Florida and the U.S. spared again as 2011 hurricane season nears the end

As the 2011 hurricane season winds down, it may be best remembered for what it didn't do.

For the sixth consecutive year, no major hurricane made landfall in the United States, the first time that has occurred in the past century, a remarkable stretch given the high activity of several recent seasons.

The 2011 season has seen 17 named storms and six hurricanes, three of which were Category 3 or higher with winds of 111 mph or more.

But none of these storms has had any impact on Florida. Given water temperatures and wind shear conditions, experts say, it's likely we are in the clear, even with three more weeks left in the season, which ends Nov. 30.

Storms may continue to form, but it's highly unlikely any will make U.S. landfall.

"It's just the way the global weather patterns have been set up," Bay News 9 meteorologist Mike Clay said.

National weather blogger Jeff Masters, who heads Weather Underground, said the strengthening Tropical Storm Sean should be no threat to the United States and likely will be swept to the northeast by a cold front.

"This storm probably will be the last one this year,'' Masters said. "It's mid November, and wind shear tends to increase as the jet stream dips further south.''

While water temperatures in the Caribbean Sea are as high as the mid 80s, and capable of producing more tropical storms, the wind shear from the jet stream rips those systems apart before they become tropical storms, he said.

Florida State University professor Peter Ray, who makes independent predictions as a meteorologist, pointed out that if any systems get into the Gulf of Mexico, the water temperatures are in the 70s and there is also frequently a lot of shear.

It would weaken any storm that got into that environment, he said.

The global weather cycle has been good to Florida for the past few years, Clay said.

"We've been very lucky," Clay said. "It'll come back the other way again."

Emily Nipps can be reached at nipps@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8452.

Florida and the U.S. spared again as 2011 hurricane season nears the end 11/10/11 [Last modified: Thursday, November 10, 2011 9:32pm]

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