Environment Canada’s Canadian Hurricane Centre is encouraging Canadians to prepare for what is expected to be another active hurricane season.

“Several international hurricane authorities are predicting that this year will be an active hurricane season in the North Atlantic Ocean. Therefore we remind Canadians that it’s time to start preparing for hurricane season,” says Chris Fogarty, Program Supervisor for the Canadian Hurricane Centre. Each year on average one or two storms directly affect Canadian territory, with another two or three typically threatening our offshore waters.

The United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts that the level of hurricane activity in the North Atlantic Ocean will again be above normal. Sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic are still at record warm levels, indicating the region is still in a multi-decade period of high activity for hurricanes. It also seems unlikely that an El Niño will develop. El Niño is a warming of the tropical Pacific that produces wind patterns that squelch development of tropical storms in the Atlantic. The NOAA outlook, released today, predicts 12-18 named storms, 6-10 hurricanes, and 3-6 major hurricanes.

Environment Canada encourages Canadians to be ready for hurricane season, by preparing themselves and their property, and by following Environment Canada’s hurricane bulletins on the internet at weatheroffice.gc.ca, on Weatheradio, or through local media. Important information on preparing for hurricanes can also be found at http://www.getprepared.ca/.

The 2011 season will include changes to the existing suite of Canadian Hurricane Centre products to make hurricane information more accessible and even easier to use. For example storm track maps have been simplified and a new more concise, plain-language public bulletin has been created. The traditional technical bulletin will remain available for those who require the additional detailed technical information and meteorological discussion. We have also changed our software so that emergency planners can better access and use storm track information in their emergency preparedness activities.

Although many people have experienced first hand powerful reminders of the potential impacts of hurricanes, Fogarty cautions Canadians not to become complacent if they haven’t been personally affected by a tropical cyclone. “The overall amount of hurricane activity predicted for the entire Atlantic is much less important than knowing how to prepare for the one storm that could affect you.”

Hurricane season officially runs from June through November when the waters of the Atlantic are warm enough to produce a tropical cyclone, the general category of weather systems which include tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes. Hurricanes typically start to become more of a concern in Canadian waters a bit later in the season; however, the Centre maintains a year-round vigil, monitoring the Atlantic Ocean for any tropical cyclone that may form and threaten Canada or its waters.