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Atlantic Hurricane Season Closes Quietly

Just eight named storms formed during the season. During a typical season about 11 tropical storms and hurricanes develop.

by Eric Berger, Houston Chronicle / December 1, 2014
Tropical Storm Arthur was churning in Atlantic waters off the coast of Florida and slowly moving north on July 2, 2014. (NASA)

(TNS) — Mother Nature delivered the relatively quiet Atlantic hurricane season that forecasters predicted.

Just eight named storms formed during the season, which ended Sunday. During a typical season about 11 tropical storms and hurricanes develop.

"A combination of atmospheric conditions acted to suppress the Atlantic hurricane season," said Gerry Bell, NOAA's lead seasonal hurricane forecaster.

Bell and other hurricane scientists said a general sinking motion in the atmosphere, drier air and wind shear all combined to limit development of storms.

Perhaps most significantly for Texas and other Gulf coast states, the year ended without a major storm in the Gulf of Mexico.

Texas hasn't really been threatened by a hurricane since 2008, when Hurricane Ike struck Galveston Island and moved inland to Houston.

The drought in storms has been even more profound for Florida, the U.S. state most prone to hurricanes because it juts out into the Atlantic and also faces threats in the Gulf from recurving systems.

Florida hasn't had a hurricane landfall since Wilma in 2005. Given that about 11 percent of all Atlantic hurricanes hit Florida, the statistical likelihood of such a long drought is about 1 in 1,200, said Phil Klotzbach, a hurricane scientist from Colorado State University.

A couple of trends have contributed to the absence of storms hitting Florida or moving into the Gulf of Mexico, Klotzbach said.

Air pressures along the East Coast of the United States have been lower than normal in recent years, which have tended to recurve systems approaching the continent and push them back out to sea.

Additionally, many of the hurricanes that have developed in recent years have done so at the eastern edge of the Atlantic basin.

"Systems forming near Cape Verde typically do not make U.S. landfall," he said.

That's because hurricanes tend to want to move to the north, and as soon as they find a break in a high pressure system, they do so. And in recent years, as hurricanes have plodded across thousands of miles of the Atlantic Ocean, they have been finding such breaks long before reaching Florida.

But that doesn't mean these trends will continue.

Hurricanes are like mutual funds in this respect — past performance is not an indicator of future success. In other words, the Gulf will need to be on alert again beginning next June 1.

©2014 the Houston Chronicle. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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