A more active tropical storm and hurricane season may be just around the meteorological corner, especially when compared to last season. Some forecasters believe that 2016 may be another season of below normal tropical storm and hurricane activity in the waters of the Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean as El Nino will still be influencing global weather patterns.
Due to the strong El Nino last year, the majority of forecasters believed that the 2015 season would end up below average in the Atlantic and Caribbean. During an El Nino event, upper-level weather patterns change which results in the "shearing" of tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic and Caribbean waters.
Last year, there were 11 named storms that included four hurricanes. Two of those hurricanes were considered to be “major.” No hurricanes made landfall in the U.S., but two tropical storms, Ana and Bill struck the northeastern coastlines of South Carolina and Texas.
Hurricane Joaquin, which intensified to a Category 4 hurricane, was the first to impact the Bahamas in October since 1866.
In the Atlantic and Caribbean, the overall average is slightly over 10 named storms with about 6 becoming hurricanes during an entire season, which begins on June 1 and ends November 30.
However, there were predictions of a more active 2015 season in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean thanks to a strong El Nino. This part of the world had water temperatures well above normal that helped fuel the formation of tropical storms and eventual hurricanes.
The Pacific had a whopping 26 named storms which included 16 hurricanes. The number of hurricanes in the Pacific actually tied a record. There was also Hurricane Patricia in the Pacific Ocean as it became the strongest hurricane in recorded history in the Western Hemisphere. Sustained winds, not gusts, were at 200 miles per hour.
Some of the forecasts for a normal to below normal 2016 hurricane season came in December of 2015 when El Nino was still going strong. Since then, the warm water phenomenon has weakened and is forecast to completely fall apart by the fall season.
Climatologist Cliff Harris and I believe that this upcoming season may have an above average number of tropical storms or hurricanes. We see approximately 15-18 named storms with 6-8 of them becoming hurricanes. Four of these potentially deadly storms are expected to become major hurricanes, reaching at least a Category 3 status. We’ve already had one hurricane in 2016, Alex. The storm actually came together in January and Alex was only the second one in recorded history to form in January. We also believe that more of these big storms may end up in the Gulf of Mexico rather than riding up the East Coast.
There are no indications that the 2016 season will be a big one. But, in 2005, the record year that produced Hurricane Katrina, there was a weak El Nino that was falling apart during that summer. The El Nino for 2016 is also expected to weaken fairly rapidly this summer, but this one was much stronger and its effects may linger at least into the late summer season.