This article was in the Orlando Sentinel this morning.
"With La Nina, '07 hurricane season could pack punch
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
February 28, 2007
La Nina, an atmospheric condition that promotes the formation of hurricanes, might be back in time for this year's six-month Atlantic storm season, government forecasters are predicting.
The weather pattern, the result of a cooling of the eastern Pacific Ocean, acts to calm the atmosphere, allowing hurricanes to form uninhibited in the Atlantic.
Though its return isn't altogether certain, satellite images and readings from ocean buoys indicate water temperatures in that Pacific region have rapidly decreased, officials of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Tuesday.
"Although other scientific factors affect the frequency of hurricanes, there tends to be a greater-than-normal number of Atlantic hurricanes . . . during La Nina events," NOAA Administrator Conrad C. Lautenbacher said in a news release.
Meanwhile, the condition's counterpart, El Nino, a warming of the eastern Pacific, is fading, NOAA officials said. El Nino tends to tear storms apart by creating high-level wind shear. It was credited in part with making the 2006 hurricane season uneventful, though meteorologists also blame it for contributing to the severe storms and tornadoes that have pummeled Central Florida this winter.
That's because El Nino pulls the subtropical jet stream -- high-altitude air currents that sweep across the nation -- farther south, which leads to stronger and more frequent winter storms in the southern U.S., according to meteorologists.
La Nina commonly comes on the heels of El Nino and can stick around for years, said Vernon Kousky, a research meteorologist at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center in Camp Springs, Md.
That happened from 1998 to 2001, helping to make each of those years stormier than normal, officials said. If there is a bright note, La Nina conditions that develop from March to June -- as this one appears to be doing -- usually don't reach peak intensity until December, Kousky said. That means the condition might not be fully in place during the June-November hurricane season.
Threat of wildfires
La Nina also boosts chances for wildfires in Florida because its cooling of the Pacific causes winds at high altitude to carry significantly less moisture across the Southern United States to Florida. During the La Nina that began in '98, drought conditions dried up lakes and turned forests into tinderboxes.
Noted storm prognosticator William Gray and his research assistant Phil Klotzbach of Colorado State University have predicted 14 named storms, including seven hurricanes, in 2007.
That would represent a slightly busier than normal season, which typically sees 11 named storms and six hurricanes.
However, Gray's forecast was drafted in December before the La Nina conditions were detected.
Gray predicted 17 named storms for 2006, including nine hurricanes, with five of those considered intense.
Instead, the season spawned nine named storms and five hurricanes. Only two of those reached Category 3 status.
Gray's forecast was overinflated last year because, he said, he didn't foresee El Nino's arrival.
NOAA will release its seasonal outlook in May."