Friday, May 28, 2010

Not much news today, so
excuse me while I do the boogaloo.

This morning -

Yesterday -
5/27/10 -

No current tropical cyclones.

Foreboding signs forming in the tropics - Scientists have tracked ocean temperatures in the hurricane-prone waters of the Atlantic since the end of World War II, but never have they seen a run-up to hurricane season as sobering as this one. The tropics are even warmer than the toasty waters that spurred the 2005 hurricane season into such dizzying activity, with 28 named storms including Katrina, Rita and Wilma. “The tropics are super warm right now.” That doesn't necessarily mean a repeat of the hyperactive 2005 season. There remain many unknowns, such as the level of wind shear in August, September and October.
The latest Colorado State forecast predicts 15 named storms this year, about 50 percent more than an average year, and eight hurricanes. That's consistent with the forecasts issued by numerous private and academic groups. But on Thursday the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration upped the ante by predicting 14 to 23 named storms and eight to 14 hurricanes this season. “The main uncertainty in this outlook is how MUCH above normal the season will be."
The midpoint of NOAA's prediction is 18.5 storms, a FAR HIGHER NUMBER THAN IT HAS EVER FORECAST in its decade of publishing predictions. Several climatic factors have caused forecasters concern, but warm seas are the primary driver of their predictions. In April the average temperature in the tropical North Atlantic was 1.38 Celsius degrees above average, or about 2.5 Fahrenheit degrees, BY FAR THE LARGEST ANOMALY EVER RECORDED. That is significant, because scientists have tracked these waters for 62 years. In those 744 months, the recorded value has exceeded the long-term average by 1 or more Celsius degrees just five times. Three of those five times have occurred in February, March and April of this year. “Not only are we BREAKING RECORDS, BUT WE ARE SHATTERING THEM."
In addition to the warm seas, other factors indicate a strong year. Sea-level pressures are generally quite low across the Atlantic now, and if that continues into hurricane season, as expected, it will enhance the likelihood of storm formation. Another consideration is the fact that El Niño, an increase of tropical temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, has now faded away. El Niño tends to increase wind shear across the Atlantic Ocean and inhibit storm formation. Forecasters say there's even a chance La Niña will develop during the latter half of hurricane season, which tends to modestly increase Atlantic hurricane activity.
Scientists don't expect the Gulf oil slick to have much effect on storms. An oil sheen on top of the water would, theoretically, inhibit the evaporation that fuels storm intensification. However, as hurricanes traverse the seas they churn up a lot of water, so it seems unlikely the oil would remain on top as a hurricane eye moves across.
Despite all of the factors favoring a bomber of a hurricane season, scientists say it is far from a certainty. “We don't fully understand all of the climatological parameters which resulted in the hyperactive 2005 season. Conditions prior to 2010 look similar to this time in May of 2005, but that alone isn't enough to say that 2010 will have as many named storms as 2005.”


The United States is a more important hub for the global circulation of seasonal flu strains than previously thought. Over the past few years, other researchers have tagged China and Southeast Asia as tropical regions where seasonal flu strains originate. When a research group used mathematical modeling techniques incorporating gene sequence analysis to test the hypothesis, they found that the more temperate United States region also makes important contributions to the migration of seasonal flu.
The findings demystify what happens to seasonal flu viruses in the United States when they appear to die out at the end of each flu season. Instead, the researchers suggest they move on to more favorable environments in South America and even beyond. Virus migration patterns that the group estimated correlate with air travel patterns between regions of the world. When the team traced the genealogical history of the viruses, they found that the "trunk" of its family tree mainly resided in China (34%) and Southeast Asia (32%), with a significant portion in the United States (24%). The findings show the last decade of meaningful virus evolution occurred primarily in those three regions.
Though the group did not study influenza A H1N1 and influenza B migration patterns, they suspect they follow a similar pattern," with East and Southeast Asia playing the strongest role in the migration network but with temperate regions still making occasional, but significant, contributions."
Patterns of flu virus migration could have important public health implications, as response activities in the United States can have a global impact. For example, cautious use of antiviral medications in the United States could help prevent the development of drug-resistant strains that could spread to the rest of the world. Also, vaccination programs outside of East and Southeast Asia could curb the worldwide spread of the disease. A sharper understanding of flu migration patterns could open up the possibility of tailoring vaccines to specific locations.