McWeather or Not


Hurricanes Continued!

Dennis McTighe

Only about a month from the beginning of summer, but try telling this week’s weather. A pair of March-like storms are bearing down on California with one to two feet of snow in the Sierras and one to two inches of rain along the entire coast. Laguna’s normal rainfall for May is around a quarter inch. Our wettest Mays have been 3.03 in 1977, 2.24 inches in 1998 and 1.61 inches in 1990. All remaining Mays have recorded less than an inch.
The 2011 Eastern Pacific hurricane season officially began last Sunday and runs through Nov. 15. An average of 14 named storms form each season, each assigned a name and there’s a different name for each letter in the alphabet for the next six years. For instance the names this year won’t be used again until 2017. Then not again until 2023 and so on. Most of these storms born off the coast of Southern Mexico move west or northwest away from land out into the vast Pacific. A few however have veered to the north, creeping up the coast of Baja and affecting our surf and weather. The ones that do make up as far as say Northern Baja, they’re merely a tropical depression with winds less the 30 mph and maybe a half an inch of rain locally. Typically a hurricane feeds off warm ocean surface temperatures. It will peter out unless the water temp. is at least 80 degrees.
he waters off Baja and Southern California are much cooler than those in the tropical waters off mainland Mexico. The average summer water temps. locally run about 68-72 degrees in a normal year, so storms lose their punch when they enter our cooler waters. There’s one exception to the rule and that was way back on Sept. 25, 1939, when an El Nino fed tropical storm found its was all the way up to Southern California unleashing winds up to 70 mph, 7-10 inches of rain, and surf up to 25 foot. Surface ocean temps. that September reached an unprecedented 80 degrees as far north as Point Conception, thus extending the tropical storm’s life span thanks to a very strong El Nino event that year.
Through extensive research it has been learned that El Nino and La Nina events significantly affect hurricane production and strength. More on that next week. Aloha!
Dennis McTighe served as a meteorologist and forecaster. He has kept daily weather records since 1958.

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