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A rare hurricane-free August? That’s what it’s looking like

By Chad Gillis, Fort Myers News-Press

The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1 and runs through Nov. 30. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting 10 to 16 named storms this year. Megan Kearney – Wochit

El Niño is likely to thank for the second most active month of the hurricane season not producing any major storms this year for the first time since 2013.

There were two tropical storms that formed in August, named Debby and Ernesto, but neither threatened the U.S. or the Caribbean.

August is typically the second busiest month of the year, trailing only the peak month of September.

“It’s been very quiet,” said Phil Klotzbach, with Colorado State University’s Department of Atmospheric Science, one of the nation’s leading hurricane forecast entities. “Both of the storms that formed were well outside of the tropics.”

This August is turning out quiet, and many weather forecasters say it’s because Atlantic Ocean surface temperatures are relatively cool (which inhibits storm formation) and a weak El Niño may be forming.

El Niño conditions tend to suppress hurricane and tropical storm development in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico but can bring heavy rains during the winter months, as happened in January 2016.

“It’s not unprecedented,” said Dennis Feltgen, spokesman for the National Hurricane Center in Miami. “It’s a blessing but not unprecedented.”

This is the eighth time since 1966 that no hurricane formed in August. The most recent was in 2013. Before that it was 2002, 2001, 1997, 1988, 1984, 1982 and 1967, according to The Weather Channel.

Hurricanes Beryl and Chris formed in July.

Colorado State earlier this month lowered its forecast for the 2018 season, predicting nine storms would form in August or later. Three of those storms will grow into hurricanes, and one of those hurricanes will become a Category 3 or higher storm.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration lowered its forecast for this season as well, predicting nine to 13 named storms, four to seven hurricanes and zero to two major hurricanes.

“We’re going into September this weekend, and that is the peak month of hurricane season,” Feltgen said. “So we don’t want people in hurricane-prone areas to think they’re off the hook. We’re only halfway through the season with the most active month still to go.”

August may end up quiet, but September could start off busy. The season ends Nov. 30.

Meteorologists are watching two low pressure systems that could turn into tropical disturbances next week.

One location is off the west coast of Africa, and the second is in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

Klotzbach said the systems haven’t yet materialized enough to say exactly what will happen with either.

“The hurricane center is watching something coming off the coast of Africa in the next week, and then there’s something that’s 10 to 12 days out in the Gulf of Mexico,” Klotzbach said.

Sept. 10, the same day Hurricane Irma hit last year, is considered the peak of hurricane season.

IMAGE: (Photo: National Hurricane Center)

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