Ask Eric: Least Active Tropical Season?

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WBZ-TV's Eric Fisher Eric Fisher
Eric Fisher is Chief Meteorologist for CBS Boston’s WBZ-TV News and...
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From @jjconlon via Twitter:

Is this one of the least active seasons in the Tropics in history?

Surprisingly, as of this writing on September 12th we are ahead of the average pace for named storms in the Atlantic! According to statistics maintained by NOAA and the National Hurricane Center, the Atlantic season is usually between its 6th and 7th named storms by this date (it averages the 7th named storm by September 16th). These records account for data in the satellite era, which the NHC begins counting toward the record books in 1966. Since we’ve already made our way through Ingrid, we’ve now had 9 named storms in the Atlantic Basin. However, we are behind when it comes to hurricanes. On average, 3 hurricanes should have formed by now. As of this writing, only one has formed (Humberto) and had no impact on land.

This brings up an interesting point on the perception of what is and is not an active season! Generally, I think people associate an active season with numerous landfalls. When they scour their minds for memories of busy seasons, they see visions of news coverage, reporters in the storm, seeing communities battered by wind and rain. But if a storm forms and doesn’t hit something, does it really happen?

In our memories, maybe not. In Meteorology, absolutely. Tropical systems serve as a way for the Earth to balance out temperature extremes. They are massive heat engines, serving to bring equatorial warmth poleward to strive toward balance. So if we’re seeing or not seeing a lot of them, nature is telling us something about the current state of affairs. Globally, tropical activity is WAY down this year. I’m sure many studies will be commissioned following this season if things stay the same through the fall.

 

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