RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Central Virginians are now entering the “active” part of hurricane season. August through October represents the most active times for severe weather in terms of tropical weather.
So far, 2016 has been an unusual season for hurricane activity. It’s only the third recorded time where there has been a hurricane in January, and Alex is only the second hurricane since 1938 to form during that month.
However, this year does not look like a year that is going to be a very active compared to recent history.
Part of that is due to last winter’s very strong El Nino. It has literally destroyed the conditions needed for hurricane development off the West Coast of Africa.
Dr. Philip Klotzbach of the Tropical Meteorology Project explains:
“It brought cold water and cold air down from, say, the north Atlantic down towards the tropics, and that’s why we’re starting to see cold water anomalies off the west coast of Africa,” Klotzbach said. “Which is one of the reasons why we think the 2016 season will only have average intensity.”
While El Nino is not favorable for hurricanes to form, it’s opposite, La Nina – a colder than normal ocean current of South America – is. One of the questions this year is if we will see La Nina developing in time for the peak of hurricane season.
The latest La Nina forecasts say it is going to happen, but it will be weaker and later and have little impact on this season.
With that in mind, Klotzbach said hurricane forecasts will be relatively tame, including those that have already occurred this year.
“They’re expecting between 15 and 16 named storms, six to eight hurricanes and two to three major hurricanes,” Klotzbach said. “Right now, it looks like the Western Caribbean and the Western Gulf Coast might be the area most at risk this season.”
Klotzbach said that factors like La Nina may play a role in 2017’s storm season.
“The oceanic heat content is at near record levels from the Bahamas to south of Cuba, and storms that develop there could explode in intensity like 2005,” Klotzbach said. “But historically, the Carolina Coastline may also be vulnerable. A significant storm has made landfall four times in just over the past 27 years. These storms are Hugo in 1989, Fran in 1996, Isabel in 2003 and Irene in 2011. That’s one storm every seven years. Based on those averages, that says 2017 looks to be ‘our year.'”