MET Office: conditions favor storms

POSTED: 08/1/13 12:49 PM
Head of St. Maarten’s meteorological office Joseph Isaac delivers his presentation at the SHTA’s hurricane preparedness seminar at Carl’s Unique Inn on Tuesday. Photo Today / Leo Brown.

Head of St. Maarten’s meteorological office Joseph Isaac delivers his presentation at the SHTA’s hurricane preparedness seminar at Carl’s Unique Inn on Tuesday. Photo Today / Leo Brown.

St. Maarten – This hurricane season is forecasted to be an above average one, according to the head of St. Maarten’s meteorological department, Joseph Isaac. “We are going into a La Nina year favorable for storms,” he warned at the SHTA hurricane preparedness seminar at Carl’s Unique Inn on Tuesday. The MET office has an “emphasis is to deliver high quality information with accuracy, though meteorology is not a perfect science,” Isaac stated as he gave a power point presentation to the audience in the conference room.

Most meteorologists are partly attributing the predicted active season to the La Niña phenomenon, a warming of the Atlantic which is favorable to tropical cyclone development. The warmer ocean temperatures combined with light upper atmosphere winds and moisture are conducive to hurricane formation. “Heat from the land is not significant enough to generate storms. Warm ocean temperatures are mainly responsible,” the department head continued.

Previously, the meteorological headquarters was stationed in Curacao, when St. Maarten was part of the Netherlands Antilles federation. Tropical storm and hurricane watches and warnings for the Windward Islands were issued from there. After the constitutional status change, however, St. Maarten now determines when to issue weather notices.

“All information comes from the national hurricane center” based in the US, Isaac informed the crowd. In other words, all weather data for much of the world comes from the US and is dispatched across the globe. There is “a very organized network” where information is sent around the world to the various weather offices.

Still, coordinating between St. Maarten and St. Martin can be “tricky” at times, Isaac cautioned, because St. Martin’s hurricane and tropical storm updates are issued by the French meteorological service, Meteo France. Because of this, the department has to “coordinate as much as possible, so as not to create confusion.” The message that the public receives on both sides, therefore, must be synchronized.

The department head had some advice for the general public too. “Each hurricane acts and affects differently,” he said. Hurricane veterans will know that some storms bring a tremendous amount of rain while others will have wrought more damage through wind gusts and still others will bring with them a devastating storm surge.

Storm surges are more significant for St. Maarten when hurricanes move backward, like Earl, Omar, and Lenny did. “Most deaths are the result of storm surge,” Isaac pointed out. “Be very careful with storm surge.” It comes before a hurricane affects a given area.

Isaac didn’t hesitate to remind everyone to pay attention to public advisories during the storm season, especially when local watches and warnings have been issued. Because not all hurricanes behave the same, it’s important to track their movement and project path. “Not every system will allow us the same latitude,” said Isaac.

The meteorological office has its own website which gives updates as well as local weather conditions. Isaac said his department will also be launching a hotline soon where people can call in for weather updates. The website can be found at www.meteosxm.com .

 

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