Why the "quieter than normal" hurricane pre-season predictions should be taken with a grain of salt

EAST TEXAS (KTRE) - Today is the official start of the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season.  Every year, the Atlantic hurricane season starts on June 1st and ends on November 30th.

Despite the fact it lasts six months out of the year, the time-frame from mid-August through September is what we refer to as the "peak" of hurricane season.  It is during this time when the ocean waters are at their warmest and when most of the intense tropical storms and hurricanes tend to form.

A "Below Normal Season" Expected

NOAA, along with several other weather agencies, are calling for less tropical cyclone activity than what we typically see in an average year in the Atlantic basin.

The main underlying factor for the "quieter than normal" pre-season outlook has to do with the climate phenomena known as "El Nino".  El Nino is just a pro-longed period of warmer than normal sea surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific, down near the equator.

This warming of the waters in the Pacific can greatly alter the jet stream and weather patterns across the globe.  It also tends to increase the wind shear over the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean sea, and Atlantic ocean.  Wind shear tears storms apart and prevents them from developing into tropical storms and hurricanes.

Why Pre-Season Outlooks Don't Mean Much

While pre-season predictions are nice to look at and give us some perspective on what "might" happen, they do not tell the whole story.  After all, they do not tell us where storms are likely to form or which areas are prone to see a tropical system make landfall.

Last year, a very active hurricane season was expected by many.  Instead, the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season was rather tame, with only two hurricanes forming the entire season.  Last year was the first time since 1994 that no major hurricanes formed in the Atlantic basin and the first time since 1968 that no storms reached category 2 strength.

It Only Takes One

I give talks to several groups each year and the one phrase that is used when discussing the upcoming hurricane season is "it only takes one" tropical storm or hurricane to leave its impact on a community.

The best example that comes to mind is the 1983 hurricane season.  That 1983 season was one of the quietest hurricane seasons on record.  Only four named storms occurred during the entire season.  However, one of those storms was Hurricane Alicia, the last major hurricane to hit the Texas coast.

If you recall, Hurricane Alicia made landfall in Galveston and caused $2.6 billion in damage and killed 21 people.

So despite the fact that the 1983 Atlantic hurricane season was "quiet" as a whole, don't tell that to Galveston residents and the Houstonians that endured that category 3 hurricane.

Track the Tropics

I will provide updates on any tropical cyclone that has the potential to get into the Gulf of Mexico all season long.  You can track the tropics anytime and at your own convenience by checking out our Hurricane Center.   Go ahead and bookmark this page and check it out on a daily basis.  This site will not only allow you to get the latest coordinates, forecast track, and intensity on any storm that is out to sea, but also has links to other websites that have valuable information on anything and everything related to the tropics.

You can also download our free KTRE weather app and track the tropics on your phone.  To enable tropical tracks, just go to the settings tab and make sure you check on "tropical tracks." 

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