August was quiet in the Atlantic, September will be anything but

Wide satellite shot of the tropical Atlantic showing the two areas of interest as we close out the month of August

Wide satellite shot of the tropical Atlantic showing the two areas of interest as we close out the month of August

It is rare to have no hurricanes form in the Atlantic Basin during the month of August. It usually means the season will be less active overall but it is not a guarantee. As we end this month we will do so without seeing any hurricanes develop in the Atlantic, quite a contrast to this time last year and, I believe, it will be quite a contrast to what we will see in September.

The short of it is that the overall pattern was not favorable since about mid-July across the tropical Atlantic. Between the cooler than average sea surface temperatures and the expansive reach of the Saharan Air Layer (SAL), as well as a few other atmospheric roadblocks, we saw very little activity down in the deep tropics – and no hurricanes.

Now it looks as though things will change.

We are entering a period of the hurricane season when we normally see an uptick in development. It is also important to note that sea surface temps have rebounded quite a bit from where they were just six weeks ago. Add in a more favorable upper level pattern and the stage is set for a busy September.

Right now, I am watching two distinct areas for possible development: a tropical wave entering the Caribbean Sea and a robust tropical wave about to exit the coast of Africa.

The National Hurricane Center has already “outlooked” the system forecast to emerge from Africa and gives it a 60% chance of further development over the next five days. From the looks of the steering flow, I doubt that it will affect the Lesser Antilles but we cannot be 100% certain just yet. It’s something to watch but more importantly, it’s a sign that the Main Development Region or MDR is coming to life.

My concern is with a rather poorly organized tropical wave that is just entering the eastern Caribbean Sea. Shower and thunderstorm activity is limited but the low level energy or vorticity is impressive. The ECMWF model has been very consistent with developing this wave of energy once it gets in to the central Bahamas this weekend. Oddly, the GFS global model shows almost no development. Other models are in between which means that there is no consensus just yet. My worry is that it begins to develop in the Bahamas and then gets caught south of the large developing high pressure area over the Southeast. We’ve seen that type of set up before and it usually spells trouble. We definitely need to monitor this system.

Meanwhile, the east Pacific continues to remain very busy with tropical storms Miriam and Norman tracking westward. Miriam will turn north eventually and not be a threat to any land areas but Norman’s track could raise a few eyebrows once again for the Hawaiian Islands in about a week. I will keep on top of this situation closely considering the anxiety that the threat from Lane put upon the region.

I will have a new blog post here tomorrow morning.

M. Sudduth 2pm ET August 29

Not quite hurricane season but getting close

Hurricane season officially begins on June 1 for the Atlantic Basin and May 15 (as in tomorrow) for the east Pacific. We’ve already had one tropical depression form outside of the Pacific season and may add one in the Gulf of Mexico before the week is out.

I have posted a video discussion outlining all of this and more, including the latest look at the SOI and how that relates to my thoughts concerning El Nino for the season ahead.

M. Sudduth 10:10 AM ET May 14

Hurricane threat for New England seems to be increasing as we also watch east Atlantic

8:15 AM ET September 15

Jose is a tropical storm right now but is forecast to become a hurricane again over the warm waters of the western Atlantic. In fact, I think there is a decent chance that it becomes a solid category three again before encountering cooler waters north of the Gulf Stream

The official NHC track puts a good chunk of the Northeast just inside the “cone of uncertainty” which means there is now a chance, however small, that Jose directly impacts areas from the NC Outer Banks to points north including Cape Cod.

The key is going to be just how strong and how far west the Atlantic ridge of high pressure is as Jose begins to turn north this weekend. It’s like a balloon inflating – the larger it is the more it expands and pushes Jose westward and closer to the coast.

Right now, the threat from swells is increasing for most of the East Coast, the Bahamas and even portions of the northern Caribbean Islands. This will lead to rough shore break conditions along with dangerous rip currents from time to time. Obviously, this is great news for surfers but for the average swimmer, these conditions can be absolutely life-threatening. It is important to check local surf and beach conditions and be very careful when “enjoying” the swells coming in from Jose.

Meanwhile, we have a new tropical depression, #14, way out in the open tropical Atlantic which is moving generally westward for the time being. It is likely to develop in to TS Lee later today and should eventually turn north in to the open Atlantic.

To the west of the depression, we have invest area 96L which is likely to become tropical storm Maria at some point in time as it cruises west towards the Lesser Antilles. Interests from the Windward Islands up through the areas impacted by Irma and Jose should all be playing close attention to the evolution of 96L over the coming days.

It is simply a busy season – one we have not seen in a long, long time. Records are being set and we’re not talking about the good kind here. It is important with all of the other news and distractions going on around the world and locally that we remain focused on hurricane preparedness. Please look at your sources carefully – if you spot hyperbolic news items being shared on social media, ignore it. People will try to gain likes, favorites and followers by posting old hurricane video, made up B.S. about what may or may not happen with our current systems and so forth. If it sounds outlandish, it almost certainly is – pay no mind. We have enough to deal with already and those who yell loudest are usually the ones who know the least about what is truly going on.

I have posted a new video discussion which goes in to solid detail concerning Jose and the other developing systems in the tropics. Note that this will be the first of two video discussions posted today – I’ll have another one online between 3 and 4pm ET.

M. Sudduth

 

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

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