The Atlantic basin is currently dominated by cooler, more mature weather — including Tropical Storm Gordon which was responsible for the flooding in Louisiana this past week. The hurricane season typically kicks off on June 1, but it was pushed back this year to June 1 to 2, as some regions like the Caribbean, where Hurricane Maria made landfall, need the extra time to prepare for a hurricane to come.
Thankfully, the U.S. experienced no major hurricanes last year, the first since 2010. But this is far from a sure thing: Seventeen major hurricanes struck the U.S. between 2008 and 2018, and 14 of them were Category 3 or higher. And the Atlantic Ocean climate model shows that the number of hurricanes that hit the U.S. could be roughly 30 percent higher than the normal.
When it comes to storms, it isn’t what you say or do in advance that matters. A storm that hits on the way to making landfall doesn’t have to hit you in the middle of the night. It’s what you do once a storm arrives. Preparation is vital, including building better cities to withstand the coming storm. The most powerful hurricanes — like Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and Matthew in 2016 — would have struck much harder if emergency responders had been prepared and had been able to call in reinforcements and evacuate residents.
But despite the risks, there are likely to be fewer hurricanes in the Atlantic this year because of a larger area of ocean temperature variability over the past two decades. When hurricanes form, large mass currents, like the jet stream, travel to the northern United States. One of the two features of these large mass currents that happen — known as the North Atlantic Oscillation and the North Atlantic Oscillation — has been weakening, meaning that this year’s hurricane season could be less crowded. We’ll see.