ATLANTA — ATLANTA – Experts are forecasting a “near normal” Atlantic hurricane season, while the Pacific coast of the U.S. knows it is highly unlikely it will have to worry about a tropical system making landfall.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting nine to fifteen named storms in the Atlantic, with two to four major hurricanes. The Atlantic hurricane season began June 1.
Last year, Hurricane Michael devastated parts of Florida and Georgia. It was one of eight Atlantic hurricanes in a season that saw $50-billion of damage in the southeast.
Meanwhile on the other side of the country, it was an equally active Pacific hurricane season, the 4th most active on record. Only one Pacific storm hit the U.S., doing minimal damage in Hawaii.
The west coast of the U.S. rarely feels the effects of Pacific hurricanes, while the eastern side of the country is a frequent target.
Part of the answer lies with the outfits you see on the beaches of California. Wetsuits are a common sight. Hurricanes need warm water to survive, and the Pacific Ocean off the coast of the U.S. is too cold.
“Along the east coast, the waters are very warm during the summer thanks to the Gulf stream,” says David Stooksbury, Associate Professor of Engineering at the University of Georgia. “Along the west coast, the ocean currents are out of the north and cold.”
Hurricanes are guided by the tropical winds that generally move from east to west. In the Atlantic, hurricanes are usually pushed toward the U.S. coast. In the Pacific, they typically move away from the coast.
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Hurricanes that form in the Pacific come from the warmer waters south of the U.S. If one of those storms moves far enough north to reach winds that could push it back toward California, it usually dies in the colder water.
“These storms would travel over cold water which is likely to weaken the hurricane to well below hurricane strength prior to hitting the U.S. west coast,” says Mark Bourassa with the Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies.
California hasn’t experienced a direct hit from a hurricane in modern times. It has suffered heavy rainfall from Pacific storms.