Hurricane season starts June 1

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Thousands of enthusiastic beach-goers enjoy the sea and sand at Maracas Bay on May 31. – Photo by Roger Jacob

THE Atlantic hurricane season starts today and senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Roger Pulwarty said it will be an above-average hurricane season this year with an anticipated four-seven, three-five category hurricanes.

The season runs from June 1-November 30.

He was speaking at the Caribbean Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s online panel discussion Hurricane readiness: Building climate resilience in the Caribbean. The Atlantic Council is a US-led think tank in the sphere of international affairs.

The panel was composed of Pulwarty, St Kitts and Nevis’ ambassador to the US Jacinth Henry-Martin, the Caribbean Development Bank’s (CDB) acting vice president of operations Therese Turner Jones and co-founder and member of Resilient Earth Capital Stacy Swann.

Barbados’ Minister of Home Affairs, Information and Public Affairs Wilfred A Abrahams also addressed the online audience.

It was hosted by associate director and fellow of the Caribbean Initiative Wazim Mowla.

The web event also took place shortly after the conclusion of the fourth international conference on Small Island Developing States held from May 27-30 in Saint John’s, Antigua and Barbuda.

Pulwarty said scientific agencies were anticipating a hurricane season of about 85 per cent which meant above average.

That would include 17-25 total named storms at more than 39 miles per hour, 11 that would be 75 miles an hour higher and four-seven, three-five category hurricanes stronger than 110 miles an hour.

“That becomes really critical simply because the reason we can say that is because we know that the background ocean heat content in the Atlantic is much warmer than normal. We are about to see some more active West African Monsoon that helps launch easterly waves that actually structure some of the stronger storms.

“The trades are lighter. In order words, the storms get a chance to form. And, of course, critically as everyone knows, we have the movement from El Nino event to a La Nina event and what that means is that all of those conditions are favoured for this higher number of tropical storms…,” Pulwarty said.

He added that the region was in the midst of one of the most severe droughts on record as well.

“The other analogous year to this was 2010, in which the region had one of its most severe droughts then had three years of extremely active storms. Basically, the hurricane seasons of 10, 11 and 12 turned out to be three of the most active years on record: 19 storms each.”

A man hold his pet dog above the crashing waves at Maracas Bay on May 31, as he, along with thousands of beachgoers enjoy the sea a day before the start of the hurricane season on June 1. – Photo by Roger Jacob

The discussion centred on how regional governments, institutions and people could adapt to these extremes in weather. The water from these hurricanes could not be stored and the islands were facing water issues as well.

For Henry-Martin, climate resilience manifested itself in a number of strategies aimed at reducing vulnerability and enhancing adaptive capacity.

She also said there was a need to constantly improve emergency and disaster response plans.

“What would have worked five years ago is obsolete to some extent now and so we have to create comprehensive disaster response plans that include training for community leaders, emergency shelters and co-ordination is going to be very important.”

Henry-Martin said it was important that there be re-designing, remodelling and the introduction of new materials and techniques in construction processes to best address these extreme events.

“Building codes have to adapt to new realities: coastal zone management and construction of sea walls, drainage systems which themselves have to be continuously monitored to avoid flooding.

“We also have to look at erosion caused by storm surges and heavy rainfall when that does occur,” she said.

She said schools and public buildings should be retrofitted so that when disaster struck, buildings in the region’s various countries would be better able to withstand and economies better able to bounce back from those episodes.

Tuner Jones said the CDB was looking at any financial instrument that was going to help build the economic resilience of the region’s economies.

Climate resilient debt clauses were a big focus at the recently concluded SIDS conference. It was not new as it had been used by countries like Grenada and Barbados but organisations like the World Bank, IDB and CDB were introducing these clauses to give countries additional fiscal space in the event natural disaster strikes.

A statement from the Alliance of Small Island States on May 31 said, “SIDS4 culminated with a series of milestone initiatives and strengthened partnerships between small island developing states and the international community, chief of which is the launch of the SIDS Global Data Hub.”