Could Hurricane Season Be Winding Down?
Knock on wood, but AccuWeather.com meteorologist said a strong El Nino could put an end to hurricanes churning in the Atlantic.
Not trying to jinx it by putting it out there (Patch staff has been alternating typing and knocking on wood for this story), but a senior meteorologist claims the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season could come to an abrupt halt.
AccuWeather.com reports recent indications continue to point toward a building El Niño, a pattern that can greatly impact the second half of the hurricane season — ending it in the Atlantic if it becomes strong enough.
During an El Niño, air is generally rising over the tropical Pacific and generally sinking over the tropical Atlantic, according to Senior Expert Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski. More technically, wind shear is generally lower on the Pacific side and often higher on the Atlantic side, based on the setup of strong steering winds high in the atmosphere known as the jet stream, he wrote.
Good news for the Atlantic: sinking air and wind shear inhibit hurricane development. That means there could be a shutdown of tropical systems in the latter part of the Atlantic season.
Hurricane season got off to a busy start June 1 with Alberto, Beryl, Chris and drenching Debby. But Ernesto hasn't formed yet. According to Tropical Weather Expert Dan Kottlowski, there is a current lull in activity, but that is not connected to the developming El Nino.
"During much of July, we usually see a rather routine separation of the main jet stream with the Atlantic, which often results in a quiet period in terms of tropical cyclones," Kottlowski said.
The main driver of tropical systems during the second half of the hurricane season is the flow of disturbances coming off of Africa, which pass near the Cape Verde Islands in the Atlantic — giving its name Cape Verde season.
The Cape Verde season ramps up during the second half of the summer and reaches a peak in the early autumn. It often results in long-tracking, powerful hurricanes like Andrew, Hugo and Gloria.
If the pattern continues with the development of El Niño late in the summer and fall, a number of disturbances could tiptoe along across the Atlantic, only to ramp up near the East and Gulf coast of the United States, where waters are generally much warmer than average.
While there is the possibility that the Atlantic season may be truncated somewhat earlier than average this year due to a moderate El Niño forecast by AccuWeather.com, there could be a pack of formidable storms over several weeks spanning August into September, before the full effects of El Niño come into play.
Only if neutral conditions were to persist, or El Niño only reaches a weak status late in the game, then there would be less truncation and perhaps a more typical length of the Atlantic, AccuWeather.com reports.
If El Niño were to crank up strongly early on, it could cut into overall numbers of tropical storms and hurricanes, despite already four (tropical storms) through June.