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The Caribbean Sea is very hot

. 20 tropical storms forecast for this season
. Evening and early-morning temperatures higher than normal, especially in the central provinces

HAVANA (18 August 2005) -- RECENT forecasts by Cuban experts show that the current hurricane season will be more active than expected, and 20 tropical storms are predicted between now and October 31.

During that period, which covers May through October 31, about nine of those storms could become hurricanes, affirmed Doctor Ramón Pérez, director of the Climate Center of the Cuban Meteorological Institute.

A previous study in May predicted 13 tropical storms, of which nine could reach hurricane status.

Nine tropical storms have been registered so far, of which two have become intense hurricanes, the devastating Dennis and Emily.

Over the last five years, four strong hurricanes have passed through Cuba and the previous register was three per decade, Dr. Pérez noted.

There are periods of more or less hurricane activity, and the current, more active period began in 1995. This period is only comparable to those of 1887 and 1933, the scientist explained. The worst hurricane season before this one was in 1933, when eight tropical storms formed, and two reached hurricane category, a record that has now been passed this year.

Climatic changes are part of the meteorological phenomena, Dr. Pérez explained, which is why this increase of hurricane activity cannot be directly associated with global warming, and neither can it be dismissed in studies underway.

Cuban experts' forecasts match up with those of US meteorologist William Gray, a prestigious professor of atmospheric science at the University of Colorado in the United States, who announced the formation of 20 tropical storms and 10 hurricanes, six of them with winds of more than 177 kilometers per hour during the hurricane season in the northern Atlantic Ocean.

"Based on research data obtained until July, we forecast one of the most active hurricane seasons ever registered," Gray said, according to an EFE dispatch.


The Caribbean Sea is hotter than ever, to the point that the present temperatures have not been registered since 1951. In the tropical band of the Atlantic, temperatures are one degree or more higher than normal for this period, the Climate Center director affirmed.

It is hottest in the Caribbean when changes occur in the tri-dimensional circulation of the seas. Water movements change and with them, temperatures vary.

"One thing that is definitely a consequence in Cuba of global warming is the increase in early-morning temperatures, with minimums higher than reported averages for the summer months," Dr. Pérez explained.

This past July was the fourth hottest since 1951. While the summer of 2005 feels like a very hot one, heat records have not yet been broken.

The feeling of heat is exacerbated this summer due to the absence of strong winds, particularly during the last week of July, because the heat did not feel so overwhelming due to the atmospheric cooling left in the destructive wake of Hurricane Dennis.

Maximum July temperatures were over 30 degrees Celsius, which is normal; the anomaly is that minimum temperatures are more than one degree higher than normal.

While early-morning temperatures in the eastern and western regions are registering at 1.4 degrees higher than average - 26 and 24 degrees Celsius, respectively - in central Cuba, they are at 1.6 degrees over the average of 24 degrees.

The hotter evenings are due to cloudiness. The cloud build-up prevents accumulated solar radiation from rising into the atmosphere. When electrical storms occur, they bring refreshing coolness, which alleviates the heat a bit.

Finally, regarding perspiration brought about by the prevailing humidity, Dr. Pérez noted that the morning is the most humid time of day - about 90 per cent -- while in the afternoons, it goes down to 70 per cent. Meanwhile, we Cubans are using umbrellas, fans, and everything else we can to find a little relief from this broiling summer of 2005.

* Granma International staff writer

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