From year to year, the number and strength of storms developing during the Atlantic hurricane season varies. This year, NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center is expecting an average to slightly below average season.
Tropical cyclones, known as hurricanes in the United States, develop around the globe at different times of the year. In this country, we are most affected by the Atlantic hurricane season, which impacts the North Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico. It runs from June 1 through November 30.
The main driver behind this season’s mild forecast is the likely development of El Niño later this summer. While centered in the tropical Pacific, El Niño impacts weather around the planet. According to NOAA, “El Niño causes stronger wind shear, which reduces the number and intensity of tropical storms and hurricanes. El Niño can also strengthen the trade winds and increase the atmospheric stability across the tropical Atlantic, making it more difficult for cloud systems coming off of Africa to intensify into tropical storms.”
In addition to the seasonal outlook, announced at a press conference in New York City, NOAA also unveiled its new storm surge visualization product. Building on the lessons from super-storm Sandy, this new mapping tool will show the storm surge threat to specific communities beginning when a tropical storm or hurricane watch is issued. Hopefully, this will give the public a better understanding of the dangers of storm surge flooding and allow them to make more informed decisions.
While the overall number of storms expected to develop this year is relatively low, it is important to remember that it only takes one to cause serious damage, if it makes landfall.