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Why hurricane projections matter to Kansas

Forecasters say the 2009 hurricane season is shaping up to be anywhere from ordinary to benign.

Why does this matter in landlocked Kansas? Because the remnants of hurricanes and tropical cyclones can reach the Sunflower State, depending on where they come ashore.

The record-setting rain that fell on Wichita last September came from what was left of Hurricane Lowell, a Pacific hurricane. Because of prevailing jet stream patterns, the leftovers of Pacific hurricanes and tropical storms reach Kansas more often than named storms that come up through the Gulf of Mexico.

Other Pacific hurricanes whose remnants doused Kansas were Kiko in 1989, Paine in 1986 and Waldo in 1985.

Fast-forward to 2009: The National Hurricane Center predicts an average number of named storms during hurricane season, which began June 1 and extends through the end of November. That means anywhere from 9 to 14 named storms will form in the Atlantic Ocean, with a half-dozen or so growing to hurricane strength. Of course, any named storm that hits where you live is a big deal, so such predictions have to be kept in perspective.

Meanwhile, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center predicts anywhere from 3 to 5 tropical cyclones this year. That’s about the average number for any given year, but forecasters say a developing el Nino could lower the total by keeping ocean temperatures cooler than normal.

Cool water temperatures discourage tropical storm development by limiting instability in the atmosphere. As veteran Kansas weather watchers know, thunderstorms feed on atmospheric instability.