Atlantic basin unusually quiet during historical peak

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Wednesday, September 14, 2022

As of today, the Atlantic is unusually quiet for this time of year. Based on past climatological records, extending back to 1851, Atlantic storms form at peak frequency around September 10. Hurricane season starts on June 1 and ends on November 30, covering exactly half of the calendar year. According to the official website for the National Hurricane Center (NHC), officials are forecasting no tropical activity for at least the next 48 hours. Meanwhile, in the Pacific basin, the coast of northern Mexico is currently experiencing the remnants of Hurricane Kay, which was officially declared post-tropical starting at 11:00 p.m. Pacific Time, Friday night. Tropical Storm Kay has brought five inches of rain to San Diego, causing minimal damage and no injuries or deaths, while providing the benefit of dampening the wildfires that are currently burning throughout California. In the Atlantic basin, Danielle and Earl, which broke the oceanic peace in early September, are no longer tracked by the NHC as both storms became extratropical or have dissipated, restoring the quiet. Hurricane Earl dissipated early Sunday morning.

This year's hurricane season has been unprecedentedly quiet, marking the first time since 1997 that the Atlantic basin created no tropical storms during the month of August, and only the second time in the modern-day "satellite era", which in hurricane science jargon, refers to all seasons from 1967 onwards. In other words, it is extremely rare for August to pass without an Atlantic tropical storm. The near absence of tropical activity this year is due to high wind shear and dry air, the latter of which is partially related to dust from the Saharan Desert. This wind shear suppressed two systems that the NHC had been monitoring on September 9, one of which had been assigned a 40% chance of formation.

Despite the lack of activity, experts are warning residents to stay on their toes, as current and past events cannot be used to predict the next six weeks, which are also part of the current hurricane season, and it can take only one particularly destructive and deadly hurricane to redefine a season. For example, the 1983 Atlantic hurricane season was the quietest season, with only four named storms, but one of them was Hurricane Alicia, a Category 3 hurricane which slammed the Texas coast, causing 21 deaths and $2.6 billion in damage.

As of Tuesday, the NHC is monitoring two disturbances that originated over Africa, giving one of them a 40% chance to form within the next five days. Houston, Texas is no stranger to hurricanes, having endured the superstorm Hurricane Harvey back in 2017. Hurricanes are uncommon beyond this point in the season; statistically, there is only a 5% chance of a hurricane in Houston on or after September 13, and this probability drops to 3% for the second half of September.