Tropical Storm Wilma May Set Records
Tropical Storm Wilma is slowly moving out of the Caribbean, likely to make landfall in Florida as a major hurricane this weekend.
Tropical Storm Wilma stalled over the warm waters of the northwestern Caribbean early Tuesday, where forecasters said it would strengthen into an intense hurricane before potentially menacing the U.S. Gulf Coast this weekend. Wilma entered the history books Monday, becoming the Atlantic hurricane season’s 21st named storm before dawn, tying the record set in 1933 and exhausting the list of storm names. Forecasters said it could strengthen into the year’s 12th hurricane by Tuesday. That many hurricanes formed in 1969, the most since record keeping began in 1851.
“Wilma is expected to become an intense hurricane in the northwestern Caribbean Sea,” where conditions such as warm water and favorable atmospheric winds indicate strengthening, said Lixion Avila, a hurricane specialist at the hurricane center. Forecasters said Wilma remained nearly stationary over the northwest Caribbean Sea about 260 miles south-southeast of Grand Cayman, but it was eventually expected to gradually turn to the west and northwest.
New forecast models placed the storm closer to western Cuba than Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula by Friday. The storm was forecast to then turn sharply in the Gulf of Mexico toward Florida over the weekend. “There’s no scenario now that takes it toward Louisiana or Mississippi, but that could change,” Mayfield said. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin warned residents Monday to prepare for another evacuation if Wilma strengthened and moved toward the city.
The Cayman Islands were under a hurricane watch, meaning those conditions could be felt within 36 hours. A tropical storm warning was posted there and for the Honduran coast, meaning those conditions were expected within 24 hours. The storm is expected to bring 2 to 6 inches of rain in the Caymans, southeastern Cuba, Haiti, Honduras and Jamaica, with as much as 12 inches possible in some areas, forecasters said.
Kim and I felt the minor effects of this storm most of the week, as it rained most of the last three days of our stay in Jamaica. Luckily, it was merely a nuisance, with only minor wind and no lightning.
As to the “record,” this is buried later in the story:
Since 1995, the Atlantic has been in a period of higher hurricane activity. Scientists say the cause of the increase is a rise in ocean temperatures and a decrease in the amount of disruptive vertical wind shear that rips hurricanes apart. Some researchers argue that global warming fueled by man’s generation of greenhouse gases is the culprit.
Forecasters at the hurricane center say the busy seasons are part of a natural cycle that can last for at least 20 years, and sometimes up to 40 or 50. They say the conditions are similar to those when the Atlantic was last in a period of high activity in the 1950s and 60s.
It’s difficult to know whether the Atlantic was even busier at any time before record keeping began. And satellites have only been tracking tropical weather since the 1960s, so some storms that just stayed at sea or hit unpopulated areas before then could have escaped notice.
Quite right. Everything we know about these things tells us that the Earth has constantly experienced climatic change. While 1851–and even 1969–seem a long time ago, they really aren’t in any global sense. It’s far more likely that the increase in the number of hurricanes we’re experiencing this year is part of the grand cycle of nature than a byproduct of man’s impact on the environment.