Carve Magazine Issue 182
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A WEATHERS EYE
It’s one of the curious things about surfing: we’re one of the few tribes of people that look forward to hurricane season. Aside from us it’s pretty much only the meteorologists and climate science geeks that get tumescent when tropical storms are getting all bolshy and throwing their toys out the pram.
Most folks are, of course, rightly worried when they hear the word. Be it hurricane, typhoon or cyclone, depending where you are in the world. FYI it’s a hurricane in the Atlantic and NE Pacific, a typhoon in the NW Pacific and a cyclone in the South Pacific and Indian Ocean.
The names may differ but one thing binds these cloudy rings of massive power together: the maximum sustained wind speed needs to be over 74 miles per hour to be in the club. Think about that for a second.
Thats how fast you drive down the motorway, assuming, like I do, that your speedo is a bit conservative … And that’s the qualifying speed. If you’ve ever been in a convertible on the motorway and own hair you’ll know it ain’t good.
So it doesn’t take a Korean rocket scientist to work out that winds in excess of 70mph hitting anything on land ain’t pretty. Not to mention the accompanying deluge; as horrifically illustrated recently by Harvey’s liberal dousing of Texas.
These monster storms cause chaos and billions in damage on one hand and give us rubber-suited, selfish, pleasure-seeking weirdos cracking surf on the other. It couldn’t be a more skewed balance of good and bad. While hurricanes making landfall delivers scenes from a Hollywood disaster movie if they stay out to sea then it’s just wonderful pulses of oceanic energy enjoyed thousands of miles away from the eye of the storm.
Some years are rich in named storms, others not so, but this year is on track for a spate of storms. We’re already up to Irma, which has just rung in as the fiercest Atlantic hurricane ever and is poised to smash the Caribbean and Florida. At the time of writing, in early September, there are still a few months left in the Atlantic hurricane season.
It’s easy to play with stats to suit your desired outcome but it’s a simple fact that since 1851 ten of the top fifteen years with the most named storms happened in this millennium.
This year has seen the first major hurricane hit the US since 2005 (the MVP record holding year in most regards), it’s one that also broke rainfall records. It’s also the third consecutive year the season started early. If 2017 can generate anymore than 15 named storms and it’ll make the sought after top 10.
Climate changes. It’s what it does. It has done since our ball of cosmic dust has had a recognisable atmosphere. But you’d have to be a very brave soul to not think that something is up with the weather. The silver lining that bounteous hurricane years are good for us surfers is a cold comfort.