A hurricane season update

  • Published
  • By Capt. Kevin Burris
  • 96th Weather Flight
We are now three months into the 2015 Hurricane Season and the sixth named storm (Hurricane Fred) is off the coast of Africa and the remnants of Tropical Storm Erika are raining on Southern Florida.  However, this is still an abnormally low amount of activity. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration calls for a 90 percent chance of a below-normal season, and we are on track to have six to ten named storms.  The average season has 12.

After much rejoicing and an increased number of beach parties, the question remains: why is there lessened tropical activity? 

There are several factors contributing to that answer, but the primary one is El Niño.  El Niño is marked by abnormally warm waters off the Pacific coast of South America. Even though this defining feature is very far away, it has major implications on global weather patterns, including wind patterns. 

Over the Atlantic, this causes an increase in the amount of wind shear, or how the wind varies with height.  Hurricanes need fairly light, uniform winds to allow them to become organized into major storms.  This cannot happen in areas of high wind shear. 

Additionally, El Niño contributes to cooler than normal sea surface temperatures in the mid-Atlantic.  Hurricanes glean their massive amounts of energy from the sea surface, so abnormally cool waters can lead to fewer hurricanes.

However, all these indicators toward a less active hurricane season don't mean that there is no threat.  In 1969, another El Niño year, Hurricane Camille formed west of Jamaica in mid-August.  Hurricane Camille made landfall near the mouth of the Mississippi river as a category-5 storm just three days after it formed.  No matter what the weather, the 96th Weather Flight continuously monitors the environment for impacts to safety and operations here and the Emerald Coast. 

Even though the United States is less likely to be impacted by hurricanes this year, it only takes one on your front door to give you a very bad day.  Take time now to make sure you and your family is ready for when it does.