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Jun 1, 2016 3:53 PM

Joe Knows: It's officially hurricane season on the Atlantic coast


June 1 marks the beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season as ocean temperatures continue to warm and conditions become more favorable for tropical development.

Experts believe this season will be slightly more active than last which was very quiet, and it could end up being one of the more active Hurricane seasons since 2012.

El Niño has dominated the weather headlines this year and had a huge impact on suppressing Hurricanes last year in the Atlantic, but El Niño is quickly dying. How quickly we transition to cooler ocean temperatures during the 2016 hurricane season makes this particular hurricane outlook a bit uncertain.

Without a strong El Niño, it loads the dice toward an increased chance of tropical cyclones surviving into the Caribbean. In fact there is a good chance of storms intensifying closer to the coastlines of the United States this year.

Does this mean the end of our hurricane drought? The United States has not seen a major hurricane make landfall in over 10 years since Hurricane Wilma in 2005. That's the longest Hurricane drought on record dating back to 1850.

But El Niño is not the only thing which affects Hurricane development. Sometimes there is too much dry air in place over the Equator or Saharan dust coming off the African continent. These conditions can keep the tropics quiet.

We also have to watch what is happening in the the North Atlantic Ocean which undergoes sea-surface temperature changes 20 to 40 year cycles that have an influence on hurricane season activity, among other things.
The so-called Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation shifted into a warmer phase beginning in 1995, and has been found to correlate to a higher number of tropical storms becoming strong hurricanes. But some signals are pointing towards the end of the warm cycle and the Atlantic transitioning to a colder mode which would ease Hurricane activity in the next 20 years. It is still not obvious yet that we have shifted to a cool phase this season.
It'll be another variable to monitor that may have implications for the next several hurricane seasons.

The U.S. is due for another hurricane strike sooner rather than later, but it's impossible to know if that will occur this season. Such long gaps in hurricane activity like the one we are seeing can lead to complacency among residents, and millions of new residents near the coast have likely never experienced a hurricane. Keep in mind, however, that even a weak tropical storm hitting the U.S. can cause major impacts, particularly if it moves slowly, resulting in flooding rainfall inland.


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