El Niño making season ‘challenging’; just what you need to know

The Washington Post called the prediction “one of the most incredible forecasts ever made for the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season.” We agree. The last time there was a devastating hurricane in the Atlantic basin was Andrew in 1992, and in the 24 years since then, the number of named Atlantic storms has steadily decreased. Yet by considering three possible scenarios: an abnormal El Niño in the tropical Pacific Ocean, an unusual warming of the upper atmosphere across the Caribbean, and a decreased capacity for water vapor to move from East to West, the team of scientists at Colorado State University was able to predict exactly which hurricane might hit the Atlantic basin. That means if you’re concerned about the current number of storms, we advise you to not worry — you’ve got lots of time.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30. And historically, the Atlantic hurricane season has typically been worse than a normal year. In 1992, however, the Atlantic hurricane season was extremely unusual, and Hurricane Andrew came ashore just two weeks after the start of the season.

So the team of scientists at Colorado State University, which is known for developing accurate seasonal forecast, believes that even though the next hurricane season could be off to a late start — the first time since 1978 that this hurricane season will start before May 1 — it’s still possible that there could be a devastating hurricane this season. While the team said it believes the long-term trend toward a reduced hurricane season has begun, it also said that it may continue if El Niño, which has been observed during the past several years, returns to the tropical Pacific Ocean this year.

El Niño’s effects are strongest in the western equatorial Pacific, according to a NOAA blog, bringing up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit warmer water in the eastern tropical Pacific. Florida is also experiencing a drought, leaving many cattle and vineyards to face continued lack of rain.

“The sea surface temperatures in the Western Tropical Pacific have been anomalously warm over the past few months and the atmosphere above the equator is well-above normal,” according to NASA’s blog. “Based on this information and the associated rainfall records, there is very high confidence that El Niño will occur again during the second half of the year.”

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