As the U.S oil and gas industry continues to pick up the pieces from the record 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecast of more overactive seasons to come is not reassuring.
Through Friday, Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma have cumulatively shut in 501.222 Bcf of natural gas, which is equivalent to 13.732% of the Gulf of Mexico's 3.65 Tcf in yearly production. Daily shut-in production in the Gulf is still 2.943 MMcf/d.
NOAA said the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season is the busiest on record and extends the active hurricane cycle that began in 1995 -- a trend likely to continue for years to come. The season included 26 named storms, including 14 hurricanes in which seven were major (Category 3 or higher). The 26 named storms shatters the previous record of 21 set in 1933. In contrast, the government agency said that the average over the last 40 years is for a season to have 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.
Katrina, Rita and Wilma all reached Category Five intensity, which is the first season since 1851 that three storms have achieved that level. NOAA warned that its data for the season could chance because Tropical Storm Cindy may of reached hurricane force at landfall in Louisiana and Hurricane Emily might of briefly reached Category Five strength during its run.
While Nov. 30 is the traditional end of the hurricane season, Hurricane Epsilon -- the 26th named storm -- slipped just under the fictional deadline, forming last Tuesday over the central Atlantic Ocean and turning into a hurricane on Thursday/Friday. As of late Friday, Category One Epsilon was about 1,165 miles west of the Azores, traveling northeast at 12 mph with sustained wind speeds of 75 mph. The National Hurricane Center said "gradual weakening" was forecast to begin Dec. 3.
"This hurricane season shattered records that have stood for decades -- most named storms, most hurricanes and most category five storms. Arguably, it was the most devastating hurricane season the country has experienced in modern times," said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. "I'd like to foretell that next year will be calmer, but I can't. Historical trends say the atmosphere patterns and water temperatures are likely to force another active season upon us."
The government weather forecasting agency said the Atlantic Basin is in the active phase of a multi-decadal cycle in which optimal conditions in the ocean and atmosphere, including warmer-than-average sea-surface temperatures and low wind shear, enhance hurricane activity. This increase in the number and intensity of tropical storms and hurricanes can span multiple decades (approximately 20 to 30 years). NOAA will make its official 2006 season forecast in May, prior to the June 1st start to the season.
"Evidence of this active cycle was demonstrated this year as the Atlantic Basin produced the equivalent of more than two entire hurricane seasons over the course of one. Because we are in an active hurricane era, it's important to recognize that with a greater number of hurricanes comes increasing odds of one striking land," said retired Air Force Brig. Gen. David L. Johnson, director of the NOAA National Weather Service.
Ahead of the 2005 season in early August, NOAA scientists predicted it would be extremely active, forecasting near-record activity. The 26 named storms topped the forecast range of 18 to 21, the 14 hurricanes inched above the forecast of nine to 11 and the seven major hurricanes fell within NOAA's forecast range of five to seven. Five hurricanes (Dennis, Katrina, Ophelia, Rita and Wilma) and three tropical storms (Arlene, Cindy and Tammy) directly impacted the U.S.
The 2005 season also marked the first time that letters of the Greek alphabet were used to name storms since storms began acquiring names in 1953, as Hurricane Wilma exhausted the original list of 21 names.
Noting that there are only six months until the official start of the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season, NOAA urges hurricane-prone residents that the battle against the hurricane season is won during the off season. "Winter and spring is the time to conduct hurricane preparations, such as stocking supplies, assembling a safety kit that includes a NOAA Weather Radio and preparing an evacuation plan," said Max Mayfield, director of the NOAA National Hurricane Center.
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