After three below-average hurricane seasons in a row, and more than a decade since the last major (CAT 3+) landfalling storm in the United States, forecasters are predicting a `Near Normal' hurricane season ahead.
Today - June 1st - marks the first day of the 2016 Atlantic Hurricane Season, which will run for a full 6 months, to the end of November.
While there are a lot of variables - including the end of El Nino and an expected transition into La Nina conditions in the Pacific, sea surface temperatures, wind shear in the tropics, and even the amount of Saharan dust in the atmosphere - we can often get a clue as to what to expect based on historical climatology.
Granted, with two pre-season storms already in the books (Hurricane Alex in January and T.S. Bonnie in May), we are already breaking with tradition, since we don't normally see a named storm until early July.
But history does tell us that hurricane season usually starts off slow, reaches a crescendo in mid-September, and then tapers off in October and November.
When hurricanes and tropical storms do form in June, they tend to form in the warmer, comparatively shallower waters of the the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean.
June storms tend to be less severe than what develops later in the season, but there have been some notable exceptions.
- Hurricane Audrey in 1957 was the only June storm in modern history known to reach CAT 4 strength, and it claimed 550 lives after it made landfall in eastern Texas and western Louisiana
- Catagory 1 Hurricane Agnes (1972), caused relatively little damage when it made landfall in Florida, but caused extensive inland flooding several days later in the Mid-Atlantic states, claiming 113 lives in New York and Pennsylvania.
- In 2010 Hurricane Alex – a strong CAT 2 hurricane – slammed into Mexican state of Tamaulipas after intensifying to hurricane strength on June 29th.
All of which means that while it is very early in the Hurricane season, it isn’t too early to be prepared.
A little over a week ago, in Hurricane Preparedness 2016, we took a long look at hurricane preparedness. If you haven't already done so, now is a good time to take stock of your emergency plans and preparations.
And while there are a lot of knowledgeable and interesting weather enthusiasts on the Internet, your first stop should always be the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida.
For additional official information you should bookmark your local Office of Emergency Management. Here you’ll be able to access local warnings, flood maps and evacuation information. To find your local one, you can Google or Yahoo search with your county/parish name and the words `Emergency Management’.
These are the real experts, and the only ones you should rely on to track and forecast the storm.
If you are on Twitter, you should also follow @FEMA, @CraigatFEMA, @NHC_Atlantic, @NHC_Pacific and @ReadyGov.
As the season progresses, sometime during the first week of each month we'll look at the changing climatology for that particular month.