‘Major’ hurricanes: Pacific Ocean Hurricanes

Published: September 1, 2015

‘Major’ hurricanes: Pacific Ocean Hurricanes, It can not have been a good weekend to be a sailor, but it was a great weekend to be a meteorologist.

Three separate Category 4 hurricanes were active at the same time in the Eastern and Central Pacific Ocean between Saturday and Sunday, marking the first ever recorded instance of such an event, according to The US Weather Channel.

Hurricane Kilo, Hurricane Ignacio, and Hurricane Jimena all reached Category 4 status at various points over the weekend, the same day a wind storm ravaged much of Metro Vancouver, pulling up trees, taking down power lines, and leaving hundreds of thousands of people without electricity.

Our satellite sees a tropical trio of Category 4 Pacific Ocean hurricanes: http://t.co/5dLV10dbor #EarthRightNow pic.twitter.com/aEgSggVNiy

– NASA (@NASA) August 30, 2015

While it seems unlikely any of the hurricanes will reach the coast, this is still meteorological history.

According to Simon Donner, Associate Professor of Climatology at UBC, the event isn’t all that surprising if you look at the current climate. He says that tropical cyclones require a few ingredients: high water temperatures, and a calm upper atmosphere.

“Normally when you have an El Niño event, the Atlantic doesn’t experience many hurricanes at all, because El Niño shifts the air flow in the upper atmosphere, such that the storms in the Atlantic tend to get sheered off,” Donner told Vancity Buzz.

“In the Pacific, the opposite happens. You have some sort of calm in the upper atmosphere, combined with extremely warm water temperatures, you get really strong storms. I’m not surprised to see this record of three Category 4 storms, when the water is as warm as it’s ever been, at least in recorded history. So it’s not that shocking.”

With reports suggesting that this year’s El Niño weather system will lead to another warm and dry winter for Canada, it can be easy to think things will only get worse. Donner says while warmer water temperatures can spell future problems, it isn’t the problem you might expect.

“Will it happen more often in the future? I don’t think we should have the expectation that it will happen every year,” says Donner. “[However], the science does clearly show that if hurricanes do develop and the oceans are warmer, they will get stronger. It doesn’t mean that we’ll have more hurricanes in the future, but it does mean that the ones that do develop will be stronger.”

'Major' hurricanes: Pacific Ocean Hurricanes

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