Contrary to generalized popular belief, “tropical hurricanes are formed not only in the Caribbean sea, but in all tropical seas around the world. Conditions for their formation are sea heat (energy), surface seawater temperature above 78.8 °F, high humidity over the marine surface and a distribution of weak winds in the vertical —just another favorable condition.” This is Dr. Rubiera in his own words talking about these headline-grabbing phenomena of the Caribbean, following the passage of hurricanes Gustav and Ike through several countries in the region. The world climate has endured irreversible changes in 2008. Hotter winters and sweltering summers, for instance.

In the face of this situation, may I ask you if these conditions could trigger far more hurricanes than in past decades?

There are more hurricanes now than between 1970 and 1974, yet the number is similar to the period between 1940 and 1960.

The reason is that there are multi-decadal periods of hurricane activity in the North Atlantic Ocean, right where the Caribbean Sea is and in which changes in temperature and salinity may cause alternate periods of hurricane activity or inactivity that stretch out for 20 to 35 years, according to stats logged over the past 200 years.

Nobody knows for sure where or when a hurricane is going to hit in advance. An active season in the Atlantic Ocean means nothing for a specific spot. We can then see active hurricane seasons, like in 1995 —the second most active season of the 20th century that churned out 19 tropical storms (the average is 10) and not a single hurricane hit Cuba.

There were similarly active seasons in 2006 and 2007, and no hurricane made landfall in Cuba, either. However, there are inactive seasons, like in 1930 with only a couple of hurricanes, but one of them played havoc with the Dominican Republic and caused plentiful damage. In the same breath, the 1992 hurricane season was inactive, with barely 4 hurricanes in all, yet one of them was Andrews that took a deadly toll and caused severe damages in the state of Florida in the U.S. Since you never know where or when a particular hurricane is going to pound, the best thing to do is gather information, track them down and remain on the lookout all the time, which as a matter of fact is what Cuba does.

Tourism and Meteorology. What do you make of that relationship?

Very interesting because meteorology opens the possibility of knowing beforehand, through accurate weather forecasts, if there’s a chance of showers, windy conditions or high temperatures, if the sea is going to be choppy or not. If tourists make an effective use of this information, they could plan much better their spare time. For instance, if it’s going to rain, then tourists may opt for a stop at a museum or other places indoors. If it’s going to be a sunny day, then they could go to the beach.

The tropical cyclone, especially the most powerful one called hurricane in the Atlantic and typhoon in the Pacific, is a mighty meteorological system that brings along heavy rains and colossal sea swells. However, they can be forecast with plenty of time in advance and let authorities take timely protective actions. If things that must be done are done, you hardly ever have to grieve human losses, as in the case of Cuba, unless for those who act recklessly. When a hurricane closes in, people living in dangerous areas are evacuated, and so are tourists. The population remains posted on the latest developments bymeans of a nonstop warning system broadcast through newsmedia, and at the same time we issue weather forecasts thatallow them to take all necessary precautions.

What does Cuba’s success in the travel industry in the faceof looming hurricanes actually entail?

That success lies in the fact that tourists are treatedthe same way the local population is treated.

They remain informed, they are taught about what to do, they are suggested specific actions and they are evacuated to safe locations if necessary. In the case of evacuations, tourists are relocated in hotels of similar category or higher in those parts of the country where there’s no hurricane alert, so they can continue enjoying their vacations.

Cuba’s success in this field is owed to the joint action of weather forecasters, the Civil Defense, the news media, the population and the political willingness of the State to take all necessary measures in order to prevent the loss of human lives. Nonetheless, we need to continue educating everybody because there’s still a bunch of reckless persons out there who try to cross overflowing rivers or venture out in the streets in extremely windy conditions, and those acts might cause a few victims.

The goal here is to avoid a single death during the passage of a hurricane, no matter how powerful it might be. Caribbean nations are doing tremendous efforts in coming together and sharing experiences in the face of natural disasters.

How do you define this scenario? What recommendations will you make to further step up efficiency in this sense?

All Caribbean nations, alongside those in Central America, Mexico, Canada, Venezuela, Colombia and the U.S. are represented in the Hurricane Committee of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) for the region, and within this framework all warning systems are reviewed on a yearly basis and a broad array of coordinative efforts is made for the sharing of meteorological information.

If there were something to suggest, I’ll recommend to tie up weather forecasts to a hefty protection service or civil defense system, as well as make a rational use of news media in a bid to keep the people posted on what’s going on with reliable, trustworthy pieces of news rather than cliffhanging information that leads to uncertainty and adds disorientation to ignorance, something which is extremely dangerous in a situation like that because it also leads to inaction or inadequate measures that might eventually cause victims.