Snowy End to Hurricane Season That Many Never Noticed

With a potential East Coast snowstorm just before Thanksgiving and all the fuss and fun that comes with the holiday itself, you might find it easy to forget that the Atlantic hurricane season isn’t over yet.

Its last official day is Nov. 30.

Given there hasn’t been a named storm in the Atlantic since Hanna dissipated on Oct. 27, an argument could be made the six-month season ended a month ago.

The Atlantic has produced eight storms since June 1. Unless the completely unexpected occurs, that will be the lowest number since 1997, when only seven storms were named and a tropical depression developed, said Dennis Feltgen, spokesman for the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

In the eight storms that formed this year, six became hurricanes, two of them major hurricanes with winds of more than 111 miles (179 kilometers) per hour. Those storms are considered Category 3 or higher on the five-step Saffir-Simpson wind scale.

“All the activity was within our predicted ranges,” said Gerry Bell, lead hurricane forecaster at the U.S. Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

In May, the prediction center forecast a season that would have eight to 13 named storms, with three to six of those turning into hurricanes and one to two of them becoming major hurricanes. In August, it adjusted the numbers to 7 to 12 named storms and three to six hurricanes, zero to two of which would become major.

Low Numbers

This is the third year since 2000 that the number of named storms in the Atlantic has failed to reach double digits -- 2006 and 2009 both produced nine storms. Last year’s season had 13.

This matters because since 1995, conditions in the Atlantic have been more conducive to storm formation, including a strong African monsoon and warmer sea surface temperatures in the tropical portions of the ocean.

These shifts are often referred to as the warm phase of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, or AMO for short. When the basin is in that phase, more storms form and when it is not, fewer appear.

For example, a total of 21 storms got names from 1992 to 1994, before the warm phase started, and then in 1995, 19 systems reached that threshold.

Bell cautions against thinking there has been a major shift in the Atlantic. It will take a few more years to see if the cooler waters and weak monsoon continue.

Meanwhile, lest you think the year was a total bore, remember that a Category 2 hurricane, Arthur, hit North Carolina’s Outer Banks over the July Fourth holiday weekend and then landed in Canada while another, Gonzalo, swept through Bermuda in October.

As for a glimpse into what next year holds, Bell said it’s too early to say. Forecasters at the center will begin to look at conditions across the Atlantic in April and will make their first prediction in late May.

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