(WTNH) — We are at the peak of hurricane season so it is no surprise that the tropics remain active with Tropical Depression Nicholas still hovering over the gulf coast and two more tropical waves in the Atlantic.
As we know, 2020 was a historically active season with 30 named storms. So far this year, we’ve had 14 named storms — six of which have become hurricanes, and three of which became major hurricanes with winds over 111 miles per hour.
Since May of 2020, 19 storms have made landfall along the U.S. coastline. That’s an incredible statistic considering the U.S. averages three landfalls per year.
Now, most of those landfalls were tropical storms, but even tropical storms can produce a lot of rain, causing widespread flooding.
Three Category 1 hurricanes have made landfall, as did two Category 2 hurricanes, one Category 3, and two Category 4 hurricanes. Of course, the most recent Category 4 was Hurricane Ida which hit Louisiana just over two weeks ago.
This begs the question, what’s going on here? Why have the past two years been so active? There are two major contributors:
First, the absence of El Nino. El Nino is warmer water in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. When we have El Nino, it tends to increase winds higher up in the atmosphere, around 25,000 to 30,000 feet that tear storms apart. The last time we had a strong El Nino was 2014 and 2015, which were quieter Atlantic hurricane seasons.
And second, warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures. Warm water in the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf can allow storms to develop and intensify. In some cases, we’ve witnessed storms rapidly intensify before making landfall. That means the winds increase more than 35 miles per hour within 24 hours. Ten storms have rapidly intensified between 2020 and 2021.
Hurricane season ends on Nov. 30. In the meantime, we’ll be watching tropical waves.