The upcoming Atlantic hurricane season is expected to feature below normal activity, according to the 2014 Tropical Weather Outlook issued by WeatherWorks, a Hackettstown, NJ-based forecasting company.
Six to 10 named storms are in the WeatherWorks forecast, of which three to five are expected to become hurricanes and one to two are projected become major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher, packing winds in excess of 111 miles per hour).
“This is well-below the modern era climatology (since 1995) of 15 named storms, eight hurricanes, and four major hurricanes,” says Nick Troiano, the company’s Lead Long-Range/Tropical Weather Forecaster.
The main factor expected to suppress activity is the development of El Niño, which is expected to occur during either late summer or early autumn, affecting the peak months of hurricane season — August, September, and October — according to Troiano.
“Historically speaking, El Niño is correlated with decreased ocean temperatures and higher than normal wind shear for the Atlantic Basin, which are both associated with suppressed activity,” he says.
In addition, so far this spring, the continuation of a generally positive North Atlantic Oscillation pattern has resulted in a stronger than normal area of high pressure off the African Coast, according to Troiano.
The forecaster explains:
Stronger than normal areas of high pressure promote increased upwelling of cold water currents and have resulted in cooler than normal sea surface temperatures across the main development region of the Atlantic Ocean (defined as 7.5 – 22.5 degrees north, 20 – 75 degrees west).
The year that most closely mirrors the ocean temperature pattern to this date is 1994. That year went on to have well below normal activity, with just seven named storms, three hurricanes, and no major hurricanes.
But while the potential for a direct hurricane strike will also be much lower than would otherwise be expected, tread lightly, Troiano warns.
“Remember that it only takes one storm to provide lasting impacts on a specific community. As such, it is always important to be prepared, even in the case of a below normal seasonal forecast.”