As I write this, it appears that a tropical cyclone may be organizing to the northeast of Madagascar. Note the characteristic clockwise rotation apparent in the clouds above. This disturbance, currently being tracked under the name "91S," may or may not develop into anything serious -- it is still a tad early for southern hemisphere cyclones to start erupting. Still, 91S is a sign that soon the eyes of storm trackers will be shifting away from the Atlantic and on to many other parts of the world -- including regions south of the equator.
Granted, we're expected to get some more hurricane or tropical storm activity in the Atlantic this year -- but we may not see anything very intense. So the question for hurricane-climate pundits becomes: With less than three months to go in the year, how may more Category 4 and 5 storms will we see in 2007? (Recall that we have already seen 14, and that last year, an above average year, we saw 19.)
Although I could be proven wrong, I'm certainly no longer assuming that another Category 4 or 5 will emerge in the Atlantic in 2007, or in the Northeast Pacific for that matter, which has been very quiet lately.
I figure we can expect at least two more very intense typhoons in the Northwest Pacific. Storms can form all year round in this part of the world, and can be extremely powerful well into December. Last year between late October and early December, the Philippines got slammed by no less than three Category 4 or higher typhoons -- Cimaron, Chebi, and Durian. The last of them killed some 1,500 people.
Once the Southern hemisphere cyclone season really gets started, meanwhile, we could also easily see one or more strong storms there. Last year in the Southwest Indian Ocean, Category 4 Cyclone Bondo formed and churned in late December. In 2002, meanwhile, the storm that is arguably the most intense ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere -- Category 5 Cyclone Zoe--also formed and reached its peak just before the end of the calendar year.
Finally, you never know what's going to happen with the North Indian Ocean, but strong storms can sometimes form there in late fall. The strongest Bay of Bengal storm on record, the deadly Orissa Cyclone of 1999, formed in late October and went on to kill over 10,000 people in India.
So in light of all this, here's your Storm Pundit's marginally educated guess. I hazardously predict a total of four more Category 4 or higher hurricanes in 2007 -- bringing the year total to 18. Note that at least by my count, that would be a lower total than either 2004 (23), 2005 (22), or 2006 (19). So if anything close to the scenario that I've outlined gets realized ... well, you know the depressingly anticlimactic refrain by now ... we will be as far as ever from being able to identify a clear winner in the hurricane-global warming argument.
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