While hurricane season for the Atlantic began June 1, Eastern Pacific watches began May 15. Both areas will continue to monitor potential hurricane activity closely until November 30; however after one of the quietest hurricane seasons in decades, forecasters continue to predict below-average activity for the Atlantic region.
The outlook for 2014 was initially released by Weather Services International (WSI) in late March, calling for 11 storms, five of which are hurricanes and two of which, could reach major hurricane status.
Major hurricane status, defined by the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, are hurricanes that reach a Category 3 level or stronger (category 3 is wind speed range of 111 to 129 mph).
Dr. Todd Crawford chief meteorologist for WSI says, “The early dynamical model runs suggest another relatively slow season. Three independent statistical techniques all suggest 11 named storms this year.”
On average, the area sees a long-term prediction of 12 named storms, six of which are hurricanes and three of which are considered major hurricanes.
Weather Services International vice president, Dr. Peter Neilley, explains, “It is important to note that our forecasts are for the total number of storms that may occur and do not attempt to predict the number of storms that will make landfall.”
It’s very likely that a season can deliver numerous storms, but have little impact, or deliver a small amount of storms, yet have one hit land and cause massive destruction. In 2010, for example, WSI predicted 12 hurricanes and 19 named storms, but not a single hurricane made landfall. Only one tropical storm found its way to the coast that season.
On May 22, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released their outlook for the Atlantic region, which coincides with WSI predictions, forecasting 8-13 named storms, 3-6 hurricanes and 1-2 major hurricanes.
A major factor used to assist in pre-season predictions is sea-surface temperature (SST) anomalies — how much temperatures depart from what is considered normal for a particular time of year. So far this year, WSI notes that the North Atlantic region is rather cool when compared to recent active seasons.
Looking at the Atlantic Basin as a whole, SSTs were warmer in the western Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, but cooler than normal in the central and eastern Atlantic Ocean.
Generally, water temperatures in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico reach tropical cyclone formation during the months of May and June.
In recent years, June has become the norm for the first named storm of the season, however this year, climatologically, the first named Atlantic storm didn’t form until the second week of July.