Atlantic Hurricane Season 2016: Peak Season Update
September 10th marks the climatological peak of hurricane season. With this peak roughly marking the midpoint of the hurricane season, now is a great time to discuss the season to date, examine what the rest of the season might hold, and look into how wxchasing.com’s forecasts have fared thus far.
The season to date featured an early hurricane, Alex, in January. An unusual storm, Alex was only the second hurricane to form in January in the Atlantic basin since record keeping began. Alex meandered in the open Atlantic before being absorbed by an extratropical low.
As the traditional hurricane season approached, Tropical storms Bonnie and Colin impacted the east coast (Bonnie) and Florida (Colin) with breezy winds, rain, and high water.
Tropical Storm Danielle moved into Mexico later in June, followed by Hurricane Earl that took a steady west path into Belize.
The season hit a quiet period through July, picking up again in August when Tropical Storm Fiona moved through the open Atlantic, followed by a powerful Hurricane Gaston that slowly moved northward through the central Atlantic. Gaston has thus far been the strongest hurricane of the year, reaching major hurricane status, category 3. Gaston proved unusual in that it acquired “annular” features as it lost all of its feeder bands and consisted largely of an eye and eyewall. This hurricane configuration is one that is slow to weaken and Gaston defied most intensity guidance by refusing to weaken. Gaston remained a major hurricane for some time, with the last advisory by the National Hurricane Center (NHC) being released on September 3rd.
The most impactful storm of the year thus far was Hurricane Hermine which made landfall near St. Marks, Florida on September 2nd as a category 1 hurricane. While the area of hurricane-force winds was confined to the eyewall at landfall, tropical storm force winds extended well away from the center of the storm and piled in storm surge from near Tampa, FL through the Big Bend area of Florida. Given the dense forested area that the storm came ashore, significant tree damage and power outages were common even inland where Tallahassee, Florida saw thousands of residents lose power. Wxchasing was well represented as Brandon Clement and Meteorologist Logan Poole were present as the storm came ashore.
So where do we stand:
Named Storms: 7
Major Hurricanes: 1
Storm Impacts (in US)
Tropical Storm Landfalls: 2
Hurricane Landfalls: 1
Major Hurricane Landfalls: 0
With the next few days across the Atlantic looking somewhat quiet, the first half of September may feature few threats to land. Beyond that lull, we expect an uptick in tropical activity as abnormally warm waters, near average Atlantic Instability, and near to below average wind shear is expected across the Atlantic Basin. We anticipate this year’s hurricane season may not see quite the sharp drop in activity in early November as is typical, as we expect the abnormally warm Atlantic basin may continue to support tropical activity. With that said, our forecast for 15 storms, 8 hurricanes, and 4 major hurricanes still looks reasonable, with current numbers halfway through the season amounting to nearly half of our season-total projections. Given we have had only 1 major hurricane thus far, it stands to reason that our forecast of 4 may end up a bit high. That being said, 4 major hurricanes this year is still possible given our expectation of an extended season.
Regarding landfalls, we have had 2 of an expected 3 tropical storm landfalls, 1 of an expected 2 hurricane landfalls, and 0 of an expected 1 major hurricane landfall. It remains to be seen if the US will see a major hurricane impact, but it is still way too early to raise an all clear. We do expect to see additional tropical impacts before the season ends.
Regarding our projections for which areas would see the most increased chances for tropical impacts, we’ve done fairly well. Hurricane Hermine made landfall within our highest-risk area for the year (On the far right edge). These same areas highlighted in our pre-season forecast will remain the most at risk through at least the end of this month.
Our forecast of the actual storm, made when Hermine became termed “Tropical Depression 9” was a good one, with our “cone” being significantly smaller than some other forecasting groups while still keeping the eventual landfall point very near the center of our “cone”. Further, our “most likely” intensity forecasts of a strong tropical storm to a category 1 hurricane verified very nicely at a time when few outlets expected a hurricane at landfall.
Overall, we feel we did fairly well with our forecasts thus far, but will continue to work hard to improve in order to provide some of the best available information out there. In addition to that, we are one of the few groups who both make the forecasts then go to the storms ourselves. We are as invested in our forecast as you are as we will be right there with you when the weather gets interesting. As always, thank you for giving us your viewership. Our next blog will likely entail more of the storm chasing side of our operations, so be sure to check back next week.
Meteorologist Logan Poole