The 2014 Atlantic hurricane season is shaping up to be a mild one, based on a series of recent tropical forecasts, including the latest issued by Weather Services International (WSI) that called for 11 named storms, including five hurricanes, two of them major (Category 3 or higher).
That would be a relatively quiet tropical season, well below both the 1950-2013 normals of 12/7/3 and the more recent "active period" (1995-2013) normals of 15/8/4, WSI said.
The meteorological phenomenon expected to limit the production of Atlantic hurricanes this year is El Nin?o -- the warming of water temperatures in the central and equatorial Pacific Ocean -- according to WSI and most other forecasters.
"Tropical Atlantic surface temperatures remain rather cool relative to the average of the last 20 years, and an emerging El Nin?o event also tilts the odds towards reduced activity this season," said WSI Chief Meteorologist Todd Crawford. Dynamical and statistical models used by WSI forecasters "remain in unusual agreement," Crawford said.
The WSI forecast is in line with others released recently by AccuWeather.com, Colorado State University and ImpactWeather (see Daily GPI, May 15; April 11; March 25). Those forecasters also said they expected an El Nin?o to limit the number of tropical storms forming in the Atlantic Basin during the June 1 - Nov. 30 hurricane season.
There were 14 named storms last year, but only two of them 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).
The emerging El Nin?o is also expected to bring a higher-than-normal frequency of cool Canadian air masses to the United States this summer, resulting in unusually weak cooling demand, WSI said last week (see Daily GPI, May 16).