Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

At hurricane season's midpoint, forecasters perplexed

A satellite image shows Hurricane Irene on Aug. 25, 2011, in the Caribbean Sea.

Getty Images

A satellite image shows Hurricane Irene on Aug. 25, 2011, in the Caribbean Sea.

Remember those predictions of an extremely active hurricane season?

Water temperatures were high. There would be no El Niño to thwart hurricane development. All signs pointed to an ominous season.

Yet on Sept. 1, for only the sixth time since 1950, not a single hurricane had formed in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea or Gulf of Mexico.

"If things continue as they have, this could wind up being one of the biggest forecast busts ever,'' said Phil Klotzbach, hurricane scientist with Colorado State University. "Mother Nature throws you some curveballs."

Hurricane forecasters on average predicted about 17 storms this year, with about half becoming hurricanes.

So far, there have been seven tropical storms, including one that formed Wednesday.

"We've had this really quiet year. I'm scratching my head," said Jeff Masters, director of meteorology at Weather Underground. "It should not have been this quiet based on everything we know about tropical Atlantic hurricane seasons."

Part of the reason is dry air.

Hurricanes are powered by warm water, usually 79 degrees or above. Dry air entering a storm can destabilize it or break up a developing system.

That's what happened this summer as a massive cloud of dry air moved off the African coast and into the traditional hurricane breeding ground in the Atlantic and Caribbean.

But dry air has not been the only culprit.

"We have had a lot of vertical shear over the Caribbean Sea,'' Klotzbach said. The reasons are not clear.

"We don't have 100 percent confident explanations for why the season has behaved the way it has,'' said Klotzbach, who issues an annual forecast along with noted hurricane forecaster William Gray.

It has been much quieter than anyone predicted.

Accumulated cyclone energy, one of scientists' key measures of tropical energy in the Atlantic, Caribbean and gulf, is currently at a rating of 9, less than one-fourth of what it would be in an average year.

And it's a similar pattern elsewhere.

"We've had much less activity around the globe,'' Klotzbach said. "It's been one of the quietest years ever for hurricanes.''

But hurricane season runs until Nov. 30 and, as experts are quick to point out, it only takes one to make a bad season.

Forecasters now are keeping watch on Tropical Storm Gabrielle, which formed Wednesday in the eastern Caribbean, the seventh tropical storm of the season. Computer tracking models, however, take the system to the north or even northeast, away from the United States.

Masters said it's looking more like the season's predictions will go bust.

"It doesn't look like anything's going to change, certainly into mid September," Masters said.

Claire Wiseman can be reached at cwiseman@tampabay.com. Follow her on Twitter @clairelwiseman. Pat Farnan can be reached at pfarnan@tampabay.com.

At hurricane season's midpoint, forecasters perplexed 09/04/13 [Last modified: Thursday, September 5, 2013 11:18am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays morning after: Wilson Ramos showing glimpses of what's possible in 2018

    Blogs

    The real payoff for the Rays signing C Wilson Ramos last off-season will come in 2018, when he can play a full season fully recovered from right knee surgery.

    And Ramos is giving the Rays a pretty good glimpse of what that can be like.

    In Friday's 8-3 win over the Orioles, he hit a grand slam - …

  2. Buccaneers-Vikings Scouting Report: Watching Kyle Rudolph, Adam Thielen and Everson Griffen

    Bucs

    No matter how much film we study, no matter how much data we parse, we just don't know how an NFL season will unfold.

  3. Pinellas construction licensing board needs to be fixed. But how?

    Local Government

    LARGO –– Everyone agrees that the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board needs to be reformed. But no one agrees on how to do it.

    Rodney Fischer, former executive director of the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board Rodney, at a February meeting. His management of the agency was criticized by an inspector general's report. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  4. Sue Carlton: Job or family when a hurricane's coming — a very Florida conundrum

    Hurricanes

    It must seem as foreign to Northerners as shoveling snow is to those of us raised in the Sunshine State: The very-Florida conundrum of having to choose between work and family — between paycheck and personal safety — when a hurricane comes.

    A hurricane helps the rest of us acknowledge the police officers, paramedics, hospital personnel, public works employees and others who stay on the job despite the storm. 
  5. After Tampa concert, Arcade Fire members party, preach politics at Crowbar

    Blogs

    After waiting more than a decade for Arcade Fire’s first appearance in Tampa, fans didn’t have to wait long for their second.

    DJ Windows 98, a.k.a. singer Win Butler of Arcade Fire, performed at a "Disco Town Hall" at Crowbar following the band's concert at the USF Sun Dome on Sept. 22, 2017.