Tropics Heating Up After a Slow Start - KMSP-TV

Tropics Heating Up After a Slow Start

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The first half of the Tropical Season in the Atlantic Ocean has been pretty insignificant. We are now onto our 8th named storm, which is actually pretty normal in terms of numbers, but it's the intensity of these storms that has been unusual. So far, there hasn't been a single hurricane in the Atlantic (storms with sustained winds greater than 74 mph). There have been a handful of tropical storms, but even those have had very short life spans. This is good news for the millions living in areas that experience these tropical cyclones, but the season may just be heating up. Our newest tropical storm Humberto has formed off the coast of Africa and shows the greatest chances of any storm all season of becoming a hurricane. There is no significant threat to land in the coming days with the exception of the Cape Verde Islands, so coastal impacts are not expected. So why is this significant? This could be the latest we have ever had our first hurricane. Only twice have we gone this long into the tropical storm season before getting to our first hurricane since 1950, with Diana on September 10, 1984 and Gustav on September 11, 2002. IF this storm doesn't reach hurricane status by the end of September 11th, then we will have a new record. Here is the current forecast for Humberto…

Clearly no threat to land, but the forecast does have it strengthening to a hurricane by Wednesday afternoon which would tie the record. So why has this season been so dull despite aggressive predictions?

There are a couple reasons that could be causing a weaker than expected tropical season. The abundance of dry air and dust across much of the Atlantic basin could be to blame with several enormous dust storms rolling off northern Africa. This reduces the amount of available moisture in the atmosphere which creates stability and clearer skies. Another key player may be more wind shear than expected. Wind shear is when winds at different altitudes occur in different speeds and directions, which can snuff out any developing tropical systems. But the truth is… it's a bit of a mystery.

(Here is a summary of the 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season courtesy of wunderground.com.  It looks a bit more active than it was because they tally the Invest storms as well which are basically significant storms that the National Hurricane Center is watching for tropical development.  The ones listed here clearly never made the Tropical Depression status or they would have a name.)

But don't let your guard down because the second half of hurricane season is often more active than the first half with ocean temperatures near their peak well into October. There still may be 3 or 4 more hurricanes just weeks away which could have a big impact on whether we think this season was active or just a snooze.

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