As if we needed any reminder of what the date is, Houston was deluged with tropical rainfall this week, which also happens to be the first week of Hurricane Season.
For the uninitiated, hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30. For all practical purposes, our hurricane season in Houston is over on October 1 and the heart of our season runs from mid-August through mid-September.
We are currently in a time of relatively active hurricane seasons in the tropical Atlantic thanks to the warm phase of the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation, which is a fancy way of saying the ocean is warmer right now. Those phases (warm-cool-warm, etc.) last 20 to 40 years. This warm phase began in 1995, so we are a little over halfway through if it lasts the full four decades.
During this phase, "normal" hurricane activity is higher than during other phases because ocean waters are warmer (a key factor for hurricanes). And normal right now is around 12-13 named storms per year, about half of those becoming hurricanes and about half of those turning into major storms (category three or larger).
The foremost hurricane forecasters include the team at Colorado State University led by Dr. Philip Klotzbach. His forecasts are considered benchmarks throughout the season. In his most recent advisory, he is calling for 13 named storms, six hurricanes of which two would be major. Very average.
Right now, there is uncertainty surrounding the weather phenomenon known as El Niño, which increase trade winds in the Atlantic and tends to inhibit hurricane activity. There is a very modest El Niño currently, but it is difficult to predict whether it will remain, dissipate or grow throughout the summer, thus making all forecasts pretty iffy right now.
The key for any good hurricane preparedness plan is to remember that it only takes one storm and it doesn't have to be a hurricane. Hurricane Harvey wasn't a hurricane by the time it dumped 60 inches of rain on Houston in 2017. Tropical Storm Allison was never a hurricane when it did nearly equal damage in 1991. And Hurricane Alicia was one of only a handful of storms in 1983, but it hit Galveston.
Knowing this, there is no reason not to be prepared and keep an eye on the tropics throughout the summer. By the time hurricane season is over for us, you'll be sick of talking about it and even sicker of the hot, sticky weather. That first cool front will blow through and you'll forget hurricane season ever existed. And that's only about 120 days from now.
In the meantime, stay tuned and be ready just in case.
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