increased activity while the Atlantic basin sees amplified wind shear and cooler water temperatures, which are counterproductive for hurricane formation.

Dr. Holly Hamilton, Director of Meteorology at the Turks and Caicos Island Airports Authority

Hamilton, who was speaking at a news conference a few days ago, at the Department of Disaster Management Emergency (DDME) Office on Providenciales, said the current Atlantic Hurricane season is expected to be less active than recent years due to El Nino – which suppresses storm development as opposed to La Nina - which fuels it.

“…Which left this year’s forecast for a near normal season,” Hamilton said.

She said it is predicted by NOAA that this year’s hurricane season could be a below average one, with the reemergence of El Nino and the waning of La Nina, which prevailed for the past three years.

“The most recently-released NOAA hurricane season outlook, which was announced on May 25, calls for a 40 percent chance of near normal hurricane activity in the Atlantic this year, with lower, but equal 30 percent chance of it being above or below normal.

“So the 2023 NOAA outlook calls for 17 named storms, five to nine hurricanes, and one to four major hurricanes,” Hamilton said.

She pointed out that other weather-predicting entities also listed this season as being below average.

“So, after three hurricane seasons with La Nina present, early predictions indicate that we might be moving into an El Nino this summer, which can suppress hurricane activity,” Hamilton posited.

However, she warned that El Nino’s emergence could be challenged by above normal cyclone activities off the coast of Africa and above average warming of our waters.

“El Nino’s influence on storms development could be offset by two factors favorable to the condition of the Atlantic basin…one being that above normal West African Monsoon being projected this summer. So that means more of those African Easterly Waves, which we see coming off the coast of African, can be coming off frequently, which are the seeds of tropical cyclones in the Atlantic. Also, we are seeing warmer than normal sea temperatures, and that is the fuel for these systems. So, those two are competing with El Nino this summer,” Hamilton highlighted.

She reiterated: “So, if a robust El Nino does not develop, then there is the potential for a busy Atlantic Hurricane Season. It only takes one hurricane to cause significant damage to our infrastructure and upend our lives and livelihoods.

“So regardless of the number of storms that are predicted this season, and regardless if El Nino happens or not, it is critical that we understand the risks and heed the warnings of government officials. It only takes one hurricane making landfall in the Turks and Caicos Islands to make it an active season for us.”

She urged to download the DDME App, to stay alert and stay tuned to information from the authorities on this year’s hurricane season.

“With the unpredictable nature of these powerful storms, it is essential that we take action now to protect ourselves and our community by taking proactive steps such as stocking up on essential supplies, securing our homes and staying informed about weather updates,” she urged.

In the meantime, the DDME, the Public Works Department and the Department of Planning said it is all systems go for the season. Allison Gordon, Director of the DDME said, among other things, that a number of shelters have already been inspected across the islands, while Garvin Thomas, Director of the PWD told the news conference that storm drains were being cleaned and others were being built to trap waters.

Adrian Malcolm of the Department of Planning is urging individuals to secure their properties, and adhere to the construction code, so that their structures are not compromised during a storm.

Minister for Infrastructure Hon. Jamell Robinson, also urged against complacency, urging the public to take all the precautions necessary.


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