Today (1st June) marks the start of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. In this blog, we take a look at the coming season. How it is shaping up and how this could impact us in the UK. We also take a look at previous hurricanes that have come close to the UK. The hurricane season in the Atlantic runs from the 1st of June till the 30th November.
This video below explains about how hurricanes form. Not all hurricanes from this way but it’s a good starting place. This videos comes from ABC News and has the ever excellent Ginger Zee explaining about how hurricanes form.
The first two named storm of the 2020 season have already occured. Tropical Storm Arthur formed on the 16th May and dissipated on the 20th. Mainly bringing rainfall and flooding to Florida, Georgia, South and North Carolina. Along with the islands of Bermuda and Cuba. This is the 6th straight season that the first named storm has occurred before the start of the official hurricane season. The second named Storm was very short lived. Tropical storm Bertha that brought rainfall and strong winds to both North and South Carolina. Bertha formed on the 27th May.
The predictions on this season
All the major forecasting centres that make predictions on hurricanes are forecasting an above average season including NOAA, Colorado State and the Met Office.
So why are they forecasting an above average hurricane season?
To keep it as simple as possible. Conditions are favourable for an active hurricane season. There are higher than average sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic basin. The are signals that there is a movement towards La Nina conditions which is more favorable for development of hurricanes in the Atlantic due to lower wind sheer which is conducive for tropical development and the growth of hurricanes. As well as above average african monsoon season. So all these factors combined indicate and active season.
So how will this impact the UK?
Activity in the Atlantic basin always has an impact on our weather directly or indirectly. It can shift the Jet stream and result in us getting more unsettled weather and sometimes even give us better weather. Tropical storms or remements of tropical systems can often give us glancing blows which in the past have given us flooding and strong winds. An active season increases the risk of us getting unsettled weather from a remnants of a hurricane / tropical storm. Has the UK been hit by a Hurricane in the Satellite era there is a lot of debate and uncertainty about that. Hurricanes need warm water to sustain and a number of factors as mentioned in the above video from Ginger Zee. Our waters are just too cold to support a hurricane. Any of these systems that have been named by the national hurricane centre retain the same name if they impact the UK. However there has been some near misses in recent years the next part of the blog explorers this further.
Notable hurricanes and impacts on the UK
1961 Hurricane Debbie – Passed closed to Ireland. Brought winds over 100 mph in places. It was a category 1 near Ireland but there is some uncertainty if it was a hurricane as it passed over Ireland. It was declared an extratropical cyclone before reaching Ireland. Extratropical means that it no longer has tropical characteristics.
1996 Hurricane Lili – Was a powerful extratropical cyclone that impacted the UK. Bringing winds of 92 mph to Swansea in Wales and 4 ft storm surge up the Thames.
2009 Tropical Storm Grace – The furthest North East forming tropical cyclone in the Atlantic. Brought strong winds and heavy rain to Wales and SW England.
2011 hurricane Katia – By the time Katia reached the UK, it was no longer a hurricane but was a powerful extratropical storm that brought strong winds and rain which caused flooding across mainland Scotland and tracked across the Western Isles.
Hurricane Ophelia 2017 – This brought very strong winds and heavy rain to Ireland. Again debates where had as to weather this was a Hurricane when it reached ireland. It was the worst storm to impact Ireland in 50 years. Thousands where left without power and winds gusted 97 mph. Due to fires in Portugal and Spain bringing red skies across the UK. Strong winds and rain also occurred in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
I hope you have found this blog post useful.
If you want to find out additional information about hurricanes the national hurricane centre is a great place to start.