The End Of An Unusually Calm Hurricane Season
Yesterday marked the end of the 2014 Hurricane season. Now many of you might not have even noticed and that's fine…given the relatively calm season we had this year with only one slight scare: which, in itself, was just the last breath of Tropical Depression Hanna. We asked with Chief Met Officer Dennis Gonguez about this year's unremarkable hurricane season.
Dennis Gonguez, Chief Met Officer
"This season was just about average or a little bit below average as was predicts at the beginning of the season that it would be just an average season. We had 8 name systems and typically we would have about 12 name systems. Of those 8 name systems, 6 of them became hurricanes and again the average is about 6 hurricanes per season. Of those 6 that became hurricanes we had two major hurricanes. We had the remnants of tropical depression number 9 that crossed us around the 23rd - 24th October. That was a tropical depression that was formed in the Bay of Campeche and it headed eastwards and it weaken as it crosses the Yucatan Peninsula and the remains of that cross us on around the 23rd - 24th October eastward and was pushed out by a cold front and the it develop into tropical storm Hanna off northeastern Honduras. Hanna moves into Honduras and weaken into the mountains of Honduras."
This year's season is nothing compared to 2010 when Hurricane Richard hit Belize. We are sure you all remember the countless houses and trees that were knocked down and destroyed in the city and the capital. Gonguez says the forecast for 2015 will be out in a couple of days.
November 30; Close of 2014 Hurricane Season
Sunday, November 30 saw the close of the hurricane season for the Atlantic Basin and the close of what could be considered an uneventful season for Belize. The season was for six months, beginning on June 1 annually. We took a trip to the Belize Weather Bureau today to find out from the Chief Meteorologist, Dennis Gonguez, how he would describe this year’s season for Belize and overall.
“This season was just about average or a little bit below average as was predicted at the beginning of the season that it would be just about an average season. We had eight named system and typically we would have about eight names systems. Of those eight names systems six of them became hurricanes and again the average is about six hurricanes per season and of those six that became hurricanes we had two major hurricanes. Again the average is just about two major hurricanes a year. Major hurricanes are category 3,4 and 5. So in terms of hurricanes and intense hurricanes we had just about average and a little bit below average in the number of named systems. We had eight as compared to what we typically would get which would be 12. We had the remnants of tropical depression #9 that crossed us around the 23rd or 24th of October that was a tropical depression that formed in the Bay of Campeche and it headed east and the remains of it weakened as it crossed the Yucatan Peninsula and the remains of that crossed us around the 23rd or 24th. Then it developed into Tropical storm Hannah that developed over the North Eastern Honduras and them moved into Honduras and weakened in the mountains of Honduras. So what we had was just the remnants of tropical depression #9 crossing us.”
“Is there a forecast for 2015 or …”
“The forecast will be out in a few days and we should not assume that because 2014 was quite that 2015 will be the same. We can’t just make those assumptions. There is a natural duration in the activity. Some years we would get very heightened activity and other years we would have average tropical cyclone activity so there is a natural variation but what we look at is the long term average. We don’t pay too much attention to the small fluctuations we look at the long term average.”
Throughout this year, we have had to make visits to Crooked Tree and Maskall Villages in the Belize District to follow up on reports of what some villagers said were tornadoes that tore off roofs and caused structural damages in the rural areas, but according to Gonguez, there were no tornadoes, just intense winds.
“I didn’t get the opportunity to go out into the field and do a damage assessment myself however from the radar observations that we had it did not indicate to be a tornado, it was a very intense thunderstorm but we did not see that signature on the radar that would tell us that it was a tornado.”
The past weekend has been riddled with constant rains around the country. We asked Gonguez how long the rains will last and what kind of weather can be expected for the Christmas season.
“It’s an old frontal zone that was hitting near us and it induced some heavy showers and its changing over now and we will start to see some improvements come Wednesday and Thursday but in the meantime although the front is weakening, a very wet north easterly airflow is setting up over us so we will continue with the showery weather for another day or two.”
“What can we expect for the Christmas season?”
“It’s pretty far to say but typically in December we will get about three cold fronts. We haven’t had one yet since today is the first day but quite possibly we could have a cold front for Christmas.”
As it pertains to the Hurricane Season for 2014, the first storm was formed on July 1 and was dubbed Tropical Storm Arthur which later developed into a Category Two Hurricane, making landfall in North Carolina in the United States. Other tropical storms and hurricanes followed but the noteworthy ones for the season were Tropical Storm Edouard which formed on September 16 and became a major hurricane in the north Atlantic. It never made landfall but according to weather records, it did cause two fatalities out at sea in the area of the United States, then there was Hurricane Gonzalo in mid-October which is registered as the second major hurricane of the season as it reached up to a category four. The last named storm for 2014 stopped at the letter H which was Hannah.
Belize spared, 2014 hurricane season closes
Belize spared, 2014 hurricane season closes.
Chief Meteorologist Dennis Gonguez reported today, following the close of the 2014 Atlantic Hurricane Season, that Belize had a rather uneventful rainy season, but an extended 6-to-7-week dry spell in the heart of the rainy season (which coincides with the Atlantic Hurricane season spanning June 1 to November 30) which he said could be attributed to changing weather patterns associated with climate change.
Gonguez said that normally in August, Belize experiences a dry period for about 9 to 10 days, but this year’s dry spell started earlier and lasted longer than usual.
The rainy season started off on cue, with rains descending on June 1, but June and July were mostly dry. It was not until August that the rains stated to normalize, Gonguez recounted.
The rainy season ended this weekend with persistent frontal rains, resulting from a moist northeasterly air flow. Gonguez said that the rains are expected to persist for a few days, clearing up on Wednesday and Thursday of this week.
In October, stormy weather spawned a freak tornado-like event in Maskall, which destroyed a few homes in the area. Gonguez said, though, that although there was a very intense storm, the Met office’s radar observation did not show any signature to indicate any tornadic activity.
Apart from the unusual dry spell and some thunderstorm activity, the season was rather quiet in Belize, as it was in most other places in the Atlantic, although our sister Caribbean country, Bermuda, experienced an unprecedented double hit from two cyclones only days apart.
In reviewing the 2014 season, the Weather Channel noted that this year was the sparsest Atlantic hurricane season since 1997, with eight named and nine total tropical cyclones. However, the Eastern Pacific season was the most active since 1992.
“It was a season that saw near or just a little below average activity, as was predicted by the major prediction centers,” Belize’s Chief Meteorologist, Gonguez, said.
He noted that during this year’s hurricane season, there were one unnamed cyclone (Tropical Depression #2) and 8 named storms, with 6 of these becoming hurricanes, two of which were major hurricanes. This was below average, as a typical season sees on average 12 named systems, with 6 reaching hurricane status and 2 to 3 developing into major hurricanes, of categories 3, 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. The 8 named storms were Arthur, Bertha, Cristobal, Dolly, Edouard, Fay, Gonzalo and Hanna. Edouard and Gonzalo became major hurricanes.
On September 16, Edouard was the first major Atlantic Hurricane formed in 2014. It peaked at category 3 strength, with winds as high as 115 miles per hour, but never made landfall, but two persons reportedly died near the coast of Maryland in strong rip currents coming in the wake of the storm.
Gonzalo became the second major hurricane of the season, forming in mid-October in the Caribbean, where it devastated Bermuda, after peaking at category 4 with winds exceeding 130 mph – the strongest storm for 2014. It became an extra-tropical storm and its remnants struck the UK, allegedly resulting in two fatalities in that area resulting from gale-force winds and torrential rains.
The last named storm, Hanna, emerged out of a tropical disturbance which crossed Belize in October.
“Here at home, Belize was not threatened by any systems this past hurricane season. The remains of tropical depression nine crossed the country on its eastward journey between the 23rd and 24th October. These remains later regenerated and on the 26th October became Tropical Storm Hanna. During the following day, Hanna weakened and dissipated over the mountains of Honduras,” Gonguez said.
The Weather Channel said that Hurricane Arthur, the first named storm this year, was the strongest hurricane to make landfall on the US mainland in six years. It made landfall in eastern North Carolina late on July 3 and caused damages in excess of US$3 million. However, it was the first hurricane to make landfall on the US mainland without causing any direct fatalities in 12 years, since Hurricane Lili hit Louisiana in 2002, the report added.
Bermuda experienced an unprecedented double whammy in 2014, with Hurricane Gonzalo, the strongest of the 2014 Hurricane season, slamming the country right on the heels of Tropical Storm Fay. Fay struck the country on October 12 and Gonzalo followed six days later, on October 18.
Hurricane Cristobal is considered the deadliest hurricane of the 2014 Atlantic Hurricane season, resulting in 7 deaths – 2 drownings off the US East Coast alone and 5 flood-related deaths on Hispaniola and Providenciales.
“A combination of atmospheric conditions acted to suppress the Atlantic hurricane season, including very strong vertical wind shear, combined with increased atmospheric stability, stronger sinking motion and drier air across the tropical Atlantic,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “Also, the West African monsoon was near to below average, making it more difficult for African easterly waves to develop,” he added.
“Although Belize did not see a threat this past season, citizens are advised not to become complacent thinking that next year’s hurricane season will be the same as this past season,” he stressed.
The 2015 hurricane season begins June 1 for the Atlantic Basin and NOAA will issue seasonal outlooks in May 2015.
“We at the National Meteorological Service will continue to work diligently to improve on our products, forecasting skills and services so as to be better able to provide even more timely and accurate tropical cyclone forecasts in addition to the improvements already being made on the other routine services,” said Gonguez.