The Atlantic hurricane season is off to a stumbling start this year and doesn’t seem destined to become much better . . . or worse, depending on your viewpoint. So far, only three relatively flabby (but soggy) tropical storms have popped up, Ana, Bill, and Claudette.
The Pacific basins, in contrast, have been spitting out hurricanes and typhoons like a toddler hurling his creamed spinach.
So what’s going on? El Niño! Yes, our favorite scapegoat for absolutely everything has returned. (Well, maybe we can’t blame Donald Trump on it.)
El Niño, to give you a quick reminder, is not a weather phenomenon. It’s the name given the periodic and very noticeable warming of the equatorial waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean. But El Niño can put an indelible thumbprint on weather.
In the U. S., this mark is most apparent in the winter (see graphic), and during the Atlantic hurricane season.
Without going into eye-glazing detail, the heat released by an El Niño enhances the subtropical jet stream. As the jet knifes over the tropical Atlantic, it creates wind shear aloft, an anathema for the formation of tropical cyclones. Kind of like daylight puts a damper on being a vampire.
Couple that with ocean waters that are just a tad cooler than normal in the tropical Atlantic, and it could be a sluggish hurricane season, at least in terms of numbers. Which, of course, isn’t necessarily bad.
In fact, for my novel EYEWALL, it could be good, since hurricane junkies might be looking to get their kicks vicariously this year. What better way than by riding along in an Air Force Hurricane Hunter that crash lands on St. Simons Island, Georgia, in the face of an onrushing Cat 5 storm?
But wait, there’s more. Coming up: a SUPER SALE [subliminal advertising here] set for EYEWALL on Saturday (July 25). The novel, a previous number-one Kindle best seller, will be featured as Amazon’s “Flagship” Daily Deal.
Best you buy early and beat the BLIZZARD [not-so-subliminal advertising here] of readers sure to come.
One final note, even though there may not be a PLAGUE [I can’t help myself] of Atlantic hurricanes this year, don’t drop your guard if you live along the Atlantic or Gulf coasts. Forget El Nino’s negative influence on the number of storms, and remember it takes just one bruiser to ruin your summer.
While El Niño and “cool” ocean waters will likely keep the numbers in check, that’s not to say the season will be a total dud. Ocean temperatures are warmer than usual in the Gulf of Mexico and off the east coast of the U. S.
And, if I may get a bit geeky, a couple of models suggest a subtropical ridge of high pressure aloft will hold sway from the Gulf Coast to the Bahamas through August. That, in turn, implies a minimum of wind shear in those areas. Thus, it’s possible we could get some bad actors popping up relatively close to home.
So the season isn’t dead, just kind of wobbly at the moment.
In the meantime, EYEWALL beckons. $1.99 on Kindle (Saturday). Like I said, a super sale.
Graphic: typical El Niño weather effects during winter.