The 2016 Atlantic hurricane season officially began on June 1, and there have already been three named storms– Alex, Bonnie and Colin — the most on record so early in the season. (Hurricane Alex and tropical storm Bonnie formed before June 1.)
Having an active start to the season begs the question– does that signal an overly-active rest of the season? Scientists who study and forecast hurricanes say not necessarily.
McNoldy says there is very little relationship between storms forming before the end of June and overall activity for the year.
For example, in the seasons since 1950 with two or more named storms forming by the end of June, an average of 6.1 overall hurricanes were observed, while in seasons since 1950 with zero or one named storm by the end of June, an average of 6.3 overall hurricanes were observed.
Earlier this year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its 2016 Atlantic hurricane season outlook which called for a near-normal season.
One factor scientists who create seasonal hurricane outlooks are looking at is the potential of El Niño transitioning into a La Niña. La Niña conditions typically present atmospheric conditions– especially upper level winds– that are more conducive to tropical development.
This alone might foretell the potential for a very active rest of the season, which runs through November 30.
Scientists, however, note colder-than-average sea surface temperatures in the far North Atlantic and subtropical Northeast Atlantic might act to temper tropical development through the rest of the season.
It’s important to remember that very active Atlantic hurricane seasons can have no hurricane landfalls (such as 2010), or weak seasons can have significant hurricane landfalls (Alicia-1983, Andrew-1992), McNoldy reminds us.