Up to 14 hurricanes will occur in the coming Atlantic storm season, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The Western Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico region is expected to be hit by 14 hurricanes this year, with seven of them being major storms of Category Three and above (meaning windspeeds over 110 mph).
These hurricanes could potentially complicate the clean-up of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, halting BP’s efforts to stem the oil leak.
A storm surge could push oil further along the coast and up onto beaches.
In related news, a study by the American Geophysical Union (AGU), to be released on 10th June, will state that storm-induced underwater currents could spark mudslides in the seafloor, damaging pipelines on the seabed.
Recent research has been able to measure the huge forces that hurricanes exert at great depths (bottom stress). Scientists based their study on the observations of the Category Four Hurricane Ivan that hit the Gulf of Mexico in 2004.
It was found that bottom stress was 15 / 20% of the wind stress on the surface of the water, and as high as 40% under the peak of the hurricane.
“The most surprising thing was that the period in which this bottom stress could be damaging persisted for about a week after the hurricane passed”, said William J Teague, one of the authors of the report and a scientist at the US Naval Research Laboratory at Stennis Space Centre in Mississippi.
The Gulf of Mexico is home to some 50 000 km of pipelines and is especially vulnerable to hurricane activity. The current hurricane record was set in 2005, where 15 swept across the region, including Hurricane Katrina.