Tropics Heating Up As We Reach the Stretch Run of Hurricane Season

Despite June and July's tropical bluster, as predicted, it's been a fairly quiet hurricane season. With eight named storms, three of which were hurricanes -- none of them stronger than a category two and only one making landfall (in Mexico) -- the pace has been just about what forecasters thought at the beginning of the season.

In fact, this year could turn out to be quite average in terms of all hurricane seasons. The average year has around ten named storms, but since 1995, we've been in a period of increased hurricane activity. This is part of a larger cycle called "the tropical multi-decadal signal." These last 20 to 30 years, meaning we should begin to see a return to average years sometime between 2015 and 2025, though they can last longer.

While this year probably won't be up on the higher end of the range, thanks to the extraordinary activity in July, it probably will be above average, especially now that we are entering the heart of hurricane season.

Right Now So what does that mean for us in Texas? Well, there are certainly some areas that bear watching. The remnants of Tropical Storm Helene are meandering around near the coast of Mexico. No one is predicting Helene restarts and turns into a hurricane, but it bears watching so close to home. There is also dwindling Hurricane Gordon as it spins out into the sea.

The main concern is Invest 94L, which is WAY out in the Atlantic at the moment and speedily moving west towards the Caribbean. The National Hurricane Center is giving it an 80 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone in the next day or two and all indications are this could become Tropical Storm Isaac this week.

The forecast models (see the image above) are in fairly good agreement of the storm moving just slightly north of west into the Caribbean Sea, but they diverge sharply after about five days, which isn't all that surprising. One forecast track over the weekend brought a strong hurricane to the upper Texas coast in about 10-12 days, but that is much too far out to be considered more than a wild guess. We'll have to keep an eye on 94L as we reach the peak of the season over the next four weeks, but no need to panic anytime soon.

Extended Forecast Fortunately, for the upper Texas coast, we only have about a month longer to seriously watch the tropics. It is extremely rare for Texas to see landfall of anything more substantial than a tropical storm after the third week in September, thanks, in part, to the first cool fronts passing through. Yeah, I said cool fronts. We're THAT close to fall.

Technically, hurricane season doesn't end until November 30, but our tropical season ends substantially sooner.

Given the way this year has gone, I'd say it's unlikely a major storm ends up on our doorstep, but we will probably continue to see the kinds of tropical moisture we've had all summer long, which, compared to last year's drought, is a welcome change.

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