The statistical peak of the Atlantic hurricane season has arrived and for the first time since 2000 there isn’t a named storm in the basin.
While forecasters are watching a pair of potential candidates, neither is likely to grow into a tropical storm by the end of today. So far, four storms have gotten names in the Atlantic this year.
In records going back to 1851, Sept. 10 is the day when the odds are greatest there will be at least one tropical storm or hurricane somewhere in the Atlantic.
Still, it would be a mistake for everyone to let their guard down, said Gerry Bell, lead hurricane forecaster for the U.S. Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.
“The season isn’t over and it is not shut down,” Bell said by telephone. “While it is weaker than average we already had one hurricane strike North Carolina this year. We need people to stay prepared.”
It is also too early to tell if there is a larger shift under way in the Atlantic that could herald in an era of fewer storms, he said.
The Atlantic hasn’t been this quiet since 1992. In 2000, a sub-tropical depression plowed its way across the basin southwest of Bermuda on Sept. 10, however, it didn’t get its name, Florence, until early Sept. 11. It became a hurricane later that day.
Since 1995, the basin has been in the midst of what is called the warm phase of the Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation. This means it has been warmer than normal and the chances for weaker storms to grow stronger are enhanced, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
It has also marked an era where more storms have formed. For example, 21 storms got names from 1992 to 1994 and then in 1995, 19 systems reached that threshold.
A system gets a name when its winds reach 39 miles (63 kilometers) per hour and it becomes a tropical storm.
The warm phase often lasts 20 to 40 years. This is the 20th season since it began.
Bell said the Atlantic is a little cooler than it has been in past years and if a shift began, it might look something like the current year.
No one can say for sure right now, he added. It will take more time.
There have been times when quiet years have shown up in the midst of active eras, Phil Klotzbach, lead author of Colorado State University’s seasonal hurricane forecast, said from Walnut Creek, California. Last year produced 13 named storms, one more than the 30-year average, yet the power of those systems was so weak it is considered a relatively quiet season.
Using an index called the accumulated cyclone energy, 2014 has only had 45 percent of the activity that it should have produced by this time, Klotzbach said.
“But we are still ahead of the ridiculously quiet season of 2013,” he said. “I would say that we need at least one more quiet year to really be convinced that we are heading into an inactive era.”
Until then, keep an eye out, because while 1992 produced only six storms, one of them was Andrew, one of the most destructive hurricanes to ever hit the U.S.
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