But why is the East Coast so quiet while the Pacific is so active and what does the future hold? The answer lies in wind patterns, ocean temperature, air pressure and moisture levels in the air, or at least those are four big factors and they play directly into the answer for this summer to date for the East Coast. But, first, there is a surprising feature that on the surface really makes it odd.
The average number of named storms that form each year by this time of the season is four, yet this year there have already been five named storms, two of which were hurricanes. No one realizes it, however, since they stayed well out to sea or fizzled quickly. And the main reasons for their lack of strengthening or holding their strength were the conditions which were not conducive to storm development. Even the hurricane meteorologists at Colorado State University, considered the premier group to study the storms, had to lower their estimated number of storms as the season got underway. Not only that, but they found evidence of a likely developing El Nino which would likely impact the latter part of the season.
So, here's where we are today. The seedbed for hurricane development and strengthening, the stretch of open Atlantic from the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa to the approach to the Windward Islands, finds the air full of dry, dusty air. Low humidity and those dry dust particles from the Sahara is a killer of hurricanes, as is cooler ocean water which is the case in that part of the Atlantic as well. Add to that the wind flowing toward any burgeoning low pressure system, sheering the tops off developing storms and it means the ocean stays quiet. Will that situation remain the same? Well, with nature, no one knows for sure, but there are indications that it is likely to do so for the foreseeable future and with prime hurricane season ending around mid-September that is indeed good news.
No matter how good the outlook looks for us, however, remember that late September and October storms can be very severe indeed and sometimes they pop up in unusual places to start. If they come from somewhere other than the now dry zone and can build on the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico or the Gulf Stream, anything is possible and development can happen almost overnight. That's just something that we need to never forget, even more so if we live near or on the coast.
For now, though, I would recommend that we say a prayer for the people of Hawaii and particularly those on the "Big Island." Those poor residents, many of whom suffered severely from the Kilauea volcano, including the total loss of their homes, are being hammered again. Now they face up to forty inches of rain in a short two day time frame which, of course, will cause disastrous flooding. May God be with them. For the rest of us, just say thanks for a thus far very calm hurricane season.
SPECIAL ADDED NOTE: The below picture shows the wrath of a late season storm, Hurricane Hazel in mid-October 1954. I remember that one very well as a boy.