Hurricane Season Reaching Its Peak; No Major Storms Currently Threaten the East Coast
By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest
The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season will soon reach its peak, but forecasters see no major disturbances heading toward the Gulf of Mexico and the U.S. East Coast.
“At the moment, there are no named storms and the National Hurricane Center is only tracking a minor disturbance over west Africa which has a slim chance to develop once it emerges over the Atlantic waters,” The Washington Post said. Last year, the Post noted, “Seven hurricanes would wreak havoc in the Atlantic Ocean basin over the course of seven weeks.”
In the latter half of August 2017, Hurricane Harvey was churning in the Gulf of Mexico and taking aim at Houston, Texas. Hurricane Irma was moving off the west coast of Africa on its path to strike the Florida Gulf Coast. They were soon followed by Hurricane Maria, whose Category 5 winds in excess of 155 mph nearly destroyed Puerto Rico when the storm came ashore on September 20.
In November 2017, CNN said the three storms accounted for at least 650 fatalities.
However, a July 2018 comprehensive study by the New England Journal of Medicine put the death toll on Puerto Rico alone at 4,645 fatalities. That study counted deaths on the island between September 20 and December 31, 2017. “The mortality rate remained high through the end of December 2017, and one third of the deaths were attributed to delayed or interrupted health care,” the Journal explained.
2017 Was the Most Expensive Hurricane Season in US History
The U.S. suffered more than $200 billion in damages from the 17 named storms during the 2017 season, which began on June 1 and ended November 30.
It was the most expensive hurricane season in U.S. history, according to National Geographic. “That easily eclipses the previous record of about $159 billion, set during the summer of 2005, when Hurricane Katrina inflicted massive devastation on New Orleans. A record 28 named storms formed that year,” the magazine said.
Meteorologists Are Not Surprised by Few Hurricanes This Season
This season’s dearth of hurricanes is no surprise to meteorologists.
Water temperature between Africa and the Lesser Antilles – Puerto Rico and the smaller islands along the eastern edge of the Caribbean Sea – has been cooler than average. “So when the disturbances exit the [African] continent, they are immediately greeted with more stable air and less fuel than they would in a typical season,” the Post explained.
UA Forecasting Model Also Predicts Fewer Hurricanes in 2018
As early as July 2, the usually reliable University of Arizona’s forecasting model was predicting fewer Atlantic hurricanes this year.
”A main factor in this year's prediction is the low sea surface temperatures over the Atlantic, where little warming occurred from April to May,” UA scientists said. The sea surface temperatures are the lowest they have seen since 2014, but similar to long-term average temperatures.
Second, despite the abnormally heavy rainfall in the East and Midwest during August, further west in the Atlantic “dry air has been in place for much of August, which is also inhospitable for storm development,” the Post said.
El Niño-Type Storm Likely to Form
A third reason for the calm hurricane season is El Niño. Accuweather meteorologists predict an El Niño will form during August and September, reducing the likelihood of tropical development.
El Niño is a weather pattern that occurs when warmer-than-normal sea surface waters develop in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean. They then move east across the United States and can affect winter weather in North America.
As AccuWeather Lead Hurricane Forecaster Dan Kottlowski explained, “The more frequently upper-level westerly winds penetrate into the deep tropics, the less likely we are to see tropical development.”
Still, we can’t completely count on Mother Nature and King Neptune to behave. They may still have a surprise or two in store. After all, the 2018 hurricane season is only half over.