It's that time of year again, and with everything else going on in the world it seems cruel to contemplate another hurricane season, but this is the price we pay to call the Gulf Coast home.
Since the first named storm of the season has arrived, Tropical Storm Arthur developed in the Atlantic Ocean over the weekend, it seems like a good time to take a long look at the hurricane season.
While a storm popping up in May feels like an ominous sign of things to come, this is actually the 7th season in a row we've had a named storm before the season has even started.
As Dr. Philip Klotzbach out of Colorado State University points out, there's actually not much correlation between a May storm and the season ahead:
The date of the first Atlantic named storm formation has very little relationship with overall basinwide Atlantic #hurricane activity for the entire season. #Arthur pic.twitter.com/gFLmlEIs67— Philip Klotzbach (@philklotzbach) May 17, 2020
There are, however, other signs that point toward a high likelihood of an above normal season in the Atlantic with every forecast in general consensus that this may be a very busy summer.
It should be pointed out before we dive too deep into this that a large number of storms in the Atlantic doesn't necessarily mean a large number of land falling storms, but the higher number of storms means the higher the odds you end up with one.
Almost every model or forecaster has come out with the same conclusion that this could be an abnormally busy year, and there's two different factors that are hinting that this may be the case.
The first is sea surface temperatures, the first big part of the hurricane equation, and this year they have been running above normal for a large portion of the Gulf of Mexico and the central Atlantic Basin.
Storms that develop this early in the season will typically get going in the Caribbean or the Bay of Campeche around the Yucatan Peninsula with both of these areas running a little bit above normal.
While there is a small patch between Africa and eastern Caribbean that is right at or slightly below normal, this part of the tropics doesn't usually kick on until the late summer so that will be a region to watch.
Recent rainfall has cooled the temperatures along the shoreline, but those spots out in the Caribbean are all sitting in the mid 80s in the deeper areas, and keep in mind it's only mid May.
These numbers go along with the overall trend of sea temperatures being well ahead of where they typically would be for this time of year, and with summer approaching some of these numbers are likely to go up.
Sea surface temperatures is only part of the equation, while the warm waters will serve as the fuel the storms need it's the upper level winds and wind shear that determine if they will form.
This is where La Nina comes in.
As opposed to El Nino which can strengthen wind shear across the tropics, La Nina will do the opposite creating more favorable conditions for the development of hurricanes.
While forecasting these climate events can be a bit fickle there are a few things to keep an eye out for in determining if we're going to see one or the other and that takes us out to the Pacific Ocean.
During a La Nina year there are typically stretches of the central and eastern Pacific Ocean that are cooler during either a neutral set up, or a La Nina event and that certainly seems to be the case.
Forecasts, especially seasonal ones, are fluid and always evolving.
As the newest bit of information comes in or data becomes available those get taken into account so there may be tweaks to the seasonal forecast as we get further into the season.
In the early goings though everything is pointing to an active year in the tropics which would increase the chances of a hurricane impacting the Gulf Coast, or even Louisiana.
As I mentioned earlier there is a lot happening in the world right now and adding to it can feel like piling on a little bit.
Still though, it's so important to be prepared for the tropical season and to make sure you have your plans in place. So if the worst happens you're ready to act.
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