In the sixties, Roger Zelazny wrote ‘Damnation Alley’, in which Hell Tanner drives from Los Angeles to Boston in a land ravaged by near constant hurricanes and tornadoes in an attempt to deliver a life-saving plague vaccine. While we’re nowhere near that doomsday scenario, this year’s hurricane season is certainly hotting up.
Hurricane Gustav is crossing Cuba into the centre of the Gulf of Mexico today, with many of the simulations projecting it to land as a strength three hurricane somewhere in Louisiana on Tuesday night. Meanwhile, a few days further out in the Atlantic tropical storm Hanna (the eighth named storm of the year) is growing steadily and is also projected to land as a hurricane next weekend anywhere from Florida to Mexico. It may or may not enter the Gulf.
Further out than that a number of other weather systems are beginning to form in the infamous ‘hurricane alley’, creating a conveyor belt of large storms. High ocean temperatures of 28-32 degrees in the Gulf of Mexico in particular are increasing the size of intensity of these systems. When the sea temperatures are above 26 degrees, a tropical storm or hurricane above it will intensify. Below that level the cyclone begins to unravel. With Ocean temperatures high and a number of storms forming, the Southeast coast of the US and the caribbean are in for a pounding over the next few weeks. Oil experts are already beginning to predict problems for oil production, with large percentages of US oil production and refining taking place in the Gulf of Mexico. While it would be inaccurate to link a single hurricane to climate change, if tropical ocean temperatures remain high, the residents at the end of hurricane rally will have to expect more storms.