What Happened to the 2014 Hurricane Season?

By Vernon Trollinger, November 4, 2014, Hurricane Prep, News

What Happened to the 2014 Hurricane Season?

2014 Atlantic Hurricane Season Summary Map image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

For the 2014 Atlantic Hurricane Season, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has gotten its predictions mostly right. On its revised prediction, it stated there would only be 3-6 hurricanes and possibly up to 2 major hurricanes. As of the last week of October 2014, there have been 5 Atlantic hurricanes, two of which – Hurricanes Edouard and Gonzalo – were major storms, Category 3 and 4 respectively.

Meanwhile, our Tropical Storm experience has been limited to just 2 systems – Dolly and Hanna. But if you include the hurricanes in the tropical storm count (since hurricanes are tropical storms before strengthening into hurricanes), the total increases to 7 —which matches NOAA’s prediction range of 7 to 12 tropical storms.

The important thing to note is that only one storm, Hurricane Arthur, briefly made landfall in the US —but it was enough. Arthur brushed through North Carolina, knocked out power to 44,000 people, caused a flash flooding emergency in New Bedford, MA, and damaged the electrical grid in the Canadian Maritimes.

Other storms caused high surf, rip currents, and, in some instances, flooding. It’s also interesting to note that so far all but two storms, Dolly and Hanna, originated in the equatorial waters between the west coast of Africa and the mid-AAtlanticwaters east of the Windward Islands. Hurricane researchers refer to this area as the “Main Development Region” (MDR). Dolly developed from a tropical wave in the Caribbean, while Hanna developed from the remnants of Pacific Hurricane Trudy as it moved northeastward across Mexico. This leads us to 2 important questions:

What’s going on, and why hasn’t there been much hurricane activity the past 2 years?

For starters, summer sea surface temperatures (SST) were colder than average. However, these gradually warmed in August until they became almost normal in September. The tropical heat potential that drives hurricanes was vanishing as SST remained within normal range. Add to that continued east moving trade winds clashing with westward moving upper level winds to produce wind shears, conditions in the MDR have been too rough to easily form hurricanes.

Any El Niño Yet?

El Niño weather patterns (called “El Niño Southern Oscillation,” or ENSO) not only bring warmer winters to the US (which would be especially nice this winter), they also increase the amount of wind shear in the MDR, which reduces chances for hurricane formation. While seemingly unnecessary this year, if an El Niño is strong enough and if it’s long-lived, it can affect the next year’s hurricane season.

The problem is that the El Niño predicted for Autumn 2014 still hasn’t emerged. It’s also expected to be weak if/when it does appear, and nothing is known about how long its effects might last. NOAA’s current expectation is for it to begin “in the next 1-2 months and last into the Northern Hemisphere spring 2015.” SSTs in the equatorial Pacific remain high, so one is thought to have a 60-65% chance of forming sometime…well, soon-ish.

Remain Watchful

Over the past decade, from 2004 to 2013, there have been 77 hurricanes, 35 of which have been major. The impact of all these storms is explored by the Master of Public Administration program at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill in its infographic, Decade of Destruction: The High Cost of Hurricanes. The 2014 Atlantic Hurricane Season officially ends on November 30, so there’s still plenty of time for a storm. In fact, it’s not unusual for powerful late season storms to pop up. Hurricane Sandy, as the UNC infographic points out, was a late October 2012 storm that inflicted $71.4 billion in damages.

Thus, even if you’ve just been carving your jack-o-lantern, that late season hurricane threat is very real and it’s still important to stay prepared. Remember, your family can follow the Hurricane Prep Center for the latest hurricane information. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for smartphone alerts and important news about what’s happening in your area when a hurricane strikes.

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About 

A native of Wyomissing Hills, PA, Vernon Trollinger studied writing and film at the University of Iowa, later earning his MA in writing there as well. Following a decade of digging in CRM archaeology, he now writes about green energy technology, home energy efficiency, DIY projects, the natural gas industry, and the electrical grid.

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