Rock You Like a You Know What: Why Hurricane Season Should Heat Up and Stop Being So Lame

Categories: Hurricanes

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The cat is purring...
Since 1995, the Atlantic Basin has been in a period of higher-than-normal activity for tropical storms. This is a phenomena referred to as the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation. It basically means that for periods of 20-40 years (or longer), there is an increase in storm activity across the Atlantic. To better illustrate, Hurricane Alicia struck Galveston in late August, 1983. Since storms are named in alphabetical order, that made Alicia the first storm of that year. By contrast, we had five named storms by August 15, the date Alicia formed in 1983.

While this season may very well live up to the predictions in terms of named storms -- the earliest forecasts called for 20 named storms -- simply because we have a lot of time between now and the end of the season, it is hard to imagine 2013 will measure up to the forecasts simply because none of the storms that have formed have made it to hurricane strength.

There has only been one season in the recorded era -- 2011 -- when more tropical storms formed in a row with none of them reaching hurricane status. It's rare. Obviously, it has been a good thing because it means we have been free of the kind of tropical weather we do not want -- major hurricanes -- but still peppered with tropical moisture from the Gulf, something we haven't gotten with regularity in a couple years.

We reached the beginning of the busy portion of the hurricane season on August 15 and that will peak around September 10. After that, there is normally a fairly precipitous decline in the number of strong storms. By the third week of September, hurricane season for the Texas gulf coast is ostensibly over. We may get a depression or tropical storm, but it is exceedingly rare for a hurricane to make landfall in Texas after about September 20, thanks mostly to the fact that the first cool front (or fronts) has moved through the area by that time.

Up until now, conditions across the Atlantic have been less than favorable for hurricane development. Persistent dry, stable air combined with dust blown off the Sahara Desert across the Atlantic has put a lid on the entire region.

Over the past week, however, those conditions have begun to change. Monsoons over Africa mixed with storm activity in the lower latitudes and the emergence of far less stable air across the central Atlantic Ocean has all the earmarks of a hurricane incubator. Several forecast models are calling for at least two, perhaps three, storms to line up across the Atlantic Basin over the next week or so. It would appear most if not all of them are destined for lives over only open water as they recurve north and out to sea, but the very prediction of their existence is a cautionary tale.

While it does feel at the moment like the big hurricane season of 2013 has gone bust, it only takes on well placed storm to change everything. Fortunately, we only have a few more weeks to hold out and then it's on to fall.

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