It happened four days ago. But did you even notice? Six months of nothing (in Florida, at least) came to an end on Sunday. The conclusion of the 2014 Hurricane Season marks the ninth year in a row the state has been lucky to avoid a direct strike from a hurricane, the longest running streak on record.
One and done. The first storm of the season was the only storm to impact the United States in 2014. Hurricane Arthur brushed by Florida and made landfall in Cape Lookout, North Carolina on July 3rd as a Category 2 storm with winds of 100 mph. The next closest storm to making landfall, Hurricane Bertha, stayed over 500 miles from the United States in early August. After Arthur and Bertha, there were only six more named storms and the season was relatively quiet as predicted.
NOAA scientists and many private meteorologists predicted a season with below-normal activity, and it certainly was. A typical year breeds eleven named storms, six of which usually become hurricanes, and two reach Category 3 or stronger (major hurricane status) on average. In 2014, there were eight named storms, six hurricanes, and two major storms. While those numbers may not seem too far off from an average season, the accumulated tropical energy (known by the acronym ACE) tells a better story. According to Weather Underground, ACE measures the “destructive potential of individual tropical cyclones and entire tropical cyclone seasons”. In 2014, that number was 66, far below the average for an entire season of 110.
The strongest storm of the 2014 season was Gonzalo, reaching wind speeds of 145 mph on October 15. Similar to all of the other hurricanes this year, though, Gonzalo was a “fish storm” to Americans and stayed well out to sea. Bermuda, however, took a direct hit from the then Category 2 storm and sustained nearly 200 million dollars of damage. This followed a beating from Tropical Storm Fay just the week before.
Why So Quiet
While Bermuda bore the brunt of the 2014 hurricane season, the rest of the Atlantic Basin was largely left untouched. Multiple factors led to the overall quiet year. An El Niño weather pattern was forecast to develop, which is largely a deterrent to Atlantic tropical cyclone activity. While this never officially formed (by the number), warmer sea surface temperatures in the Eastern Pacific Ocean did contribute to faster winds aloft and higher than normal wind shear over the Atlantic Basin. In addition to this negative factor, dry air, cooler water over the central Atlantic, and large areas of stable air mitigated the overall seasonal activity.
The same weather pattern that kept the tropics largely quiet this year is still likely to influence the overall weather pattern across Florida this winter. WRUF Weather is working on a winter forecast and will release that in the coming days.