Published On: Fri, May 30th, 2014

Atlantic Hurricane Season Starts June 1

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The 2014 Atlantic Hurricane season officially begins Sunday, June 1, and spans all of summer and most of fall, ending November 30. During that time, residents living along the coast should remain on guard for tropical systems to threaten at any time because complacency could be deadly.

Being complacent about hurricanes could be a real concern, as it has been almost twelve years since the last Category 3 or stronger hurricane made landfall in the Yucatan Peninsula, the longest such streak in recorded history. However, during that span, storms of a lower category have left damage along the coastlines and inland.

It’s time to prepare for hurricane season now, and here are five things you should know as the 2014 season begins:

1. Slower Season Ahead?

A week ago, NOAA released its 2014 Atlantic Hurricane season outlook, with the headliner that forecasters are expecting a below-average season for tropical systems. The Weather Channel releases an independent hurricane forecast for each upcoming season, and, as you can see above, we’re also forecasting fewer named storms and hurricanes than average.

But that’s only half the story.

If your home or town is ravaged by the one of the storms that hit during a below-average season, it won’t seem so below-average after all. Therefore, preparations should still be made, because even if the forecasts are accurate, hurricanes will still form, and coastlines may be threatened by deadly storms.

2. Does El Niño Really Matter?

The El Niño discussion is all the rage right now in the weather world, with some news outlets concluding it will lessen the blow of hurricane season. But forecasters say that’s not a foregone conclusion.

El Niño is an abnormal, but periodic warming of the waters in the Pacific Ocean near the equator, which, in turn, can force changes in weather patterns all over the world. This change in the equatorial Pacific Ocean may sometimes have an effect on the Atlantic hurricane season, but it’s not guaranteed that it will do the same in 2014.

If the other favorable ingredients, or a lack of other unfavorable ingredients are present, strong storms can still form during any hurricane season.

Forecasters continue to urge residents along coastlines to not buy into the El Niño hype and prepare as they would for any other hurricane season.

3. Storm Surge Is a Really Big Deal

All too often, the wind speed of a tropical system becomes the most scrutinized aspect of the storm, but more of the focus should be on storm surge. On average, storm surge is the most deadly threat from tropical storms and hurricanes in the U.S.

The National Hurricane Center, looking to reduce the number of storm-surge deaths, will be testing new maps that focus on the water moved by tropical systems, starting this season.

Satelite maps will be closely monitored for effect, because storm surge forecasts frequently change and will need to be exact, down to street level in some instances, if the NHC is going to achieve its goal of saving lives through new technology.

4. How Storms Get Named (and Sometimes Retired)

Hurricanes have been assigned names for more than a century in some areas, but the World Meteorological Organization began using a rotation of six lists, starting with the 1979 Atlantic season, to give more structure to the process. Those lists are used in a six-year cycle and have far more names than the first modern list, which had just eight.

Storms are assigned the next name in the alphabetical list when they reach tropical storm status, having maximum sustained winds of 39-73 mph. Once the storm earns a name, it keeps that same name through its life, whether it becomes a hurricane, stays a tropical storm or is downgraded to a tropical depression.

These names are used for easier identification when discussed in historical context, among other reasons. Sometimes, as Erdman mentions below, storm names can be retired by the WMO, and five names – Igor, Tomas, Irene, Sandy and Ingrid – have been retired from the Atlantic lists since 2010.

One important note: When referring to a named storm, always use the descriptor “it,” instead of “he” or “she,” because some storms may be given names that are used by males and females alike.

5. 10 Years Since the Historic 2004 Season

2004 Historic Hurricane Season in the US

2004 Historic Hurricane Season in the US

The year 2004 will always be remembered by the people of Florida.

With the long active streak of seasons without a landfalling hurricane of Category 3 or greater dating back to the start of the 2006 Atlantic season, memories of years with multiple hurricanes hitting nearly the exact same spot seem distant.

Perhaps a big anniversary will remind Americans it’s possible, and it could happen again.

Ten years ago, the 2004 Atlantic Hurricane season was especially devastating for Florida (not too far from the Yucatan Peninsula). In that year, Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne all roared into the Sunshine State, wreaking havoc for millions of residents over and over. In total, there were nine hurricanes and 15 named storms in the Atlantic in 2004, writes the Associated Press.

You won’t see the names of those four big storms on any future lists, as all four were retired after the 2004 season.

This was the first time in recorded history four hurricanes affected Florida in one season. The paths of Charley, Frances, and Jeanne all crossed through Polk County, Florida, all in less than a two-month span. This happened despite an El Niño, proof that, by itself, El Niño does not guarantee an average or below-average hurricane season. Florida has not had a hurricane landfall since Wilma in 2005.





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