Thursday, December 2, 2021

With 6 weeks to go, hurricane season may be all but over

While the Atlantic hurricane season doesn’t officially end until November 30, AccuWeather forecasters believe the likelihood of any extra-tropical storm formation in the near future is slim.

After a frantic pace around the peak of hurricane season, the 2021 list of hurricane names has just one name left: Wanda. Could that name be unused?

The 2021 Atlantic hurricane season got off to a record-sharp start, with five hurricanes as of July 1, surpassing the record set a year earlier. The season continued at a brisk pace, with growth resuming in mid-August and continuing through mid-September. By the end of the period of intense activity, eight hurricanes had made landfall in the United States. But now, the tropics are sitting dormant.

“We’re moving into a situation where there are fewer tropical features coming in from Africa that usually instigate tropical storm and hurricane development before October,” said AccuWeather hurricane expert Dan Kotlowski.

Tropical waves originating off the coast of Africa are usually the source of tropical storm development during the peak of the hurricane season. According to Kotlowski, 85 of all tropical storm developments can originate from tropical waves.

Hurricane Ida, the strongest storm to make landfall in the United States this year, was born from a tropical wave that began to settle in the southern Caribbean Sea, just off the coast of South America. Ida accelerated rapidly before making landfall in Louisiana. Even after the wind had reduced in intensity, the storm devastated parts of the northeast as tropical rain.

Hurricane Henry, which formed off the Northeast Coast, had its unusual origin as a thunderstorm that tracked across the United States about two weeks before its landfall in Rhode Island.

But, around October, the number of tropical waves usually decreases, with hurricanes originating in the Caribbean Sea.

Stable Tropical Breeding Zone Mid-October to November

Hurricane Nicolas, which formed in September of this year, originated in the more typical fashion of October’s tropical development, forming in the Gulf of Campeche before making landfall in Texas as a Category 1 hurricane.

However, wind shear over the Caribbean Sea is making the prospect of any further tropical development this year very disappointing.

“When you have strong winds, which we call wind shear, those strong winds will weaken the tropical system, and that’s why it’s been so calm since September 15th, because we have a tremendous amount of wind shear in the Atlantic basin, said Bernie Reno, AccuWeather’s chief broadcast meteorologist.

Vertical wind shear, when it comes to tropical systems, is most affected by changes in the direction and speed of winds at increasing altitude in the atmosphere.

wind shear illustration
This water vapor satellite image shows Tropical Storm Beta over the Gulf of Mexico in September 2020. The orange arrows indicate winds in the upper level of the atmosphere, known as wind shear, that have displaced moisture and storms eastward within the beta. The center of the storm, preventing it from strengthening.

When strong vertical wind shear is present, the top of a tropical storm or hurricane can be blown hundreds of miles downstream. In this case, the storm may become very one-sided or tilted and begin to relax as dry air makes its way into the system or the flow of warm, moist air is interrupted throughout the storm. Strong wind gusts can prevent hurricanes from forming in the first place.

“We are heading into a La Nia,” Kotlowski said, referring to a climate-related phenomenon in which sea surface temperatures drop below average in the equatorial Pacific Ocean and could have far-reaching effects on weather elsewhere in the world. .

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“And generally when you get to La Nia, which favors having vertical wind shear to the north, and it’s not happening yet, the vertical wind shear has been deep in the tropics over the past several days, and that The reason is that we haven’t really seen real strong patterns for creating opportunities for tropical growth,” he said.

NOAA announced on Thursday that The La Nia phase had officially developed and meteorologists expect it to persist into the spring of next year.

With 6 weeks to go, hurricane season may be all but over
Hurricane Henry battled wind gusts throughout its lifetime, making the storm visible on satellite as one-sided. At the time this image was taken on August 20, Henry was about 400 miles southeast of Charleston, SC, and was moving to the northwest with sustained winds of 65 mph.

The wind shear can be visible to keen observers on satellite imagery. If an active tropical system appears one-sided, with clouds on just one side of the system, it is probably due to a high amount of wind shear. Instead of a tropical system, wind shear may appear over a water vapor satellite loop, reflecting the movement of water vapor in the upper atmosphere, and thus may indicate higher winds present.

But, as Kotlowski noted, weather patterns over the Atlantic basin are being influenced by the La Nia phase, which historically shifted vertical wind shear northward and out of the Caribbean.

With 6 weeks to go, hurricane season may be all but over

La Nia, which translates to “little girl” in Spanish, is a phase of a three-dimensional natural climate pattern that occurs over a large part of the tropical Pacific Ocean known as the El Nio–Southern Oscillation. The three phases of ENSO have broken out into the cold phase of La Nia, which increases the northern jet stream and weakens the southern jet stream, known as the subtropical jet stream, which has downstream effects in the United States.

if la Helping conditions become more favorable, the Atlantic basin may be able to churn out a few more storms before the season ends, or even after the season officially ends on November 30. Hurricanes can develop well into November and may even have formed in late January,

“Don’t let your guard down just yet, because we still have very hot water and we’re headed to L.A. Nina, which presents a unique opportunity for tropical development in late season,” Kotlowski said.

With 6 weeks to go, hurricane season may be all but over

The strongest storm of the season formed in November last year. Hurricane Iota, which formed over still warm waters of the Caribbean on November 13, rapidly intensified and made landfall in Nicaragua as a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 155 mph. Two weeks earlier, Hurricane Etah made landfall in roughly the same location as a Category 4 hurricane, before the storm made landfall twice as a tropical storm in Florida.

This year, the strongest storm so far of the season has been Category 4 Hurricane Sam, which displayed strength as it moved over the Atlantic Ocean but did not affect land. The last storm of the season so far was Tropical Storm Victor, which briefly moved off the coast of Africa before dissipating.

Unless things change soon, the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season looks to be heading out with a whisper rather than a bang.


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