Models hinting at possible first hurricane of 2017 season

Graphic from Colorado State University's July hurricane season forecast outlook showing the below avg wind shear (blue color) across the MDR for the month of June.

Graphic from Colorado State University’s July hurricane season forecast outlook showing the below avg wind shear (blue color) across the MDR for the month of June. Click for full size.

The update from Colorado State University to the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season forecast made mention of the fact that, during the month of June, sea-level pressures were well below average across the deep tropics – also known as the MDR or Main Development Region. This is the area between Africa and the Lesser Antilles and has seen its share of powerful hurricanes over the decades.

In recent years, however, the MDR has been notably quiet. Dry air, strong upper level winds and generally higher than normal pressures have kept the region much more benign – resulting in far less hurricanes such as what we saw in 2004 with Frances and Ivan, as examples.

This year, it is becoming more and more obvious that the sleeping giant is awakening, so to speak. Water temps across the MDR are above normal, wind shear is below normal and surface pressures are below normal. The result thus far has been the formation of tropical storm Bret last month (extremely rare to have MDR tropical storms in June) and now, most recently, tropical depression four – technically a tropical cyclone though below tropical storm intensity. The only significant mitigating factor keeping TD4 in check has been a large Saharan Air Layer or SAL event that has pushed ample dry air in to the deep tropics, smothering the depression and keeping it from strengthening further. This SAL outbreak is typical for July, having a tropical depression in the MDR is not.

ECMWF model at day 5 from last night's run showing energy or vorticity at the 850mb level of the atmopshere (circled in green). Image courtesy of Levi Cowan - tropicaltidbits.com

ECMWF model at day 5 from last night’s run showing energy or vorticity at the 850mb level of the atmosphere (circled in green). Image courtesy of Levi Cowan – tropicaltidbits.com. Click for full size image.

Now comes the next chapter in this story. Both the GFS and the ECMWF are now indicating the development of a tropical storm originating from a tropical wave that is about to emerge from the African coastline. I want to be clear, the development happens beyond the 5-day time frame but well within the next 10 days. Since both of these global models now indicate this happening, it has my attention. In fact, both models go on to develop the system in to what would likely be a hurricane later on in their forecast periods but again, not at some ridiculous time frame such as 10 to 14 days out – what many consider to be “model fantasyland”.

What concerns me about this is the mere fact that it is still early July, several weeks ahead of the traditional beginning to the normal run-up to the peak of the season and we’re talking about yet another MDR system trying to develop. In other words, if it’s this busy now, when climatology says it should not be, how busy will it be when the natural background state is inherently favorable? That usually sets in around August 15-20 and lasts until the end of October.

I make it a point to refrain from being an alarmist – those who have followed my blogs and video discussions know this and I stand firm behind that belief. At this point, I am beginning to worry that this season could end up exceeding all of our expectations in a bad way. The time-tested saying of “it only takes one” remains intact but this is the kind of season where we could be looking at multiple “it only takes one” events. Please keep in mind too that I am not talking about just the United States in terms of impact. The Lesser Antilles are front and center for any action that rolls out of the MDR and west of there we have Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and Cuba. This is the kind of season that could affect a lot of people across the Atlantic Basin and in areas that can least afford such bad luck.

I am going to say it, the signs are ominous right now. We’ve gone a long time without experiencing a category three or higher hurricane in the United States. They’ve also been somewhat rare elsewhere with the exception of Matthew and its devastating impacts on Haiti, eastern Cuba and the Bahamas last year (Joaquin in 2015 also impacted portions of the Bahamas). It is time to take notice and be ready to act.

Needless to say I am going to be watching the evolution of this next potential system very closely over the coming days. Perhaps it is just a blip in the models and subsequent runs will drop the storm/hurricane completely and we can all breathe a sigh of relief. I will post a detailed video discussion concerning this potential development later this afternoon once the morning model runs complete and are available.

M. Sudduth 7:45 AM ET July 7

 

Share

Possibility of Gulf of Mexico development next week

I posted recently that a window of opportunity for development could be lurking and it looks as though that chance is beginning to arrive.

The NHC has outlined an area of interest centered on the Yucatan peninsula that could become the focal point for possible tropical development early next week.

Right now, there is little to even monitor but the overall consensus of the global models is to gradually lower the pressures across the region as upper level winds become more conducive for something to take shape. It will be a fairly slow process and all indications are that the low will large and spread out meaning more rain and low wind impacts for a larger area – assuming this is what in fact happens.

I have prepared a detailed video discussion concerning the potential for development – check it out below. I will have more posted here tomorrow early afternoon.

Also – tonight I will be a guest on the popular Internet show Storm Front Freaks talking all things hurricanes. To watch live via YouTube, click this link – the show begins at 9pm ET and will be archived for later viewing and available as a podcast via iTunes.

Share

Any chance of El Niño during Atlantic hurricane season is almost gone

I wrote about this in a recent blog post and so I thought it prudent to do a follow-up piece regarding the chances of El Niño making an appearance during the next few months.

Well, they say a picture is worth a thousand words…

Subsurface temperature anomalies along the equatorial Pacific as of June 2

Subsurface temperature anomalies along the equatorial Pacific as of June 2, 2017. Notice the lack of positive anomalies (yellow-orange-red) anywhere across the tropical Pacific. It’s mostly neutral for the time being.

 

Just looking at the most recent subsurface anomalies chart that was updated on June 2, we see that there is virtually no warm pool left in the tropical Pacific west of about 150 degrees longitude. The only positive anomaly, or warmer than normal area, is in the eastern Pacific and even here we’re talking about only a degree C at the most. To break it down in to simple terms: no El Niño anytime soon, if at all in 2017.

What does this mean for the Atlantic season? It means that we are likely to see less of the hurricane-inhibiting wind shear across the Caribbean and tropical Atlantic. That, in turn, should result in a busier season than we have seen in quite some time. It’s no guarantee as there are certainly other factors at play but the lack of El Niño is often seen as a significant enhancing signal for Atlantic hurricane activity.

We will get a new set of ensemble model plots from the ECMWF, which is often regarded as the model of choice, that will give us an update on its “thoughts” for the coming months. That model was quite aggressive in developing an El Niño going all the way back to the early winter months. We’ll see if it has seen the light, so to speak, and has backed off like other modeling has in recent weeks. I’ll keep an eye out for that new data and will include in during a future video discussion, so be on the lookout for that.

In summary, I think it is safe to say that El Niño will not be a factor this season and that, in and of itself, is reason enough to take the 2017 Atlantic hurricane quite seriously. We should be doing so any season but perhaps this time around, there may be more to it than normal. Time will tell.

M. Sudduth 8:20 AM ET June 7

Share

Atlantic hurricane season begins today

Here we are again, it’s June 1 and that means it is hurricane season. A lot has been said in recent weeks about what kind of season we may have. While it appears that conditions would support a busy season, it is just too tough to know with much certainty how things will turn out. Even if we have a lot of hurricane activity, there’s no way to know where they will track. It is always best to just stay aware and be ready no matter what.

Since it is hurricane season now, the video discussions will be pretty much every day. I’ll post them here and of course they will be in our app, Hurricane Impact, and on YouTube (search hurricanetrack).

In today’s video I go over the latest on east Pacific tropical storm Beatriz and its effects on Mexico and some potential for it to redevelop somewhere within the Gulf of Mexico early next week. I also break down the latest SST anomalies and a look at recent ENSO thoughts as we begin the season.

M. Sudduth 4:30 PM ET June 1

Share

If El Niño is coming, it will likely be too little, too late

Mid-March ENSO forecast showing a high probability of El Nino conditions setting in by the summer months.

Mid-March ENSO forecast showing a high probability of El Nino conditions setting in by the summer months. Click for full size image.

There was a lot of talk about the resurgence of El Niño just a couple of months ago and it looked as though we were in fact heading in that direction. This would have been unusual to see since we just had a substantial El Niño or warm ENSO event back in 2015.

The presence of El Niño is also a known detriment to Atlantic hurricane activity, especially in the deep tropics. As such, most of the reliable seasonal forecast agencies were calling for less activity than we saw in 2016.

So where do we stand now? As we approach mid-May, the odds of El Niño are going down. There are some mechanisms in place to get it started but so far, it’s stalling out of the gate.

Latest subsruface anomaly chart showing only limited warming overall and nothing significant at the surface of the tropical Pacific

Latest subsurface anomaly chart showing only limited warming overall and nothing significant at the surface of the tropical Pacific. Click for full size image.

Take a look at the latest subsurface anomaly chart and you’ll see what I mean. The top of the chart is the surface of the tropical Pacific while the bottom represents more than 400 meters of depth. While there is a large “blob” of positive anomalies showing up, it is no where near as substantial as what we saw in 2015. Furthermore, it is not strengthening and being reinforced by more warm water from the western Pacific. Instead, the tropical Pacific as a whole is in a neutral state – neither too warm nor too cold right now.

The latest climate models have backed off quite a bit in recent weeks with regards to warming of the tropical Pacific. Just a month ago, it appeared that we had a near 70% chance of seeing El Niño conditions by August/Sept/Oct – now that probability has dropped to 46% according to the latest update from the Climate Prediction Center. What happened? The easy answer is that spring is usually a difficult time for the climate models to resolve what will happen with the ocean/atmosphere state several months down the road. A more complicated answer lies in the fact that there are still many mysteries surrounding the evolution of ENSO or El Niño-Southern Oscillation as it is often referred to. Sometimes we get El Niño and sometimes we don’t and the reasons why are still unclear.

Mid-May climate models have backed off the chances of El Nino quite a bit.

May climate models have backed off the chances of El Nino quite a bit.

What is becoming increasingly clear, however, is the fact that for the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, El Niño isn’t likely to be a factor. This puts a check mark in the enhancing column for seasonal activity but the absence of El Niño alone is no guarantee of a busy season. That being said, there are recent developments in the climate models for the summer months that suggest the Atlantic Basin could be more favorable than we have seen in quite some time.

As of today, much of the deep tropics between Africa and the Lesser Antilles are warmer than normal while the subtropical Atlantic has cooled dramatically. This would tend to focus lower pressures and more favorable conditions right where we’d expect it to be – the deep tropics. While this can change, it appears that we will begin the 2017 season with no El Niño and a warmer than normal tropical Atlantic. I think it is a safe bet that for those who issue seasonal forecasts, their numbers will go up in the coming weeks.

SST anomalies have gone up in the deep tropics in recent weeks, a sign of possible higher hurricane activity during the season ahead.

SST anomalies have gone up in the deep tropics in recent weeks, a sign of possible higher hurricane activity during the season ahead.

Numbers aside, it is important to note that no one can predict where whatever does form will end up, if anywhere at all. A season like 2010 had plenty of hurricane activity but not a single one crossed the U.S. coastline. On the other hand, a season like 1992 had one significant hurricane – just one. And as they say, that’s all it took. We live in very different times than we did 10-12 years ago and that is not just hyperbole, it’s true. The advent of social media, the rise of so-called “fake news” and other political distractions mean that it is literally up to you, on a very personal level, to learn all you can about your local vulnerability to hurricane impacts. We could have 2 hurricanes form this season or 12, no one knows for sure. What really matters is where they end up and if that is your backyard, you will be doing yourself and your family a favor by being ready.

I will have much more on the coming season during a special live broadcast via YouTube Live on Thursday, June 1 at 7pm ET. Until then, get ready, hurricane season is coming – just like it does every year around this time. No reason to ignore it or act like the sky is falling, we should be prepare the same year in and year out.

M. Sudduth 8:50 AM ET May 12

Share