Add another title to Barack Obama’s resume: hurricane forecaster.
On Thursday, President Obama spent the morning touring the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami and getting a briefing on the coming Atlantic hurricane season, which begins on June 1. However, the eastern Pacific region saw its hurricane season start two weeks ago on May 15 and as luck would have it, the first named storm of the season is currently churning in the basin.
Obama helped issue the Thursday morning forecast for Andres with his name and title (just in case NHC happened to have another Barack Obama on staff) appearing next one of the NHC’s regular forecasters. It’s unlikely Obama did much of the forecasting, given his lack of a meteorological background and the fact that he was in Miami with bigger issues on his mind, namely the start of hurricane season.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is forecasting a below average hurricane season in the Atlantic basin in large part because of the strengthening El Niño. Tropical storms have trouble forming in the Atlantic thanks to wind patterns associated with the phenomenon.
However, despite increased odds for a quiet year and a multi-year major hurricane drought in the U.S., forecasters have warned that it only takes one storm to wreak serious damage along the East Coast. Notably, 1992 saw only seven named storms, but one of them was Hurricane Andrew, which became a massive Category 5 storm that made a direct hit on Florida.
And though El Niño generally leads to a quiet Atlantic hurricane season, in the eastern Pacific, it can increase activity and send storm’s churning toward Obama’s home state of Hawaii. With El Niño-like conditions burbling last August, two storms beelined for the island chain with one, Hurricane Iselle, making landfall as the strongest storm on record to hit the Big Island.