Brent Renneke, associate editor, Boating Industry – Although the economic conditions are given the most press, we all know that the most significant influence over our success is the one thing we can’t control – the weather. This Memorial Day weekend, for example, was one to remember, albeit for reasons many would love to forget.
Flooding across the country has made many of the holiday weekend's most popular bodies of water inaccessible or relegated to extended no-wake zones.
Locally, the St. Croix River, which is one of the most popular boating destinations in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, issued a no-wake zone that stretched nearly 60 miles. I recently talked to someone who has boated on the St. Croix River over Memorial Day weekend for the past 10 years, and he estimated boater traffic this year was half of what it typically is.
On the bright side, one of the main contributors to the spring's turbulent weather is on its way out. La Niña, characterized as unusually cold Pacific Ocean temperatures along the equator, will continue to weaken in the coming months, meaning soon it will no longer aid the severe weather already seen across the United States.
It may sound like the departure of these destructive forces is welcome news for the boating community regarding hurricane season, which officially began Wednesday. But this is not always the case.
La Niña’s departure and the absence of its Pacific-warming counterpart, El Niño, takes away the predictable forces many meteorologists rely on to predict the upcoming hurricane season, making forecasting the 2011 season much more difficult, according to this Associated Press article.
The National Weather Service recently predicted a busy hurricane season with as many as 18 named stores and 10 hurricanes. However, there is more uncertainty around the prediction than in years past due to the upcoming months being a “neutral” summer (no La Niña or El Niño present).
The last “neutral” summer occurred in 2005, which was the season of Hurricane Katrina and other major hurricanes. Also important for those dependent on boater traffic in the summer months was that 2005 was the 17th wettest summer in the prior 111 years. This summer, above median precipitation is expected in Florida, along the East Coast and in the Central Plains, according to the Climate Prediction Center.
However, there are many factors that go into predicting the summer weather, and each neutral summer is different. According to forecasters, the smart money is on an above average hurricane season, and more turbulent weather in the coming months are what the industry should prepare for. But it is also smart to realize the uncertainty that surrounds these forecasts, this year even more so than others.