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Paula - The 9th Hurricane of the 2010 Season

October 12th, 2010
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The 2010 hurricane season is well on its way to being classified as “hyperactive”, though you wouldn’t know it if you live along the U.S. Coast.  With Hurricane Paula forming in the northwest Caribbean last night, that makes 16 named storms, 9 hurricanes and 5 of those hurricanes major hurricanes.   This would make the 2010 season one of the most active on record, and probably the most active season without a hurricane landfall along the U.S. Coast.  Fortunately for the U.S., all the hurricanes this year have tracked either into Mexico, Bermuda, eastern Canada, or safely out to sea.  And it looks like Paula will not be an exception.

Although hurricanes which form in the northwest Caribbean in October and November frequently impact the southern Florida Peninsula (think Wilma in late October of 2005), the jet stream will be unusually far to the south across the Gulf of Mexico (and Florida) over the next week or two.   This means that should Paula approach western Cuba, then it could be steered sharply to the east-northeast toward the Bahamas while experiencing increasing wind shear.  The increasing wind shear should result in steady weakening.  Though it is possible that the Florida Keys could experience tropical storm conditions in a worst-case scenario, hurricane conditions are unlikely there.

Across the central and northern Gulf of Mexico, the jet stream is blowing quite strongly from west to east, protecting that region from any storms.  And it looks like the protection will continue through the month of October.   I don’t see any signs of the upper-level winds diminishing across the Gulf over the next few weeks.   Though the hurricane season may be effectively over for the northern Gulf lease areas and the Gulf Coast, it’s still not over for Florida.  Some models indicate another hurricane developing in the western Caribbean next week, so Florida may  not be out of the woods just yet.  Given the strong La Nina present in the Tropical Pacific, we may see additional development in the western Caribbean well into November this year.

When all is said and done, the 2010 hurricane season may end with as many as 17-20 named storms, which is quite close to the pre-season forecasts.  But the season will probably end without a U.S. hurricane landfall.

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