The Intersection

Out to Sea


I’ve kinda missed hurricane blogging–even though you readers seem to enjoy fights over “intelligent design” much more. In any case, here are hurricanes Gordon and Helene, drifting harmlessly out to sea (though Helene might still have a few surprises in store). In general, it’s been that kind of year, folks. All the really dramatic hurricane action has been in the Pacific. At this point, it’s possible that the U.S. may get an entire year-long reprieve from major hurricane threats; that Ernesto will wind up being our worst 2006 landfalling storm. That certainly would be nice.

Meanwhile, I’m finishing up in Seattle today with this event:

Sunday, September 17

4:30 PM-6:00 PM

Ravenna Third Place Books

6504 20th Ave NE

Seattle, WA 98155

Way back when, I actually wrote a whole article about the influential concept of the “third place,” which no longer seems to be online. Oh well. It’s a cool idea, and I’m psyched to be speaking at a bookstore that puts this theme front and center….


  1. #1 John Fleck
    September 17, 2006

    Meanwhile, we’ve also got Lane and Miriam, on the heels of my favorite hurricane of the year (John!), all running up the Pacific Coast instead of spinning out harmlessly to the west. I’ve not had the time to do any reporting on this myself, so I’m just talking out my elbow here, but it seems pretty unusual. Any sense of whether my hunch about unusual Pacific hurricane behavior is right?

  2. #2 Chris Mooney
    September 17, 2006

    Let’s wait til all the data’s in, but yes, it does look like this year in the Northeast Pacific is more active than the last few years. Whether that’s unusual in the grander scheme of things is a different question, and I’m more doubtful about that. If you don’t already you should become a devotee of Jeff Masters’ blog, which noted the following recently:

    “Lane is the sixth major hurricane in the Eastern Pacific this year. It is often the case that a quiet year in the Atlantic is offset by an active year in the Eastern Pacific, and vice versa. That has certainly been the case the past two years. The Atlantic has seen only one major hurricane this year. Last year the Atlantic had seven major hurricanes, and the Eastern Pacific just one. The difference in activity between the two ocean basins is not fully understood, but has been commonly linked to the El Nino phenomena.”

    As for storms hitting Mexico:

    “Overall, Mexico was very lucky with Lane. Had the storm made a direct hit on Mazatlan, it would have been one of the most destructive Pacific hurricanes of all time for Mexico, and Lane would have become just the 4th Pacific Mexican hurricane to have its name retired.”

    My sense is that hurricanes can hug the Pacific coast more, and go further north towards California, during El Ninos. That’s certainly an assumption of the Landsea/Chenoweth article on the 1858 San Diego hurricane

  3. #3 llewelly
    September 17, 2006

    A NOAA summary last updated on the 11th is here. Be careful, however – for some reason those summaries are more likely to contain errors than the rest of NOAA’s website. The wikipedia page has been more recently updated.

    The average seasonal activity in the Eastern Pacific Basin is 16 named storms, 9 hurricanes and 4 major hurricanes.

    So far this year – the Eastern Pacific has had 13 named storms (not including Central Pacific storms, such as Ioke), 8 of those reaching hurricane strength, and 5 of those reaching major hurricane strength.

    But instead of comparing an unfinished season to an average complete season, we could compare it to the average progression of a season; see this page on the average progression of an Eastern Pacific (or Atlantic) season. Note table 2, which implies an average Eastern Pacific season would have 12 named storms, 7 hurricanes and (nearly) 3 major hurricanes by this time. Named storms are about average – but hurricane are above average, and major hurricanes are nearly twice the average.

    Looking at table 1, for the Atlantic, I see the 2006 season is slightly ahead of average in named storms, as the Atlantic has seen 8 named storms compared to the average of 6 (nearly 7) by this date, 4 hurricanes compared to the average of 3 (soon 4), and 1 major hurricane compared to the average of 1. So the Eastern Pacific is above average for number of strong storms, while the Atlantic is above average for number of weak storms.

    Most remarkable NH basin this year, is probably the Central Pacific (often included as part of the Eastern Pacific, but not in the stats I give above). 1 named storm is I think near average for this time of year, but it was Ioke, which set many records . And if I followed the cyclone correctly, Ioke, after going extra-tropical, developed into a large mid-latitude cyclone that impacted Alaska. (See for example this cyclone track from the CMC computer model, although IIRC the cyclone continued to produce severe weather in N America long after the CMC lost track of it.

  4. #4 John Fleck
    September 17, 2006

    Chris –

    Thanks. This is actually an important climatological question here because, while hurricane damage in the desert southwest is not an issue, the remnant moisture from these September storms can, in some years, make a significant contribution during what is otherwise a pretty dry spell between the summer rainy season and the onset of the big synoptic scale winter storms.

  5. #5 Jon Winsor
    September 18, 2006

    Way back when, I actually wrote a whole article about the influential concept of the “third place,” which no longer seems to be online.

    Hey, through the beauty of the Wayback Machine, I got it back:

    BTW, coffee shops are big in this great lecture series on the 18th century Enlightenment I listened to a while ago on Audible: EngineID=cccgaddilimhidgcefecekjdffidfgo.0

    Although the lecturer apparently comes to his ideas by way of Jurgen Habermas instead of Oldenburg:

    (The lecturer for this series, James Schmidt, is a BU prof with a great, accessible style: )

  6. #6 Dark Tent
    September 22, 2006

    “I’ve kinda missed hurricane blogging–even though you readers seem to enjoy fights over “intelligent design” much more”

    Chris, perhaps you could combine the two in a single topic: “intelligent hurricane design”.

    You might pose the following question:

    How could hurricanes ever have evolved through Darwinian selection?

    I’m betting on intelligent design in this case.

    But (as Robert Frost intimates), we may never know:

    “We dance ’round in a ring and suppose,
    But the secret sits in the middle and knows.”

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