The 2016 Atlantic hurricane season is a current event in the annual tropical cyclone season in the northern hemisphere.
To this point, most forecasting groups have expected this season to be a near average to above average season, due to a combination of factors including an expected transition to La Niña and warmer than normal sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, and Western Atlantic, despite near-average sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic Main Development Region near Cape Verde.
The major danger in the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season is likely to be La Niña.
Cooler-than-average waters are predicted to develop in the tropical Pacific (La Niña). These cool waters affect weather systems around the globe over time.
“Provided La Niña begins to develop late in the summer and strengthens during the autumn, we should see a corresponding uptick in the number of tropical systems in the Atlantic basin,” according to Hurricane Expert. “However, it is not like flipping a switch and all of a sudden the Atlantic is buzzing with hurricanes.”
The impact of La Niña may not be felt until the autumn.
During the first part of the summer, the warmest waters in the Atlantic basin are usually found from the western part of the Caribbean to the Gulf of Mexico and along the southeastern coast of the United States.
While the general area surrounding the northwestern part of the Caribbean and Florida will remain an area to watch, much of the balance of June, July and perhaps early August should be relatively quiet in terms of tropical activity.
“While warm waters remain a concern, features that helped to breed Bonnie and Colin should retreat northward through midsummer,” Hurricane Expert said. “Early season systems tend to gravitate toward fronts and ahead of plunges of cool air.”
The defining part of the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season is likely to be the behavior of tropical systems moving westward off the coast of Africa. These storms are known as Cape Verde systems, for the islands located just off the west coast of Africa.
The prime time for development of the Cape Verde systems is from mid-August into early October.
Whether or not the season finishes near average or well above average will depend on the usual deterrents to these tropical systems and others that form throughout the basin. The deterrents being wind shear, dry air and pockets of cool water.
The changing of the speed and direction of winds at different layers of the atmosphere is wind shear. When this difference is great, it can interfere with tropical storm formation and intensity.
Tropical systems need a moist atmosphere to form and to thrive, as well as warm water, typically around 80 F (27 C) or higher.
If the warm waters hold up, the tropical systems that move westward from Africa are likely to have a greater chance of surviving the trip across the Atlantic.
“A system such as Erika from 2015 is more likely to continue to strengthen moving westward this year, given the expected conditions,” Expert said.
Last year, Erika encountered cooler waters and wind shear upon approaching the Caribbean and dissipated.
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