MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - As the peak of the hurricane season gets under way, the Atlantic continues to see very little potential for tropical development.
So far in the 2019 hurricane season, only two named storms have formed - Andrea formed early in the season, and Barry brought flooding to parts of Louisianna on July 14. According to famed Colorado State forecaster Dr. Phillip Klotzback, the last time there were no named storms between July 14th and August 19th was 1982. The rest of the 1982 hurricane season continued on with only 6 named storms that year. In contrast, 1999 had a very slow start to the season and quickly ramped up during September and included Hurricane Floyd’s impacts on the Carolinas.
The 1984 hurricane season had zero storms to form in June and July and the first named storm of the season did not form until August 28th. That season went on to produce 12 named storms including Hurricane Diana in mid September that made landfall near Wilmington.
The hurricane season of 1961 also had zero named storms to form in August. That season roared to life in September with 4 major hurricanes and two tropical storms forming over a 4 week period.
Despite such a slow start, it’s important to remember that two thirds of all Atlantic hurricanes form between August 20th and October 10th - the most active part of the hurricane season. It’s also important to note that a slow start to the season does not always mean the rest of the season will be quiet. Tropical storms and hurricanes often form in bursts that can feature a few weeks of frequent activity followed by periods of fewer storms. These bursts of development are most likely from late August through September.
There are some signs that the hurricane season may start to come to life by late this month and into September.
El Nino continues to fade. El Nino, features warmer than normal water off the South American Pacific coast and often leads to higher wind shear over the Atlantic. The wind shear helps to tear developing tropical systems apart or keep them relatively week.
In it’s most recent hurricane season outlook update, NOAA stated “that the current El Nino in the Pacific Ocean has ended and neutral conditions have returned. El Nino typically suppresses Atlantic hurricane activity but now that it’s gone, we could see a busier season ahead, said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.”
Long range forecast models are showing a gradual reduction in the amount of wind shear across the Atlantic by the end of August and into early September.
Dust and dry air have also limited development so far this hurricane season. Large plumes of dust and fine sand have frequently been picked up from the Sahara Desert in Africa. These plumes of dust are often times pushed into the Atlantic and occasionally travel through the Caribbean. This dust greatly reduces the ability for thunderstorms to form and maintain themselves long enough for a tropical disturbance to form.
By late August, the amount of dust and dry air blown into the Atlantic is forecast to decrease. This decrease will allow more robust tropical waves (large clusters of thunderstorms) to maintain themselves as they roll off the African coast and into the central Atlantic.
On average, the Atlantic hurricane season produces 12 named storms, of which six become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.
The official forecast from NOAA for the rest of the season calls for 10-17 named storms (winds of 39 mph or greater), of which 5-9 will become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or greater), including 2-4 major hurricanes (winds of 111 mph or greater). NOAA’s forecast is only for the number of storms in a season and does include potential landfalls. Landfalls are largely determined by short-term weather patterns, which are only predictable within about a week of a storm potentially reaching a coastline.
While signs of future activity in the Atlantic are increasing, it’s also important to remember that even in a quiet season, you can get a landfalling hurricane to cause damage and destruction. In 1992, Hurricane Andrew was the first storm of the season to form - in late August. Andrew went on to hit south Florida as a Category 5 hurricane. The rest of the 1992 season was unusually quiet.