The Impatient Hurricane Season

June 14, 2016
Hurricane: A View from Outer Space

The Atlantic Hurricane Season has been very impatient. Even before the season officially began, Hurricane Alex and Tropical Storm Bonnie crashed the party.

Such an early start to the hurricane season is incredibly rare. In recent years, there have been warmer-than-usual waters in the Atlantic, allowing a tropical storm to start early; however, it is very rare for there to be two storms before June 1. 

Since hurricane records began in 1495 (when an unnamed storm upset one of the voyages of Christopher Columbus), there have only been four prior years with two early tropical storms (1887, 1908, 1951 and 2012). 


Hurricane Alex and Tropical Storm Bonnie crashed the Atlantic hurricane party early. Source: NASA

Notice 2012 when the Atlantic was so hot that spring arrived 6 weeks early—so did a hurricane season that ended with Hurricane Sandy. Even though the storm was no longer a tropical storm, its remnants were so powerful that it wrecked $71.4 dollars on the US coast—with much of the damage in New Jersey and New York.

The last year the Atlantic was so hot was 2012, when the high temperatures added to the strength of Hurricane Sandy. Source: NOAA and Proud Novice as shown in Wikipedia

As wth 2012, the Atlantic is much warmer than normal this year; heat energy is what fuels tropical storms. (One estimate is that wind strength usually increases 15% for every extra degree of heat.) Hot water and favorable winds create tropical storms and La Niñas provide favorable tropical winds in the Atlantic. Most experts are expecting 14 or more storms, more than the normal number of 12 storms. Given the fact that there already have been 2 storms—yeah—it looks like we will have more storms than normal. More importantly, the hot water tends to make even non-tropical storms bigger and wetter; plus, after a hurricane dies down it’s remnants can do a lot of flooding and damage.

The Atlantic is unusually warm, 1.0° – 4.5°C (1.8° ‒ 8.1°F) hotter than normal – good for hurricane development. Source: NOAA

So, for the record, check the storm shutters and flashlight batteries. Hurricane season will be lively and coastal communities should always take precautions. Until then, enjoy your beach holidays. 

About This Blog

Mike Steinberg is Senior Vice President for Special Initiatives at AccuWeather Inc in State College, Pennsylvania. He is also a member of the National Weather Association and the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society.