Back in May, the NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (along with three other prediction centers) delivered a forecast for a “below normal” season. All told, NOAA expected 8-13 named tropical storms, 3-6 hurricanes, and 1-2 of which could be category 3 or above. The reasoning for so few storms was because of cold water in the Atlantic as well as an elevated chance for an El Niño to emerge in late summer or autumn.
Not only have there been few Atlantic and Caribbean hurricanes so far this summer, but conditions are such that there is a lower probability of one occurring as the season moves through the typical August-September hurricane seasonal peak. NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center’s revised hurricane prediction reduced the expected number of hurricanes even further: 7-12 named storms, 3-6 hurricanes, and 0-2 category 3 or above storms.
So far, the Atlantic has seen only three category 1 hurricanes, one tropical storm, and one tropical depression.
Hurricane Goldilocks Zone
In the Atlantic, hurricanes form along the West African coast because it has the right water temperature, the right kind of dry air moving at the right speed, and little turbulence. It’s a Goldilocks Zone for storm development.
But not this year. Sea surface temperatures (SSTs) off west Africa are too cold. In fact, they are notably colder compared to other tropical SSTs. One example is the eastern Pacific where SSTs are warmer by 1° C or more — which is enough of a difference in a critical temperature range to evaporate water, form clouds, and generate storm systems. That’s one reason why there have been 14 hurricanes in the eastern Pacific in 2014.
Another reason has been that the west African monsoons have been weak. During the summer, the monsoon brings cool, wet air over the Gulf of Guinea in the southwest of Africa. Strong monsoon storms are thought to generate easterly atmospheric waves that spark hurricane systems. Without that monsoon energy, atmospheric waves aren’t forming.
NOAA forecasts a 60-65% probability of a weak El Niño expected to emerge by October. El Niños are caused by warm waters in the eastern equatorial Pacific and cause global weather effects. When an El Niño emerges, wind shear off the west African coast becomes more common and can tear storm systems apart before they really have a chance to develop.
It’s STILL Hurricane Season
Even though chances are lower this year for a storm to strike, there’s STILL a chance. It only takes one hurricane to create a tragedy so it’s still important to remain vigilant and stay prepared —even if you don’t live on the coast. Make sure you and your family are prepared and have a plan. Be sure to check out our Hurricane 101 – Preparing for the Storm and “How Hurricanes Impact You” infographic, as well as information and storm updates at the Hurricane Prep Center.
You can also follow Direct Energy on Twitter for up to date information on emergencies in your area to help you weather any storm.