Thursday 30th November marks the closing of the 2017 Atlantic Basin Hurricane Season.
The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was forecasted to be above average and above average it was. A total of 17 named storms formed, of these seventeen storms, ten (10) became hurricanes and six (6) reached major hurricane status - category three (3) or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. The two (2) strongest storms of the season were Hurricanes Irma and Maria with winds of 185 mph and 175 mph and minimum central pressure of 914 and 908 millibars, respectively. The table below summarizes the 2017 Hurricane Season and compares this season’s activity against the 2016 season and that of the 30-year average.
The major factors that supported the above-normal activity included a decrease in vertical wind shear and the presence of above-normal Sea Surface Temperatures in the Tropical Atlantic Ocean. Another key factor was the transition from a neutral El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) pattern at the start of the hurricane season to a weak La Niña by the end of the season. This shift in ENSO supported weaker vertical wind shear over the Tropical Atlantic Ocean which is more conducive for tropical cyclone development.
Of the 17 systems formed during the season, Belize was blessed to have not been directly affected by any. However, two systems were tracked just north of our border. Those were Tropical Storms Franklin and Harvey.
Although the 2017 Atlantic Basin Hurricane season has closed, history has proven that systems do form outside of the seasons. One example is Tropical Storm Arlene that formed in April of 2017. The National Meteorological Service takes this time to ask everyone to do a review of their 2017 hurricane plan and to see their weaknesses and short-falls, so they can be better prepared if need arises in 2018.
The staff at the National Meteorological Service will continue to do its utmost best to disseminate reliable analytic information in a timely and user-friendly manner to the Belizean public in the case of any weather-related emergency event. The service remains committed to its mission of keeping the Belizean public well informed of any weather event that may affect their well-being and/or may affect the sustainable development of the nation.