In reviewing the current data, including the overall weather pattern and the current/forecast ENSO state, there are a few past years that could be used to determine what this upcoming Atlantic hurricane season may or may not be like.
As it is right now, we are locked in a pattern that consists of a large western US ridge of high pressure and a domineering trough of low pressure over the eastern United States. There are no signs of this pattern breaking anytime soon with plenty of cold and storminess expected across the eastern United States for at least the next 10 to 14 days, if not longer. In fact, the very, very long range guidance are pointing to a colder than average March in terms of temperatures across a good part of the eastern United States, as well as across the entire US Gulf Coast and the entire state of Texas. Bottom line is if you are in the eastern half of the United States, be prepared for at least another 5 to 6 weeks of cold and stormy weather.
March’s Temperature Forecast:
As for the current ENSO state, it appears that we are in a weak El Nino and the guidance that forecasts the ENSO state reveals that this weak El Nino may hold on right through this spring and early summer before a neutral ENSO state tries to take hold late this summer into the fall of 2015.
So, taking the current weather pattern, including the upper air pattern, record reports from across the United States as well as factoring in the current ENSO state, there are a few years that have popped out at me that could be used as a guide for this upcoming hurricane season. They are 1934, 1958, 1968, 1969, 1979 and 1995.
So, let’s take a look at each of these years:
1934: I used 1934 as a possible year as the current weather pattern, including the depth of the very cold air across the eastern United States very closely matches this 1933-34 winter. I noticed that the 1934 hurricane season started off with a bang with a Category 2 hurricane tracking out of the western Caribbean and Bay of Campeche between June 8th and June 12th and making landfall near Morgan City, Louisiana on June 16th. In late July, a Category 1 hurricane made landfall along the central Texas coast. Activity quieted down a little during August with September becoming busy again as a tropical storm made landfall in eastern North Carolina in early September and a Category 1 hurricane made landfall in New England on September 8th. By late September, a tropical storm impacted the central and northern Lesser Antilles as well as the Virgin Islands. During October, a tropical storm came ashore along the western Florida Panhandle and a tropical storm impacted Jamaica, central and eastern Cuba and the central Bahamas.
1958: The current 500 millibar pattern across North America is somewhat analogous to the winter of 1957-58 and it’s “interesting” to note that the 1958 Atlantic Hurricane season also started off early with Tropical Storm Alma coming ashore in northeast Mexico during mid-June. During August, Becky and Cleo were both early curving Cape Verde storms that did not impact anyone. Category 3 Hurricane Daisy seriously threatened coastal North Carolina and New England in late August but did not directly make landfall. Ella in early September impacted the central Lesser Antilles as a tropical storm and then impacted southern Haiti as a Category 3 hurricane before weakening into a tropical storm and impacting southern and western Cuba and finally south Texas. Category 4 Hurricane Helene made landfall over southeastern and eastern North Carolina on September 27th. The hurricane season ended in early and mid October with Janice impacting the northwestern Bahamas as a tropical storm.
1968: Much like the 1958 analog year, the current weather pattern has some similarities to February of 1968. The 1968 Hurricane Season also had a June hurricane landfall with Abby making landfall just south of Tampa, Florida as a Category 1 hurricane. Candy also made landfall in June as it came ashore in south Texas as a tropical storm in late June. Gladys tracked out of the northwestern Caribbean in mid-October and made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane in the Big Bend area of northwest Florida on October 18th.
1969: The very snowy winter weather pattern over the northeastern United States matches February of 1969 quite closely. In fact, the long duration winter storm that is currently occurring across parts of the northeast United States very closely matches the 100 hour snowstorm of late February of 1969. So, even though the 1969 was technically an El Nino year, it did not act like one as it was quite busy in the Atlantic basin with 18 named storms with 12 of those becoming hurricanes. The 1969 hurricane season started out with a few tropical depressions impacting the Caribbean, the Bahamas and the southeastern Gulf of Mexico during late May and early June. Camille made landfall along the Mississippi coast on the night of August 17th as a very small, but extremely powerful Category 5 hurricane. Francelia tracked across the southern Caribbean during late August and made landfall in Belize as a Category 3 hurricane in early September. Gerda tracked very close to the US East Coast during early September making landfall very near Eastport, Maine as a very rare Category 2 hurricane on September 9th. Jenny impacted western and southwestern Florida as a tropical storm in early October.
1979: A close analog year in terms of the raw ENSO numbers. The 1979 hurricane season also had a June storm with Ana impacting the central and southern Lesser Antilles in late June. In July, Bob made landfall in southeastern Louisiana as a Category 1 hurricane and Claudette made landfall on the upper Texas coast as a tropical storm. Hurricanes David and Frederic were the big storms of the 1979 hurricane season with David severely impacting the central Lesser Antilles and Hispaniola in late August before tracking right along the east coast of Florida in early September. Frederic was right behind David and impacted much of the northern Caribbean as a tropical storm before moving into the Gulf of Mexico and strengthening into a Category 4 hurricane and impacting the central US Gulf Coast on September 12th.
1995: The current 500 millibar pattern across North America is also somewhat analogous to the current weather pattern that we have right now. So, Allison kicked off the 1995 hurricane season with a borderline hurricane landfall along the Florida Panhandle on June 5th. Dean made landfall very near Galveston, Texas as a tropical storm on July 31st. Erin developed over the Bahamas on August 1st and made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane near Vero Beach, Florida on August 2nd. Erin crossed central Florida and went on to intensify in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico making a second landfall near Gulf Shores, Alabama as a Category 2 hurricane on August 3rd. Jerry was a 40 mph tropical storm that tracked across Florida from Deerfield Beach to just north of Tampa on August 24th. Luis raked the northern Lesser Antilles and parts of the Virgin Islands as a Category 4 hurricane on September 5th and 6th. Marilyn followed close behind and impacted the central Lesser Antilles on September 14th as a Category 1 hurricane and then the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico as a Category 2 hurricane on September 16th. Opal explosively strengthened the night of October 3rd and 4th and almost attained Category 5 strength in the central Gulf of Mexico. Fortunately, it weakened some to a Category 3 hurricane before making landfall near Pensacola, Florida on the evening of October 4th. Still, Opal brought a significant storm surge to much of the Florida Panhandle. Roxanne made landfall along the northeast Yucatan Peninsula as a Category 3 hurricane on October 10th.
What Does This All Tell Us? – One immediate thing that pops out at me in regards to all of the analog years is that they were quick starting seasons with all of the past seasons having either a June tropical storm or hurricane making landfall either in the United States or in the Caribbean. Another thing I noticed is that even though there was a weakening El Nino in many of these past seasons, they were quite busy not only in terms of overall numbers, but also in overall impact along the US coast and in the Caribbean.
It is of my opinion, based on the data I have looked at, that we may have a quick start to the hurricane season with the possibility of 1 or even 2 tropical cyclones during June. In fact, one of these June storms may end up making landfall somewhere along the US Gulf coast or in the eastern Caribbean (based on past similar years).
In addition, looking at overall impact for these past seasons, three areas of the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean stands out at me.
The first area is the central and eastern US Gulf coast from Morgan City, Louisiana to the west coast of Florida with hurricane landfalls occurring in 5 out of the 6 analog years I am using. In fact, 3 of those years, 1969, 1979 and 1995 had major hurricane landfalls somewhere along the central and eastern US Gulf coast.
The second area that stands out at me is the eastern Caribbean, including the Lesser Antilles, Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. In the 6 analog years that match the current pattern we are in right now, 4 of those years had some sort of a tropical storm or hurricane impact on the Lesser Antilles, Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
The third area that popped out at me is New England as there was either a very close brush or a direct impact on some part of New England in 3 out of the 6 analog years. The most notable was 1969’s Hurricane Gerda which came ashore over extreme eastern Maine as a 110 mph Category 2 hurricane.
So, even though we are still about four months away from the official start of the 2015 Atlantic Hurricane season, I wanted to give you some things to look at, ponder and consider between now and June 1st as the overall weather pattern does match such years as 1934, 1958, 1968, 1969, 1979 and 1995.