Well, if a storm gets into the Gulf of Mexico this year, it looks like the warm water there could certainly sustain one. Indeed, there's an arrow of heat currently pointing at Louisiana: NOAA And let me go further. I think that at this point, we are entitled to at least wonder whether we might be seeing intense hurricane clustering in the Caribbean. Sometimes the winds and water just set up in such a way that a particular stretch of ocean gets repeated Category 4 and 5 storms. The phenomenon occurred in the Cook Islands in 2005, with four intense hurricanes in just over a month, and similarly, off the coast of the Philippines in 2006. Could it be occurring in the Caribbean in 2007?
Global Warming and Hurricane Felix
Furthermore, now that we've seen back-to-back Category 5s with Hurricane Dean and then Hurricane Felix, there's likely to be still more global warming-related chatter. No single storm tells us anything, but on the other hand, both of these storms fit a troubling pattern. To be more specific:
For the complete list of known Category 5 Atlantic hurricanes, see here. Note that we probably failed to record at least some Category 5s in earlier decades due to poorer instrumentation and observing systems.
With that caveat in mind, here's my take on the data presented above. Sure, we missed some strong hurricanes in earlier years. However, the more Category 5 storms we get in the 2000s -- which are hardly over yet -- the more this decade will appear anomalous when compared with previous ones. And at some point, it seems to me that people will simply have to throw up their hands and say: We are in a new place now.
To be sure, some folks -- and some scientists -- may require more evidence than others to be convinced of this. I'm not a scientist, I'm just a reporter who spent the last two years learning about hurricanes. But suffice it to say that this Atlantic hurricane season, I'm moving closer and closer to the conclusion that something pretty odd is going on -- on a storm-by-storm basis.
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