AUSTIN (KXAN) — Now one month into the Atlantic hurricane season, some may think the tropics have been relatively quiet with only 3 named storms to date. However, this is normal, as the early summer months rarely come with high tropical activity. In fact, we are currently on track to keep up with the most active season on record, 2020, which had a total of 5 named storms by the end of July.
What can we expect as the season progresses?
Hurricanes require a few key ingredients in order to form, the most important being warm ocean water. Warm waters evaporate, leading to moister air and therefore, more energy for the storm. In addition to this, they also need the favorable wind conditions to take their shape.
In an average season, June and July account for less than a handful of named storms and rarely produce hurricanes. Cooler sea surface temperatures and the strong, dry winds that carry Saharan dust act to prevent storm development. Early storms generally form further to the west in the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. With such a short distance to try and gather strength, many tropical disturbances fall short of developing into significant storm systems.
As the months go on, ocean temperatures continue to warm. By August, storms stand a greater chance at developing further to the east, allowing for more storms and a greater chance for hurricane development. The warming trend continues into September when hurricane season hits its peak.
According to NOAA, shortly after the peak, ocean temperatures cool down and wind shear increases. This causes a rapid decline in the occurrence of storms until the close of the season.
Earlier this year, NOAA predicted that this year would have above-average hurricane activity. With La Nina predicted to stick around for a rare third year, the conditions are favorable for tropical development. We still have a long way to go but so far, the season is living up to expectations.