As we inch closer to the start of hurricane season — we already have an invest near the Bahamas that shouldn't amount to anything, even though the official start of the season isn't until June 1 — predictions on what kind of year we can expect in the tropical Atlantic have been coming in. By April, the well respected meteorological team of Dr. Phil Klotzbach and Dr. William Gray had released their early season predictions, and for those of us living along the Gulf Coast, it would appear to be good news.
Hurricanes are impacted by a variety of factors including wind shear, the temperature of ocean waters (referred to as Sea Surface Temperatures or SST), dust that blows off the Sahara Desert (true story) and conditions in the atmosphere above the Atlantic. In the image above, there is plenty of very cool water across the expanse of the Atlantic Basin, atypical for years with lots of storms, but very similar to 2014, a slow year, storm wise. Granted, ocean temperatures aren't exactly high this time of year, but they are lower than usual.
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More importantly, forecasters are predicting the emergence of a fairly strong El Niño event, particularly late in the summer during the height of hurricane season. El Niño refers to when temperatures over the Pacific Basin heat up, which increases trade winds blowing across Central America and into the Atlantic. Those keep SSTs cool and generally inhibit storm formation.
As a result, forecasters are calling for one of the quietest seasons in the last two decades. The average number of named storms in a year are 12, with six hurricanes, three of those of the major category three or above. Most forecasts are calling for between 7 and 9 storms with only 3-5 hurricanes, one major.
Despite the rosy predictions, it is important to note that 1983 only had four named storms for the entire season. The first wasn't until just before Labor Day. Unfortunately for Houston, that was Hurricane Alicia, a category three storm that made landfall near Galveston and devastated the entire region. It only takes one, which is why residents along the Gulf Coast should prepare as they would in any other year.
Hopefully, with forecasts being what they are, that will just mean we'll have plenty of bottled water on hand for when we go jogging in October.