If it's another hurricane season, Willie Drye, author of Storm of the Century: The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, must be producing great copy for National Geographic.
His latest dispatch is sobering:
Forecasters have predicted that the 2005 hurricane season will continue a decadelong cycle of active seasons. (See "'Active' Hurricane Season Predicted for U.S.") Four named storms have already formed. Hurricane Dennis began as a tropical depression in the eastern Caribbean Sea on July 5.
Phil Klotzbach, a meteorology research associate at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, said the formation of an intense hurricane in that part of the Caribbean in July is an unusual event.
This is the only known hurricane season to have had four storms form so early in the season, which runs from June 1 to November 30. Powerful July hurricanes formed in 1909 and 1926, but both storms lost much of their intensity before making landfall in Texas and Florida, respectively.
Meteorologist Stu Ostro of the Weather Channel said the 2005 season is shaping up to be an unusual one. The formation of Hurricane Dennis, however, isn't necessarily an indicator of what the rest of the season will be like.
"What happens early in the season doesn't necessarily mean a thing for later on," Ostro said. "In 1997, for example, things got off to an early start with a bunch of storms in June and July, including a U.S. hurricane landfall. But then there were very few storms the remainder of the season, and none hit land, either in the U.S. or Caribbean."
Ostro attributes the diminished activity in 1997 to the presence of El Niņo, an occasional weather phenomenon that alters atmospheric conditions in the Pacific Ocean. The presence of El Niņo typically reduces hurricane activity.
Ostro expects 2005 to be a busy season, because there's no El Niņo effect.
"All signs point to a continued active season," Ostro said.