Hurricane season quiet as Atlantic storms stay out at sea _lowres


The 2014 Atlantic hurricane season matched expectations by being fairly quiet this year, generating only eight named storms, with just one making a glancing landfall in the United States.

The hurricane season started on June 1 and officially ends Sunday, with most of the storms that did form staying out at sea and away from land.

“We had a heavy preference this year for storms curving out to the ocean,” said Barry Keim, state climatologist. “The closest call we had in the United States was Arthur,” way back in July.

This is the ninth consecutive year the U.S. has avoided the landfall of a major hurricane, defined as one having winds of Category 3, 4 or 5. In more than 100 years of recorded hurricane data, the longest previous such stretch the U.S. had was five years, Keim said.

Although hurricanes like Isaac, Ike and Sandy created widespread damage and were major hurricanes in their own way, none was classified as “major” in terms of wind speed at landfall.

The last major hurricane, as defined by wind speed, to make landfall in the U.S. was Wilma in 2005, Keim said.

In May, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasted that this would be a near-average hurricane season with a 70 percent chance of eight to 13 named storms, of which three to six could have become hurricanes.

Of those hurricanes, NOAA said, there was a chance one or two could have developed wind speeds of 111 mph or higher and been considered a “major storm” of Category 3, 4 or 5.

An average season, based on information from 1981 through 2010, includes 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes, according to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

The hurricane season did indeed produce eight named storms, six of which became hurricanes. Two of those hurricanes, Edouard and Gonzalo, became major hurricanes, but both stayed well out to sea.

In fact, many of the storms stayed out to sea. The United States’ only landfalling storm was Hurricane Arthur, which hit North Carolina in July and brought rain to parts of the East Coast.

Although Tropical Storm Dolly and Tropical Storm Hanna impacted Central America and Mexico, the continental United States fared well this hurricane season.

“We had no activity in the northern Gulf (of Mexico) at all,” Keim said. “I don’t think anyone is really complaining.”

Part of the early season forecast of a near-normal season depended on the expectation that an El Niño would form. El Niño weather patterns typically produce large amounts of wind shear that either stop storms from forming or can limit their strength.

Instead, the El Niño pattern hasn’t developed yet, although storms still had to fight against plenty of wind shear and dry air this season, helping keep down their number.

“The El Niño never quite lived up to its billing,” Keim said. “But we got some of the benefits nevertheless.”

Other factors included lower-than-normal temperatures at the sea surface, drier air over the tropical Atlantic Ocean and a near-to-below-average West African monsoon, which in normal years can be the birthplace of tropical storms.

Although the Atlantic Ocean was relatively quiet, the northern Pacific hurricane season was anything but, with 20 named storms making it the busiest year since 1992, according to NOAA. For the U.S., Hurricane Iselle made headlines when it hit Hawaii in early August as the first tropical cyclone to make landfall on the island since 1992.

Follow Amy Wold on Twitter, @awold10.