Why The 2017 Hurricane Season Has Been So Active & Disastrous

Hurricane Harvey created devastation in Houston, then Hurricane Irma quickly followed behind, and most recently Maria tore through the Caribbean. Houses have been destroyed, buildings leveled, and many people are left without power for months. With all the disastrous storms it is hard to not think of the heavy storms that hit the U.S. almost 12 years ago, in 2005, Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita. However, there is a reason for the storms being active those many years ago, as well as, this year.

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According to National Geographic, the predicted hurricane forecast for this year was above average, “The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Colorado State University, and the Weather Channel all estimated that this year, we’d likely see more hurricanes than usual spawning in the Atlantic Ocean. NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center forecasted that we’d see between 14 to 19 named storms and five to nine hurricanes this season.” This is in comparison to recent years where there was 12 named storms and 6 hurricanes.

So why are there more storms than normal? The short answer is the atmospheric conditions are perfect for a hurricane. El Niño (warming of the equatorial Pacific) is relatively neutral and the Atlantic is unusually warm. When El Niño is in normal effect it creates high wind shear which actually tears storms apart before they can become too powerful. Furthermore, warm water intensifies a storm as the weather systems are able to absorb heat energy from the water.

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Another reason this hurricane season may have been so extreme is due to the “landfall drought”. A landfall drought is the amount of time in which a category 3 hurricane has made landfall. It had been nearly 12 years. This was the longest stretch since 1900.

Many believe that climate change is also a factor for the high activity of hurricanes. However, experts say that human activity is only a small part of the problem. However, it could potentially become a larger problem in the future. Florida State University meteorologist Robert Hart said “When it comes to next year’s hurricane activity seasonal prediction, anthropogenic impacts are not a primary concern, as the change due to anthropogenic effects from this year to next year is obviously small.  However, in the decades and century to come, it could easily become the primary concern for driving hurricane activity.”

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Unfortunately, hurricane season is not over until November 30, therefore, it is a possibility that more hurricanes can make landfall in the near future.