As you may have noticed, there hasn’t been much to talk about so far this hurricane season, which is now nearly two months old. Yeah, there have been two named storms — T.S. Alberto and T.S.
Milton Berle Beryl — but neither of them were terribly exciting threatening. Yawn. By this time last year, we’d had a ridiculous seven tropical storms, an absurd three hurricanes, and an impossible two Category 4s — one of which was later retroactively upgraded to a Category 5!
Mind you, having “only” two tropical storms in June and July is actually quite normal… but all the forecasts called for another significantly above-normal season, so normalcy has come as something of a surprise. (It should be noted that normalcy in June and July doesn’t necessarily mean normalcy from August through November. In fact, last season notwithstanding, there is historically little or no correlation between how active/inactive the first two months are, and how active/inactive the remainder of the season is.)
Anyway, with NOAA’s updated seasonal predictions due out on Tuesday, Margie Kieper has a brilliant post about this “Much-Ballyhooed 2006 Atlantic Hurricane Season”:
With the very active 2004 season, followed by the break-all-records 2005 season, everyone was left with the uneasy feeling that we were all on a runaway train. As unbelievable as 2005 had been, it suddenly seemed within the realm of normalcy that things could continue this way, and even get worse, the coming year. In December, when the 2005 season was, incredibly, still going on, the initial set of predictions for 2006 reflected the Ã¢â‚¬Å“skyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the limitÃ¢â‚¬? climate of the time. Hardly mentioned were the fairly ordinary seasonal predictions of the year before, and that no one had really foreseen the extraordinary 2005 season coming, indicating that the ability to make these type of long-range predictions is in fact limited (although NOAAÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s prediction, which comes out in May, came the closest, especially in the general sense of understanding the conditions that were and would be in place to aid TC development, beyond the numbers game).
The official forecasts, which had always enjoyed a modicum of publicity, suddenly became the center of a media circus, which is certain to continue.
Every internet storm forum had its contest to see who could predict the numbers for the 2006 season, and those numbers just couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get high enough. Many thought that they would surpass 2005, even though that was unlikely; but many more were for extremely active seasons, even if not at the hyperactive level of 2005. Betting on the number of hurricanes has even become high profile, and has been the subject of several news articles.
And with the non-exceptional start to this season, so far, the adrenaline of the previous season has gone, and, in one of those odd quirks of human nature, many are feeling a bit deflated by the hype (although I imagine the general feeling at NHC has been one of relief for the easy pace of the early 2006 season…considering they’re probably still trying to catch up from 2005, not to mention continuing to train new hurricane specialists).
In place of a whiz-bang season, many are creating their own hype. Hand in hand with the focus on the predictions, especially the number of named storms, is the constant scrunity and speculation about every cutoff low, every spot of disturbed weather, every tropical wave, when it will be designated an invest (what’s wrong with them at NHC? don’t they see it!), when it will become the next named storm (soon!), and how powerful it will grow (lots!), where it will land (my house!). Tropical weather, for watchers on the web, has reached celebrity status, and, as such, it’s a little difficult for non-mets to judge the Real McCoy, with current expectations. Unofficially, reactions passed on to me have ranged from frustration to mild amusement.
In spite of the enormous want, and need, for these seasonal predictions, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s being driven home that a lot of the conditions of the air and the ocean that directly affect TC formation, as well as the underlying causes for those conditions, simply canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t yet be predicted very far in advance. Soberingly, even after the August predictions are all out, in a couple weeks, we still wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know, not with any certainty, whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s going to be happening in the next three months. After all, back in May we didn’t hear July specifics about a stronger Bermuda High, consequently stronger trades, and lower SSTs, nor did we hear about higher than average shear in the Caribbean, the pattern of troughs coming off the East Coast, and the Atlantic ridging, or the large amount of African dust coming off the continent.
Read the whole thing (though I quoted most of it). As someone who both bemusedly criticized and shameless participated in the hype for this hurricane season, I totally agree with Margie’s post. Well said.
And, hey, speaking of African dust… you can see it for yourself in another post by Margie. (Click the link, then scroll down.)
In other hurricane-related news, out in the Pacific, the ragged remnants of Hurricane Daniel passed over Hawaii yesterday, “bringing a bit of rain, but not as much as anticipated.”
(Hat tip: Bob King of the Palm Beach Post, for pointing me to Margie’s blog, which will be added to my blogroll shortly.)
I just hope people wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t start resting easy or getting complacent…if the first few weeks of June come and go without any tropical activity whatsoever, which is precisely what climatology tells us is likely to happen.
…is equally applicable now, if we simply replace the words “first few weeks of June” with “first two months of the season” and the words “any tropical activity whatsoever” with “any hurricanes or particularly threatening storms.” Just because there hasn’t been anything deadly out there yet this season, doesn’t mean there won’t be. Be prepared!