There is much uncertainty surrounding the Atlantic Hurricane Season, which is forecasting a seven- to 11-month period from June 1 to November 30. However, there is still enough information to make some prognostications. Forecasting a storm’s track can be more difficult than forecasting its intensity or length of a tropical wave, according to AccuWeather.
This year’s season looks very active, thanks to the peak of the El Niño effect occurring during the peak of the season. The record warmth, combined with an unusually large amount of subtropical moisture reaching the Atlantic Basin, should boost the number of named storms, according to forecasts.
At this time of year, the Atlantic Basin is in the lowest-activity period of the hurricane season, according to NOAA. El Niño tends to reduce hurricane formation in the Atlantic Basin because the trade winds in the tropical Pacific are stronger and tend to keep surface moisture over the islands that are most at risk for storm formation.
El Niño also tends to slightly reduce the number of tropical storms and hurricanes as storms lose their characteristic organization to dissipate in a relatively short period of time.
NOAA expects nine to 15 named storms, of which three to six are likely to be hurricanes.
Of those storms, two to four are likely to be major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher wind speeds. This number still falls below average at this time of year, but a much smaller number than during other seasons.
HURRICANE SEASON NOTES:
Only 25 hurricanes, meaning categories 1, 2 and 3 have occurred since the storm surge created by Hurricanes Hugo and Floyd hit Florida, Virginia and the East Coast in 1989.
During the past 10 Atlantic hurricane seasons, 17 named storms formed in May (5 inches or greater of rain in 24 hours or more) and only seven became hurricanes, out of the 26 names used. Five became major hurricanes, out of the 24 that formed in May (four inches or greater of rain in 24 hours or more). Out of total named storms, 16 were classified as hurricanes in May.
There have been five storms during the same period with a peak intensity of Category 3 or higher, including the devastating Hurricane Isabel, which struck the East Coast in 2003. Only two made landfall in Virginia.
Coastal flooding will likely be more frequent during the summer months during hurricane season than during the winter months. That is because it takes water reaching 17 feet to have a measurable effect at the water level. During the summer months, tropical moisture can easily move up the East Coast and the storm surge from tropical storms can stall the water flowing along the coast.
Additionally, the combination of high sea surface temperatures and potentially huge amounts of subtropical moisture in the atmosphere will provide the conditions for tropical storms to become hurricanes. This year the steamy conditions will coincide with what appears to be a dry La Niña. This would further depress rainfall associated with tropical storms and hurricanes, which can actually work to increase the influence of the storms on the Atlantic.
When taken altogether, the predictions still may be off, but there is still enough information to make some predictions. A more accurate prediction based on solid long-term trends and increasing global population trends would be later in the year.
Last year’s Atlantic Hurricane Season was very active, with 14 named storms, with seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes.
A long-term trend with more Atlantic hurricanes is increasing as a result of climate change, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).