Monday, August 26, 2013

Wimps So Far in Atlantic Hurricane Season

Tropical Storm Fernand formed abruptly in the southern Gulf of Mexico Sunday and will just as quickly fade today as it moves inland into Mexico.
Tropical Storm Fernand Sunday in
the Bay of Campeche.  

This year has so far been the Year Of The Wimps in the Atlantic hurricane season, which is a good thing. All five tropical systems that formed this year never got too strong, never became big hurricanes.

Of course, the peak of the hurricane season is just getting going, so we still could easily get some major hurricanes going somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean.

If they stay out to sea, great, but the last thing we need is some powerful storm with 150 mph winds and a huge storm surge coming ashore.

The United States is really kind of overdue for that kind of mega-hurricane.  An official major hurricane, defined as a Category 3 with winds of at least 111 mph hasn't hit the U.S. coastline since Wilma hit Florida in October, 2005.

"But, but, but, what about Hurricane Sandy?," I hear people asking.

Yes, Hurricane Sandy last year was one of the most destructive the nation has ever seen. But in a technical sense, it wasn't a major hurricane. Winds were at about 90 to 100 mph and it might have already transitioned to a powerful, non-tropical storm when it landed in New Jersey.

Sandy was so destructive because it covered a remarkably huge area, which created an enormous storm surge. It also was a slow mover, and took an unusual track, making the damage that much more extreme.

And what about Hurricane Irene in 2011? Again, it produced huge damage. But most of Irene's destruction was caused by heavy rain that caused historic flooding in Vermont, New York and other areas. Its winds weren't that strong.

It all goes to prove you don't need a major hurricane to cause havoc.

Still, if a major hurricane does hit the coast, you're guaranteed a lot of damage.

Just because this year's hurricane season hasn't produced a huge storm doesn't mean that trend will continue. We haven't had this long a stretch without a landfalling major hurricane in the United States since the 1860s.

Big pushes of dusty, dry air from the Sahara Desert so far this summer have repeatedly belched out into the Atlantic Ocean  and that tends to quash hurricanes.

But the dust and dry air from the Sahara could stop coming at any time now, which could allow a huge hurricane to grow. It doesn't look like we'll see a big new hurricane in the next couple of days, but September is traditionally a very busy hurricane month.

Which means, stay tuned....

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