The 2014 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to produce fewer than the average number of tropical storms and hurricanes, according to forecasters at AccuWeather.com, who said tropical development could be altered by the onset of an El Nino even in late summer of fall.
The forecasters said they expect 10 named storms, including five hurricanes, two of them major (Category 3 or higher), to form in the Atlantic Basin after the hurricane season begins on June 1.
Forecasters at Colorado State University (CSU) recently said in their first tropical forecast of the year that they too expect an El Nino event -- the warming of water temperatures in the central and equatorial Pacific Ocean -- to limit the number of hurricanes that form in the Atlantic Basin (see Daily GPI, April 11). The CSU team is expecting nine tropical storms in the Atlantic Basin this year, including three hurricanes, one of them major (Category 3 or higher). That is comparable to a recent forecast from Houston-based ImpactWeather that called for 10 tropical storms, including four hurricanes, one of them major (see Daily GPI, March 25).
At some point this summer, El Nino would likely increase wind shear across portions of the Atlantic basin and thus suppress the development of tropical storms, according to AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski.
“If we have a robust El Nino develop, then the numbers will be much lower and this could be one of the least active years in recent memory," he said.
Kottlowski said there could be one or two tropical storms in June or July, but most storms and the best potential for landfall would during the heart of hurricane season in August, September and October.
The greatest chance of tropical storm landfall would be from eastern Louisiana, east through Florida and up through the Carolinas and Virginia coasts, he said.
The 2013 hurricane season, which many forecasters had expected to be active, turned out to be relatively quiet, with only passing threats to natural gas and oil interests in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM). There were 14 named storms last year, but only two of them -- Humberto and Ingrid -- became hurricanes, and none reached major hurricane status. Late in the hurricane season, Tropical Storm Karen forced natural gas and oil operations to be shut in and dozens of platforms to be evacuated, but the storm weakened before doing any major damage (see Daily GPI, Oct. 7, 2013).
Increased natural gas production from U.S. shale plays in recent years has lessened the potential impact of Gulf hurricanes on prices and supply (see Daily GPI, Sept. 18, 2013).
Marketed natural gas production out of the GOM has been on the decline since 1997, when it was 5.21 Tcf, about 27% of the Lower 48 total, according to Energy Information Administration data. By 2013 that number had tumbled to 1.31 Tcf, just 5% of the Lower 48 total.