Hurricane season begins! Another 2005?

courtesy NOAA

The remnants of the Pacific’s Hurricane Agatha look poised to redevelop in the Caribbean on this first day of the Atlantic hurricane season and I’ve been getting emails like this:

Hi Frank,

Long time viewer of yours. Are you overly concerned about the coverage that the loop current is receiving? People are comparing to 2005.

Pat

In a word, yes. If you’ve ever heard my hurricane speech, I always explain the loop current which is a warm flow of water beginning at the equator, traveling through the Caribbean into the Gulf and eventually looping through the Florida Straits to fuel the Gulf Stream along the Eastern Seaboard. Got that? Here’s an example and notice the highlighted arrows:

Notice the highlighted arrows in the Gulf

Why is this so important? Because hurricanes are fueled by warm water: the warmer the water, the stronger the storm. The magic number for that warm water is 80° or higher, and in 2005, that water reached an astronomical 90°! That year we had seven major hurricanes and four of them went to Category 5: Emily, Katrina, Rita and Wilma. They all went over some portion of the sizzling loop current:

The Loop Current fueled all of these major hurricanes

What did the loop current look like on this day, June 1, 2005? You can see the sea surface temperatures already at 84-86° and it only got warmer from there:

The Loop Current was already 84-86°

What about today?

The comparison now to then is getting a lot of attention for good reason. Here is what the loop current looks like as of yesterday in the Gulf of Mexico:

You can see the warm temps!

Specifically, that loop current is already 84° (29° Celsius):

courtesy tropicaltidbits.com

Does this mean we will have another 2005? No, of course not. However, the fact that the water is plenty warm certainly does not bode well for the season ahead. And here is my takeaway for you: when storms form this year, it is all about location, location, location! If the path of the storm is forecasted to move it across the warm loop current, look for that storm to intensify rapidly. And, by the way, exactly where the loop current is in the Gulf can also change (it loops around, after all), so it’s important to watch where the warmest waters are during the season!

Here’s a great article on this whole situation from MSN.

Don’t forget tonight is our Hurricane Special on KPRC 2 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. We have all kinds of information and advice along with a few trivia questions to test your own hurricane knowledge! One of which, I did not even know!! See you on TV!

Frank

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About the Authors:

KPRC 2's chief meteorologist with three decades of experience forecasting Houston's weather.

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.