(COVINGTON, La.) — The 2016 Atlantic Hurricane season, which technically began on June 1, 2016, started earlier this year with Hurricane Alex in January; however, as its peak approaches, the season looks to be relatively normal in size.
“The official forecast for this season from NOAA was 10-16 named storms, 4-8 hurricanes, and 1-4 major storms,” WWLTV Meteorologist Chris Franklin said. “For the next few weeks, computer models indicate strong wind shear, which rips the tops off of developing storms… and thus prevents tropical development, across the tropical Atlantic. So it looks as though we will reach the peak of the season, Sept. 10, with no storms in the tropics.”
Franklin’s wind shear explanation was proven with Hurricane Hermine before it became a hurricane, as it struggled in the Caribbean Sea before it entered the Gulf of Mexico. Strong wind shear, along with drier air, helped disrupt the circulation until it entered the eastern Gulf of Mexico where it encountered more conducive conditions.
“We are still in a neutral phase between El Nino and La Nina,” WWLTV Meteorologist Alexandra Cranford said. “La Nina favors more hurricane formation, and at the beginning of the season, it looked like a La Nina event could possibly begin this late summer and early fall. Now we’re in September, and we still haven’t seen a big swing toward La Nina conditions.”
The Atlantic hasn’t had a very active hurricane season since 2012. It has been in an El Nino phase for quite some time now, which is why activity has been slow. Unlike La Nina, El Nino doesn’t favor hurricane or tropical cyclone development because it increases wind shear in the Atlantic and Caribbean Sea.
“ACE, or Accumulated Cyclone Energy, is another way to look at tropical activity,” Cranford said. “ACE takes into account the energy produced by each tropical cyclone, so the strength and duration of the storms are factored in, along with the number of storms. So far this season, ACE is very close to normal, only about 3% higher than average for this point in the season.”
This year’s hurricane season could be the first season to have only average activity in three to four years.